Innumerable are the manifestations Almighty God has made of His paternal pity for His children. The visible world is replete with evidences of His goodness and fatherly care. But we must contemplate the world beyond to find the masterpiece of God's pity for the children of men. It is that merciful place of expiation known as purgatory, to which are consigned the souls who depart this life justified, but still in need of purification.
Purgatory is truly an invention of God's all-merciful, condescending love, for had not God created purgatory as a place of expiation of offenses not atoned for during life, doubtless the greater part of manking would be excluded from the Beatific Vision. In the purifying flames of purgatory souls are made worthy to take their places in the court of heaven before the throne of the King of kings. In purgatory they are prepared to enter the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of peace, whose inhabitants are ever bathed in the radiant light of eternal love.
Both Holy Scripture and the Doctors of the Church teach that there is a purgatory. Reason also tells us this. No one who reflects a moment will doubt that there are persons who during their lives never commit mortal sin, or persons who at death are not in the state of mortal sin, but who are, nevertheless, not free from faults and imperfections when they enter eternity. Reason tells us that such souls would not be worthy to enter at once into heaven, where "nothing defiled may enter," and that, on the other hand, they could not be consigned by God to eternal torments, for this would be contrary to His infinite and perfect justice. Hence, we must conclude that there is a middle state where souls can be purified from their stains, where they can expiate the debts due to sins, forgiven but not atoned for, and where they are clothed in the spotless wedding garment of perfect purity before being admitted to the eternal nuptials with the all-pure, all-holy God. This place is purgatory.
It is not to be understood, however, that all souls are excluded from the Beatific Vision of God until they have passed through the fiery furnace of purgatory. There are many heroic souls, who, having been purified in the furnace of love and suffering, are admitted to the presence of God immediately after death. Moreover, the fact that a soul is sentenced to chastisement in purgatory, does not justify the conclusion that it will be inferior in heavenly glory to souls admitted to heaven without undergoing purification by fire. The most precious stones and metals sometimes require longer and more thorough polishing than less valuable ones. The degree of their value depends upon their interior worth. So, too, the degree of glory of each saint in heaven depends upon the merit of each particular life.
|Location of PurgatoryHoly Scripture does not reveal to us the location of purgatory. But it is the general opinion of theologians
that purgatory is located in the interior of the earth, very near to the place of eternal perdition. This is
also the common belief of the faithful and is confirmed by the liturgical pryaers of the Church and the
testimony of Holy Scripture. The vast prison of pain known as purgatory is, according to some spiritual
writers, divided into many parts wherin souls suffer in different degrees of intensity according to the
faults they may have to expiate or the debits they have yet to pay. |
We must not, however, view purgatory as being confined to a particular location. The writings of many saintly persons mention various places where the holy souls are purified and are made to suffer their purgatory. Father Faber observes: "Some souls undergo their punishment in the air, or near their graves, or near the altars of the Blessed Sacrament, or in the rooms of those praying for them, or amid the scenes of former sins or firvolities."
|Torments of PurgatoryPurgatory punishes, by tortures unknown to earth, the slightest stains of sin remaining upon the soul
after death, and while punishing, purifies the soul from those stains. No human tongue can describ
the intense pain which the suffering souls must endure in the process of purification. The Angelic
Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, says: "The least pin in purgatory is greater than the greatest suffering in
this world." And elsewhere he adds: "The same fire torments the reprobate in hell and the just in purgatory."|