What exactly is Purgatory?

CCC 1030-1032

Purgatory is a place of purification for souls who have died in grace and friendship of God. However, before we enter into full communion with God, every trace of sin within us must be eliminated and every imperfection in our soul must be purified.  Purgatory is a place of final purification, accomplished through suffering. It is only for souls who are eventually going to heaven. No soul in purgatory will ever go to hell. Some misconceptions about purgatory is that it is “second chance” after we die. That is not true, nor is it an eternal in-between state for those not good enough for heaven or bad enough for hell.  It can be considered something good for those souls who love God, though not perfectly, because they can be purged of the selfishness that keeps them from full union with the God who is Love and live with him forever.

The CCC puts it this way:

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:1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7.

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.” –2 Macc 12:46. From the beginning the Church has honoured 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” – St. John Chrysostom

Also in this year of mercy, the church grants an indulgence that any mass said for a particular soul in purgatory grants them the graces to enter heaven! So do your work of mercy and say mass for the dead.

Museum for the souls of purgatory

Prayer for the Souls of Purgatory


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