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1.47 Should I be afraid of purgatory?

Heaven, hell, or purgatory?

God instituted purgatory because he is infinitely merciful and loving. He wants everyone to be saved and to be with him in heaven. Therefore, we end up in purgatory if our soul still carries sins, or remnants of sins, at the time of our death.

In purgatory we are purified and prepared for heaven, because we experience burning shame and remorse for our sins. Purgatory is temporary. People who suffer here on earth due to war, pain, torture, or persecution are already being purified for heaven (Mt. 5:4-10) Mt. 5:4-10: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.. Our time in purgatory can also be reduced through prayer, the offering of Holy Mass, and by other means.

Don’t be afraid, God wants you in heaven. In purgatory, your remaining imperfections are removed to prepare you for eternal life with God.
The Wisdom of the Church

What is purgatory?

Purgatory, often imagined as a place, is actually a condition. Someone who dies in God’s grace (and therefore at peace with God and men) but who still needs purification before he can see God face to face in purgatory.

When Peter had betrayed Jesus, the Lord turned around and looked at Peter: “And Peter went out and wept bitterly”—a feeling like being in purgatory. Just such a purgatory probably awaits most of us at the moment of our death: the Lord looks at us full of love—and we experience burning shame and painful remorse over our wicked or “merely” unloving behavior. Only after this purifying pain will we be capable of meeting his loving gaze in untroubled heavenly joy. [Youcat 159]

How can we help the souls being purified in purgatory?

Because of the communion of saints, the faithful who are still pilgrims on earth are able to help the souls in purgatory by offering prayers in suffrage for them, especially the Eucharistic sacrifice. They also help them by almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance. [CCCC 211]

In what way does the Church participate in the eucharistic sacrifice?

In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, their suffering, their prayers, their work, are united to those of Christ. In as much as it is a sacrifice, the Eucharist is likewise offered for all the faithful, living and dead, in reparation for the sins of all and to obtain spiritual and temporal benefits from God. The Church in heaven is also united to the offering of Christ. [CCCC 281]

Can we help the departed who are in the condition of purgatory?

Yes, since all those who are baptized into Christ form one communion and are united with one another, the living can also help the souls of the faithful departed in purgatory.

When a man is dead, he can do nothing more for himself. The time of active probation is past. But we can do something for the faithful departed in purgatory. Our love extends into the afterlife. Through our fasting, prayers, and good works, but especially through the celebration of Holy Eucharist, we can obtain grace for the departed. [Youcat 160]

This is what the Church Fathers say

You may cleanse me in this life, and make me such, that I may after that stand in no need of the cleansing fire, for those 'who are to be saved, yet so as by fire' (1 Cor. 3:15). And because it is said, 'he shall be saved,' that fire is thought lightly of. For all that, though we should be 'saved by fire', yet will that fire be more grievous than anything man can suffer in this life whatsoever. [St. Augustine, Expositions on the psalms, 37:3 (ML 36,397)]