Ch. XVII Purgatory p 170-178

CHAPTER XVII

 

PURGATORY

 

“But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak,

they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment.”

Matthew 12:36

 

“It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead,

that they may be loosed from sins”

2 Machabees 12:46

 

WHAT IS PURGATORY?

 

Man is composed of a body and a Soul.  At death, the Soul leaves the body and is immediately judged by GOD.  Souls in the State of Grace, and with no punishment due to sins already forgiven, go to Heaven.  Souls in Mortal Sin, go to Hell.  Souls with unforgiven Venial Sins and punishment still due for sins already forgiven, are sent to Purgatory.  Purgatory is a place of purgation or cleansing of the Soul prior to its entry into Heaven.  Purgatory is like Hell in the suffering there.  Unlike hell, the Poor Souls in Purgatory have Hope, and will eventually get to Heaven.  Those in the State of Grace on earth, can reduce the suffering of the Poor Souls, with prayer and sacrifice.

 

THE CORE OF NON-CATHOLIC REJECTION OF PURGATORY:

 

The core of non-Catholic errors about Purgatory, are rooted in three of their most common errors:

 

1. Their belief that they are “saved” by Faith alone:

 

  After all if they are already “saved” by their Faith then what need is there for Purgatory?  Of course the “Saving Faith” is much more than a simple belief that “Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior”.   The “Saving Faith is: a True Faith, not a false faith; a complete Faith, not a partial faith; a fervent Faith, not a tepid faith, a Catholic Faith not a non-Catholic faith.  See Chapter V: “What is Necessary for Salvation?! Why Should We Care” for more details on this subject.

 

2. Their rejection of the Particular Judgment:

 

Most references in Holy Scripture to the Judgment, refer to the General Judgment, after which there will be only Heaven and Hell.  It is true that Purgatory will cease to exist after the General Judgment, which occurs at the end of time.  Our Purgatory however starts after the Particular Judgment, which occurs immediately after death and could last as long as till the end of time!

 
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3. Their misunderstanding of the Nature of Grace:

 

 Non-Catholics point out the Scriptural passages that say that “all men are corrupt” and  “all men are sinners”.  Therefore according to them, God’s “free Gift of Grace” just covers sinful man up so that he looks pleasing to God, while underneath the Grace, man is still corrupt. They therefore reject the idea of “atonement for sin” “cleansing of the soul”, Sanctifying Grace, Purgatory.

  

The Catholic understanding of Grace is that there are two kinds of Grace: Actual Grace which

motivates us to do good and avoid evil and Sanctifying Grace which helps us grow in Sanctity and Holiness and spiritual strength. Actual Grace motivates us to prayer and sacrifice, which will atone for some of our sins and thereby reduce time in Purgatory, for ourselves or for others.  Indeed God’s Grace is free.  We do not earn It.  However we must “ask to receive”, “seek before we find” and “knock before the door is opened”. For example, we ask for the Grace of forgiveness of sins by receiving the Sacrament of Confession, etc. 

 

1. NON-CATHOLIC: You can search the Bible from front to back and never find the word “Purgatory”!

 

CATHOLIC RESPONSE: True, the word “Purgatory” is not found in the Bible.  The word “Incarnation” is not found either, yet the Doctrine of the Incarnation (Christ became man) is clearly taught. The word “Trinity” is not found in Holy Scripture, but the Doctrine of the Trinity is clearly taught.  Likewise the Doctrine of Purgatory is clearly indicated in Holy Scripture:

 

1 Corinthians 3:15 “If any man’s work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.

 

COMMENT: Souls in Hell aren’t “saved”, but tormented by fire - forever.  Souls in Heaven are already saved.  This passage describes souls being saved “by fire”.  If they are not in Heaven or Hell, they must be in another place of purgation (cleansing, atonement).  A place aptly called Purgatory.

 

Matt. 12:32 “And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.

 

COMMENT: Sins against the Holy Ghost will not be forgiven in the world to come.  This implies that some other types of sin will be forgiven in “the world to come”.  Where?  Sins will not be forgiven in Hell.  Hell is forever.  Those in Heaven have already had their sins forgiven.  There is therefore, another place in the world to come where sins are forgiven. This place of purgation is called Purgatory.

 

2 Machabees 12:46 “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.

 

COMMENT: Prayers for the dead who are in Hell do no good.  Hell is forever.  Those in Heaven need no prayers.  Only souls in a Purgatory can benefit from such prayers, therefore Purgatory exists.  Some out of hatred for this passage in Holy Scripture ignore it.  In fact Machabees is one of the Books of the Bible left out of the Protestant King James version of the Bible.  Never the less it does come down to us from the Jewish Old Testament and therefore even if just considered as an historical document, it shows that the ancient Jews, the Chosen People of God, believed in Purgatory.  Here is an evident and undeniable proof of the practice of praying for the dead under the “Old Law”, which was then strictly observed by the Jews.

 
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Ecclesiasticus 7:37 (Not to be confused with Ecclesiastes) “...restrain not Grace from the dead.”

 

COMMENT: The dead in Hell can’t get Grace.  The dead in Heaven already have Grace.  Only the dead in Purgatory can get Grace, therefore Purgatory exists.

 

Ecclesiasticus 24:45 (Not to be confused with Ecclesiastes) “I will penetrate to all the lower parts of the earth, and will behold all that sleep, and will enlighten all that hope in the Lord.

 

COMMENT: Souls in Hell have no hope.  Hell is forever.  Souls in Heaven need no hope, since they are already saved.  Only the dead in a Purgatory can have hope, therefore Purgatory is.

 

Luke 12:59 “I say to thee, thou shalt not go out thence, until thou pay the very last mite.”

 

COMMENT: The poor souls in Purgatory cannot leave till they have atoned for all their sins.  Souls in Hell never leave.  Souls in Heaven never leave.  The only prison a Soul can leave is Purgatory, therefore Purgatory exists.

 

Matt. 5:26 “Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not go out form thence till thou repay the last farthing.”

 

COMMENT: Souls in Hell will never “go out”.  Souls in Heaven don’t want to.  Only souls in a Purgatory will “go out”, therefore Purgatory exists.

 

1 Peter 3:19 “In which also coming he (Christ) preached to those spirits that were in prison:”

 

COMMENT: Preaching to Souls in Hell would do no good.  Souls in Heaven are not in a prison.  There is a third place besides Heaven or Hell where Souls are in a prison.  Therefore Purgatory exists.

 

 2. NON-CATHOLIC: Where is the idea of the Particular Judgment, immediately after death, found in the Bible?

 

CATHOLIC RESPONSE:

 

Ecclesiasticus 1:13 (Not to be confused with Ecclesiastes) “With him that feareth the Lord, it shall go well in the latter end, and in the day of his death he shall be blessed.”

 

Ecclesiasticus 11:28 “For it is easy before GOD in the day of death to reward every one according to his ways.”

 

Luke 23:43 “And Jesus said to him (the good thief): Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”
 
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2 Corinthians 5:8 “But we are confident, and have a good will to be absent rather from the body (our souls are absent from the body at the moment of death), and to be present with the Lord.

  

Hebrews 9:27 “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the Judgment.”

 

COMMENT: These passages teach that at death the soul will “be absent from the body” and subjected to “Judgment” “according to his ways” and “in the day of death” the soul shall be sent where it deserves to be sent - The Particular Judgment.  Most people calling themselves “Christian” believe in Heaven and Hell. There is however a third place that souls may go to after being Judged.  This is a place of cleansing, of atonement for sin, of purgation.  A place called Purgatory.

 

3. NON-CATHOLIC: Why do we need Purgatory God’s free Gift of Grace covers up our wickedness! Where in the Bible does it say we have to atone for sin?

 

CATHOLIC RESPONSE:

 

Apocalypse (Revelations) 21:27 “There shall not enter into It (Heaven) anything defiled, or that worketh abomination or maketh a lie, but they that are written in the book of life of the Lamb.”

 

COMMENT: Nothing defiled enters Heaven, therefore GOD in His Mercy created a place of Purgation, where Souls with Venial (not deadly) sins may be prepared for Heaven (become undefiled).

 

1 John 5:16 “He that knoweth his brother to sin a sin which is not to death, let him ask, and life shall be given to him, who sinneth not to death.  There is a sin unto death: for that I say not that any man ask.”

 

COMMENT: This passage tells us that not all sin is deadly (Venial Sin).  Not all sin damns a Soul to Hell.  If we know of a Poor Soul in Purgatory (not in Hell), our Prayers for him will give life in Heaven.  It also tells us not to pray for souls with deadly (Mortal) sin, for they are in Hell, and beyond our help.

 

Matt. 12:36 “But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the Day of Judgment.”

 

COMMENT:   Many of us will render this account in Purgatory.  “Every” idle word surely isn’t a Mortal Sin (I Hope!). See also Luke 12:59 above.

 

Even though the word “Purgatory” does not appear in Holy Scripture, the Doctrine of a third place besides heaven and Hell, a place where a Soul is “saved by fire”, receive Grace, and be helped by our Prayers, pay the last mite and farthing, account for every idle word, have Hope, be made undefiled and be prepared for Heaven, is clearly taught.
 
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WRITINGS OF THE EARLY (PRIMITIVE) CHURCH ON PURGATORY:[1]

 

Some are fond of saying the Catholic Church “invented” the doctrine of Purgatory, but they have trouble saying just when.  They often place the blame on Pope Gregory the Great, who reigned from 590 - 604.  It is therefore useful to look at these early writings, and see if the Doctrine of Purgatory was know before this time.  The following examples were taken from the sources given in Reference 107.

 

Tertullian (2nd Century): “The faithful wife will pray for the Soul of her deceased husband, particularly on the anniversary day of his falling asleep (death).  And if she fail to do so she hath repudiated her husband as far as in her lies.”

 

 Eusebius, the historian (4th Century): Describing the funeral of Constantine the Great, says that the body of the blessed prince was placed on a lofty bier, and the ministers of God and the multitude of the people, with tears and much lamentation, offered up prayers and sacrifice for the repose of his Soul.

 

St. Ephrem (4th Century): “...in the name of God who commands me to leave you, to remember me when you assemble to pray.  Assist me with your prayers; for the dead are benefited by the prayers of living Saints.”

 

St. Ambrose (4th Century): On the death of the Emperors Gratian and Valentinian, says: “Blessed shall both of you be, if my prayers can avail anything.  No day shall pass you over in silence.”

 

St. John Chrysostom (347 - 407): “It was not without good reason ordained by the Apostles that mention should be made of the dead in the tremendous mysteries, because they knew well that they would receive great benefit from it.”

 

St. Augustine (beginning of 5th Century): When his mother was at the point of death she made this last request of him: “Lay this body anywhere; let not the care of it anyway disturb you.  This only I request of you, that you would remember me at the altar of the Lord, wherever you be.”  This pious son prayed for his mother’s Soul in the most impassioned language: “O God of my heart, do now beseech Thee for the sins of my mother.  Hear me through the medicine of the wounds that hung upon the wood.... May she, then, be in peace with her husband.... And inspire my Lord,...Thy servants, my brethren, whom with voice and heart, and pen I serve, that as many as shall read these words may remember at Thy altar, (ST.) Monica (his Mother), Thy servant....”

These are but a few specimens of the unanimous voice of the Fathers of the early Church, regarding the salutary practice of praying or the dead.  Even the graffiti in the catacombs, where the earliest Christians, during persecutions of the first three centuries, recorded prayers for the dead.

 

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That the practice of praying for the dead has descended from Apostolic times is evident also from the Liturgies of the Church. The principal Liturgies are the Liturgy of St. James the Apostle, who founded the Church of Jerusalem; the Liturgy of St. Mark the Evangelist, founder of the Church of Alexandria, and the Liturgy of St. Peter, who established the Church in Rome.  The Liturgies are called after the Apostles who compiled them They all, without exception, have prayers for the dead.

 

The Eastern and the Western Churches were happily united until the fourth and fifth centuries, when the Arian, Nestorians, and Eutychians broke away.  In leaving the Catholic Church these Eastern sects retained the old Liturgies, which they use to this day.  All of them contain prayers for the dead.  This shows that the belief in Purgatory pre-dated these early centuries.

 

There are Scriptural References from the Old Testament, showing that the ancient Jews prayed for the dead: Ecclesiasticus 1:13, 7:37, 11:28, 24:45 and 2 Machabees 12:46.  The Jews to this day, in their Liturgy, retain the pious practice of praying for the dead.

 
 

TESTIMONY ABOUT PURGATORY FROM THOSE WHO HAVE SEEN IT!:[2]

 

The Poor Souls in Purgatory sometimes actually appear to the living and implore their intercession.  An interesting book on this subject is: “Purgatory Explained By the Lives and Legends of The Saints” by Father F. X. Shouppe, S.J. (1893).  This book contains 312 pages filled with many instances of the Poor Souls begging for prayers of the Saints.

 

For example there is the story of Teresa Gesta, a Nun, who died on November 4, 1859.  Twelve days later, she appeared to Anna Felicia, who succeeded her in office.  She showed her how much she was suffering, and begged for prayers to relieve it. She struck the upper panel of the door, and there left the print of her right hand, burnt in the wood as with a red-hot iron.  She then disappeared.  On November 23, in the presence of a large number of witnesses, the tomb of Sister Teresa was opened, and the impression upon the door was found to correspond exactly with the hand of the deceased. The door, with the burnt print of the hand, is preserved with great veneration in the convent at Foligno, near Assisi, in Italy.  This book has many such stories from the lives of the Saints.

 

The existence of Purgatory is proven from: 1. Holy Scripture, 2. Writings of the early Church, 3. Graffiti in the Catacombs, 4. Ancient Liturgies, 5. Liturgies from sects that split from the Church in early Centuries, 6. The Souls that suffer there.

 

 


[1]. See “The Faith of Our Fathers” by James Cardinal Gibbons (1876) and “Catholicism and Fundamentalism” by Karl Keating (1988).

[2]. “Purgatory Explained By The Lives and Legends of The Saints” by Father F. X. Shouppe, S.J. (1893)

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QUESTIONS

 

Apologetics Chapter XVII - PURGATORY

 

 

1. Write your name so I can read it. (10 points)

 

2. Circle “T” or “F” when the following statements are True or False: (10 points)

 

    T   F   Immediately after death, the soul undergoes the General Judgment.

 

    T   F   Immediately after death, the soul undergoes the Particular Judgment.

 

    T   F   Mortal sins are removed in Purgatory.

 

    T   F   Mortal sins are removed in Hell.

 

    T   F   The souls in Purgatory have Hope.  The souls in Hell have no Hope.

 

3. What three non-Catholic errors make it difficult for them to accept the existence of Purgatory.

(12 points)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Describe the difference between the Protestant and the Catholic understanding of Grace. (12 points)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5. A non-Catholic claims that Purgatory is not found in the Bible.  How would you answer them?

Give at least two arguments. (12 points)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. A non-Catholic asks where the Particular Judgment is found in the Bible.  How would you answer them? (15 points)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7.  Give at least 2 examples from Holy Scripture that we must atone for sins in Purgatory. (15 points)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. A non-Catholic says that Pope Gregory the Great invented the idea of Purgatory in 590 A.D.  How would you answer them?  Give at least two arguments. (12 points)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Name six ways that can be used to prove the existence of Purgatory. (12 points).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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