God’s Mercy is Greater: The Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux on Purgatory
by Father Dr. Hubert van Dijk, ORC.
“One does not need to go to Purgatory”
The common teaching within the Church is that Purgatory can hardly be avoided. While still only a novice, the saint commented about this with one of the sisters, Sr. Maria Philomena, who believed in the near impossibility of going to heaven without passing through purgatory:
You do not have enough trust. You have too much fear before the good God. I can assure you that He is grieved over this. You should not fear Purgatory because of the suffering there, but should instead ask that you not deserve to go there in order to please God, Who so reluctantly imposes this punishment. As soon as you try to please Him in everything and have an unshakable trust He purifies you every moment in His love and He lets no sin remain. And then you can be sure that you will not have to go to Purgatory.
She even said that we would offend God if we didn’t trust enough that we would get to heaven right after dying.
God is Father rather than Judge.
Once St. Therese had a confrontation regarding this topic with Sr. Marie Febronia, who not only was sixty-seven years old but also was sub-prioress. She had heard that St. Therese encouraged the novices to believe that they could go straight to heaven. She did not like this as she considered this kind of confidence presumptuous, and thus she reproached St Therese. St Therese tried lovingly and calmly to explain to Sr. Febronia her point of view but with no success as Sr. Febronia clung to belief. For St. Therese God was more Father than Judge, and she took the liberty of finally responding, “My sister, if you look for the justice of God you will get it. The soul will receive from God exactly what she desires.”
The year had not passed when, in January 1892, Sr. M. Febronia together with other sisters fell prey to the flu and died. Three months later Sr. Therese had a dream which she related to her Mother Prioress and which was then documented: “O my Mother, my Sr. M Febronia came to me last night and asked that we should pray for her:. She is in Purgatory, surely because she had trusted too little in the mercy of the good Lord. Through her imploring behavior and her profound looks, it seemed she wanted to say, You were right. I am now delivered up to the full justice of God but it is my fault. If I had listened to you I would not be here now.”