We all want to believe that our deceased friends and loved ones are now happy and at peace with God in Heaven, and yet the Catholic Church teaches in its Catechism that: All who die in God’s 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. (1030)
So what exactly is this place or state of purification which the Church calls Purgatory? And are we all destined to go there, or is there any hope of a direct route into Heaven?
Although Our Lady speaks little about Purgatory in her 28 years of giving messages, she does confirm its reality and also that it is not necessarily a place that we are all destined for. She also stresses the importance of prayer for the purification of souls in Purgatory. In 1982 she responded to a question concerning Purgatory: There are many souls in Purgatory. There are also persons who have been consecrated to God – some priests, some religious. Pray for their intentions, at least the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be, seven times each, and the Creed. I recommend it to you. There is a large number of souls who have been in Purgatory a long time because no one prays for them. July 21, 1982
A few days later Our Lady stressed the importance of the Sacraments in bypassing Purgatory. Responding to question about a person being bad all one’s life and asking forgiveness, she said: Whoever has done very much evil during his life can go straight to Heaven if he confesses, is sorry for what he has done, and receives Communion at the end of his life. (July 24, 1982)
Only once in all of Our Lady’s weekly and monthly messages does she request prayers for the souls in Purgatory. Dear children, today I wish to call you to pray daily for the souls in Purgatory. For every soul, prayer and grace is necessary to reach God and the love of God. By doing this, dear children, you obtain new intercessors who will help you in life to realise that all earthly things are not important for you, that only Heaven is that for which it is necessary to strive. Therefore, dear children, pray without ceasing that you may be able to help yourselves and the others to whom your prayers will bring joy. Thank you for having responded to my call. November 6, 1986
So from these few messages alone we can gather certain facts about Purgatory.
1. Purgatory exists.
2. Many souls go there – even priests!
3. A sense of time exists.
4. Souls in Purgatory are in need of our prayers.
5. Our prayers create joy for souls in Purgatory.
6. We can bypass Purgatory through receiving the Sacraments.
7. By praying for the souls in Purgatory we receive new intercessors.
Over the centuries there have been many despairing and horrific views promoted as to what the purifying method in Purgatory is supposed to be.
But I prefer to focus on the gentleness and healing touch of Jesus when reflecting on Purgatory and think of it as a stop-off on the journey home; a place of convalescence, where all the wounds and scars we have inflicted on ourselves and each other are healed in time with the power of prayer. I also envisiage Our Lady as the gentle woman nursing our wounded hearts with her grace and intercession.
Another purgatorial image I find helpful is the parable of the Good Samaritan. He bandaged and poured oil and wine on the wounds of the man lying at the roadside, and carried him to a place of rest and healing (Purgatory?), requesting and rewarding the innkeeper to look after him until he returned. Jesus, the Good Samaritan, taking care of the sick and wounded souls until they are fit and ready to return home.