How long do souls stay in Purgatory? Is it a day for every venial sin? A week? A month? Longer?
How many days off do they gain when we pray for these souls or celebrate Mass for them?
What does Purgatory look like? Does it have a fire like hell? Is it hot or cold there? Or is it perhaps just warm so you feel uncomfortable but you don’t burn?
Does it have devils looking after all the inmates; like in hell, or are they a little kinder perhaps?
Are we in pain when in Purgatory? Like the fire in hell?
The notion that Purgatory is some sort of Purification Center or Car Wash where all souls with venial sins go to be made clean before entering Heaven has long vexed many wise minds.
The Catholic Church bases its teaching from Scripture. In Revelation Chapter 21 Verse 27 it says ‘Nothing unclean shall enter Heaven.’ So, strictly speaking, if we die with venial sins on our conscience we’re not spiritually cleaned; and that’s why we go to Purgatory.
The belief in the existence of Purgatory goes back to the early Christians; and other Christian denominations also believe in such a place where souls go before they are ready to enter Heaven.
Given that very few of us will die with no sins whatsoever on our conscience, the Church teaches that there must exist a place, or a state of being, or a state of purification, where we are cleansed of our sins and we can enter Heaven. This place, or state of being, is known as Purgatory.
Jesus did describe Heaven at one time as a mansion with many rooms. So it follows, perhaps, that in our imagination we visualize Purgatory as a physical place too.
The pertinent point, however, is that the Church teaches that there is a stage where souls destined for Heaven undergo a period of purification.
St. Therese of Lisieux, who is a doctor of the church, has her own view of Purgatory. She maintains that one does not need to go to Purgatory. While still only a novice, she spoke to Sister Maria Philomena, who believed in the near impossibility of going to Heaven without passing through purgatory.
Therese’s response was, “You do not have enough trust. You have too much fear before the good God. I can assure you that He is grieved over this. You should not fear Purgatory because of the suffering there, but should instead ask God to take you straight to Heaven. As soon as you try to please Him in everything and have an unshakable trust He purifies you every moment in His love and He lets no sin remain. It is then you can be sure that you will not have to go to Purgatory.”
She maintained that we offend God if we do not trust Him enough to take us to Heaven as soon as we die. When she found out that her novices talked occasionally that they would probably have to expect to be in Purgatory, she corrected them saying, "Oh! How you grieve me! You do a great injury to God in believing you're going to Purgatory. When we love, we can't go there."
Now, this is a new doctrine, but only for those who don't know God, who are not childlike, who don't trust.
Once Sister Therese had a confrontation regarding this topic with Sister Marie Febronia, who was sub-prioress. She heard that Sister Therese encouraged her novices to believe that they could go straight to Heaven. She did not like this as she considered this kind of confidence presumptuous, and thus she reproached Sister Therese and told her that what she taught her novices was wrong. Sister Therese tried lovingly and calmly to explain to Sister Febronia her point of view but with no success as she clung to her belief. For Sister Therese God was more Father than Judge, and she concluded by saying, "My sister, if you look for the justice of God you will get it. The soul will receive from God exactly what she desires."
Soon after this Sister Febronia died. Three months after her death Sister Therese had a dream which she related to her Mother Prioress, "Sister Febronia came to me last night and asked that we should pray for her. She is in Purgatory, surely because she had trusted too little in the mercy of the good Lord. She told her, ‘You were right. I am now delivered up to the full justice of God but it is my fault. If I had listened to you I would not be here now.’"
What is Purgatory? It is where the souls of the just are purified before they can enter Heaven and live with God. Their suffering is so intense as they wait and long to live with God but are unable because they have to endure this process of purification. Therese’s advice to each one of us is, “Live your life as best you can and say to God our Father, “Please do not send me to Purgatory. The moment I die may I come straight to You in Heaven.”
May I add? Have a great devotion to Dismas, the Repentant Thief. He by-passed Purgatory with one request, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
Jesus didn’t turn to him and say, “What! You have been a rogue and robber for many years. You have the audacity to say, ‘Remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.’ Let Me tell you this. If you want to come into My kingdom it is a lifetime’s task.” Instead Jesus said to him. “I promise you this very day you will be with Me in paradise!” Here we see how one appeal for love was enough to blot out a life time of sin!
NOTE: I am grateful to Father Francis Maple for the information this post contains. Father Francis publishes a daily homily - Please click HERE.