Why shouldn't I fear purgatory?

Can someone enlighten me about why I should not fear purgatory? I am not afraid to die but would be less fearful if I knew exactly what to think about purgatory. I am going through a recurrence of breast cancer and my fears have been rekindled. Help!

We’ll certainly keep your fight in our daily staff prayers here at Catholic Answers and ask our readers to pray for you, too.

Perhaps the best description of purgatory and its necessity comes from the non-Catholic Christian apologist C. S. Lewis:

I believe in purgatory… The right view returns magnificently in Newman’s Dream of Gerontius]. There, if I remember it rightly, the saved soul, at the very foot of the throne, begs to be taken away and cleansed. It cannot bear for a moment longer “With its darkness to affront that light.” … Our souls demand purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, “It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy”? Should we not reply, “With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleansed first.” “It may hurt, you know” – “Even so, sir” (source).

Another beautiful description of a soul in purgatory comes from St. Therese of Lisieux:

Oh, if you only knew how sweet my judgement will be! But even if the good God punishes me a bit, I will find even that sweet. If I go to purgatory, I will still be very content, I will behave like the three Hebrews, I will walk about in the furnace singing the song of love. Oh, how happy I would be, if there I could deliver other souls, suffer in their place; then I would do well, I would deliver the captives! (Last Conversations, July 8, 1897, source).

Perhaps one more analogy will help. Death is, in reality, birth into eternity. Think of what happens when children are born. Often, they are squeezed through a narrow canal into a vastly dissimilar environment from the warm, cozy environment they have known all of their lives (to that point). To ensure that they start breathing in their new home, they are slapped on the buttocks or the bottom of their feet in order to cause crying. This transition is uncomfortable and somewhat painful but it is necessary to prepare the children for their new home. Analogously, purgatory prepares us for life in our eternal home. God bless.

Recommended reading:

Purgatory: God’s Emergency Room for Sinners by Patrick Madrid
Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux on Purgatory by Fr. Hubert van Dijk, O.R.C.

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