Can you explain purgatory in simple terms?


#1

I am a Protestant, but I am SERIOUSLY considering converting to Catholicism. I am unable to explain this, it just is. I have read the articles on Catholic Answers about Mary and the Saints and about the Rosary. I actually have no problems about any of this. My reaction to all of it (remember, I’m Protestant) is I have no problems with any of this, and I think I do believe all of it. My questions are “What is Purgatory, and what purpose does it serve?” I don’t find it in the Bible, and I believe that when a Christian dies, he or she goes straight to Heaven (the “good” thief on the cross). Can someone explain it to me in simple layman’s terms? I would greatly appreciate it!

J


#2

They do a better job than me.

Here is Catholic Answers’ tract on purgatory.
catholic.com/library/purgatory.asp

Here is a great article on how many Protestants view purgatory, but just don’t call it that.
catholic.com/thisrock/1998/9801fea2.asp


#3

[quote=JohnDee]I am a Protestant, but I am SERIOUSLY considering converting to Catholicism. I am unable to explain this, it just is. I have read the articles on Catholic Answers about Mary and the Saints and about the Rosary. I actually have no problems about any of this. My reaction to all of it (remember, I’m Protestant) is I have no problems with any of this, and I think I do believe all of it. My questions are “What is Purgatory, and what purpose does it serve?” I don’t find it in the Bible, and I believe that when a Christian dies, he or she goes straight to Heaven (the “good” thief on the cross). Can someone explain it to me in simple layman’s terms? I would greatly appreciate it!

J
[/quote]

This is about as simple as it gets. A saved christian is one who dies in the saving grace of God. Just because one is invited to the afterlife party, doesn’t mean you can come in with muddy clothes on. Sometimes, one dies with unrepentent sins still held against them. They are forgiven, but the residual guilt creates an impediment from us entering into the beatific vision (the direct presence of God Almighty). (Rev 21:27 “But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”)

We must be cleansed of all minor impurities, because nothing imperfect can withstand the presence of God (Malachi 3:2-3 "But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? "For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver). St. Paul talks about how our life will be tested by fire, and those things we have done with our life that are worthy will be purified, but those unworthy things that were done will be burned away (1 Cor 3: 11-15 "For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.)

The simple analogy is this. You are a child out playing in the mud. You father calls you home for dinner, but won’t let you in the house until you’ve cleaned up. You’re invited in (saved), but only after you’ve washed the dirt off (but only as through fire). I hope that helps.


#4

Hi, simply put, pugutory is a state of being for those who have avoided mortal sin at death but have venial sins. Purgutory is a purification of the person, it removes any evil intentions or desires,and makes the person pure and able to enter Heaven.Please checkout,ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM#Purgatory


#5

Can you explain purgatory in simple terms?

[size=3]The Hall of Justice wherein mercy and justice are perfected[/size] for the entire life we have led.
[left]**[size=3]
Without the perfecting of justice THROUGH the applied merits of Christ, which makes suffering effective, an imperfect person could never merit heaven.

The result is that all who enter heaven from purgatory have no further accounting for evil deeds or omissions.**[/size]
[/left]
**[size=3]
**[/size]


#6

[quote=JohnDee]I am a Protestant, but I am SERIOUSLY considering converting to Catholicism. I am unable to explain this, it just is. I have read the articles on Catholic Answers about Mary and the Saints and about the Rosary. I actually have no problems about any of this. My reaction to all of it (remember, I’m Protestant) is I have no problems with any of this, and I think I do believe all of it. My questions are “What is Purgatory, and what purpose does it serve?” I don’t find it in the Bible, and I believe that when a Christian dies, he or she goes straight to Heaven (the “good” thief on the cross). Can someone explain it to me in simple layman’s terms? I would greatly appreciate it!

J
[/quote]

  1. “This day you will be with Me in Paradise.”!.
    Ever wonder why He refused to say HEAVEN or Kingdom of HEAVEN, which He so frequently used before?

  2. Did Christ go to Heaven that day? NO. Read what Peter says Christ did. It certainly wasn’t Heaven. Christ, after His resurrection admits that He had NOT YET gone to the Father.
    Therefore, Paradise was NOT heaven!

when a Christian dies, he or she goes straight to Heaven…

All 4 of the following are “Christians”:
Let’s see now, Joan and Bob fornicate for 15yrs, then they are sorry and do not commit it again.
Kathy and Jim avoid fornication even though they are plagued with temptation to do so.

They all die in a Car wreck…suddenly.
They “go straight to heaven”.
Kathy and Jim, and God know exactly what Joan and Bob did for 15 years. YET they have the same reward as the couple who resisted doing the same thing.
If God is perfect justice (toward Kathy and Jim), where is justice in this example??
After all, Kathy and Jim now realize that they could have fornicated by succumbing to their temptations and been none the worse for doing so! They just needed to be sorry, and avoided it after that. No consequence WHATSOEVER.
Joan and Bob are realizing they had a great deal of lustful satisfaction, and are happy they did not resist for 15 years.
If this is your God’s perfect justice, so be it.


#7

I think of purgatory as God’s “time out”, to put it in parental terms. When my son is disobedient (sins) even though he asks for forgiveness, there are still consequences for his actions. When I sin, even though I am sorry and forgiven, there are consequences for my actions as well. Sometimes those actions result in earthly consequences. Sometimes they don’t. But there will be a consequence at some point in time before I can enter into Heaven. This is also closely tied to the church’s doctrine on suffering, which as I understand it, teaches that our earthly sufferings help to purify us, and thus lessen our time in purgatory. I could be wrong about the suffering part. I’ve only been Catholic a year, but that’s my understanding of it all.


#8

I once heard an explanation that the souls in purgatory experience a pain greater than any pain they had ever experienced on earth, and greater than any pain anyone might possibly experience, except for the pain of those who have chosen to eternally separate themselves from God in hell. They experience this pain because they now fully understand the damage caused by their sins and are able to fully regret these sins as they they had never been able to do before.

And they freely embrace this pain as Christ embraced the Cross, because along with this pain they simultaneously experience a joy greater than any joy they had ever experienced on earth, and greater than any joy anyone might possibly experience, except for the Joy of those who are in Heaven with God. They experience this joy because they now know God’s Mercy and Love with penultimate fullness, to be exceeded only when they are ready to stand before him fully purrified, and they know that their sufferings, united with Christ’s suffering on the Cross will be the effective means to accomplish this for themselves and for others.


#9

Most Protestants believe that God looks past our sins (the old snow covered dung heep). We believe God actually purifies us, since nothing unpure can enter Heaven. Purgatory is where/how any residual sin gets burned away.


#10

There isn’t much to add about what it is, everyone else pretty much summed it up. But there are some things about it that havn’t been mentioned, so I’ll add those. If I’m incorrect on any of this, please someone correct me. This is only my understanding of things from books I’ve read.

The biggest part of this that interests me right now is this… We (people who are living) have a power to help these souls. They no longer of course have the ability to sin-which means they also don’t have free choice- to do penance for their sins commited. This is where we come in. We can pray for these souls in purgatory, and lessen their time spent there. Isn’t that a wonderful privilage we have? All we have to do is pray or do some penance or suffering for these souls and we can help them see God sooner.

Also, I’ve read that we should welcome any suffering we go through in this life. If we offer that up to Christ, it can be a sort of purifying of our soul while we’re living so as we don’t need to go through that after we die.

One thing I read that really hit home to me was in one of Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s books. She wrote how we should view our life as a series of tests. God gives us every test we need to learn the lessons we need to clense our soul and be joined in heaven with him upon our death. It’s when we run away from these sufferings or tests, and don’t face them that we then need to learn those missed lessons in the afterlife (purgatory)


#11

In our view, Purgatory is part of the Atonement. The grace Christ won for us on the Cross is the only way we get to heaven. However, despite our best efforts to live a good Christian life, we still can sin and live a less than perfect life by sinning. The consequence of sin is that we are separated from God. However, if the nature of the sin is not one that constitutes a total rejection of God, you are not damned. But this presents a contradiction. If you die with any sin on your soul, you cannot enter Heaven because nothing unclean can enter. Purgatory is a temporary state for those who die in some form of sin not great enough to warrant eternal damnation. Purgatory is for the just who are not perfectly so. In Purgatory, your sould is refined “as through fire” so that only the pure gold remains. The fires of Purgatory are a grace from Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. When you have been purged of the effects of lingering sin (this is why it’s called PURGatory - because it purges sin), then you enter into the eternal heavenly glory in the presence of the Holy Trinity.


#12

OK, I think I am starting to get it. Some of you gave answers that really made sense to a Protestant :thumbsup: , others left me a little more confused :confused:. I won’t say which of you is which. I do want ALL of you to know that I truly appreciate the answers you have given, as each and every one of them tells me two things: 1) All of you care about me, and 2) I still have a LOT to learn!

My wife asked me why I am leaning more and more towards Catholicism and further away from Protestantism. I told her simply, I believe have heard too many untruths from some of the more famous and most listened to “Pastors” out there. I am tired of it, and I want to learn from people who have known God from the beginning (Christ’s beginning, that is).

I hope the answers keep coming in, because I still want to learn more. I even went to BAM tonight and bought “Catholicism for Dummies” and The New American Bible. Pray for me that I might find the answers I seek. I only want to serve Him, and I can’t do that if I remain ignorant. Thanks!!!

J


#13

[quote=JohnDee]OK, I think I am starting to get it. Some of you gave answers that really made sense to a Protestant :thumbsup: , others left me a little more confused :confused:. I won’t say which of you is which. I do want ALL of you to know that I truly appreciate the answers you have given, as each and every one of them tells me two things: 1) All of you care about me, and 2) I still have a LOT to learn!

My wife asked me why I am leaning more and more towards Catholicism and further away from Protestantism. I told her simply, I believe have heard too many untruths from some of the more famous and most listened to “Pastors” out there. I am tired of it, and I want to learn from people who have known God from the beginning (Christ’s beginning, that is).

I hope the answers keep coming in, because I still want to learn more. I even went to BAM tonight and bought “Catholicism for Dummies” and The New American Bible. Pray for me that I might find the answers I seek. I only want to serve Him, and I can’t do that if I remain ignorant. Thanks!!!

J
[/quote]

May I suggest also purchasing a copy of a few books:

Surprised by Truth 1,2, & 3 by Patrick Madrid
Crossing the Tiber by Steve Ray
and my FAVORITE…(i always plug this book)
Unabridged Christianity by Fr. Mario Romero–this book is the one!

DU


#14

Father Hampsh writes this:More than five hundred Scripture passages refer to God’s mercy in forgiving repented sin, such as Hebrews 8:12: “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” The Catholic Church champions the teaching on God’s mercy (a part of which is purgatory itself, paradoxically). Purgatory does not cause the removal of sin, as many non-Catholics accuse us as teaching. Purgatory clears up only the effects of that forgiven sin. Jesus’ blood shed on Calvary purifies us of that sin (1 Jn. 1:7, etc.), but not necessarily of the remnant effects of that sin – such as the tendency or habit of sin. Jesus’ redemptive act does not “cancel the acquired propensity to evil,” as St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote in the fourth century. Yet, by God’s mercy and grace we can work toward that supplementary goal, as the Bible so often attests, toward a fuller purification (1Pet. 1:22), and a completing of a salvation already attained by faith (vs. 5).

If we don’t do this completely in this life, it will have to be done in the next, as St. Augustine reminds us. In this regard, Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:25-26 are appropriate: “Settle matters quickly … do it while you are still on the way … or you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” This specifies and reaffirms what Jesus spoke of else where (Mt. 18:34), in terms of debt payment for moral failure of the unjust steward, who was jailed “until he should pay back all that was owed.”

Overall, the lessons of purgatory are encouraging: First, because purification (not punishment) is a form of suffering that is intensely love-inflamed; second, it teaches us that we can accomplish the same purification painlessly here on earth; and third, it teaches us that we have, by God’s goodness, a powerful means at our disposal to assist souls now in purgatory who are pleading for our help by our prayers.

John H. Hampsch, C.M.F. Glad You Asked; Scriptural Answers for Our Times, p. 77-78, © 1992, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division; Huntington, Indiana


#15

We are called by Christ to love as he loved, that is, we are called to love perfectly. What happens if we die without being in a state of unrepentant mortal sin, but also without having learned to love perfectly? Will we go to heaven as imperfect creatures that have no knowledge of how to receive and give perfect love? No.

Purgatory is a state where we get purged of our inordinate attachments to creation, and where our love is purified of these inordinate attachments. Once we are purified of our selfish and mercenary love, we can both love perfectly, and receive perfect love. If we haven’t learned how to love God with our whole hearts, our whole minds, and our whole souls while we are on earth, we will learn how to do this in Purgatory.

This world can be our purgatory, if we allow it to be.**Catechism of the Catholic Church

1030 ** All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.


Apart from the happiness of the saints in heaven, I think there is no joy comparable to that of the souls in purgatory. An incessant communication with God renders their happiness daily more intense, and this union with God grows more and more intimate, according as the impediments to that union, which exist in the soul, are consumed. These obstacles . . . are the rust and the remains, as it were, of sin; and the fire continues to consume them, and thus the soul gradually expands under the divine influence. Thus, according as the rust diminishes and the soul is laid bare to the divine rays, happiness is augmented. The one grows and the other wanes until the time of trial is elapsed . . . With regard to the will of these souls, they can never say that these pains are pains, so great is their contentment with the ordinance of God, with which their wills are united in perfect charity.

  • St Catherine of Genoa

Purgatory is not, as Tertullian thought, some kind of supra-worldly concentration camp where one is forced to undergo punishments in a more or less arbitrary fashion. Rather it is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God * and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints. Simply to look at people with any degree of realism at all is to grasp the necessity of such a process. It does not replace grace by works, but allows the former to achieve its full victory precisely as grace. What actually saves is the full assent of faith. But in most of us, that basic option is buried under a great deal of wood, hay and straw. Only with difficulty can it peer out from behind the latticework of an egoism we are powerless to pull down with our own hands. Man is the recipient of the divine mercy, yet this does not exonerate him from the need to be transformed. Encounter with the Lord is this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and re-forms us to be vessels of eternal joy.

  • Cardinal Ratzinger*

#16

how about it’s a kind of spiritual bath one must take before meeting God face-to-face?

anyway, we’re praying for you, johndee!


#17

I’m in the same boat as johndee. One Protestant argument against purgatory is Paul’s verse…to be absent with the body is to be present with the Lord. Can anyone explain this verse in the context of purgatory? Thanks.


#18

God’s peace. Being in purgatory IS being present with the Lord! Consider this:

  1. Because purgation is painful, many represent it as being somewhere very close to hell, with God’s face withdrawn from those within–a place of punishment. THIS IS FALSE! Not only is purgatory a place/state very close to heaven–at the very door, so to speak–but Our Lord is there, lovingly administering the purgation to the Holy Souls as the last step of his saving work.
  2. The salvation of the Holy Souls in purgatory is ASSURED. Here on Earth, you can’t know with absolute certainty that you are going to wind up in heaven; all you can have is the “certainty of hope.” But upon death, the very fact that you are in purgatory means that you are CERTAINLY being made fit for heaven!
  3. Purgatory is painful, but also joyful, as others have said. Imagine–no more sinning–you’ve won the race! Wouldn’t you be joyful–just as a marathon runner is, exhausted and shaking, when he crosses the finish line?
  4. Purgatory is where the FINAL HEALING takes place, where the damage we have done to ourselves and to others through our (forgiven!) sins is erased. Every tear shall be wiped away, and every wound that we suffered or inflicted on others will be healed.
  5. When the Day of Judgement arrives, the Holy Souls will no longer be in purgatory, but will be reunited with their new and perfect bodies–bodies fit to stand in the presence of God himself, forever! In that day, the judgement of the wicked and their final casting into hell will cause us to rejoice and praise God, for we will fully understand and agree with God’s judgement–something we sinners, with our unpurged bodies and souls, could never have done without the GRACE of purgatory!
    Blessings,

#19

[quote=mj330]I’m in the same boat as johndee. One Protestant argument against purgatory is Paul’s verse…to be absent with the body is to be present with the Lord. Can anyone explain this verse in the context of purgatory? Thanks.
[/quote]

Paul’s statement refers tho those who expect to go to Heaven (even via Purgatory). Those who are in hell are absent from the body, but they are definitely not present with the Lord. In fact, THE chief pain of hell is to live eternally with the knowledge that one will never be with God.


#20

[quote=mj330]I’m in the same boat as johndee. One Protestant argument against purgatory is Paul’s verse…to be absent with the body is to be present with the Lord. Can anyone explain this verse in the context of purgatory? Thanks.
[/quote]

Since purgatory is not hell and the people there are simply being readied for the lamb’s supper on their way into heaven, there is no reason to think that Our Lord would not be with those even in that time of purification. Doesn’t Romans 8 tell us that nothing separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?


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