For the past several weeks, my posts have been about the Four Last Things:
As I said in the Introduction of the series, Purgatory isn’t considered one of the “last things” because it isn’t a final state.
However, it is connected to Eschatology and necessary for everyone to be aware of.
A common misconception is that it’s easy to get to heaven and people go there immediately after they die.
The life of a Christian isn’t meant to be mediocre. We’re not supposed to presume that everyone (including ourselves) will automatically and quickly go to heaven when they die!
Most souls aren’t ready to see God face-to-face because they haven’t fully atoned for their sins.
These souls require purification — known as purgation or Purgatory — which is a mercy God offers to those who die in His friendship and grace.
First, I’ll provide an introduction by sharing excerpts of Catholic teaching.
Then, I’ll provide a thorough explanation by sharing an audio recording of a priest from the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, FSSP.
(The audio quality isn’t the best, but it’s the most thorough explanation of Purgatory I could find in a recording.)
Before the end of the world, there will be an intermediate state called purgatory. There, those who are bound for heaven, but whose love for God is still marred by some imperfection, undergo a temporary period of purifying suffering. When this purification is complete, they are fit to enter God’s presence and are admitted to the joys of heaven.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:
As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.
1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:
Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.
958 Communion with the dead. “In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and ‘because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins’ she offers her suffrages for them.” Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.