Purgatory Part II

Part One is here

Catholic Understanding of Faith

  1. Catholics and Lutherans agree that we are saved by faith alone. We cannot be justified before God by anything that we do. We are completely dependent on God’s free gift of grace.
  2. Catholics believe that we are given sanctifying grace, justifying grace, by the Holy
    Trinity at Baptism (CCC 1266). Baptism gives us the grace to grow in faith and holiness through the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism incorporates us into Christ. We are permanently sealed with an           indelible mark. It cannot be erased, but sin can separate us from the divine life. That is we can lose our justification before God. Justification can be restored by the Sacrament of Reconciliation when we lose it due to serious sin.

The Church teaches that faith is a gift which we only lose when we turn away from God. When we sin. Faith cannot be separated from hope and Charity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

1815 The gift of faith remains in one who has not sinned against it. But “faith apart from works is dead” (Jas 2:26): when it is deprived of hope and love, faith does not fully unite the believer to Christ and does not make him a living member of his Body.


Purgatory: “Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8); “nothing unclean shall enter [heaven]” (Rev. 21:27)

Created by God’s mercy to purify those who die as friends of God but are not quite ready to stand face to face with God.  Purgatory is not just legal punishment for past sins. It is training for heaven. We are God’s children and Purgatory is the Father’s loving discipline.

Even if we die in God’s grace and friendship, no one who is impure can enter heaven. It burns away our remaining unhealthy attachments to sin and we suffer punishment for any sins that we have not atoned for (even though they have been forgiven).  Purgatory purifies those who at the moment of death are not holy enough for heaven, but are not evil enough for hell. The souls in Purgatory endure suffering, but they also experience Great joy.

Purgatory is the Last Mercy; we are saved even though we need to be cleansed. Purgatory is temporary. All souls that are in Purgatory will obtain heaven. Purgatory is heavens front porch or heavens hospital, or heavens shower. Those in Purgatory have already been saved by their response of faith and their repentance. Their destiny is heaven not hell. There are only two eternal destinations and not three.

Some people obtain heaven without needing Purgatory. There are people who led lives of heroic virtue by striving to be holy.  They include the canonized Saints of the Church.

Where is Purgatory in Scripture? While it is true that the word Purgatory is not in scripture but neither are the words Trinity or incarnation! But the doctrine of Purgatory is supported by scripture.

In the following verse from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus clearly indicates that some sins will be forgiven in the next world:

Matthew 27: 32-33: Therefore, I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit  will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

St. Paul tells us:

(1Cor3:10-17) According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise Masterbuilder I laid for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day  will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire (itself) will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his Encyclical on Hope, Spe Salvi explains:

“Paul begins by saying that Christian life is built upon a common foundation: Jesus Christ. This foundation endures. If we have stood firm on this foundation and built our life upon it, we know that it cannot be taken away from us even in death. Then Paul continues: “Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:12-15). In this text, it is in any case evident that our salvation can take different forms, that some of what is built may be burned down, that in order to be saved we personally have to pass through “fire” so as to become fully open to receiving God and able to take our place at the table of the eternal marriage-feast.”

The Church doesn’t know much about the actual workings of Purgatory. Pope Benedict notes that some theologians speculate that Pugatory is Christ himself, and that we will be purified at personal judgment when we die.

“The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God.”

Here is a basic article on Purgatory.

About Susan Kehoe

I am the wife of a Catholic deacon living in Des Moines Iowa. My husband Larry was ordained in 2006. We have two children and five grandchildren.. Our daughter and her family live in Ireland, and our son and his family live in Franklin Massachusetts.
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