I was in Mass recently when Father John Fallon related a story about a man who had stopped attending Catholic Mass. This man was asked by a priest, “Why?” He said because he did not believe in Purgatory.The priest told the man, “Don’t worry about it, you will when you are there.”
It made me think about it. Before any of us can enter God’s Kingdom we must be cleansed. Our souls have to be purified.
Remember we are all sinners and God cannot stand the spots of sins that are on us when we come before him. He wants us to be completely spotless and without blemish.
The Catholic Church believes in Purgatory. I had heard of Purgatory since I was a young child. It always scared me because Purgatory was associated with Hell. And you know what that meant: punishment, eternal damnation, roasting in hell forever. The fires of hell always were preached when talking about Purgatory.
But as a recent Catholic convert, I have found that I had misunderstood the concept of Purgatory. Purgatory and Hell are two different places. Hell is for punishment and damnation. Purgatory is for the cleansing of souls. It is for purification for the souls of those who die in God’s Grace and friendship. So the fires of Purgatory are a good thing. Without Purgatory we could not be in God’s presence after dying.
As I look back on my life, I know my soul needs cleansing. First I was born into “Original Sin.” That alone causes my soul to need cleansing since I am a child of Adam and Eve. Add to that the lies I have told, all the promises I have not kept, all the good I have not done, all of the times I was selfish and small minded. All the times I was judgmental and non-caring.
The times I turned my back on those people in need. The times I was not charitable to my neighbors.
There were many times I was not very Christ-like. I was more Satan-like than I would ever have wanted anyone to know.
When you think back on your life, it’s not always pretty. There are things that are too ugly or embarrassing to think about. Things that I did as a young man that I never would want anybody to know about.
But guess what? God knows about the sins I have committed. The things I did in secret, the things I wanted to keep covered up or hidden away in my closet. The skeletons I would never want anyone to know about. But my secrets and my sins are known by God. He is the light. He sees all and He knows all.
Yes, I have been baptized. Yes, I have confessed my sins. Yes, I have repented my sins. Yes, I pray and attend Mass. I do all the things I can to atone for my sins.
But I am human. I commit sins every day. Sins are constantly my mind. So I confess my old sins, repent and pray for forgiveness. Then, in a blink of an eye, I have sinful thoughts, lustful thoughts, thoughts of envy, of hatred, avarice, etc.
I commit unkind acts, say unkind things, ignore my neighbor who is in need—and new sins pile up; some of my old sins come back.
It’s like having a lawn in the fall. I rake the leaves and clean it up. Then I say, “Man, my yard looks great!” I am so proud of myself. I go into the house for an hour, come back out to look at my yard–and it’s full of leaves again. Those leaves are my sins. As fast as I clean them up, more sins come to replace them.
It’s impossible for us humans to ever be completely free from sin. We can never be spotless or unblemished by sin in the eyes of God. We always carry the stains of sin as long as we live.
That is why Purgatory exists. Purgatory accomplishes for us the cleansing we need when we die. As long as we are in God’s Good Grace and are friends of God, we have Purgatory to cleanse us and prepare us to be in the presence of God. So at death the soul goes to Purgatory. The fire of Purgatory cleans our souls. It removes the stains, spots and blemishes our souls carry because of the sins we committed during our lives.
How long does it take to cleanse a soul? I don’t have any idea. I would guess it depends on the sins committed, and how much cleansing is needed.
I don’t care how long it takes to cleanse my soul. I just thank God that Purgatory exists and it does cleanse me so that I can be in the presence of God when the time comes.
And I thank God for the Catholic Church for teaching me how important it is to have a clean soul and be spotless and without blemish when I am called before God.
I am serving 46 months at the Federal Prison Camp in Atlanta after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in Knoxville, TN. My acts that led to my conviction are some of the sins that Purgatory will cleanse from my soul.
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