When they die, before going to Heaven, many of our loved ones go to Purgatory for purification. Time spent there is to make them perfectly clean and free of earthly attachments when they come face to face with God. Meeting God in this way is referred to as the “beatific vision.”
Our understanding of Purgatory is that it is not a pleasant place. Departed souls suffer during this period of purification but if given the choice, they would choose the torment over returning to earth because they know they are closer to God. Our prayers help shorten their time in Purgatory. We pray for the dead because, although they can pray for us, they cannot pray for themselves and we want to lessen their time in Purgatory.
“The practice of recommending to God the souls in Purgatory, that He may mitigate the great pains which they suffer, and that He may soon bring them to His glory, is most pleasing to the Lord and most profitable to us. For these blessed souls are His eternal spouses, and most grateful are they to those who obtain their deliverance from prison, or even a mitigation of their torments. When, therefore, they arrive in Heaven, they will be sure to remember all who have prayed for them.”
~Saint Alphonsus di Ligouri~
How do we know that Purgatory Exists?
One of the reasons we believe in the existence of Purgatory is because, although its name is not specifically mentioned, it is explained to us in Scripture.
II Maccabees 12:43-46 tells us:
“And making a gathering, he [Judas] 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, (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,) And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.”
Another reason we believe in the existence of Purgatory is that the Church fathers believed and taught it.
“But of those who suffer temporary punishments after death, all are not doomed to those everlasting pains which are to follow that judgment; for to some, as we have already said, what is not remitted in this world is remitted in the next, that is, they are not punished with the eternal punishment of the world to come.” Is, they are not punished with the eternal punishment of the world to come.”
~Saint Augustine ~ City of God~
Saint Paul, in Colossians 1:22, tells us:
“….yet He has now reconciled you in His body of flesh through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—”
The Butterfly Legend
For centuries, the butterfly has been a symbol of rebirth. In Christianity, it is a symbol of the resurrection.
There is a small town, in Mexico, where people believe butterflies to be souls. To that town, monarch butterflies migrate every year on and around the holiday known as the Day of the Dead or All Souls Day. They are seen as the returned souls of the deceased.
The Irish believe butterflies to be souls of the dead waiting to pass through purgatory. It is said that, when you see a butterfly in flight, an angel is close by. Perhaps guiding a soul through Purgatory into Heaven?
Mary Tends to the Souls in Purgatory
As always, we know we can depend on our Blessed Mother to ease our pain.
In her diary, Saint Faustina wrote that, in a vision, she saw Mary visiting the souls in Purgatory.
“I saw Our Lady visiting the souls in purgatory. The souls call her ‘The Star of the Sea.’ She brings them refreshment.”
In his book, the Glories of Mary, Saint Alphonsus Liguori tells us,
“Too happy are the servants of this most kind mother, since not only in this world they are aided by her, but also in purgatory they are assisted and comforted by her protection. For succor being there more needed, because they are in torment and cannot help themselves, so much the more does this mother of mercy strive to help them. St. Bernardine of Sienna says, that in that prison of souls who are spouses of Jesus Christ, Mary has a certain dominion and plenitude of power to relieve them, as well as deliver them from their pains.”
Our Lady, in her revelations to Saint Bridget, said: “I am the mother of all the souls in purgatory; and all the sufferings which they merit for the sins committed in life are every hour, while they remain there, alleviated in some measure by my prayers.”
Purgatory exists. Souls in Purgatory cannot pray for themselves but they can pray for us. Their only way of getting out of Purgatory and reaching the beatific vision is with our prayers. We must pray for the souls in Purgatory.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Marilyn Nash for Holyart.co.uk