The very fact that we have an All Souls’ Day on the liturgical calendar of the Church reminds us of the importance of praying for the dead. It also serves to remind us that Purgatory is real — because if Purgatory isn’t real, there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever to pray for the dead. If our deceased relatives and friends are already in Heaven, they don’t need our prayers; and if they’re in Hell, our prayers will not — and cannot — help them.
Yet, many Catholics have trouble embracing this important doctrine of the Faith. In some cases, this may be because they’ve been challenged by Protestant friends, who have said to them, “Why do you Catholics believe in Purgatory? The word Purgatory isn’t found anywhere in the Bible!”
True enough. Of course, neither is the word Trinity found anywhere in the Bible. However every true Christian (Catholic and Protestant) believes that there are three Divine Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in the one, true God.
The word “Purgatory” is not scriptural, but the Scriptures do make clear the necessity of Purgatory. For example, in Hebrews 12:14, the Biblical writer urges us to “strive for that holiness without which no one can see the Lord.” Then, in Revelation 21:27, we are reminded that “nothing profane shall enter [the kingdom of Heaven].”
So what happens to those men and women who die in the state of grace, but who have not yet attained the holiness necessary to see the Lord, and who may still have some unforgiven venial sins on their souls? This is where Purgatory comes into the picture. The Catechism calls Purgatory, “A state of final purification after death and before entrance into Heaven for those who died in God’s friendship, but were only imperfectly purified; a final cleansing of human imperfection before one is able to enter the joy of Heaven.”
Most souls who are saved probably pass through this final purification — a purification that’s designed to prepare them for the glory and the happiness and the perfection of God’s eternal kingdom.
Which is why every Christian should say, “Thank God for Purgatory!”
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