Suffering, Grace and Purgatory

In preparation for November, and sort of by accident, I’ve been reading some books and other stuff about purgatory. I read Hungry Souls which chronicles some well documented incidences of people having various kinds of contact with souls in purgatory. I noticed some of the reviews of this book state the reader was frightened by the stories. Some are quite disturbing and even a bit “spooky” for want of a better word, but there is so much hope and so much of God’s grace shown in these stories that I couldn’t be afraid.

There are times when I think the author gets a little too colourful, but he is does give word for word dialogue and refers to all his sources.  I thought the book was pretty good and a healthy reminder of what we are called to as Christians.

One of the things that this books and others makes clear is that the Church is One (as the Creed reminds us) She may be in three parts, Militant – us lot on earth, suffering – those in purgatory and Triumphant – those in heaven, but we all work together with God’s Grace to serve one another. I really love that. The suffering of those of us here can help our loved ones in purgatory, who suffer more than us in one way and, I think less than us in an other. They surely suffer less than us in that they know their suffering has purpose and that they are surely saved and will soon see God in heaven. They pray for us, and our friends in heaven add their prayers, and a huge network of love and prayer goes up before the throne of God. It’s marvellous.

Nothing unclean can come into God’s Holy, Holy, Holy presence. We often seem to forget that. I think Mthr Angelica reminds us of that when she ensured only the very best materials were used in the Church she had built. Much like St Francis of Assisi, the joyful beggar who lived and dressed in poverty but made sure the best gold jewels and materials were used for God. We must make ourselves as pure as the gold of the Chalice if we want to be before God. St. Paul describes purgatory as “like fire” where we are cleansed but suffer loss.

As the Church is One then the suffering we have now can be part of our fire now; can begin the cleansing process and can help our loved ones, and even people we have never met who are suffering the fires of purgatory.

I have been interested to see that all the accounts of people receiving visits from the holy souls, even saints, usually see someone they either know or are related to. I think the young monk Saint Pio saw may be an exception, although maybe the saint knew him in some way.

St Catherine of Genoa is one of the best known saints who had a close relationship with the souls in purgatory, but there is a whole list of other saints who were granted visions or visits there to help us all remember to pray for our loved ones as they get ready to see God.

Jesus warned us in His Parable of the Wedding Feast that we had better be wearing the wedding clothes. If we think we will get to the Wedding Feast in dirty linen we will soon be thrown out. We must be prepared to clean up properly first.

One of the blessings of life is that as purgatory is a state, rather than a place, or a state as well as a place, we can burn off some of that straw here on earth.  So,  as the old Irish mums used to tell us, “Offer it up.” And don’t forget a bit of fasting and abstinence helps too.

Happy All Souls. May God grant them all eternal rest.

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