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제목 Poor Souls in Purgatory(2015-11-15)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2015-11-16




Poor Souls in Purgatory(2015-11-15)


My dear Brethren,

In November the Church prays especially for the souls in Purgatory. It is good to consider the Church’s teaching on what happens to souls after death, and to draw some lessons from it.

The first truth is that of the immortality of the soul: death is the separation of the soul from the body. The body goes into decomposition, but the soul is not destroyed: it is separated from the body. This truth can even be known by the natural power of our reason, from the intellectual dimension of our soul: the human nature is that of a “reasonable animal”.


Our life indeed has some powers found in common with plants, such as growth, nutrition and reproduction: these are called “vegetative powers”. Our life has also powers above those of plants, but common with animals, such as sight, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching, together with internal senses such as memory, imagination, etc. and emotions such as desire, joy, sadness, anger, etc. These are found in animals too, such as when a dog wags his tail to show his joy, or when he puts his tail in between his legs to show his shame… But above all animals’ powers, humans have reasonable faculties: intellect and free-will.


Man can study mathematics, and “love justice, and hate iniquity” (Ps. 44:8): one has never seen any animal do the same! Though some animals have a sharper eye-sight than humans, others better hearing or better smelling (dogs recognise you by the smell!), or run faster or swim better or even fly, yet by his intelligence man can make telescopes that see farther than any animal or electronic microscopes that see deeper, make radars that grasp waves beyond any animal’s grasp, or make trains that run faster than any antelopes or submarines that swim deeper than any fish or planes that fly higher and farther than any bird. So it is clear that human nature has intelligence, by which it surpasses all other animals.

While the senses are acts of bodily organs, the intelligence has acts that are immaterial: abstracting, judging and reasoning: the very first one precisely abstracts from matter! And with those abstract ideas our intelligence makes judgements and orders these judgements in logical proofs to reach conclusions. Our sensitive knowledge is particular; our intellectual knowledge is general, our ideas are general; now all materials things are particular; therefore our ideas are not material, they are immaterial, and therefore independent from the death of the body.

Our Lord Jesus Christ argues against the Sadducees in the Holy Gospel, proving to them the resurrection of the bodies at the end of the world from the fact of the immortality of the soul. Indeed He says: “that the dead rise again, Moses also shewed, at the bush, when he called the Lord, The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not the God of the dead, but of the living: for all live to him” (Lk. 20:37-38).


The conclusion is that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are living. Now it is clear that the bodies of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were in the tombs they had built: it is therefore their souls which were living, and thus still existing, not destroyed by death. This is the meaning of immortality of the soul: humans souls are not destroyed by death. Death is not the end of our selves. Our “thinking self” continues to exist after death. The immortality of the soul is a dogma of faith.

The second truth is the Judgement: after death, there is a judgement, as St Paul writes to the Hebrews: “it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment:” (Heb. 9:27). Souls are judged by Christ, Who “then will he render to every man according to his works” (Mt. 16:27).


If one dies in the state of mortal sin, one goes straight to Hell; if one dies in the state of grace, with all one’s debts for sin paid off and no attachment to venial sin, one goes straight to heaven; but if one dies in the state of grace with still some venial sin on one’s conscience, or with still some penalty for sin unpaid for, then one goes to Purgatory. If we would always have both death and judgement in front of our eyes, we would not sin! “All things that are done, God will bring into judgment” (Eccle. 12:14). “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment” (Mt. 12:36).

Souls in Purgatory no longer have their bodies; so they are not distracted by the things of this world: they have the faith, hope and charity, since these virtues are in the spiritual part of the soul; they no longer sin at all – in this sense, Purgatory is much better than life here below, where the just man still falls seven times a day (Prov. 24:16), in small venial sins, imperfections. These souls have the certitude of their eternal salvation, while here below we only have “confidence” that we are on the right track if we follow the Commandments of God, and trust we will reach salvation “if we persevere until the end” (Mt. 10:22) by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. In these two aspects also, Purgatory is better than life here below.

However in Purgatory there is suffering. Understanding these sufferings is of very great help for our spiritual life here below. First in our fight against venial sin: many of them due to neglect of the little things, to excessive love of earthly lawful things (e.g. food, rest, comfort, etc.); how many times people say: this is not a mortal sin, I can do it – though they realise it is not really right: laziness, impatience, etc.


Now when they arrive in Purgatory, these souls understand the gravity of venial sin, for which they are expiating now in such excruciating pain: though it does not cut off from God’s love, it is still not what the love of God would require, it delays love; now if we are late in serving God here below, it is just that the reward be delayed. Having lost all the earthly things that they had loved too much, they suffer now deeply from this delay of the reward: their charity makes that they are fully drawn by God, long for him, yet have to wait and wait and wait: this delay which they have caused by venial sin becomes extremely painful, like the deepest hunger and starvation.

 Let us ask the souls in Purgatory to give us their understanding of venial sin, their hatred of venial sin: it does displease God. It is simply NOT right to offend God, even in small matters. One may never say: it is “only” a venial sin. Deliberate venial sin should be absolutely out of our life.  Of course, one should first fight against mortal sin, but such fight is not enough: if one does not avoid venial sin, which is the slippery road to mortal sin, one will not be able to efficiently avoid mortal sin. Our fight against sin should be an absolute NO to all sin, and an absolute YES to all that Christ asks from us: a complete gift of self to our Lord Jesus Christ, to God!

Secondly these souls do suffer, but their situation is very different from Hell: in Hell the damned still love their sin and hate their sufferings and hate the Justice of God. In Purgatory, the holy souls love the Justice of God and hate their sin: they accept most willingly their sufferings, uniting them with the sufferings of Christ, to make reparation for their sins according the Justice of God. So it is the very opposite of Hell.


In this they are a great model for us: oftentimes, we reject suffering, we resent it, we do not understand it. We need to understand that in fact suffering is useful for us, and rather than rejecting it, we should OFFER it in union with the Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ in reparation for our sins and for the salvation of many souls. We should hate sin and love the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: this is a most important and valuable lesson from the souls in Purgatory.

Yet these souls cannot merit for themselves: they are past the time of merit. NOW is the time of mercy and merit, after death is the time of justice. We can help them; they are helpless to diminish their penalty. Let us take full advantage of this time of mercy, by making reparation for many souls in Purgatory by a life of sacrifice, a life of fervour, of promptitude in the service of God.

Lastly, these souls have sufferings similar to those described by some saints as “dark night of the soul”: being separated from their body, their intelligence – which is made for the truth, and has faith – still are still lacking the vision of God. That privation of the vision of God for souls who hunger for the Light is a very painful suffering: they have the virtue of Charity, which is like a fire, a devouring fire longing for God, longing for the beatific vision of God, and yet they are still deprived of that vision, and this really tortures them. This delay of vision is due to their past sins, to their imperfection, and this suffering cleans their soul – like gold through fire!

Now many saints, such as St Theresa of Avila, and even many other devout persons have passed through these sufferings already here below, with much more profit than in Purgatory, because for them such suffering not only deeply cleaned their souls, but also obtains a lot of merits and thus participated in the redemption of many others. The great lesson for us is to pray for a greater desire for Heaven, a greater desire for God, desire to see God face to face. Indeed how can we say in truth that we love God above all things, if we do not thirst for Him, long for Him, long for that eternal rest in Him, long for that transforming union in the face-to-face vision?


St John beautifully says: “Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called, and should be the sons of God. Therefore the world knoweth not us, because it knew not him. Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God; and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know, that, when he shall appear, we shall be like to him: because we shall see him as he is. And every one that hath this hope in him, sanctifieth himself, as he also is holy” (1 Jn. 3:1-3). That hope includes this tremendous desire for God, and that desire itself sanctifies us, that is, purifies us from all sin. As St. Paul says: “the Lord thy God is a consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24 – Heb. 12:29).

It is useful to meditate on these great truths especially after the synod of bishops, which ended with this very bad statement, so ambiguous that it will open the door to many scandalous decisions: in some diocese under the pretext of “discernment” they are practically going to allow divorced and remarried people – living in an objective state of adultery – to receive communion: these will be sacrilegious communions. Such situation happen because people completely forget about Heaven and Hell, about death and Judgement; they are ignorant of the Holiness of God and the gravity of sin; they are not willing to abandon their sins and crave for “being accepted as they are” without any real effort to “renounce themselves, take up their cross and follow our Lord Jesus Christ” (Mt. 16:24).

On the contrary, “if we really search for God”, as St Benedict requires of those who knock at the door of his monastery to be admitted, then it is easy to acknowledge that God is infinitely above all earthly things, all earthly pleasures, and to possess God is such a great good that it is worth renouncing all things on earth for it: then the sacrifices required to live a chaste life, according to the Law of God, become easy.


Such sacrifice, which sinful nature esteemed impossible, is found to be very little when seen in the light of eternity, in the light of the Infinite God. The world thinks that chastity is impossible, but if we look in the Gospel at those who approached Christ, it has become so easy for them: “Behold we have left all things, and have followed thee” (Mt. 19:27). And “leaving all things” did include leaving “house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for [Christ’s] name's sake” (Mt. 19:29). It was really leaving everything. And in the early Church there was a marvellous esteem for that perfect chastity, so much that even married people would of a common accord make the vow of perfect chastity, such as St Paulinus and Teresa.

May the holy souls in Purgatory help us to keep our mind and soul focussed on Heaven, on God and never be caught by the deceits of the world! May the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose heart was always so perfectly attached to our Lord Jesus Christ, help us always to avoid all venial sins as she did, and take up generously our crosses, offering them faithfully in union with our Lord Jesus Christ in order to help the holy souls in Purgatory and to go to Heaven! Amen.


Fr. F. Laisney(sspxasia)