Catechism Lesson 17: The Suffering Souls in Purgatory
Such is the efficacy [effectiveness] of this Sacrifice (of the Mass), that its benefits extend not only to the celebrant and communicant, but to all the faithful, whether living with us on earth, or already numbered with those who are dead in the Lord, but whose sins have not yet been fully expiated [atoned for]. It is not less available when offered for them, than when offered for the sins of the living, their punishments, satisfactions, calamities and difficulties of every sort. (see Council of Trent session 22 cap. 2 and Can. 3)
We should pray for the dead, that they may be liberated from the fire of Purgatory, are derived from Apostolic teaching. Summa Theology, Suppl. lxxiii (73)
In II Maccabees 12:39-46, we discover Judas Maccabeus and members of his Jewish military forces collecting the bodies of some fallen comrades who had been killed in battle. When they discovered what these men were carrying “And they found under the coats of the slain some of the donaries of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbiddeth to the Jews: so that all plainly saw, that for this cause they were slain." (vs. 40), Judas and his companions discerned they had died as a punishment for sin. Therefore, Judas and his men “And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him, that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten.… And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice ... to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection," In doing this "he acted very well and honorably… that they may be loosed from sins."
Judas hoped that these men who died fighting for the cause of God and religion, might find mercy: either because they might be excused from mortal sin by ignorance; or might have repented of their sin, at least at their death. 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, and consequently could not be introduced at that time by Judas, their chief and high priest, if it had not been always their custom. (1)
Jews believe in a purification (a purgation) which takes place after death.
When a Jewish person's loved one dies, it is customary to pray on his behalf for eleven months using a prayer known as the mourner's Qaddish (derived from the Hebrew word meaning "holy"). This prayer is used to ask God to hasten the purification of the loved one's soul. The Qaddish is prayed for only eleven months because it is thought to be an insult to imply that the loved one's sins were so severe that he would require a full year of purification.
The practice of praying for the dead has been part of the Jewish faith since before Christ. Remember that 2 Maccabees 12:39-46, on which Catholics base their observance of this practice, shows that, a century and a half before Christ, prayer for the dead was taken for granted. Unlike Protestantism, Catholicism has preserved this authentic element of Judeo-Christian faith. (2)
In the Trent Catechism it says that some of the faithful who are not living on earth but have died, their sins have not yet been fully expiated [atoned for].
Now your average Protestant Would have a big problem with that:
Jesus bore our sins in His body, paid the penalty for them, and died. He said, "It is finished." In Greek, the phrase, 'It is finished' is one word, tetelestai. In ancient Greek papyri texts that were receipts for taxes, when a debt was paid in full, the word tetelestai was written on the document. This meant that the debt had been paid in full. In other words, Jesus had finished the work of atonement. But not only atonement (to make amends, to make right), but also of propitiation (turning away God's wrath). He had fully paid the debt invoked by the sinner. There was nothing more to be done... It was finished. They would go on to say... "When Jesus said, 'It is finished,' all that was necessary in the atonement was concluded and all in Christ were justified." (3) https://carm.org/does-purgatory-deny-sufficiency-christs-sa…
Even though Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin, even though the debt was paid in full, there is still the principle of sowing and reaping.
Be not deceived, God is not mocked. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. (Galatians 6:7)
This principle is irrevocable; there is no escape, either for the believer or for the unbeliever. It is a law of life.
We reap what we sow.
The fact that we reap what we sow is good news for those who sow good, but a frightening thought for those currently involved in ungodly activities such as promiscuity, drug and alcohol abuse, neglect of family, or mistreatment of others. We cannot sow crabgrass and expect to reap pineapples. We cannot sow disobedience to God and expect to reap His blessing. What we sow, we reap. Let us not deceive ourselves: We will reap the harvest of our lives.
We reap more than we sow.
Why do farmers plant their seed? Because they expect to harvest a great deal more than they sow. A single seed that sprouts can yield dozens, scores, even hundreds of seeds. It is the same way with both sin and righteousness—a small decision to do either good or bad reaps a much bigger crop, for either joy or sorrow.
We reap later than we sow.
Some are deceived because their present seed does not appear to be producing an immediate crop. So they continue down their course, mistakenly believing that there will never be a harvest. But unlike the crops of the field, which get harvested at approximately the same time each year, there is no regular timetable for the harvest of life. Some crops we reap quickly; others take a long time. But do not be deceived—their season will come. (4)
This is where Purgatory comes in. As it was said, "Some crops we reap quickly; others take a long time." and if we have not fully harvested the consequences of our sowing we have purgatory to go through to help fulfill the law of Sowing and Reaping to its end.
If you commit a crime of murder and realized you were wrong and except the atonement that Christ did on the cross. You still have to reap what you have sown. You are going to jail!
If you commit Adultery and ask God for forgiveness and through his atonement He forgives you. There is still a reaping and sowing law that must happen. You are right with God now. You have peace in your heart that you never had before but because of your sins you loose your children, your wife, your family. They are wounded by your sins. Your children will more then likely grow up not having an example of what a father should be. Your wife is now having to take on responsibilities that God never intended for her to have on her own. Your sins, have consequence that go far beyond you. When you sowed that sin of Adultery you affected several generations. Your children can grow up not knowing how to be a father to their children because you were not there for them. The children's children grow up in rebellion because of it. etc etc. Do you see the picture?
Scripture calls it "The sins of the Father visited on the their sons:"
The Lord is patient and full of mercy, taking away iniquity and wickedness, and leaving no man clear, who visitest the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. (Numbers 14:18)
Here is a more modern way of saying it:
The LORD is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected--even children in the third and fourth generations.
Once you die, even though you die in the Grace of God, your sins that you committed in this life are still going to have an affect on others long after you are dead. And all those affects will not be revealed until the last Judgment of God when time ceases to exist.
That thought should make us tremble. We should fear sin instead of playing with it. Oh how much damage we do when we sin!
St. Paul gives us an example of what Purgatory will be like:
I have planted, Apollo watered, but God gave the increase. Therefore, neither he that planteth is any thing, nor he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth, and he that watereth, are one. And every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour. For we are God's coadjutors [ones who works together with God]: you are God's husbandry; you are God's building. According to the grace of God that is given to me, as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation; and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: Every man' s work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man' s work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. (I Corinthians 3:6-15)
The Church of Corinth has been bickering and saying, I am of Paul and I am of Apollo. When in reality both Apollo and St. Paul were working together for the good of the parishioners in the Parish. The difference, between him and Apollo was that they had ministered in different ways. "I [St. Paul] planted, Apollo watered" but they were "God's coadjutors". In other words they were working together with God.
As an examples of this he use the ideal of farming:
The people that they ministered to -the husbandry: husbandry means the cultivation or production of plants. In other words, the people were like a field of plants that St. Paul and Apollo was responsible to take care of. They had a large responsibility for helping to form Christ in to the lives of these people in the Corinth Church.
"My little children, of whom I am in labour again, until Christ be formed in you." (Galatians 4:19)
Not only does he use farming as an illustration, but then he move on to a building, a structure.
The People - were the building in this illustration. (vs. 9)
Jesus Christ- is the foundation on which St. Paul and Apollo built on. That is the teachings of Jesus Christ. (vs. 11)
The individuals lives- were the material of the building. (gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble)
St. Paul says that if "any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: Every man's work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it." (vs 13)
Now this is where purgatory comes in to play.
What is the day of the Lord?
There are two judgements that we as Catholic will appear before.
1. A "particular" judgment at the time of death.
The Catholic doctrine of the particular judgment is this: that immediately after death the eternal destiny of each separated soul is decided by the just judgment of God. Although there has been no formal definition on this point, the dogma is clearly implied in the Union Decree of Eugene IV (1439), which declares that souls leaving their bodies in a state of grace, but in need of purification are cleansed in Purgatory, whereas souls that are perfectly pure are at once admitted to the beatific vision of the Godhead (ipsum Deum unum et trinum) and those who depart in actual mortal sin, or merely with original sin, are at once consigned to eternal punishment, the quality of which corresponds to their sin (paenis tamen disparibus). The doctrine is also in the profession of faith of Michael Palaeologus in 1274, in the Bull "Benedictus Deus" of Benedict XII, in 1336, and in the professions of faith of Gregory XIII and Benedict XIV. (5) http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08550a.htm
2. A "general judgment" at the end of the ages when the deeds of all will be known by all and nothing will be hidden.
And I saw a great white throne, and one sitting upon it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away, and there was no place found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and hell gave up their dead that were in them; and they were judged every one according to their works. And hell and death were cast into the pool of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the pool of fire. (Apocalypse / Revelation 20:11-15)
The "day" that St. Paul is referring to is the particular judgement, the day at the time of our death when we will stand before God and the eternal destiny of each separated soul will be decided by His just judgment.
The Works (or the kind of lives the clergy built on Christ the Foundation) Shall Be Manifested and Revealed.
The word manifested means: to Make plain, to open, clearly visible to the eye or obvious to the understanding; apparent; not obscure or difficult to be seen or understood.
The word revealed means: To disclose; to discover; to show; to make known something before unknown or concealed; as, to reveal secrets.
God Uses Fire to Manifest, to Make Clearly Visible, the Works We as Clergy Did in the Lives of People and to Reveal and Disclose and to Show What Kind of Works They Were.
Fire can do two things, Fire can refine- It removes the impurities which would make the precious metal LESS than it should be. But then also fire burns away things like wood, hay and stubble.
Although St. Paul's illustration is concerning the Religious. All of us who have been converted to Christ and have been baptized will be judged for our influence on people who God has brought into our lives. Will your life be a testimony to Christ and His Church? Will people begin to live there life more like Silver and Gold because of their knowing you or will there lives become more like wood hay and stubble?
The way we live out our life effects those around you, either for good or for bad. And it is in the fires of purgatory that it will be revealed and manifested and then purification will be accomplished through that same fire.
How long is purgatory for each individual?
The simple answer is, the fire refines and or burns away anything that should not be there. And it could be a small period of time to all the way to Christ's Return. The time is based on two things.
One, how far did our lives affect others? First generations? Second generations? etc. etc. Two,The time in purgatory is based on the prayers of the Militant Saints.
Remember our last catechism lesson (Lesson 16)? ...
"The last of the armaments was really an attitude. Any general knows that victory almost always depends on which army has the element of surprise. In the story of Gideon, the soldiers were chosen based upon their watchfulness, and they caught the enemy sleeping and won through surprise. (See Judges 7) Even the best of armor is almost useless if the soldiers are found dozing. We are commanded to be "watching with all instance (all perseverance)”
The prayer mentioned here is not just any prayer. No, it is more specific then that. St.Paul says, "watching with all instance and supplication for all the saints" We are to be praying for our fellow Christians, our fellow Saints.
St. Paul lived what he preached!
"Therefore we also, from the day that we heard it, cease not to pray for you" (Colossians 1:9)
"Wherefore I also, hearing of your faith that is in the Lord Jesus, and of your love towards all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making commemoration of you [remembering you] in my prayers." (Ephesians 1:15-16)
Listen to this:
'Your battle Buddies are always together and that allows them to never feel like they're alone,' 'The idea is to let Soldiers feel like someone's always got their back.'- Sgt. 1st Class Casey Vanzant, A Company, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment platoon sergeant.
That's how we as the Militant Saints should be. We should always have each others back in prayer. But not only should we be praying for each other but also for the Suffering Saints in Purgatory. For they are just as much as part of the "for all saints" as the Militant are. (see II Maccabees 12:39-46)"
When we pray for those in purgatory or for that souls Son here on earth, or that Souls grandson here on earth etc. We are asking God to purge the things that were sown in that Souls life that affected the Son or the Grandson in some negative way.
May we always realize how our lives makes a difference in others.
May we always remember that there is a natural law of sowing and reaping.
May we always be praying for the suffering souls in purgatory. Having always on our lips and heart the prayer...."May the souls of the faithful departed through the Mercy's of God rest in peace."
(1) (Douay Rheims Chandlor notes)
(4) https://www.intouch.org/…/life-principle-6-the-principle-of… [adapted for Catholic Teaching}