The Souls In Purgatory

This may seem like a stupid question and it has bothered me for a long time. I frequently hear the term, “The Holy Souls in Purgatory”. I may not fully understand this but if the soul is “Holy”, shouldn’t the soul be in Heaven with God? Doesn’t holy indicate it is pure and free from all sin? If a soul is indeed holy, why does it remain in Purgatory still to be purified and cleansed?

Thanks and God Bless!


If that were true, then God’s command to “be holy, as I am holy” would make no sense.

Holy can mean different things, but in this instance it means those who are in a state of grace and being purified by God. They are holy, and will be perfectly holy once released from purgatory.

John 13:10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”

Holy does not mean that the person is free from all the effects of sin.

By faith and baptism - you and I are holy. We are saints. And called to be more so!

When someone says …hey I am no saint…I tell them then you better get to confession!

If we commit a mortal sin - we are no longer holy in the sense of being in a state of grace. Being temples of the Holy Trinity…

If we confess and are absolved of mortal sins - we are holy again.

If we die in our choice of hell…we will never be holy again.

If we did in a state of grace and are being purified further via purgatory - we are holy and being purified and will be more purely holy for heaven.

The souls being purified via purgatory are yes holy souls…and getting more pure …

The souls in heaven of course are Holy. And some saints are SAINTS for they are canonized etc and are examples to us etc.

Beautifully stated, yes.

As others mentioned, it is being in the state of (sanctifying) grace that makes us holy. The adjective “holy” is appropriate because sanctifying grace is the supernatural life of God, a participation in “the divine nature” – which we know is holy. Thus, it is the presence in us of God’s HOLY life/nature that warrants our being called holy.
1997 Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: …

1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous** gift that God makes to us of his own life, **infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism.

2 Peter 1:4 … and become partakers of the divine nature.

I’d be interested in knowing what you believe John 13.10 to mean.


What does holy mean, anyway??

This is a good question, nothing stupid about it. You are right about this notion of holiness. It does indicate something is pure and free from all sin.

It can also mean “set aside for a sanctified purpose”, which is how it is used to refer to saints (christians) still here on earth.

This is the way it is used to refer to the sacred vessels used in temple worship. They were not to be used for any other purpose.


It is good to see you asking other members what they mean/understand, rather than assuming what they are thinking.:thumbsup:

The most obvious reference to me is that they are free of mortal sin, washed, but still have some attachment to sin or venial sin that remains. So it can be forgiven and our feet “washed” by the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist that is soon to happen. It is also forgiven in the prayers of repentance at the beginning of Mass, and the prayers the priest prays just before the Eucharistic Prayer along with the ceremonial washing. The eleven Apostles are holy, even though they are not fully purged of all venial sin and attachment to sin.

The “not all” refers to Judas, who retains mortal sin and is not “washed”.

I’m certain there are probably many more understandings to the verse as well.

All the souls in purgatory are in a state of grace properly understood. Therefore, they have the holiness of Christ within them. They can only go to Heaven. We, too, are holy as a Christian people. While not fully sanctified we are just like the souls in purgatory (in that regard.)

Perhaps we can call imperfectly holy people holy in the same way that we call imperfectly human people human. We are all imperfectly human but we are nonetheless human (and called to be fully alive in our humanity.)

I like the story of the washing of the feet. Much can be gleaned from this story. I think my favorite though is the one of The Prodigal Son. Priests like this one a lot too. At least the ones I know.

Okay. We do seem to concentrate a lot on sin. I’ll put forward a little bit of what I get from it.

The washing of the feel in John 13 is often referred to as showing how Jesus is teaching the disciples that they are to be of service to one another, and the “world” and Jesus was showing them that He was in service to them. They are to wash feet as He was washing their feet.

Another aspect of this story is that we must accept the love of God. Is this an easy thing to do? Jesus was washing the feet of the apostles. He was showing them how they were to love one another in action., as He clearly stated in verse 35. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.”

So Peter says to the Lord: “Never shall you wash my feet!” (verse 8) And Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with me.” (verse 8). Love is not easy to accept sometimes. Have you ever had to have your feet washed? it could be embarrasing, it means you can’t do it yourself, it means you have to depend on others, it means you have to lower yourself - and love the person who is doing the washing for you.

And in verses 9 and 10 Peter asks for his head and hands to be washed too, besides his feet, to which Jesus answers. “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean, and you ARE clean (but not all of you).”

The not all of you refers to Judas, as you said, so let’s put that aside.

The passage has a big historical sense to it too. People prepared for the Passover. I’m sure the apostles prepared for it as well. They literally washed their whole body, but, as was the custom, feet got dirty when walking because of the dust on the streets and it was customary for there to be some type of feet washing when one got to the others’s home.

Spiritually speaking, the apostles were probably all baptized with John’s baptism. Which was a baptism of repentence and meant that the person had repented and converted and wanted to walk with God. So they were all clean in that sense. They were justified in the eyes of God. But their feet got dirty. So, although we are justified, we still will sin and that always needs to be washed away. This is what you stated above.

Always looking for different spiritual interpretations!


Holy can be in degrees. For example 773 , 1986 , 2013 , 2227

souls in purgatory WILL be in heaven after purgation is over. While purgation is happening they are being made holier and holier throughout the process. At the end they will be perfectly holy. Since nothing imperfect (unclean) will enter heaven.

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