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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Hungry Souls

I would love to hear your thoughts on purgatory or what the different saints have said about it? What kind of place is it? Are the fires really like hell? Are there things we can do to avoid purgatory? I just read the book Hungry Souls and quite honestly, it scares me! Do you pray for the poor souls daily? The stories of children being in purgatory, such as Amelia from Fatima being there until the end of the world, it just boggles my mind, do you have any thoughts on this?

The only thing we know about Purgatory for sure is that it exists.  There is a place where souls go before they enter Heaven. Wherever that is and whatever goes on there causes them to need our prayers.

The traditional view of Purgatory is that it is rather like Hell. Fiery, miserable, great suffering. One hour there feels, literally, like sixty years. Mary visits. Angels bring the suffering sips of water.

And poor Amelia is there until the end of time! What in the world did she do, by the age of 14 when she died, to deserve that?

Have we left you behind, dear Readers? Let's re-cap:

We know there is a place between Heaven and Hell where there are souls who need prayers because we are admonished in Macabees to "pray for the dead".  The dead people in Heaven don't need any prayers and prayers are useless for the people in Hell. The Catholic Church named that place Purgatory. We believe that you go there to be punished for sins that you skated on, punishment-wise, and to achieve perfect harmony with God.

After that, everything we think about Purgatory is derived from what the Doctors of the Church and various individuals have said. We have to pay close attention to what the Doctors of the Church have said. But we are free to totally ignore things that individuals have said.

Those individuals have seen visions of Purgatory. For example, St. Catherine of Genoa, who was with a man at his death bed. One hour after his death, he appeared to her full of woe and suffering, begging her to pray for him as he had been in Purgatory "for sixty years".  She had to lower the boom on him and tell him it had only been an hour.

Math class was like that for me.  Time wise.  I was never on fire.

We are never compelled to believe what we call "private revelations".  This includes all sightings of Mary: Fatima, Guadlupe, Lourdes, that new one in Wisconsin...  Great news for the separated brethren who are so uncomfortable with Mary in the first place.

Here's a thought for you, separated brethren, while we're on the subject.  If you could sit down today and have brunch with Mary, wouldn't you?  Of course you would! If Mary, the Mother of God, called you on the phone or texted you for brunch, don't try and tell me you wouldn'g hop right over there.  And while you were at brunch and talking with each other, wouldn't you ask her to pray for you, like you might some other Christian friend at brunch?  Of course you would! 

So, don't wait for brunch. 

Which brings us to Amelia. The children of Fatima wrote down the things Mary said to them and they asked her about a couple of people they had known who had passed away. The first girl, Mary told them, was in Heaven.  But when they asked about poor Amelia, Mary said she was in Purgatory until the end of the world.

Mary appeared to the children of Fatima in 1917. So Amelia is still in Purgatory.  94 years.  32, 520 days.  390,360 hours.  And if one hour is experienced as 60 years, well...I'll try to do the math on that and offer it up to the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

Amelia is experiencing Purgatory, so far, as 21, 621,600 years, according to St. Catherine of Genoa. I'm on board with St. Catherine, because we all know that time does not fly when you're not having fun.

I can't fathom what Amelia could have done to merit this.  Our grade school nuns always told us that Pontius Pilate was in Puragtory until the end of time, too. Pontius, perhaps you'd like to sit over here with Amelia.

I am one of those people who becomes very upset when children are tried as adults no matter what they've done.  The argument is always that they were old enough to know right from wrong. To which I must answer, but not old enough to be trusted to drive, drink, serve in the military or vote.  Why?  They have issues with good judgement solely because of their age.  Unless you want to let children do those things, I don't think they should be tried as adults, either.

On the other hand, Mary said a lot of things that proved to be true during her time visiting Fatima, so I'll just....let it go.  Perhaps our prayers and sacrifices have given Amelia an early parole. We pray this is the case.

Keep in mind that we do believe, suffering notwithstanding, that Purgatory is a joyful place overall, because everyone there has full knowledge that they are definitely going to Heaven (even if some of them are wishing time would go ahead and end, already). So we know that Amelia is actually very, very happy.

You can offer your prayers for them and offer your sufferings and set backs up for them and free them from their joyful misery.  You can also say prayers for yourself ahead of time for when you end up there, because chances are very high that you'll be going.

I know I'm going to end up there (at least!) Clergy and nuns are held to a higher standard because we have to be good examples of the love of Christ and are therfore punished with, shall we say, more vigor.  Jesus loved people that were just about impossible to like, let alone love. He asked us to love enemies. The words "love" and "enemies" usually don't even go into the same sentence.

Like joyful misery.  Which is exactly how you are to offer up your suffering. Joyfully.

There are several things you can do to avoid Purgatory. Strive for perfection. Go to confession often. Google "indulgences" for a full list of prayers and activities.

Or...you could die the death of a martyr. Martyr's go straight to Heaven, no questions asked.


Jim Stegman said...


As regards limbo, purgtory, and Protestants. It's been my experience that Protestants, especially Evangelicals, believe in purgatory, they just don't like to admit it. When asked what happens to their soul upon death, they tell me the sins are stripped away and they enter Heaven. I then point out that the time and place in which the sins are purged from their soul, at the purgatorium, is called Purgatory. I often see a glimmer of understanding.

Asfor a reference to Purgatory in Scriptures, I often wonder whether Mark 9:47-49, "... thrown into hell
48 where their worm will never die nor their fire be put out.
49 For everyone will be salted with fire," is a reference to Purgatory. Christ says go to the good fire, avoid the bad fire. Is that also a description of Purgatory provided by Jesus himself?

And finally, when reflecting on the afterlife, are we confused by the existence of time? Time is a feature of Creation. If we eliminate the issue of 'time' when trying to better understand the Afterlife, will we still trip on questions of where the souls of those who died before Christ's death detoured?


Jim Stegman

Anonymous said...

Hello Sister,

I don't understand how it is decided who goes to hell and who geos to purgatory what is the deciding factor?

What else was said at Fatima that already came true?

Sorry if I was supposed to ask these in an email instead of comments-I could not locate your email info.
Janice Marie

Chris said...

Hi Sister,

Happy Epiphany!

The Catechism doesn't refer to Purgatory as an actual place; as Mr Stegman correctly points out, time (and space) are characteristics of the created order.

Personally, I like to think of Purgatory (well, I don't actually like to think about it, but you get my drift) as an experience. We die and meet God, Love personified. In the act of passing into His presence, we are purified of the gunk that's left because Love (even human love) is the great purifier. The more gunk we have the more painful the experience. It would, I believe, be a mistake to see Purgatory as an actual place. After death there is no past or future because there is no time; only the Present Moment.

Of course, where does that leave any benefit our prayers or acts of kindness in relation to those undergoing purification? Again, for us time exists but not for those who have died.

Some folk say that Purgatory is about paying the 'temporal punishment' due for sins that have been forgiven. Well, in the great parable of forgiveness, the father didn't say to the younger son "OK, kid,you're forgiven but now you have to suffer a bunch before you get to come inside." Daddy, aka God, threw a party for the lad who had come "to his senses at last"

BTW, being a CCC afficionado (or should that be afficionada?) you'll know that it says nada (pun intended) about temporal punishment due to sins that have been forgiven.

Here ends the sermon. Hope you have as much fun puting the three wise men to bed in the basement as you did in finding the camel.

Anonymous said...

Janice Marie, YOU decide whether to go to Purgatory or Hell. Hell is where God isn't. Purgatory is for those who love God and want to spend eternity with Him, but who are not, yet, (spiritually) ready for Heaven.

I always explained to my children (and anyone who would listen!) that Hell is proof of God's love. There are souls in this life, who want nothing whatsoever to do with God. If they do not love Him in this life and, after death and meeting Him, still do not want to spend eternity with Him, He loves them enough not to force His desire on them and has absented Himself from "somewhere" so they can continue existence without Him.

Of course, there is no time or place beyond, but we use what language we have to try and understand.


julie @ the boutique said...


Long before I became Catholic I was drawn to the rosary - It somehow provided comfort when I held it, even before I learned how to pray properly. (Which as it turns out, really wasn't until very recently - although I still question if I really understand those mysteries...)

But I digress...I was wondering if you could explain about chaplets and their prayers? I'm confused as there seems to be so many different ones, some (or at least one)that are praying using the rosary itself and others that each seem to have their own 'style'. Some have 10 beads, some have 12, others 33, etc. Some have a Crucifix, others medals, and I assume some have neither...

Can you help me to understand these different tools for prayer? Is there perhaps a book or a website that includes not only prayer, but pictures of the chaplets? I'm hoping you can give me some direction - my internet searches have left me completely lost.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister,

Thank you for your posts, I appreciate what I learn here. I'm sure you're quite busy but if you have time, I have a question for you.

My husband and I lost our baby during my pregnancy at 13 weeks. I posted here because I was initially worried that our baby would end up in purgatory. Our parish priest told us that our intent to baptize our baby and raise her in the church is sufficient.

My question is for me. Is there a saint for bereaved mothers of unborn children? Taylor (our baby) is our only child. I have felt a special draw towards the Holy Mother ever since finding out about our baby, and I know she understands the pain of losing a child. Is there another saint for me?

Thank you, sister


( http://thetearinamyseye.blogspot.com/ )

Unknown said...

Hi Amy, I don't know if you will come back to this site or not but I read your comment I can relate with all my heart. I lost my first baby at about 12 weeks. I just wanted to tell you that I found great comfort in Our Lady of La Leche.

Her prayer . . .
Prayer for Motherhood:

Lovely Lady of La Leche, most loving mother of the Child Jesus, and my mother, listen to my humble prayer. Your motherly heart knows my every wish, my every need. To you only, His spotless Virgin Mother, has your Divine Son given to understand the sentiments which fill my soul. Yours was the sacred privilege of being the Mother of the Savior. Intercede with him now, my loving Mother, that, in accordance with His will, I may become the mother of other children of our heavenly Father. This I ask, O Lady of La Leche, in the Name of your Divine Son, My Lord and Redeemer. Amen.

praying for you. Betsy M

Anonymous said...

Madre de Dios

"A day is as a thousand years.... "

So an hour of our time is 60 years where a day is as a thousand years.

That means one of our days is like 4604 256000 000 hours.

"Fear is not in charity: but perfect charity casteth out fear, because fear hath pain. And he that feareth, is not perfected in charity."