The Existence of Purgatory, Part I
– The Word of God –
The existence of Purgatory is not a mere pious belief, which we are free to accept or to reject. It is a formal dogma taught by faith, which we must profess lest we become anathema. It is a holy and salvific thought, proclaims the Old Testament, that of praying for the dead so that they may be delivered from their sins. The Jews were so convinced of this truth that they had a prayer for the deliverance of the deceased, which the head of the family had to recite before the family sat down to a meal.
Jesus Christ himself taught, Settle your accounts with your enemies while you are still in this world. If you do not, your enemies will deliver you into the hands of the Judge and the Judge will give you over to his minister, who will throw you in jail from which you will not be freed until your debt has been paid, down to the last farthing. That enemy according to St. Augustine, is God Himself, the irreconcilable enemy of sin. That inexorable Judge, according to Scripture is Jesus Christ, the Judge of the living and the dead. Finally, the dreaded prison is Purgatory, from which we cannot leave until we have satisfied Divine Justice, that is, after having eliminated all the murkiness of our soul.
Jesus was not content with engraving the memory of Purgatory in our hearts. After his Death, setting for us a perfect example, He descended into Limbo where Souls had been awaiting deliverance since the Fall of Adam, that Fall which had closed all access to Heaven. Amid immense celestial joy, He reopened forever the gates of Heaven.
My God, I believe in Purgatory, I adore the equity of your judgement, including the rigours of your Justice!
– The Church’s Teaching –
The faith of the Church is no less explicit. This is how it was formulated by the Council of Trent: May they be anathema, those who would affirm that after having received the grace of justification, all sinners obtain so much remission and eternal acquittal, that there is no temporal debt left to atone, in this world or in Purgatory before they might enter Heaven. All the Latin and Greek doctors of the Church as well as all ancient and modern theologians have confirmed this belief.
In accordance with this belief, the Church, a tender and compassionate mother prays every day during Mass for the souls in Purgatory. She recommends that we, her children offer to God, prayers, sacrifices, sufferings and Holy Masses for the deliverance of our deceased brethren. She marks a solemn anniversary when we are invited with all of Christianity to come to the aid of the faithful departed.
How consoling it is for us to realise that after our death, the Church will pray for us and will ask all of the faithful to ask God for our deliverance. She will not stop praying until we are brought into the bosom of the Triumphant Church. Our Catholic Church is like a tender mother. She knows her children’s weaknesses!
– Example –
Judas Maccabee, that man of faith in whose care God had entrusted the law of Israel, Jerusalem and her temple, defeated the enemies of God and Israel in a great victory. The first action of this pious and brave man was to fall on his knees and praise the Lord of all armies. Rising with his troops, he beheld the bodies of his fallen companions. Filled with a holy respect for the brave deceased, Judas had them gathered and buried in the tombs of their ancestors. Finally, thinking of the souls of these martyrs who had died for their Faith and for their Country, he collected offerings and sent twelve thousand drachmas to Jerusalem as a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of these martyrs.
For, in wisdom and piety, he considered that those who had died in Faith had indeed stored up a precious reward.
That is how the children of God behaved two thousand years ago. Confirming these serious and moving facts, the Spirit of God repeated them through the mouth of the sacred historian, It is a holy and salvific thought, that of praying for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sins.
Let Us Pray
Obedient child of your Church, I firmly believe, O my God, in the existence of Purgatory. I believe because your Spirit of Truth has revealed it, because your saints and your doctors teach it. Increase my faith that my charity for those captive souls in Purgatory might grow. Be their Conciliator O Jesus! Lord, call your children and our brethren to eternal rest and may the light that never dies shine upon them. May they rest in peace!