Purgatory is the Great Love of God
The existence of Purgatory is an article of our holy Faith and the Church has always taught it. It is where those who die in God’s grace, who, if at the time of death are not yet perfectly purified, undergo purification so as to be holy and pure enough to be able to stand in God’s presence (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030).
So Purgatory exists out of God’s love, and it is His love that purifies and cleanses us. “The Lord your God is a devouring fire” (Deut 4:24). It is not so much a place of punishment. We, by our prayers and sacrifices, and above all the Masses we have said for the Holy Souls, hasten their purification. And of course, November is the month when we particularly step up our efforts in this regard. There is a story relating to this which rather struck me and which I would like to share with you.
The great St Padre Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968) encountered many souls from Purgatory whom God allowed to come and ask him for his prayers. In this particular story, a doctor who was a close friend of the Padre had been given a letter for him by a woman to pray for the recovery of her daughter who was seriously ill. Several days had passed before the doctor had the chance to give it to him. But Padre Pio on being handed the letter simply replied, “Let it be done!” The doctor was very mystified by his response since the girl had been at death’s door for several days. But Padre Pio explained by giving this example. He said that even now he could pray for the happy death of his great-grandfather who had died years earlier. He continued that supposing when we die we have to spend 100 years in Purgatory. During this time nobody prays for us or has a Mass offered for us. Then after 100 years somebody suddenly thinks of us and has Masses said for us. Now with Our Lord there is no past or future. He is outside of time and everything is in the eternal present to Him. Those prayers had already been taken into account so Padre Pio could pray for the happy death of his great-grandfather!
So the point is we should always pray for the departed, even those who died many years ago, because with God there is no past or future – only the eternal present.
Fr Paul Gillham IC