Fr. Lampe and Chris Foeldi discussed purgatory on Convent Network Radio. The show aired at the end of October and beginning of November around the time of All Souls Day. Learn about purgatory by listening to the radio show!
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Purgatory and the Month of November
This month we remember the dead and pray for them. But why do we pray for the dead? The souls in heaven do not need our prayers since they have already reached their eternal destination. They are rewarded for living according to God’s will and spend eternity in union with God who is Goodness, Truth, Beauty, Love, Joy, etc. The souls in hell do not benefit from our prayers since they chose to be there by rejecting God and His will through serious sin. They separated themselves from God while on earth and did not repent before they died and so they remain separated from God forever. So, who are we praying for?
The souls in purgatory are those who did not completely reject God, but still need to pay off their debt. When we sin, we damage or destroy our relationship with God. Additionally, we introduce disorder into God’s creation. Repentance in the Sacrament of Confession repairs the damage done to our relationship with God, but the disorder in creation must still be addressed.
This can be difficult to understand, but we can think of it this way. A boy plays baseball in his backyard and sends a baseball through one of the windows. He is truly sorry and immediately goes to his father and asks for forgiveness. His father, who loves him dearly, forgives his son and their relationship is restored. However, the window is still broken and needs to be repaired or replaced. The boy needs to pay for the window. He can work it off by mowing neighbors’ yards or some other way while still living with his parents. But if he doesn’t pay it off before he goes to college, the debt doesn’t simply disappear, it remains. So too does the debt remain if we fail to make up for the disorder in creation that we introduce when we sin. If we die while in debt, then we still need to pay it off before we can enter into heaven.
When we pray for those in purgatory, it is like we are helping them pay for their debt and making their stay in purgatory shorter. It is like the boy’s friends chipping in their allowance to help pay for the window so that he doesn’t remain in debt to his father. So, let us pray for the souls in purgatory so that they may enter more quickly into heaven!
Purgatory and the Month of November
Continuing with the theme from last week’s article…
The souls in Purgatory are like people who are driving to their destination. They are still on the journey. Our prayers are like the fuel in the gas tank of their cars, helping them to get to their final destination of heaven.
The greatest prayer of all is the Mass. The Mass is Christ’s offering of Himself to God the Father. The unblemished lamb offered in atonement for our sins. An offering made in perfect love, for Jesus loves the Father perfectly. When we unite our prayers and offerings to this prayer and offering of Jesus Christ we know that the Father will accept it because it is united to the perfect prayer and offering. On our own our offerings and prayers are imperfect because we ourselves our imperfect. So, united with the perfect prayer, we know our prayers will be heard and accepted by God.
This is why the Church encourages us to have Mass celebrated for our deceased loved ones. As the perfect prayer, Mass celebrated for the deceased makes the graces to help the souls in purgatory superabundantly available. So, let us help those souls on their journey by filling up their gas tanks with grace so that they may enter into heaven.
One Last Article on Purgatory
Jesus tells us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48). Yet we all know that we fall short of perfection (Jam 3:2). We also know that nothing unclean or imperfect can enter Heaven (Rev 21:27). Heaven is the final destination of those who die in friendship with God, but for those to die as His friends and are not yet perfect, there is a detour before reaching Heaven, called Purgatory.
“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1030)
Let us use an analogy. A young boy goes outside and plays in the dirt and mud. When it is time, he goes to his home, but is stopped on the porch because he is too dirty to enter the house. He is to rinse himself off before coming inside. The house represents Heaven, which he cannot enter until he is clean. The porch is Purgatory, the temporary place where the boy is being cleaned. The dirt and mud represent the minor sins, or the guilty of small sins, or the boy’s imperfections, which must be washed away before he can enter.
The reality of Purgatory is important for us because we ought to strive not for the bear minimum to avoid hell, but for the holiness and perfection necessary to go straight to God in Heaven. All sins, even ones that seem small such as speaking idle words, will be accounted for on judgment day (Mt 12:36). The consequences of sins and the disorder introduced into creation is like the dirt and mud on the boy. We should strive to be clean before it is time to enter the house so that we can go directly inside and not have to wash off on the porch.
As mentioned previously it is important for us to accept the reality of Purgatory so that we can help the people who are there. Our prayers are like the water in the example that rinses the boy clean. Our prayers can help the deceased (2 Mac 12:44-46). So, let us accept the reality of Purgatory, strive to go straight to heaven, and follow the example of St. Paul who prayed for the dead (2 Tim 1:16-18) by praying for them ourselves.
“An indulgence is the remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned… the Church… applies the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the saints” to the recipient of the indulgence. “An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due sin.” (Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norms 1 & 2)
The indulgences received can only be applied to oneself or the deceased. Indulgences are granted to encourage the faithful to grow in the perfection of charity. Only the baptized who are in a state of grace while doing the prescribed work according to the time and manner prescribed, and intend can gain the indulgence, can do so.
Only one plenary indulgence can be received per day, but several partials can be granted per day. To gain a plenary indulgence, one must perform the work specified and meet the following conditions:
· Detachment from all sin (even venial)
· Sacramental confession (within several days, applicable to multiple indulgences)
· Holy Communion (for each indulgence)
· Prayer for the pope’s intentions (for each indulgence; can be satisfied with one Our Father and one Hail Mary)
If any one of these conditions is not met, then the indulgence will be partial instead of plenary. A partial indulgence adds to the good work an equivalent remission of temporal punishment to what the work itself receives.
A plenary indulgence (applicable only to the souls in purgatory) is granted to those who devoutly visit a church on All Souls Day (Nov. 2nd) and pray an Our Father and the Creed. Likewise, a plenary indulgence can be granted to a soul in purgatory when the faithful visit a cemetery and prayer for the dead from Nov. 1st thru Nov. 8th.
For more information, see The Handbook of Indulgences Norms and Grants.