C.S. Lewis, the great Protestant writer who wrote Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, says:
"Of course I pray for the dead. At our age the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best were unmentionable to Him? I believe in purgatory. Our souls demand purgatory, don't they? My favourite image on this matter comes from the dentist's chair. I hope that when the tooth of life is drawn, a voice will say, 'Rinse your mouth out with this.' This will be purgatory."
- C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on prayer, p. 107-109
Catholics and Evangelicals agree that the Lord has not made it perfectly clear what happens after we die. When it comes to the afterlife, most Evangelicals would say Christians go directly to Heaven to be with the Lord, some would say we go to a temporary heaven (traditionally minded Catholics). Seventh Day Adventists and some other Christian groups say there is a "soul sleep" (conditionalists) where the person is in some sort of suspended state until the final judgment. Both Catholics and Evangelicals believe we will appear at the judgment seat of Christ.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body. (2 Cor 5:10)
The Evangelicals who impress us the most are the Biblical scholars, and they generally say they don't know, or they say that there is some sort of temporary place in Heaven where people go to await the final judgment.
Diversity of belief among Evangelical scholars
Catholic theologians also agree that it is hard to understand the afterlife. Scripture does not spell it out. Catholics and most Evangelicals agree there is some sort of temporary place in Heaven. Catholics would say we can discern from Scripture, tradition, and from the beliefs of early Christians that there is a temporary place where many Christians go called Purgatory.
Many Evangelicals struggle with how God's justice might play out in Heaven. On Feb. 3, 2005, the Moody Institute, one of America's foremost Evangelical Bible universities, aired a radio program across the US that talked about accountability in the afterlife. They said:
...not all the dwelling places in heaven will be the same size...it will
depend on how well each person lives out their faith...
(The Moody Institute)
Here we can see this reputable Evangelical university, that broadcasts on hundreds of Christian radio stations, coming very close to a Catholic theological position about God's justice.
The Purpose Driven Life is one of the most popular Christian books in Evangelical circles. It says:
One day you will stand before God, and he will do an audit of your life, a final exam, before you enter eternity... he will ask us two crucial questions ...First, 'What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?' ...Second, 'What did you do with what I gave you' ... the second question will determine what you do in eternity...(pg. 34, my emphasis)
At the end of your life on earth you will be evaluated and rewarded according to how well you handled what God entrusted to you. That means everything you do...has eternal consequences...you will receive a promotion and be given greater responsibility in eternity ..." (pg. 45)
- Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life
If we are rewarded and treated better in Heaven for the things we did in this life, then Pastor Rick is saying those who do not get those rewards are in fact being "punished" for not doing the things on earth that would get them those rewards in Heaven. Pastor Rick makes it clear that the faithful who do not do their best are still going to heaven but they are not getting the full reward. This is not very far from the Catholic concept of Purgatory.
On a radio show aired on Wed. Oct 10, 2007, Dr. James Dobson, at Focus on the Family said:
"One day every thought, every action, every wrong thing we've ever done or thought will be exposed to all and we will be accountable for all of them before God. We have a Just God!"
- Dr. James Dobson, Focus on the Family
He was talking about after we die, which hints strongly toward some kind of retribution before our Lord. Again it is an example of the theological struggle to explain what happens after we die.
What is Purgatory?
Catholics believe that Purgatory is a step before Heaven where believers are cleaned up for the "wedding banquet" of the Lord in Heaven. Not all believers have to go through Purgatory (some go straight to Heaven) but all people in Purgatory eventually make it to Heaven. They are the elect.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
All who die in God's grace and 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. (Catechism 1030)
Here's a simple illustration of what Catholics believe is Purgatory's place in the scheme of things.
Catholics believe that some people go straight to Heaven, which is also what Evangelicals believe. It would be very cool to go straight to Heaven. Let's pray for each other for that. People who rebelliously refuse to believe that Jesus is Lord and who do not yield to Him, or those who engage in unrepented mortal sin don't go to Purgatory. They go to hell.
Isn't Jesus' blood enough? Is there something lacking in Jesus' suffering?
We received a Facebook message from an Evangelical friend that said:
The Blood is enough. If it were or if we could do it some other way, or something more was needed, Jesus did not need to die.
The important question here is what is meant by "enough"? Catholics believe that the purpose of Jesus' blood is to atone for our sin. In the Old Testament the lamb was sacrificed to atone for the sin of the people. That is the purpose of the blood, and of course it is sufficient to do that.
Purgatory is not "some other way" to remove sin. That is not its purpose. Jesus did that on the Cross by shedding his blood. The purpose of Purgatory is to remove the effects of sin.
The Church believes that Purgatory is a place to clean up the effects of "Venial Sin" (not Mortal Sin, which if un-repented, leads to eternal punishment - hell). If we were to put it in Evangelical terms, Purgatory would be where the backslider would get cleaned up before joining the wedding banquet of the Lord - so he wouldn't be thrown out (Mat 22:12). For nothing unclean can enter the presence of God in heaven (Rev. 21:27).
As far as covering the effects of sin is concerned, Christ's suffering WAS lacking. The Bible says so: "I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." (Col 1:24) But that is not because Jesus' sacrifice was imperfect. It just that it was never intended to remove the effects of sin. Neither was the sacrificial lamb's atonement intended to do that for the Jewish people of the Old Testament. God still punished them after they atoned. He just didn't destroy them, which is what would have happened if they did not atone. Similarly, Jesus did not remove all punishment and/or suffering by his death on the Cross. He simply kept us from being destroyed in hell, which would have happened if he didn't shed his blood.
Christ's blood does not remove our suffering (which is the effect of sin). It only removes the guilt of sin itself. Christ's blood won our salvation, not necessarily our freedom from suffering before we get to Heaven.
That may sound shrill to the ears of someone who believes in the prosperity Gospel. However, everybody suffers, even Christians, because we are making up for the effects of sin. Eventually, we will be made perfect in Christ, either here on earth; or in Purgatory on our way to Heaven.
An imperfect way to look at it is to think of a nail hammered into a piece of wood. My father would pull the nail out of the wood (sin) but there would still be a dent in the wood. Purgatory is the process of straightening out the wood (the effect of sin). Certainly Jesus can and does the clean up. He is a merciful God but he is also a just God. Thanks you Jesus for allowing me to share in your Cross.
Purgatory is the reason we can value "works" yet claim that faith is the source of our salvation. For example, someone may have surrendered to Christ but is lazy about carrying the message to others. Scripture says "Woeif I do not proclaim the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16) and we all know that "woe" means bad stuff. Catholics think there could be some serious Purgatory even though we may be saved by a personal decision for Christ. How we live after we become Christians does matter. Purgatory is proof of that.
Purgatory may be more compassionate
Catholics agree with Evangelicals that before we get to Heaven, there will be justice, as well as mercy. In a sense, Purgatory is more compassionate than the Evangelical concept articulated by Rick Warren. Pastor Rick says Christians who do not handle themselves well on earth will spend eternity not getting the full reward (yet still be in Heaven). Purgatory is temporary punishment, not the permanent heavenly punishment found in the theology articulated by Evangelicals such as Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life) and the Moody Bible Institute. We think Purgatory is a more scripturally sound approach to justice in the afterlife, and in better alignment with the first century Church.
Purgatory also helps explain how some non-Christians who have never heard about Jesus, may be saved through the mercy of Jesus. This is assuming they believe in God and have sought after truth and their ignorance is "through no fault of their own" (Cat 847).
Is Purgatory a "Get out of Hell Free" card?
Is Purgatory a "Second Chance" after we live once?
We got an email that said:
The Bible clearly says "It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment." It does not say after that a second chance.
This demonstrates the honest concerns many Evangelicals have regarding what they have heard from their pastors. Catholics totally agree with that Scripture. In fact Purgatory has nothing whatever to do with a second chance. Anyone sent to hell has absolutely no chance whatsoever.
Someone who is faithful and on the way to heaven, but who is not perfect will be purified by God. If a daughter comes in from playing outside covered in mud, her parent will invite her in, but also gives her a bath. Catholics believe God does that also because "nothing that enters heaven is impure". We discuss the why the faithful may experience pain after death, like when the mother has to pull bubble gum out of the child's hair, below.
The idea that Catholics believe that someone destined for hell can be saved through Purgatory is objectively false.
It is a slogan that has caused unnecessary injury to Christian unity. The truth is:
Catholics believe Purgatory is Christ's way of cleaning up the faithful,
NOT the damned.
40 years in the desert - a precursor to Purgatory?
Catholics look at the Old Testament and New Testament as a continuous story of the journey of God's people. We feel most of the concepts and teachings we find in the New Testament have an "type" representation in the Old Testament. For instance Adam is a "type" for Jesus. Noah's floods are equated in the New Testament as a "type" for baptism. The promised land is a "type" for heaven. Slavery under the Egyptians is a "type" for the slavery under sin.
I would like to propose that the 40 years in the desert is a "type" for purgatory. It was a time of purification and punishment to prepare the people of Israel for entrance into the promised land. This is what Catholics believe purgatory accomplishes for us.
What is Purgatory?
Catholics feel the Church exists for one reason. To make sure that souls get into Heaven. The Church feels that God has charged it with the duty of taking care of all Christians until the moment they enter into Heaven. Catholics believe that souls in Purgatory are on their way to Heaven but are not yet in heaven, that's why Catholics pray for them.
I find it a great tragedy that many souls in Purgatory have no one to pray for them. Thank God for the little old nuns in convents and monks in monasteries who pray with all their hearts for these poor souls that they have never met (your relatives and mine). We hope that people on earth will pray for us if we end up in Purgatory.
Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 958)
A Catholic wrote us and said: "we benefit from theirs [prayers] because they are so close to Jesus and all ready living in His Divine Will."
Some Evangelicals say that it is forbidden in scripture to pray for the dead. Catholics believe Scripture encourages us to pray for the dead. It is in Maccabees. Right up until 1545 virtually all Christians considered the Deuterocanonical (apocrypha) books to be part of Scripture. More about the Deutercanonical books here. Even for those who do not accept the Deuteros, the similarity between Maccabees and Paul's writing is striking.
|2 Mac 12:45
|1 Cor 15:29
|For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin.||Otherwise, what will those people do who receive baptism on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people Baptized on their behalf?|
At the very least, this passage reveals what the Jewish law taught about praying for the dead.
In an interview with Gracia Burnham, an Evangelical missionary who was held hostage by Muslim terrorists for over a year with her missionary husband. Her husband was shot to death. Here is a bit of that interview:
Phil Calloway (editor of Servant Magazine-Evangelical) said: "He (your husband) sounds like an amazing guy. Is he making trouble up in heaven right now?" (laughter)
Gracia replied :
I used to tell the kids, I can just imagine your dad pulling on God's sleeves saying, "There's Gracia, she needs a car, she needs something." And then I told the kids why would almighty God who knows us and loves us and died for us need a human to tell him what we need. And I switched my thinking to God pulling on Martin's shirt sleeve and saying, "Hey Martin, look what I'm going to do for Gracia and her family." (Mission Fields Magazine spring 2004, pg 3)
It does not appear that the Evangelical interviewer or Gracia think her husband is in some kind of a coma until the final judgment. Here is a perfect example of how the Catholic view on death is very prevalent among Evangelicals who have had a loved one die. Sure, she "corrected" herself from her initial comment about Martin praying for her in heaven, but her initial instinct was better. Her reasoning for correcting herself was "Why would God need a human to tell him what we need." Yet in the same interview she attributes her escape from the terrorists to the faithful prayers of Christians back home.
Was Purgatory invented in the Middle Ages?
I received an email that said:
"Purgatory was invented by man to get money from people to build cathedrals that are mostly empty now."
Long before Cathedrals were built, long before Constantine, Catholics prayed for the dead (the section on Indulgences talks about this money-making thing).
The earliest Christians prayed for the dead, including Church Fathers such as Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Cyprian, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine (between 200-500 A.D.) prayers for the dead were inscribed on the tombs of the early Christians buried in Catacombs. There is no evidence in early Christian writings that there was a struggle with this belief, it was accepted and well known. The only reason someone would pray for the dead is because the person they were praying for was not yet in Heaven. And we know from Scripture that if someone is in hell there is nothing that our prayers can do for them. Therefore, the earliest Christians believed in a place that was not Heaven and not hell. Later we defined that place as Purgatory.
Purgatory was not invented at the coucil of Trent
Purgatory was not invented at the Council of Trent. It was indoctrinated then because it was being called into question for the first time. Yes, it took a long time to define Purgatory but it also took over 300 years to define the Trinity and it took a long time to firm up the books of the Bible. We Catholics are not bothered if it takes a long time to firm up a doctrine.
Recently, I was in Rome and visited the Catacombs. Here is a request for prayer for a dead Christian named Agape:
Photo: Latin writing in the catacomb of Priscilla that says:
"I implore you, brothers to pray whenever you come here and invoke the Father and Son in
all your prayers so that they might save Agape (the person in the tomb) forever"
Jesus Christ prayed for the dead too (when he prayed for Lazarus). He also said that "[God] is not the God of the dead, but of the living." Even today many Evangelicals pray for their departed loved ones even though they are "not supposed to" - especially at funerals. There seems to be a natural desire and instinct to do so. To this day Orthodox Jews still pray for the souls of their dead friends and relatives. Also the Eastern Orthodox Church, which was in union with the Catholic Church for the first centuries, offers prayers for the souls of the dead. The notion of Purgatory is far from being an invention of the middle ages, it is rooted in the beliefs of the earliest Christians who prayed for the dead. Quotes from the first Christians are here.
Purgatory in Scripture
The word "Purgatory" is not in the Bible which is one reason why there are a lot of arguments against it. But let us look at another word that is not in the Bible - "Trinity." For that matter, the word "Bible" itself does not appear in Scripture. We don't throw those words out because they are not in the Bible.
Some Evangelicals say "everything that is true is in the Bible." Catholics say that "everything that is in the Bible is true." There is a subtle distinction. Many Evangelicals would say "if it's true it's in the Bible, if it's not true it's not in the Bible." But the early Christians didn't have a Bible. It wasn't written for at least a hundred years and the exact books to include were not formally decided upon until the 300's. So the tradition of the Church is important. Catholics believe there are spiritual truths that are inferred in the Bible but not expressly articulated. The Catholic Church thinks Jesus has given authority to the Church to articulate these things. These are articulated slowly and carefully as the Church marches through time on its "Pilgrimage of Faith." Both Catholics and Evangelicals agree that no spiritual truth will conflict with the Bible. Amen to that.
Some Evangelicals claim that Deut 18:10-12 rails against the concept of Purgatory and praying for the dead. The Catholic Church believes that Deuteronomy 18:10-12 speaks about the occult, soothsayers, sorcerers, spells, ghosts and spirits. It is not about heaven, angels and Jesus. Ghosts have not entered into heaven so it would displease God to talk with them. Also this passage occurs before Jesus conquered death and so no one was in heaven. Samuel was in the ground (1 Sam 28:8-25). They were all in Sheol (dead) so the passage makes sense. Leave them in peace. I (Hugh) have had experiences with spirits that are not in heaven before I became a Christian and it is not pretty! (See the "New Age" section for more on that)
Scripture says we were "all baptized into one body" (1 Corinthians 12:13). Christians are one body which is not divided by death or anything else (Rom 8:38-39). Christians in heaven are still members of that body of Christ?
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body. (2 Cor 5:10)
Catholics believe there is enough evidence of Purgatory in Scripture to validate its existence. Evangelicals would agree that even if there is one instance of a spiritual principle in the Bible, then it is true because the Bible is the embodiment of Truth.
Paul prayed for Onesiphorous after he died, "may the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the lord on that day" (2nd Timothy 1:16-18).
"After his death, Jesus went to preach to the Spirits in prison" (1 Pet 3:19)
"Nothing unclean can enter heaven" (Rev 21:27)
Catholics believe Jesus speaks of purgatory in Matthew 18:23-35. He says: "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to..." and then He tells a story about a king who forgave a servant's large debt. That same servant refused to forgive a much smaller amount of a fellow servant. The king then threw the first servant into prison "until he should pay back the whole debt." Jesus then says, "So will my Heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart." Catholics feel the prison in the Kingdom of Heaven where one might remain until the debt is satisfied is Purgatory.
Catholics believe Paul also spoke of purgatory:
"The work of each will builder will come to light, for the day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire [itself] will test the quality of each one's work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someones work is burned up, that one will suffer loss, the person will be saved, but only as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)
Of course some of the most obvious verses about Purgatory appear in the Deuterocanonical books which the Evangelicals call the Apocrypha. Anyone who accepts those books will have a hard time arguing against Purgatory. I have a comprehensive article about the Deuterocanonical books here. The Deuteros were always part of the Bible. The books of the Bible were ratified in 393AD and it remained stable until Martin Luther discarded the Deuteros in the mid 1500's. He also tried to throw out the Book of James and Revelation.
Evangelicals say "Purgatory is not in the Bible" but that is partly because the parts of the Bible that best defend it were discarded by the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther threw out the Deutero books and then said Purgatory is not in the Bible. We have a problem with that logic but that falls into the discussion about the "extra" books of the Bible.
Biblical passages that Catholics feel refer to Purgatory
Ps 66:12, Mt 12:32, Phil 2:10-11, Ecc 12:14, Lk 16:19-31, 1 Thess 3:13, Is 4:4 (cf. Eph 4:8-10; 4:7 6:5-7 1 Pet 3:19-20) 2 Tim 1:16-18, Mic 7:8-9, 1 Cor 3:11-15, Heb 12:14, Mal 3:1-4 15:29 12:29, 2 Maccabees 12:39-45, 2 Cor 5:10, Rev 5:3,13, Mt 5:25-6, Lk 12:58-9, 7:1, 21:27
"Temporal" and "Eternal" Punishment
I have a comprehensive article about Punishment here. In it, I provide Catholic responses to Evangelicals who think Christians won't experience any punishment (i.e., the "paid in full" argument). The section below has a few highlights of that article.
I recently read the following from a theologian on the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod web site:
It is also true that though sin is forgiven, we may have to live with the consequences of our sin as, for example, when someone must serve a prison sentence for robbery even though his sin is forgiven.
Although this theologian did not hold with the Catholic concept of Purgatory, we can see that there is an indication of what Catholics would call "temporal punishment" is his beliefs.
Punishment is a concept that is very unpopular in today's culture. Corporal punishment is not favoured in our society and our youth have very little discipline as a result. Catholics believe God is a "loving God" but he is also a "just God" - an awesome God. Most Evangelicals are in alignment with Catholics on this point.
Many Evangelicals would say that Christ paid the price of our sins on the Cross and therefore all punishment has been taken away and that Jesus washed us clean. Catholics agree he paid the price for our sins which is "eternal" damnation. However, there may still be good eternal reasons for us to be "temporally" punished in a loving way.
The Apostle Paul had turned his life over to Jesus authentically. Although Jesus restored his vision after he was blinded, Paul nevertheless had a very painful number of years (2 Cor 24-30). He said "I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body that is the church" (1 Col 24) Evangelicals believe Jesus washes us clean in "one sweeping motion" never to be dirty again. Catholics believe there is "one sweeping motion" but afterward the "washing clean" process continues for the rest of our lives and we must "endure to the end." (Mk 13:13, James 1:2, Mt 10:22, Mt 24:13)
The thief on the Cross beside Jesus received freedom from "eternal punishment" (hell). Jesus said to him "This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). However, the thief still experienced "temporal punishment." After the thief turned his life over to Jesus he continued to hang on the cross which was probably pretty darn painful even if it was for only a few hours. Then the repentant thief had his legs broken. It doesn't sound like Jesus was too interested in sparing the thief of "temporal" punishment. Jesus could have easily had him taken down from the cross but he didn't. There are consequences to sin even after forgiveness.
Today, discipline is not very well respected in society. But God is a loving father and loving fathers provide discipline to their beloved children. (Eph 6:4) Like any loving father, God is OK with punishment that helps his children. In this case the punishment helps the believer approach spiritual perfection.
My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those he loves and chastises every child whom he accepts. Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have the discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children; Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb12:5)
This passage was speaking to people who had already turned their lives over to Christ. They had been saved from damnation and they had entered the family of Christ. Nevertheless there is punishment at times. Catholics believe there is a double consequence to sin:
- Grave sin (the bad stuff) deprives us of communion with God and will lead to hell. (eternal punishment) (2 Thes 1:9)
- Venial sin (the not so serious stuff) entails unhealthy attachments to creatures which must be purified either here on earth or after we die. (temporal punishment) Evangelicals might call this "Backsliding" Every Christian sins every day.
Temporal punishment is not "vengeful" retribution from God. God is not the big fly swatter of the universe. But the punishments stem from the very nature of sin itself.
One of the big complaints against the Catholic practice of Confession is that it allows people to run back to the Priest every week and then live poorly the rest of the time. (Sunday morning Catholics) Jesus, through the Priest, provides absolution (forgiveness) and grants freedom from the Eternal punishment of hell and he will forgive "seventy times seven" (Mat 18:22). However, Temporal punishment is not removed in "absolution." So these Sunday morning Catholics are looking at some serious consequences.
Also those who blatantly and insincerely persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth will not do too well in the afterlife. (Heb 10:26)
Perhaps the best way to demonstrate "temporal punishment" is to describe a situation in my own life. In 1984, I was involved in an abortion with my girlfriend (at the time) because we were chasing our careers on Broadway and films. God has long since forgiven me but in prayer he has made it clearthat I will never become a famous person. Moses never entered the promised land because he did not follow the Lord's orders (Lev 20:8-11). Similarly, I do not believe the Lord will allow me to ever experience the fame I was seeking when I had the abortion. This is "temporal punishment." I accept the punishment. Now I try to help out the pro-life movement wherever possible. I don't do it to win brownie points in heaven. I do it because I love the Lord and he has put it on my heart to do this. He can use my past sin to educate others. One might call this a "penance." (My story of Abortion is here)
The Catechism says this about penance:
Absolution [forgiveness] takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused. Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must "make satisfaction for" or "expiate" his sins. This satisfaction is also called "penance."
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1459
There are two parts to enance: "amends" and "make satisfaction"
After we confess our sins and are forgiven by God, we should do what we can to make reparation for our wrong actions. Jesus forgives us. He is a "forgiving God" but he is also a "just God." For instance, if I steal a $4,000 piece of equipment from a recording studio and then ask God to forgive me, he will forgive me if I have a humble and contrite heart. However, he will also probably want me to pay back the $4000 if possible (this is called amends).
I also must move forward in his light with a changed heart looking for every opportunity to be of service. Modern society would call this a "living amends" but it is all part of penance. In article 1460 of the Catechism we find that penance can take many forms such as:
...prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbour, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and patient acceptance of whatever crosses we must bear in life. These penances help configure us to Christ, who alone can expiate our sins once for all. They allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, "provided we suffer with him" (Rom 8:17, Rom 3:25, 1 Jn 2:1-2)
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1460
At the end of our lives we will stand before God. If we have made an authentic surrender to Jesus, we believe we will not go to hell. We will either go straight to heaven or we will make a stop in Purgatory. We believe Jesus will look at what we did with the faith he gave us. How did each of us respond to the call? If we have responded well and if our character is the best it could be in his light, we believe we will enjoy a direct pass to Heaven. If however we have not responded wholeheartedly and have had some rebellion, then we believe whatever parts of my soul that have not been cleaned up here on earth will be cleaned up in Purgatory after we die. If you came to this section from the "Indulgences" page you can return here
Catholic understanding of Purgatory compared to the Eastern Orthodox Church:
My friend, Mark Bonocore writes:
It is interesting to compare the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox views of what Romans call "Purgatory." For, Romans tend to focus on the part of the Tradition that refers to the temporary (fiery) Gehenna, whereas Eastern Orthodox tend to focus on the overall idea that a Christian soul that is not ready to enter Heaven will be generally subject to "death" (i.e., Hades / Sheol), without specifying what part of "Hades" / "Sheol" this soul will go to. So, both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox are faithful to the Apostolic understanding. We just stress different aspects of it (although I'd say the Roman theology is a little better developed, whereas Eastern Orthodoxy had a more fluid and less refined understanding of the Tradition)."
Here's how John Pacheco explains it:
Empty Cup: Soul before baptism, lack of sanctifying grace
Water: Sanctifying Grace
Act of pouring water into cup: Infusion of sanctifying grace through the act of baptizing
Commission of Venial Sin: Water in cup becomes dirty
Commission of Mortal Sin: Water is poured out of cup
Act of True Repentance via Sacrament of Reconciliation: Pure Water is poured back into cup
Purgatory: Water is poured through filter and cleansed
Purpose in life: Let Jesus' water be in the cup: no water in cup; no salvation.