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Purgatory have to suffer, in order to be purified from every stain of
sin; of the excruciating torments they have to undergo for their faults
and imperfections, and how thoroughly they have to atone for the least
offences committed against the infinite holiness and justice of God. It
is but just, therefore, that we should condole with them, and do all
that we can to deliver them from the flames of Purgatory, or, at least,
to soothe their pains.... The fire of Purgatory, as the doctors of the
Church declare, is as intense as that of the abode of hell; with this
difference, that it has an end. Yea! it may be that to-day a soul in
Purgatory is undergoing more agony, more excruciating suffering than a
damned soul, which is tormented in hell for a few mortal sins; while
the poor soul in Purgatory must satisfy for millions of venial sins.

All the pains which afflict the sick upon earth, added to all that the
martyrs have ever suffered, cannot be compared with those in Purgatory,
so great is the punishment of those poor souls.

We read, how once a sick person who was very impatient in his
sufferings, exclaimed; "O God, take me from this world!" Thereupon the
Angel Guardian appeared to him, and told him to remember that, by
patiently bearing his afflictions upon his sick-bed, he could satisfy
for his sins, and shorten his Purgatory. But the sick man replied that
he chose rather to satisfy for his sins in Purgatory. The poor sufferer
died; and behold, his Guardian Angel appeared to him again, and asked
him if he did not repent of the choice he had made of satisfying for
his sins in Purgatory, by tortures, rather than upon earth by
afflictions. Thereupon the poor soul asked the angel: "How many years
am I now here in these terrible flames?" The Angel replied: "How many
years? Thy body upon earth is not yet buried; nay, it is not yet cold
and still thou believest already thou art here for many years!" Oh, how
that soul lamented upon hearing this. Great indeed was its grief for
not having chosen patiently to undergo upon earth the sufferings of
sickness, and thereby shorten its Purgatory.

* * * * *

Upon earth, persons who anxiously seek another abode or another state
of life, often know not whether, perhaps, they may not fall into a more
wretched condition. How many have forsaken the shores of Europe, with
the bright hope of a better future awaiting them in America? All has
been disappointment! They have repented a thousand times of having
deserted their native country. Now does this disappointment await the
souls in Purgatory upon their deliverance? Ah! by no means. They
_know_ too well that when they are released heaven will be their
home. Once there, no more pains, no more fire for them; but the
enjoyment of an _everlasting bliss_, which no eye hath seen nor
ear heard; nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. Such
will be their future happy state. Oh! how great is their desire to be
there already. Another circumstance which especially intensifies hope
in the breast of man, is _intercourse_ - union with those who are
near and dear to him.

How many, indeed, have bid a last farewell to Europe, where they would
have prospered; but oh, there are awaiting them in another land their
beloved ones - those who are so dear, and in whose midst they long to
be! Oh, what a great source of desire is not this, for the poor souls
in Purgatory to go to heaven! In heaven they shall find again those
whom they have loved and cherished upon earth, but who have already
preceded them on their way to the heavenly mansion.... There is still
another feature, another circumstance which presents itself in the
condition of the poor souls in Purgatory: I mean the irresistible force
or tendency with which they are drawn towards _God_; their intense
longing after Him, their last aim and end.... Oh, with what intense
anxiety and longing is not a poor soul in Purgatory consumed, to behold
the splendor of its Lord and Creator! But, also! with what marks of
_gratitude_ does not every soul whom we have assisted to enter
heaven pray for us upon its entrance!

Therefore, let us hasten to the relief of the poor suffering souls in
Purgatory. Let us help them to the best of our power, so that they may
supplicate for us before the throne of the Most High; that they may
remember us when we, too, shall one day be afflicted in that prison
house of suffering, and may procure for us a speedy release and an
early enjoyment of a blissful eternity.

* * * * *

When it will be your turn one day to dwell in those flames, and be
separated from God, how happy will you not be, if others alleviate and
shorten your pains! Do you desire this assistance for your own soul?
Then begin in this life, while you have time, to render aid to the poor
souls in Purgatory.... He who does not assist others, unto him
shall no mercy be shown; for this is what even-handed justice requires.
Hence, let us not be deaf to the pitiful cries of the departed ones....
What afflicts those poor, helpless souls still more, is the
circumstance that, despite their patience in _suffering_, they can
earn nothing for heaven. With us, however, such is not the case. We, by
our patience under affliction, may merit much, very much indeed, for
Paradise.... I well remember a certain sick person who was sorely
pressed with great sufferings. Wishing to console him in his distress,
I said: "Friend, such severe pains will not last long. You will either
recover from your illness and become well and strong again, or God will
soon call you to himself." Thereupon the sick man, turning his eyes
upon a crucifix which had been placed for him at the foot of his bed,
replied: "Father, I desire no alleviation in my suffering, no relief in
my pains. I cheerfully endure all as long as it is God's good pleasure,
but I hope that I now undergo my Purgatory." Then, stretching forth his
hands towards his crucifix he thus addressed it, filled with the most
lively hope in God's mercy: "Is it not so, dear Jesus? Thou wilt only
take me from my bed of pain to receive me straightway into heaven!"

* * * * *

We find in the lives of all the saints a most ardent zeal in the cause
of these poor afflicted ones. For their relief they offered to God not
only prayers, but also Masses, penances, the most severe sicknesses,
and the most painful trials, and all this as a recognition and a
practical display of the belief which they cherished - that they who
have slept in Christ are finally to repose with him in glory....
Because all that we perform for the help and delivery of the poor souls
in Purgatory, are works of Christian faith and piety. Such are prayer,
the august sacrifice of the Mass, the reception of the holy sacraments,
alms-deeds, and acts of penance and self-denial....

Remember, dear Christians, that we, too, shall be poor, helpless, and
suffering souls in Purgatory, and what shall we carry with us of all
our earthly goods and treasures? Not a single farthing.

* * * * *

We read, in the life of St. Gertrude, that God once allowed her to
behold Purgatory. And, lo! she saw a soul that was about issuing from
Purgatory, and Christ, who, followed by a band of holy virgins, was
approaching, and stretching forth his hands towards it. Thereupon the
soul, which was almost out of Purgatory, drew back, and of its own
accord sank again into the fire. "What dost thou?" said St. Gertrude to
the soul. "Dost thou not see that Christ wishes to release thee from
thy terrible abode?" To this the soul replied: "O Gertrude, thou
beholdest me not as I am. I am not yet immaculate. There is yet another
stain upon me. I will not hasten thus to the arms of Jesus."



Purgatory is a state of suffering for such souls as have left this life
in the friendship of God, but who are not sufficiently purified to
enter the kingdom of heaven - having to undergo some temporal punishment
for their lighter sins and imperfections, or for their grievous sins,
the eternal guilt of which has been remitted. In other words, we
believe that the souls of all who departed this life - not wicked enough
to be condemned to hell, nor yet pure enough to enjoy the Beatific
Vision of God - are sent to a place of purgation, where, in the crucible
of suffering, the lighter stains of their souls are thoroughly removed,
and they themselves are gradually prepared to enter the Holy of Holies
- where nothing defiled is permitted to approach.

* * * * *

- - There are many venial faults which the majority of persons commit,
and for which they have little or no sorrow - sins which do not deprive
the soul of God's friendship, and yet are displeasing to His infinite
holiness. For all these we must suffer either in this life or the next.
Divine justice weighs everything in a strict balance, and there is no
sin that we commit but for which we shall have to make due reparation.
Faults which we deem of little or no account the Almighty will not pass
unnoticed or unpunished. Our Blessed Saviour warns us that even for
"every idle word that man shall say he shall render an account in the
day of judgment."

We know full well that no man will be sent to hell merely for an "idle
word," or for any venial fault he may commit; consequently there must
be a place where such sins are punished. If they be not satisfied for
here upon earth by suffering, affliction, or voluntary penance, there
must be a place in the other life where proper satisfaction is to be
made. That place cannot be either heaven or hell. It cannot be heaven,
for no sufferings, no pain, no torment is to be found there, where "God
shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, where death shall be no
more, nor mourning nor weeping." It cannot be hell, where only the
souls of those who have died enemies of God are condemned to eternal
misery, for "out of hell there is no redemption."

There must be, then, a Middle Place where lighter faults are cleansed
from the soul, and proper satisfaction is rendered for the temporal
punishment that still remains due. The punishment of every one will
vary according to his desert.

* * * * *

Our Divine Lord warns us to make necessary reparation whilst we have
the time and opportunity.

"Make an agreement with thy adversary quickly whilst thou art in the
way with him; lest, perhaps, the adversary deliver thee to the judge,
and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into
prison. Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence till thou
pay the last farthing." (St. Matthew, v., 25, 26.)

This expresses the doctrine of Purgatory most admirably. The Scriptures
always describe our life as a pilgrimage. We are only on our way. We
have to meet the claims of Divine justice here before being called to
the tribunal of the everlasting Judge; otherwise, even should we die in
His friendship and yet have left these claims not entirely satisfied,
we shall be cast into the prison of Purgatory; and "Amen, I say unto
thee that thou shalt not go out from thence until thou pay the last

* * * * *

Our Saviour declares (St. Matthew, xii. 32,) that "whoever shall speak
a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but he that
shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him,
either in this life or in the world to come;" which shows, as St.
Augustine says in the twenty-first book of his work, "The City of God,"
that there are some sins (venial of course) which shall be forgiven in
the next world, and that, consequently, there is a middle state, or
place of purgation in the other life, since no one can enter heaven
having any stain of sin, and surely no one can obtain forgiveness in

The testimony of St. Paul is very clear on this point of doctrine: "For
no man can lay another foundation but that which is laid; which is
Jesus Christ. Now if any man build on that foundation, gold, silver,
precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: every man's work shall be made
manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be
revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort
it is. If any man's work abide, which he had built thereupon, he shall
receive a reward. If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss; _but
he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire_."

* * * * *

In the First Epistle of St. Peter (Chap. iii. 18, 19), we learn that
Christ "being put to death, indeed, in the flesh, but brought to life
by the spirit, in which also He came and preached to those spirits who
were in prison."

Our Blessed Saviour, immediately after death, descended into that part
of hell called Limbo, and, as St. Peter informs us, "preached to the
spirits who were in prison." This most certainly shows the existence of
a middle state. The spirits to whom our Lord preached were certainly
not in the hell of the damned, where His preaching could not possibly
bear any fruit; they were not already in heaven, where no preaching is
necessary, since there they see God face to face. Therefore they must
have been in some middle state - call it by whatever name you please -
where they were anxiously awaiting their deliverance at the hands of
their Lord and Redeemer.

Belief in Purgatory is more ancient than Christianity itself. It was
the belief among the Jews of old, and of this we have clear proof in
the Second Book of Machabees, xii., 43. After a great victory gained by
that valiant chieftain, Judas Machabeus, about two hundred years before
the coming of Christ, "Judas making a gathering, he sent twelve
thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered
for the sins of the dead, thinking well and justly concerning the
resurrection.... It is, therefore, a holy and wholesome thought to pray
for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins."

It is customary, even in our days, in Jewish synagogues, to erect
tablets reminding those present of the lately deceased, in order that
they may remember them in their prayers. Surely, if there did not exist
a place of purgation, no prayers nor sacrifices would be of any avail
to the departed. We find the custom of praying, of offering the Holy
Sacrifice of the Mass for their spiritual benefit, more especially on
their anniversaries, an universal practice among the primitive
Christians of the Eastern and Western Churches, of the Greek, Latin,
and Oriental Rites.

Even if we did not find strong warrant, as we do, in the Scriptures,
the authority of Apostolic Tradition would be amply sufficient for us;
for, remember, we Catholics hold the traditions, handed down from the
Apostles, to be of as much weight as their own writings.

... Hence it is that we have recourse to sacred tradition as well as to
Scripture for the proof of our teaching. With reference, then, to the
doctrine of "Purgatory," we are guided by the belief that prevailed
among the primitive Christians.

That the custom of praying for the dead was sanctioned by the Apostles
themselves, we have the declaration of St. John Chrysostom: "It was not
in vain instituted by the Apostles that in the celebration of the
tremendous mysteries a remembrance should be made of the departed. They
knew that much profit and advantage would be thereby derived."

Tertullian - the most ancient of the Latin Fathers, who flourished in
the age immediately following that of the Apostles - speaks of the duty
of a widow with regard to her deceased husband: "Wherefore also does
she pray for his soul, and begs for him, in the interim, refreshment,
and in the first resurrection, companionship, and makes offerings for
him on the anniversary day of his falling asleep in the Lord. For
unless she has done these things, she has truly repudiated him so far
as is in her power." All this supposes a Purgatory.

"The measure of the pain," says St. Gregory Nyssa, "is the quantity of
evil to be found in each one.... Being either purified during the
present life by means of prayer and the pursuit of wisdom, or, after
departure from this life, by means of the furnace of the fire of

* * * * *

Not only deeply instructive, but also eminently consoling is the
doctrine of Purgatory. We need not "mourn as those who have no hope,"
for those nearest and dearest who have gone hence and departed this
life in the friendship of God.

How beautifully our Holy Mother the Church bridges over the terrible
chasm of the grave! How faithfully and tenderly she comes to our aid in
the saddest of our griefs and sorrows! She leaves us not to mourn
uncomforted, unsustained. She chides us not for shedding tears over our
dear lost ones - a beloved parent, a darling child, a loving brother,
affectionate sister, or deeply-cherished friend or spouse. She bids us
let our tears flow, for our Saviour wept at the grave of Lazarus.

She whispers words of comfort - not unmeaning words, but words of divine
hope and strength - to our breaking hearts. She pours the oil of
heavenly consolation into our deepest wounds. She bids us cast off all
unseemly grief, assuring us that not even death itself can sever the
bond that unites us; that we can be of service to those dear departed
ones whom we loved better than life itself; that we can aid them by our
prayers and good works, and especially by, the Holy Sacrifice of the
Mass. Thus may we shorten their time of banishment, assuage their
pains, and continue to storm Heaven itself with our piteous appeals
until the Lord deign to look down in mercy, open their prison doors,
and admit them to the full light of His holy presence, and to the
everlasting embrace of their Redeemer and their God.



[Footnote 1: Catholic Belief, or, A Short and Simple Exposition of
Catholic Doctrine, by Very Rev. Joseph Faá Di Bruno. D. D., Rector-
General of the Pious Society of Missions of the Church of San Salvatore
in Onde, Ponte Sisto, Rome, and St. Peter's Italian Church in London.
American Edition, edited by Father Lambert, author of Notes on
Ingersoll, &c.]

As works of penance have no value in themselves except through the
merits of Jesus Christ, so the pains of Purgatory have no power in
themselves to purify the soul from sin, but only in virtue of Christ's
Redemption, or, to speak more exactly, the souls in Purgatory are able
to discharge the debt of temporal punishment demanded by God's justice,
and to have their venial sins remitted only through the merits of Jesus
Christ, "yet so as by fire."

The Catholic belief in Purgatory rests on the authority of the Church
and her apostolic traditions recorded in ancient Liturgies, and in the
writings of the ancient Fathers: Tertullian, St. Cyprian, Origen,
Eusebius of Cæsarea, Arnobius, St. Basil, St. Ephrem of Edessa, St.
Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Ambrose, St. Epiphanius,
St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, St. Augustine. It rests also on the
Fourth Council of Carthage, and on many other authorities of antiquity.

That this tradition is derived from the Apostles, St. John Chrysostom
plainly testified in a passage quoted at the end of this chapter, in
which he speaks of suffrages or help for the departed.

St. Augustine tells us that Arius was the first who dared to teach that
it was of no use to offer up prayers and sacrifices for the dead; and
this doctrine of Arius he reckoned among heresies. (Book of Heresies,
Heresy 53d.)

There are also passages in Holy Scripture from which the Fathers have
confirmed the Catholic belief on this point.

St. Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, chap. iii. 11-15,
writes: "For other foundations no one can lay, but that which is laid;
which is Christ Jesus. Now, if any man build upon this foundation,
gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work
shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it
shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of
what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built
thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work burn, he shall
suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire."

The ancient Fathers, Origen in the third century, St. Ambrose and St.
Jerome in the fourth, and St. Augustine in the fifth, have interpreted
this text of St. Paul as relating to venial sins committed by
Christians which St. Paul compares to "wood, hay, stubble," and thus
with this text they confirm the Catholic belief in Purgatory, well
known and believed in their time, as it is by Catholics in the present
time. In St. Matthew (chap. v. 25, 26) we read, "Be at agreement with
thy adversary betimes, whilst thou art in the way with him; lest,
perhaps, the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver
thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Amen, I say to thee,
thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last farthing."

On this passage, St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, a Father of the third
century, says: "It is one thing to be cast into prison, and not go out
from thence till the last farthing be paid, and another to receive at
once the reward of faith and virtue: one thing in punishment of sin to
be purified by long-suffering and purged by long fire, and another to
have expiated all sins of suffering (in this life); one in fire, at the
day of Judgment to wait the sentence of the Lord, another to receive an
immediate crown from Him." (Epist. iii.)

Our Saviour said: "He that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall
not be forgiven him in this world, nor in the world to come." (St.
Matt. xii. 32.)

From this text St. Augustine argues, that "It would not have been said
with truth that their sin shall not be forgiven, neither in this world,
nor in the world to come, unless some sins were remitted in the next
world." (_De Civitate Dei_, Book xxi. chap. 24.)

On the other hand, we read in several places in Holy Scripture that God
will render to every one (that is, will reward or punish) according as
each deserves. See, for example, in Matthew xvi. 27. But as we cannot
think that God will punish everlastingly a person who dies burdened
with the guilt of venial sin only, it may be an "_idle word_," it
is reasonable to infer that the punishment rendered to that person in
the next world will be only temporary.

The Catholic belief in Purgatory does not clash with the following
declarations of Holy Scripture, which every Catholic firmly believes,
namely, that it is Jesus who cleanseth us from all sin, that Jesus bore
"the iniquity of us all," that "by His bruises we are healed," (Isaias
iii., 5); for it is through the blood of Jesus and His copious
Redemption that those pains of Purgatory have power to cleanse the
souls therein detained.

Again, the Catholic belief in Purgatory is not in opposition to those
texts of Scripture in which it is said that a man when he is justified
is "translated from death to life;" that he is no longer judged: that
there is no condemnation in him. For these passages do not refer to
souls taken to Heaven when natural death occurs, but to persons in this
world, who from the death of sin pass to the life of grace. Nor does it
follow that dying in that state of grace, that is, in a state of
spiritual life, they must go at once to Heaven. A soul may be
justified, entirely exempt from eternal _condemnation_, and yet
have something to suffer for a time; thus, also, in this world, many
are justified, and yet are not exempt from suffering.

Again, it is not fair to bring forward against the Catholic doctrine on
Purgatory that text of the Apocalypse, Rev. xix. 13: "Blessed are the
dead, who die in the Lord. From henceforth now, saith the Spirit, that
they may rest from their labors: for their works follow them," for this
text applies only to those souls who die perfectly in the Lord, that
is, entirely free from every kind of sin, and from the _stain_,
the _guilt_, and the _debt of temporal punishment_ of every
sin. Catholics believe that these souls have no pain to suffer in
Purgatory, as is the case with the martyrs and saints who die in a
perfect state of grace.

It is usual to bring forward against the Catholic belief in Purgatory
that text which says: "If the tree fall to the south, or to the north,
in what place soever it shall fall, there shall it be." (Eccles. xi. 3.)

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