What is Purgatory?

 

Purgatory. The Catholic Church holds that purgatory is a real and necessary element of our Tradition, going so far as to state in the Council of Florence:

“Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has from the Sacred Scriptures and the ancient tradition of the Fathers taught in Councils and very recently in this Ecumenical synod (Sess. VI, cap. XXX; Sess. XXII cap.ii, iii) that there is a purgatory, and that the souls therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar; the Holy Synod enjoins on the Bishops that they diligently endeavor to have the sound doctrine of the Fathers in Councils regarding purgatory everywhere taught and preached, held and believed by the faithful” (Denzinger, “Enchiridon”, 983).

Why do you think we would hold this idea or purgatory to be true?

The basic understanding of Purgatory is that it is a state where our venial sins are purged or burned from us. We cannot enter the presence of God with the stain of sin, so we must be made pure.

Feasts such as All Souls remind us to keep in prayer those who have gone before us who are in the state of Purgatory and who need our prayers to move on into eternal bliss.

Where does this understanding of us praying for souls in purgatory come from?

Hebrew Scriptures: 2 Maccabees

making a gathering . . . sent twelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead). And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins. (2 Maccabees 12:43-46)

In the New Testament we see most clearly in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians 3:11-15 the concept of purging through fire:

“For other foundation no man 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.”

Further, in the Catechism, the Church states the following about purgatory:

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 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:607

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.608

Concerning the concept of praying for souls in the State of Purgatory, the Catechism states the following again based on our early exploration of 2 Maccabees:

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.”609 From the beginning the Church has honored 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.610 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.611

References from Catechism:

607 Cf. 1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7.
608 St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4,39:PL 77,396; cf. Mt 12:31.
609 2 Macc 12:46.
610 Cf. Council of Lyons II (1274):DS 856.
611 St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in 1 Cor. 41,5:PG 61,361; cf. Job 1:5.

St. Peter Chrysologus

A man who vigorously pursues a goal may produce results far beyond his expectations and his intentions. Thus it was with Peter of the Golden Words, as he was called, who as a young man became bishop of Ravenna, the capital of the empire in the West.
At the time there were abuses and vestiges of paganism evident in his diocese, and these he was determined to battle and overcome. His principal weapon was the short sermon, and many of them have come down to us. They do not contain great originality of thought. They are, however, full of moral applications, sound in doctrine and historically significant in that they reveal Christian life in fifth-century Ravenna. So authentic were the contents of his sermons that, some 13 centuries later, he was declared a doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIII. He who had earnestly sought to teach and motivate his own flock was recognized as a teacher of the universal Church.
In addition to his zeal in the exercise of his office, Peter Chrysologus was distinguished by a fierce loyalty to the Church, not only in its teaching, but in its authority as well. He looked upon learning not as a mere opportunity but as an obligation for all, both as a development of God-given faculties and as a solid support for the worship of God.
Some time before his death, St. Peter returned to Imola, his birthplace, where he died around A.D. 450.

(Thank you to UCatholic)

St. Pantaleon

St. Pantaleon came from Nicomedia, near the Black Sea, in Asia. He was such a famous doctor that the Emperor himself chose him for his own doctor. Pantaleon was a Christian, but the bad influence from the pagan court caused him to give up his Christian faith entirely.
A holy priest named Hermolaos made him realize what a sin he had committed. Pantaleon listened to him, detested his sin and joined the Church once more. To make up for what he had done, he greatly desired to suffer and die for Jesus. In the meantime, he imitated Our Lord’s charity by taking care of poor sick people without any charge for his medical services.
When the Emperor Diocletian began his persecution, Pantaleon at once gave away everything he owned to the poor. Not long afterwards, he was accused of being a Christian. He was given the choice of denying his Faith or being put to death. No torture could force Pantaleon to deny his Faith.
There has been strong devotion in past ages to this Saint. In the East he is called the “Great Martyr and Wonder-worker.” Saint Pantaleon’s feast day is July 27th.

(Thank you to UCatholic)

St Anna and St Joachim

St Anna and St Joachim, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. –
An ancient tradition, gives these names to the parents of the Virgin Mary. The cult of St Anna became popular in the 6th century in the East, and in the 10th century in the West, Joachim was added a long time later. Although the information about Mary’s parents is found in an early apocryphal writing that gives many miraculous stories about the early life of the Virgin Mary, there is no reason to suppose that such a straightforward fact as her parents’ names should be wrong. It does not occur in the Gospels simply because the evangelists) felt they had more important things to talk about. But what, after all, could be more important than the parents who brought up the Virgin Mary to be the woman she was? At the moment of consenting to the Incarnation she took the most important decision ever taken by any human being, and the fact that she took it is, to a great extent, the work of her parents. The Holy Spirit gave her the strength to take the decision; but her parents’ training gave her the wisdom to choose.

(Thank you to Daylesford Abbey)

The Feast of St. James


Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of St James, Apostle (? – 44).- He was the brother of St John and, like him, a fisherman. He was one of the witnesses of the Transfiguration and one of those who slept through most of the Agony in the Garden. He was the first of the apostles to be martyred. He was buried in Jerusalem, and nothing more is known about him until the ninth century.
At this time we learn of a tradition that the relics of St James were brought to Spain some time after his martyrdom, and his shrine at Compostela in Galicia grew in importance until it became the greatest pilgrimage centre in western Europe. The scallop-shell, the emblem of St James, has become the emblem of pilgrims generally.

(Thank you to Daylesford Abbey)

St Charbel Makhlouf

Today we remember St Charbel Makhlouf, Priest (1828 – 1898).- He was born in the Lebanon. His family did not approve of his devotion to prayer and solitude. He would go secretly to the monastery of St Maron at Annaya, eventually became a Maronite monk, and was ordained a priest in 1853. After being a monk for many years, he was drawn to a closer imitation of the Desert Fathers and became a hermit.
At his hermitage Charbel lived a severely ascetic life with much prayer and fasting. He considered himself the servant of anyone who came to the hermitage. He spent the last 23 years of his life there, and increasing numbers of people would come to receive his counsel or his blessing. Remembering saints like Charbel helps the Church to appreciate both the diversity and unity present in the Catholic Church, that the Aramaic Maronite Antiochian Church is indeed a living branch of the Catholic Church and is intimately connected with the trunk, who is Christ, our Savior. St. Charbel, Pray for us!
 
 
 
(Thank you to Daylesford Abbey)