Saturday, 24 January 2015

Purgatory - The Purification Center

Many Catholics and non-Catholics have wondered about Purgatory. Does it exist? There's no mention of it in the Bible. Is it just a Catholic invention to make money by asking people to pay for prayers and Masses to be celebrated for the repose of dead family and friends?

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.  

It is so correct to see things this way.  It is true that God will judge us at one point, but He is always and first our Father Who suffers when He has to punish His child and sees him suffering.  The child should do His will just out of love, and not to avoid punishment.  This really means that God does not want Purgatory!  He allows His children to suffer, but only as if He had to look away. 

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.


  1. My prayers that I pray, the candles I light in church are for the souls in purgatory because I believe that a lot of souls in Purgatory are not just Catholic but many people of different faiths. I also came to understand that a lot of people fear this doctrine and readily don't think about it because of their attachment to this life. I agree with you but I also disagree with you. There are souls who are in purgatory who need our prayers. Read about the various mystics who had encountered souls on earth asking for there prayers. If I go there that is determined by God and maybe my attitude but if I sit by and do nothing and only consider myself and my attitude about this subject and worry about myself only then I can almost be quaranteed that I will go there. In heaven there is no selfishness. The Bible proves it. Jesus is baptized the Father says, Listen to him, he is my son. Jesus does his ministry and credits everything he does to the Father. Jesus says when I die I will send the comforter. The Holy Spirit. In the Trinity, they all look to each other and not to themselves. Thank you for your time.

    1. Thank you Robert for taking the time to write in. I much appreciate it.
      I too believe in the existance of Purgatory and praying for the souls therein.

      God bless you.

  2. Victor, I really enjoyed this post and the views you have presented.
    Someone once asked me if God guaranteed you would go to purgatory when you died - not directly to heaven, but not to hell either - would you take it? An interesting question, especially given this post! God Bless you.

    1. Hi Michael,

      I'll admit I never knew St Therese's views on the subject of Purgatory. This was part of a recent sermon by Father Francis Maple. I wrote to him saying I've used his sermon in this post.

      God bless you, Michael.

  3. Hi Victor! Wow, I learned a lot today. I have a devotion to St. Therese and never knew her thoughts about Purgatory. And it makes so much sense that God can certainly do anything he pleases, and he wants us with him. Look at Dismas! Great example of instant mercy and desire to have him with God.

    I can understand the nun who thought that St. Therese was being presumptuous. Of course, we don't want to think that we can go to heaven if we ask, and then do as we please. But if we love God and his people and truly want to be with him? Why wouldn't a Father want his child with him?

    It also reminds me of a homily I heard once. The priest said, "How do we know how long we would be in Purgatory? To God, many years is a single minute. Maybe we'd be there only for the bat of an eye." That has always comforted me too.
    Sunday blessings my friend,

    1. Hello Ceil,

      I tend to learn a lot from Father Francis' sermons. I did not know about St Therese's views until he mentioned it in a recent saermon. It's quite comforting, I think. It's a pity that such views are not so widely known.

      Father Francis gives a daily sermon here:

      God bless you, Ceil.

  4. This was so interesting to read. I love St. Therese and I did not know her thoughts on purgatory either. Or maybe I just forgot!
    She surely believed and trusted in God's mercy. And has taught me a lot about having confidence in His mercy. So it all makes sense what she believed about purgatory.
    Thank you Victor! Sorry for the length of time since my last visit. I am slowly getting back into things. God bless.

    1. It's so great to see you visiting again Colleen. I hope and pray you and your husband are well.

      St Therese's views were new to me too, until Father Francis' sermon. His daily sermons are here:

      God bless.

  5. “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”


    God Bless

    1. What a wonderful prayer.

      God bless you for your wisdom.

  6. Thank you. When my father died, he was scared. Dad was a man who was kind to most people, a good Christian man who claimed the forgiveness of his sins, but did not live in His Grace. But at home, he could get brutal. PTSD, chronic depression, bi-polar.. When he died, I wondered how a man like my father pass on to Jesus. My thoughts then and now, that purgatory would be totally appropriate.

    1. Yes, I think you are right, Susan. Jesus, in His life on earth, showed mercy and compassion to all He met. I believe that when we die we are judged on our intentions. Some people in this world deliberately stand out in defiance of God. They speak out on his non-existence, and often mock those who believe. It is as if they purposely exclude themselves from God and His love.

      Others, perhaps most of us, try our best to follow God's teachings and love Him in return. We may fail often, yet our intentions are true and honest.

      Father Francis Maple, whom I mention in the article above, in one of his sermons makes a good point about our relationship with God by referring to a leaning tree. Here's what he says:

      I think of a life as a tree. If a tree leans in one direction when it dies it will fall in that direction. It is not going to fall in the opposite direction. So, too, with our lives. If all the time we are leaning towards God, very likely, with God's grace we shall fall into His arms when we die. But if our lives never point to God, it is very likely that when we die we shall die in enmity with God.

      So I believe, as you rightly say, that purgatory is totally appropriate for most of us who die with some sins on our conscience.

      Saints are sinners who never gave up trying to be better.

      God bless you, Susan.



God bless you.