Purgatory

All Souls Day
Beloved in the Lord,
In the year 590AD, a monk named Justus lived at St. Andrew’s Monastery in Rome. Justus was a doctor and did his best using his knowledge to care for the monks. Now it happened that he himself became very ill and needed help. He sent a brother to his cell to get some medicine, but there the brother noticed 3 gold pieces that Justus had hidden there. Well, the monks took vows of poverty; this was a serious sin, so they went and told St. Gregory about it. He was really upset, because he expected the monks to take their vows seriously. Fortunately, Justus was very sorry for what he had done, and he repented of his sin a great deal before he died.
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After his death, Pope Gregory was filled with concern for Justus who would surely be in Purgatory for a long time. He insisted that the Holy Mass be offered for Justus for 30 days in a row. At the end of those 30 days, Justus appeared in a vision to his friend and told him, ‘I have just received pardon and release from Purgatory because of the Masses said for me.’
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Friends in Christ, today is All Souls Day, it is the day in which we particularly pray for those who have died, who may still be in Purgatory.
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Holy Scripture assures us that in order to be in heaven you have to be holy. The Book of Hebrews says: ‘Strive…for that holiness without which no man will see God.'[i] The Book of Revelation says nothing unclean shall ever enter heaven.[ii] To be in union with God, one must be perfect. Unless a person is a Saint on earth, he or she is not yet ready to be in heaven.
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Yes, God-willing we have confessed our mortal sins and are justified and saved by the Blood of Christ – in the ‘State of Grace – but the temporal punishment due to our sins remains.
The neighbor can forgive me for breaking his window with my baseball, but I still have to pay for it to be repaired.
The addict, who is sorry and forgiven by his family, still needs to go through a lot of painful change to be purified of his sins. A lot of change.
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We know this is true for one clear reason: because the Church has always prayed for the dead; if those who died are in heaven, they need no prayers; if they are in hell, prayers do no good. So why have prayers always been offered for our departed loved ones? Because there is another place of purification that we call Purgatory.
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Jesus says, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny. St. Paul says our works will be evaluated at the end of our life. ‘fire, he says, will assay the quality of our works,’ the works that are good will receive a reward, those that burn we will lose any reward, but we will ‘be saved as through fire,’ he says.
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Our Lord said that sins against the Holy Spirit can’t be forgiven in the next life, but other sins can.
And so people who die need prayers to help them be purified of their sins.
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Praying for the dead is clearly found in the Holy Scriptures. In the Book of Macabees, after a battle, they found amulets around the necks of dead soldiers – this was a sin of superstitious practices.
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What did their friend do? He immediately made a collection to send to Jerusalem to have prayers offered in the temple for his friends so that they could be forgiven. It says, ‘he acted in a very excellent and noble way…thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.’ 2 Mac 12
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Every person must pray daily, for sure, what kind of a Catholic does not pray? No Catholic. But within those daily prayers, there should be a list of names: children, parents, sick relatives, friends in trouble, and…..those who have died. ‘Lord, look with favor on grandma, on Joe, on Laura and Edward – forgive and heal them of their sins; in your mercy bring them to heaven.’
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I was speaking at a wake service some time back, and I told the folks that you have to be perfect to get into heaven, but the trouble is, none of us are perfect, so we all want to be prayed for when we die. The decease’s wife was nodding her head, she said ‘yes! yes! yes!’
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It is the greatest act of charity to pray for those in Purgatory. Those souls can’t help themselves, they are unable to merit, so they rely on us. Many times, people come to the rectory and ask to have a Mass said for their loved one. I always see such love there, in that action. A Mass offered is the best way to help them to reach heaven.
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When St. Francis de Sales’ friends died, he never grew weary of speaking fondly of them and asking other to pray for them. He said that we do not sufficiently remember our dead or speak of them. We turn away from that conversation as if from a sad story, but we should be recalling their needs and their lives.[iii]
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A Plenary Indulgence obtained for a loved one in Purgatory can get them to heaven. For 8 days now, one can obtain a Plenary Indulgence for a poor soul by visiting a cemetery and saying a prayer for that person.
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Let’s today and this week, really give our heart to those who need our prayers.
St. Catherine of Genoa said that Purgatory is incomparably painful because we see all the horror of our sins, yet it is also very joyful, because God is with us there, and we are learning to endure his truth and his light.[iv]
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But if those in Purgatory are consoled by our prayers, even more are they helped by the Mother of God.[v] Mary once spoke to St. Bridget and said, ‘I am the Mother of all those in purgatory.’ St. Alphonsus says that the Blessed Virgin herself goes occasionally to that place to visit and comfort her children.
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But if we are determined to be faithful children of Jesus Christ, and Mary, why can we not hope to go straight to heaven by leading a holy life – without even going to Purgatory?

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Mary Magdalene]

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[i] Heb 12:14

[ii] See Rev 21:27

[iii] Quoted from an article by Susan Tassone: Consoling Thoughts on Purgatory from a Saint Who saw beyond Suffering

[iv] Catholic Christianity, by Peter Kreeft, p. 149.

[v] Glories of Mary, pp. 232, 235.

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