Saturday, March 22, 2014
Purgatory: The Forgotten Church and the Purgatory Lady
Recently, Mary at the Beautiful Gate, mentioned that Padre Pio had prayed for his mother to have a happy death after she had already died. That thought just boggles my mind and I have been frequently pondering it. The thought that, with God, there is no yesterday or tomorrow, but only right now, is hard to fathom, and yet, thinking that He could change the past and the future is even more mind-blowing. With God there is so much hope for us all, isn't there?
When I consider hope, one of the first thoughts that comes to my mind is purgatory. Purgatory, which at one time had seemed like such a frightening place to me, is truly a place of hope. The souls who are not immediately drawn to heaven upon death, continue to have the opportunity to reach heaven and the loving arms of God, through our earthly and prayerful assistance. Isn't it beautiful that our prayer can reach beyond time and space and bring peace and heavenly bliss to those souls who may be waiting to be cleansed and purified before witnessing the beatific vision?
Friar John Clote, OFM Conv., is the creator of a wonderful documentary, Purgatory: The Forgotten Church, which features my friend, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, the national director of the Apostleship of Prayer, as well as several other experts on the Church's teaching regarding purgatory, such as Cardinal George from Chicago. The stories of near-death experiences and of souls who appear to selected people who seem to have a special calling to pray for those who have died are fascinating! Author Susan Tassone, who often goes by the nickname, The Purgatory Lady, was one of the experts featured in the film. I had the opportunity to listen to her speak at the Basilica of St. Josephat in Milwaukee recently, and was fascinated by her insight.
Tassone spent over 20 years researching purgatory through Church history and the lives of the saints. She explained that there are five truths that illuminate the Church's doctrine and reveal significant details regarding purgatory:
Truth 1: Purgatory exists. It's a declared doctrine and part of our tradition. The apostles prayed for the dead and early Church fathers taught us about it.
Truth 2: Purgatory exists because of God's love, mercy and holiness. It is a masterpiece of God's mercy. It is not a punishment. It's God's loving and merciful way of preparing us to stand before Him. It's His love that cleanses us. God is unspeakable purity and we need purification and healing to stand before Him. Souls in purgatory know that they belong there and they willingly undergo their time in purgatory so they can prepare to see God. It's a place of restoration. In purgatory, the outrage we've committed against God's glory is healed.
Truth 3: Purgatory is not a punishment. Yes, it is spiritually and psychologically demanding. Faith, hope and selfless love are fashioned there. God will purge the remnants so that they may be purified and mature. It's like losing weight, quitting smoking, working through counseling or preparing for the Olympics. It requires pain to reach the goal. Purgatory is the pain required to reach the goal of heaven. We want to do what needs to be done to get to heaven. It's a joyful pain. Why joy? Because the souls in purgatory can no longer sin. They know they are going to see God and they are saved. He's preparing us for the joys of heaven. God does not regard our failures as final. Shallowness and selfishness are overcome. Benedict XVI said that "If there were no purgatory then we'd have to invent it. For who would dare say of himself that he was ready to stand before God?" Purgatory is a means of receiving God's love.
Truth 4: The primary suffering in purgatory is the loss of the sight of God. Upon death, we see God briefly and then purgatory is the loss of that vision. Once the soul leaves the body it has one desire-to be united with God. It's as if it is drawn like a piece of iron to a powerful magnet. The soul sees the providence of God clearly.
Truth 5: Purgatory is not a physical fire. The fire in hell is a consuming fire but the fire in purgatory is a cleansing fire, an inner burning, a spiritual fever. It is God's longing for souls that causes the soul's longing for God. It's a heartsickness for God. The saints had this burning love of God here on earth. St. Teresa of Avila said, "To see God himself would wrench the heart from my bosom." When the longing for God is denied, it causes these burning pains that cannot adequately be expressed by the human word for fire.
Here on earth we are given the privilege and the duty to help release the souls in purgatory. The most effective means to release them is by attending Mass. Who hurt you? Who do you miss the most? Have a Mass said for them. Pray for the most abandoned souls. Pray for your priest. It's been said that there are many priests in purgatory and that very few people pray for them because it's assumed that they are already in heaven, and they have very little family to pray for them. At every Mass you attend, say one Hail Mary for the priest saying the Mass. It's very powerful! The next most abandoned souls are those of Protestants because they don't believe in purgatory.
The more you pray for the souls in purgatory, the more powerful their intercession is for you. Are you having legal problems? Pray to dead lawyers. Money problems? Pray to deceased bankers. Health problems? Pray to dead doctors. Spiritual problems? Pray to dead priests. Submit yourself to the influence of these holy souls who will help you to recognize your faults.
Never stop praying for the dead. Even if they are in heaven, they become closer to God through our prayers and their intercessory power is strengthened. And if they are in hell? Well, we don't know that. We are the Church of the Resurrection-we are always hoping. There is no list of the communion of the damned, only the communion of the saints. We cannot ever give up on anybody Don't stop praying, even when it seems hopeless.
For more from Susan Tassone, visit her website here, where her many books on purgatory are available for purchase.
Visit this link to watch the trailer for Purgatory: The Forgotten Church and to place an order for the DVD. Be sure to click on the "Enroll Souls" link and list the names of your beloved dead so that they will be remembered in prayer at a Mass celebrated at the Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Chicago on May 13th, 2014.