In the Catholic Church, the Mystical Body of Christ consists of three Churches: The Church Militant – we the faithful who dwell on earth, The Church Triumphant – the elect who are in the presence of the Beatific Vision in Heaven, and The Church Suffering – those who are no less members of the Body but who are in Purgatory.
We want to talk of Purgatory, The Church Suffering. Those souls who dwell in Purgatory are more privileged than those who dwell on earth, in that they are assured of entering into the Kingdom of God one day; whereas, those who are part of the Church Militant are vulnerable and have to fight the wages of sin that are constantly ready to attack and drag them down to Hell. The Church Suffering plays a compassionate role in God’s Plan to save His children for Himself. For God has always loved us; and as He is unchanging, His Love is unchanging; and part of that unchanging Love is Purgatory.
Even the renowned pagan philosophers, Plato and Virgil spoke of Purgatory. Plato taught that souls who had lived a fairly good life, who had walked the middle road, were enclosed in a place where they were purified of their sins. Virgil maintained that souls couldn’t free themselves of the sins they had committed while they were alive, and therefore had to go to a place where there was pain and where they suffered to atone for the sins of their past life.
What we have believed from the very beginning, right from the Old Testament till today, holds true for all time:
(1) Souls who are in Purgatory are those who have died in a state of Grace but have not been purged (cleansed), have not paid unresolved debts owed for offenses committed during the soul’s time on earth.
(2) Purgatory is the place where Poor Souls are washed clean of all remaining blemishes, all imperfections, venial sins and faults.
Those outside our Church, who do not understand Purgatory, and God’s Mercy in providing this gift to us, often argue there is no reference to Purgatory in the Bible. Listen to Machabees in the Old Testament! Hear what the Jews believed, and you will see that it was not only in life after death, but in the cleansing, necessary to free them of sin.
“On the following day, since the task had now become urgent,
Judas and his men went to gather the bodies of the slain
and bury them with their kinsmen in their ancestral tombs.
But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear, so it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just Judge Who brings light to the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death.
But if he did this with the view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.
Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.” (IIMach 12:39-46)
Judas, the Machabean, was not satisfied with just recognizing the fallen with a grand funeral. Seeing the sins that had been hidden, he commanded a collection be taken up among the remaining soldiers. This he sent to the Temple in Jerusalem as an offering, so that sacrifice would be offered to wipe out the sins and transgressions they had committed against the law of the Jews, that of worshiping false idols. Is this not what we do, when we have Masses said for the dead?
The Jews, who have faithfully followed the Old Testament for thousands of years, have always believed in purification in the next world. The tradition, that of praying for the dead, has been passed down from generation to generation. For example, a child is required to pray for his deceased parent, for one year, a prayer that is called “Kadis.” (pronounced Kadesh) This prayer is so holy, so special, that one is never to recite this prayer except for the purpose of praying for a dead parent. If there is no life after death, then why pray; it is all over; this world is all there is; their prayers are for no purpose. Why pray? If there is no remedy, no hope for the soul of the departed parent, or if there is no need for remedy, or if there is no place where the soul can be remedied, then why pray?
Another tradition is that of lighting candles for the dead, called “Yortsite” candles. Now, if you do not believe in life after death and the resurrection of the dead, why would you light candles for them? And if the Jews did not believe that there is a middle place between the earth and Heaven, that which we Catholics call Purgatory, then it would be foolishness to light.
St. Paulknew the Jewish Law. When he was converted by the Lord, he used this knowledge of the law, to try to bring his brothers and sisters of the Hebrew Faith to the Messiah they had been awaiting, Jesus the Christ
Now, Paul had been a Pharisee. Like them, he believed in a middle state between Heaven and Hell. At one point, to explain the teaching of the Resurrection,St. Paulreferred to the Jewish custom of devoutly praying for the dead:
“If the dead are not raised, what about those who have themselves baptized on behalf of the dead? If the raising of the dead is not a reality, why be baptized on their behalf? And why are we continually putting ourselves in danger? I swear to you, brothers, by the very pride you take in me, which I cherish in Jesus Christ our Lord, that I face death every day. If I fought those beasts atEphesusfor purely human motives, what profit was there for me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1Cor 15:29-33)
WhatSt. Paulwas saying was: If there is no resurrection, then why pray for the dead, why go through all the pious rituals for the dead? Is he not also saying: If there is no place where the dead can be purified, why pray for the dead? For if they are in Heaven, there is no necessity as they are already sanctified; or if they are in Hell there is no hope of sanctification, as they are already damned. So, there has to be a place where the dead are forgiven; although he does not specifically use the word Purgatory, he is affirming a place of purification which we call Purgatory.
Purgatory and the New Testament
We hear Jesus speaking out about “getting angry,” that he who does so will be liable to judgment. He warns:
“Lose no time; settle with your opponent while on your way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the guard, who will throw you into prison. I warn you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” (Matt 5:25-26)
Again, is He not referring here to Purgatory? Is Jesus not saying, make retribution here on earth rather than suffer the pains of Purgatory from which you will not be released until the debt is fully paid?
Hope did not die on the Cross. From the Holy Cave of Jesus’ Heart, opened by the centurion’s sword, Hope came to us, once again. Whereas in theCaveofBethlehem, Hope was born into the world, on Calvary, from His Side new Hope came into the world,MotherChurch. We call that hope Purgatory. And that’s how we will be saved, by this Hope!
We love You.
Bob and Penny Lord