Am I misunderstanding Purgatory?

The way I see Purgatory (I have a very basic understanding) is that it’s a place people go when they die in God’s friendship but still with venial sins. I see Purgatory as a place for cleansing the person of sin before they enter Heaven. I also see that people pray for people to get out of Purgatory faster.

My question is, am I misunderstanding Puragtory/people praying for the Holy Souls? Because if I’m right, then it seems a little odd to want people to get out faster. If a person gets out faster, they might get out before their cleansing is done. At least, that’s the way I’m thinking right now.

Can someone please explain? I’m sure I’m probably misunderstanding something, but I’m not sure what. I haven’t done a whole lot of research on Purgatory yet.

Thank you!


They don’t get out before they are “done”. They just get done either faster or with less pain or both.

The way most priests have explained purgatory is in terms of paying a debt due for sin. The most recent pulpit explanation was, you rob a bank, a week later you return all the money and turn yourself in crying and saying you’re sorry. The judge approves of the fact that you’re sorry and that you gave back the money, but you still committed a crime and get a sentence for doing that. Prayers for you in purgatory can shorten your sentence or make things more comfortable for you in prison.


I like this explanation of Purgatory from Dr. Anders.

Your son throws a ball through the house window and there is glass everywhere. He comes up to you and confesses. You immediately forgive him, give him a hug and tell him it is alright (this is the forgiveness of the eternal punishment for breaking the window).

However, does the just father let him go on his way or does the just father hand him the broom and the dust pan to clean up the broken glass? The broken glass is the temporal punishment for breaking the window. Now the glass can be cleaned up in this life (and he goes straight to heaven) or there still might be a little cleaning to do after we die. This is where purgatory comes in.

When we go to purgatory the cleansing fire of Jesus love will help us clean up what we didn’t finish cleaning in this life time. Now while the son is still cleaning up the glass his older brother comes to the father and says boy that’s a lot of glass. Can I help? The father moved by the love shown by the brother says of course you can.

These are the prayers of the faithful for the Holy Souls in purgatory. The person can’t get out of Purgatory until every last shard of glass gets picked up. For some people it might be only one or two shards for others it might be a million. Either way they aren’t getting out until all the cleansing is done.

I don’t know how it works, maybe the prayers stoke the fire and Jesus burns it out of us a little faster.

Hope this helps,

God Bless


There is no crystal clear idea on Purgatory.

It is a place where temporal consequences for forgiven sins are purged before entering the Beatific Vision. This purging fire is ascribed by various mystics to be intensely painful (although souls who are on the cusp of entering the Beatific Vision have been described as radiant and peaceful). Not all stages or levels of Purgatory seem to be the same. Some theologians have also said Purgatory exists not just for sins, but also attachment to the world; those who were not appropriately longing for Heaven.

All souls in Purgatory enjoy hope, because they know it is a passing time. They do not suffer total despair.

In a mysterious way, our prayers are able to assist souls as they go through this passing. The Holy Souls are unable to pray for themselves. This does not cheapen the passing or make it uneffacious.


Thank you all! Your answers help a lot.

In addition to all of the above, I also look at Purgatory as a “kind of” finishing school.

We may have some severe personality disorders or other imperfections that may need to be “ironed out” before admission to Heaven itself.

But that’s just me talking.


I have a similar image, that it is like military Boot Camp, or alternatively (more pacifist), like intense athletic training. We come to it lax, weak, and overweight. We need to prepare for something great. There may be pain, but it is a good pain because we will see that we are getting stronger, smarter, and more disciplined, looking forward to the day when we are ready to be received into the glorious presence of God, which is Heaven.


Thank you for asking;

It is a profound and a good question

Let me explain it this way:

GOD knows everything

OMNIPOTENCE. The almighty power of God. He can do whatever does not deny his nature or that is not self-contradictory. Since God is infinite in being, he must also be infinite in power. (Etym. Latin omnis, all + potentia, power: omnipotens, all-powerful.)

OMNISCIENCE. God’s knowledge of all things. Revelation discloses that the wisdom of God is without measure (Psalm 146:5). And the Church teaches that his knowledge is infinite.

The primary object of divine cognition is God himself, whom he knows immediately, that is, without any medium by which he apprehends his nature. He knows himself through himself.

The secondary objects of divine knowledge are everything else, namely the purely possible, the real, and the conditionally future. He knows all that is merely possible by what is called the knowledge of simple intelligence. This means that, in comprehending his infinite imitability and his omnipotence, God knows therein the whole sphere of the possible. [from Fr Hardon’s Catholic Dictionary

Because God does know everything [everything is present to Him; time does not exist] He knows who will and what prayers will be said for each soul in purgatory; so that soul’s release is already determined and GOD-approved.

GREAT question, thanks you’re understanding of Purgatory is right on!

Pray very much, God Bless you


I like the “boot camp” idea.
The more we “work out” spiritually on earth, the easier “boot camp” will be, or some people who are really advanced might get to skip it entirely.


2 Maccabees 12:39 On the next day, as had now become necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back to lie with their kindred in the sepulchres of their ancestors. 40 Then under the tunic of each one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was the reason these men had fallen. 41 So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; 42 and they turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen

. 43 He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. 44 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. 45 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.

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