I’m sure a lot of you hope when you pass away from this world and into the next, you make it to Heaven. Sure, you may need to make a pit stop in Purgatory for awhile or just a short time, but ultimately, your goal is Heaven.
|Our Heavenly Home
Now, one thing I’ve noticed many people do, regardless of their religious affiliation or even if they happen to be Catholic or not is the attitude “well, I know that (insert person here) lived a good life here on Earth and was a good person, and I just know that they are up there in Heaven right now.”
At the request of all the poor souls who are currently stuck in Purgatory, waiting for your prayers, please stop this attitude.
There is no purpose in saying so-and-so is up in Heaven or not. Why you ask? Because, we are called as Catholics and as all people to pray for the dead. Really, if everyone is in Heaven, there is no purpose to pray for the dead (you wouldn’t ask God to help speed up St. Joseph’s Purgatory time because we know he’s already in Heaven, this would be fruitless prayer). But Aunt Mabel’s time in Purgatory may be sped up if you prayed for her.
When we die, we end up in one of three places. Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. If we have lived a really good life and have died in the state of grace and have none of the effects of sin on our soul, we will go to Heaven. If we have chosen we do not want to spend eternity with God through our actions on Earth or even our attitudes at judgment, we will end up in Hell. Purgatory is different as if we have lived a good life, but haven’t truly atoned for our past sins, we will spend some time in Purgatory.
Purgatory is a cleansing station. We are purified of our past faults and transgressions so we may be clean, as nothing unclean can enter Heaven. Heaven is pure and if we are not pure than we can not enter. Similarly, gold in its natural form has many impurities. In order to remove these impurities, it must be heated up to high temperatures so the impurities can be removed. After this process, the gold is much more valuable and becomes pure. This is what Purgatory is like.
We are all sinners and thus we are unable to determine who is and who is not in Heaven or Hell. Ironically, the people who just know Aunt Mabel is in Heaven (whether she is or isn’t we don’t know, but the assumption is where the problem lies) generally assume all the people they get along with are in Heaven and the people they don’t like will go to Hell (you know, bad people like Hitler, Chavez, insert your favorite maniacal dictator here). This goes hand in hand with what Jesus says in regard to “Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged“. You are not able to judge who does or does not go to Hell. You are also not able to judge who does or does not go to Heaven (seeing as this is just the inverse of the above statement, it makes sense and still holds true). You can say based on the life somebody lived it is likely they are either in Heaven or Hell, but the safest assumption to make for anybody is they are in Purgatory.
The Church will never condemn anyone to Hell as is not her duty, but only God’s. The Church can, through her Magisterium and through the keys of Peter passed on to the Pope can say who is in Heaven based on criteria the Church has established (this can be a post later on).
Ultimately, we need to pray for those who have departed from us in this life. Offer Masses, Rosaries, prayers, sacrifices and whatever else you can think of for them. In fact, if you want to, you can pray for all the souls in Purgatory.