What the Church Teaches about Purgatory.

What the Church Teaches about Purgatory.


My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

What the Church Teaches about Purgatory.

WHAT, properly speaking, is Purgatory? It is the state or condition of souls who, at death, were in a state of grace, but had neither fully expiated their sins, nor attained to the degree of purity needful to enjoy the vision of God.

The soul remains in that state in which death finds it; there is then no more grace or merit to be lost or found. The hour of mercy is past; it is now the time for divine justice alone. And this divine justice has then to be satisfied by the soul’s endurance of whatever punishments still remain due.

There is perhaps no subject of spiritual reflection from which we can derive more profit than Purgatory. In the first place it leads us to have truer views about sin, and to employ greater care and earnestness in avoiding it. Then we are powerfully urged to charity and mercy in the help of these poor sufferers, and thus we grow to set more value on the gifts of God and the means of grace, such as prayer, the Mass, the Sacraments, and indulgences.

We also realise more vividly our individual responsibilities, reflecting that every soul, without exception, will have to give a strict account, not only of its acts, but also of its omissions, its thoughts, desires, and motives, for all these are strictly judged by God, once the time of mercy is past. This reflection is not only most useful in awakening and rousing us to fervour and earnestness, but is a great consolation in the inequalities of life. For we see how all these are taken into account by God and accepted by Him as part of an expiation which we now realise as indispensable in some shape or other. We see how the apparent happiness and undisturbed prosperity of some and the misfortunes which continually dog others are in the end most perfectly balanced and compensated for. No matter how evil-doers, the worldly and the powerful, may win success here below and escape due retribution, eventually and unerringly a most exact payment will have to be made by all. Neither the highest nor the lowest nor the most insignificant will escape one particle of this strict account on the day of judgment. “Thou shalt not go out from hence till thou hast paid the last farthing.” These are things which we all know in a general way, but the particular instances of God’s judgments, which come before us when we seriously reflect on Purgatory, bring such truths home to us in a way which perhaps nothing else does. This is a great consolation when we suffer, as most of us do at times, from some sense of injustice. It would seem that some always have everything as they wish; they seem to escape blame, failure, and suffering in some inexplicable way. But when we reflect on Purgatory, we see that justice must and will infallibly be done some day, and that no one will escape a just judgment for all his deeds. Nothing is forgotten or unregistered.

These are but very few of the advantages to be gained from reflecting on the first truth about Purgatory defined by the Church, namely, that such a place really exists. From the second pronouncement, that we can help the suffering souls, we learn mercy and charity, and a warning not to waste our lives in selfishness or unavailing regrets that we cannot do great works for God. Here is a great work of mercy and charity which is open to all, even to children, and one that brings us untold reward, not only increasing grace and merit for ourselves, but in laying up for ourselves help when our own hour for expiation arrives.

Practice.—Resolve to gain many indulgences daily and choose those you intend to gain for the Poor Souls.

Indulgenced Prayer.—Acts of faith, hope, and charity. Seven years and seven quarantines each time. Plenary, once a month, if said daily. Plenary, at the point of death, if frequently said during life.


In October of the year 1870, a young nun of the convent of the Redemptoristines of Malines, in Belgium, received news of the death of her father. A fortnight before that date, Sister Mary Seraphine had felt an inexplicable sadness, without knowing its cause. But now she began to hear groans, and a voice which cried out: “My dear daughter, have pity on me!” The nun began also to experience excruciating sufferings in her body, and one night, when going to bed, she beheld between her and the wall her poor father surrounded by flames, and a prey to sadness. After this he appeared to her every day at the same moment and in the same spot until his final deliverance. She asked him if he had wronged anyone in his business. “No,” he replied, “but I suffer for continual impatience, and for other faults which I am not allowed to mention.”

One day he complained that he had received very little relief. His daughter remonstrated, saying that the nuns could not always be praying, as they had other duties prescribed by the Rule. “I do not ask,” he replied, “that they should always be praying, but that they should apply to me their intentions and indulgences. Unless they come to my aid, you will be unceasingly tormented, for God has allowed me to discharge my sufferings upon you. Several hundreds of souls are lying in the same pit of fire as myself. You should try to be a holy nun and faithfully observe the smallest points of the Rule, for the Purgatory of the religious is something awful.” The Sister beheld the pit all on fire, and thick black clouds of smoke issuing from it. Her father told her that he was condemned to several years in Purgatory, but through the intercession of Mary he had been allowed to appear to her and ask relief, and that he would only be there some months longer, though each day appeared interminable.

This man had been very devout to Mary, he had frequented the Sacraments on her feasts, had shown compassion to the unfortunate, and spared no pains to help them, and had helped to found a house of the “Little Sisters of the Poor” in his native town.

She asked him various questions suggested by her superiors, e.g. whether the torments of Purgatory were worse than those of earth, and he replied: “Most certainly.” She asked if there were souls who remained fifty years in Purgatory. “Yes,” he replied; “and there are some who are condemned to remain there till the end of the world.” She asked if the souls in Purgatory knew those who pray for them, and whether they could pray for the faithful in this world. He replied in the affirmative. He said that if the Community continued to pray for him, he would be delivered on the feast of Christmas. The most secret works offered for him gave him instant relief, and he had a full knowledge of them.

On Christmas Eve, the Sister was herself so ill that she could hardly drag herself to church, but she managed to be present at Midnight Mass. Between the elevations of the Mass her father appeared to her, shining as the sun, and said: “I have completed my time of expiation and come to thank you and your community. Now in turn I will pray for all.” He promised to obtain for her the grace to enter Heaven without passing through Purgatory. So resplendent was his appearance that the only thing she could discern of him were his features, all the rest of his person was dazzling light. (From the Bulletin of the œuvre Expiatoire, July 1889.)


My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

November Devotion: The Holy Souls in Purgatory.

Virtues to practice: Charity and kindness.


Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord! Lord hear my voice.
Let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
If Thou, O Lord, shalt mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand it?
For with Thee there is merciful forgiveness: and by rea­son of Thy law I have waited for Thee, O Lord.
My soul hath relied on His word: my soul hath hoped in the Lord.
From the morning watch even until night, let Israel hope in the Lord.
Because with the Lord there is mercy: and with Him plenteous redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
V. Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord.
R. And let perpetual light shine upon them.
V. May they rest in peace.
R. Amen.
V. Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto thee.

Let Us Pray.

O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of thy servants departed the remission of all their sins, that through the devout prayers of Thy Church on earth, they may obtain that remission of pain which they have ever desired. Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.
V. Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord.
R. And let perpetual light shine upon them.
V. May they rest in peace.
R. Amen.

The Sovereign Pontiff, Clement XII., by a brief, Calestes Ecclesia thesauros, Aug. 11, 1736, granted:
AN INDULGENCE OF ONE HUNDRED DAYS to all the faithful who, at the sound of the bell, at the first hour after nightfall, shall say devoutly on their knees the psalm De profundis, or the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Requiem æternam.
A PLENARY INDULGENCE, once a year, to those who shall have performed this pious exercise for a year, on any day when, being truly penitent, after confession and communion, they shall pray for peace and union among Christian princes, for the extirpation of heresy and for the triumph of holy Mother Church.
The Sovereign Pontiff, Pius VI., by a rescript of the S. Congr. of the Propaganda, March 18, 1781, granted these indulgences to all the faithful who may happen to dwell in a place where no bell for the dead is sounded, provided they shall say the De profundis, or the Our Father, and the Hail Mary, etc., about nightfall.
The Sovereign Pontiff, Pius IX., by a rescript of the S. Congr. of Indulgences, July 18, 1877, declared that these indulgences can be gained on the recital as aboye of the De profundis, or the Our Father, etc., before or after nightfall, provided that the bell is sounded at such hour, according to the custom of the church or place.
Moreover, His Holiness, Leo XIII., by a rescript of the S. Congr. of Indulgences, Feb. 3, 1888, granted to all the faithful who shall recite the above Psalm, adding the versicle Requiem æternam dona eis Domine ei lux perpetua luceat eis, AN INDULGENCE OF FIFTY DAYS, three times a day.

Most loving Jesus, I humbly beseech Thee, that Thou Thyself wouldst offer to Thy eternal Father in behalf of the Holy Souls in purgatory, the Most Precious Blood which poured forth from the Sacred Wounds of Thy adorable Body, together with Thy agony and death. And do thou likewise, O sorrowful Virgin Mary, present unto Him, together with the dolorous Passion of thy dear Son, thine own sighs and tears, and all the sorrows thou didst suffer in His suffering, in order that, through the merits of the same, refreshment may be granted to the souls now suffering in the fiery torments of purgatory, so that, being delivered from that painful prison, they may be clothed with glory in heaven, there to sing the mercies of God for ever and ever. Amen.
Absolve, O Lord, the souls of all the faithful departed from every bond of sin, that with Thy gracious assistance they may deserve to escape the judgment of vengeance and enjoy the blessedness of everlasting light.
V. Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord

R. And let perpetual light shine upon them.
V. From the gates of hell,
R. Deliver their souls, O Lord.
V. May they rest in peace.
R. Amen.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.

Let us pray.

O, God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful; grant unto the souls of Thy servants and handmaids the remission of all their sins: that through our devout supplications they may obtain the pardon they have always desired. Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.
V. Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord
R. And let perpetual light shine upon them.
V. From the gates of hell,
R. Deliver their souls, O Lord.
V. May they rest in peace.
R. Amen.

An indulgence of 3 years. A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if these prayers are said daily for a month (S. C. md., Sept. 15, 1888; S. P. Ap., April 25, 1934).


Pius IX, has granted an Indulgence of Ten Years and Ten Quarantines once a day to the faithful who devoutly recite in company with others, either at home or in church, in public or private oratories, a third part of the Rosary of Saint Dominic; and a Plenary Indulgence on the last Sunday in every month to all who are in the habit of saying with others at least three times a week, the third part of the Rosary, without belonging to the confraternity of that name. (Visit.)
Benedict XIII granted an Indulgence of One Hundred Days for every Our Father and every Hail Mary, and a Plenary Indulgence once a year, to those who recite the third part of the Rosary every day; the same Indulgence of One Hundred Days had been granted for the Chaplet of Saint Bridget. Those who recite at least once a week the Chaplet of our Lord, or that of the Blessed Virgin, enriched with Apostolic Indulgences, gain numerous Indulgences on the feast indicated in the calendar, besides an Indulgence of One Hundred Days each time. (Take particular notice that it is necessary to recite the whole Chaplet without remarkable interrruption.) – Month of the Dead.


In order to maintain and diffuse ever more and more among the faithful the holy and salutary thought of praying for the departed, some pious Romans projected and proposed a so-called Catholic League of perpetual suffrage for the holy souls in purgatory, to which any one may belong by reciting each day, three times, Give them eternal rest, etc., in behalf of the holy souls.
His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII., by a rescript of the S. Congr. of Indulgences, Aug. 19, 1880, granted to all the faithful who, with contrite hearts, recite, three times, Give them eternal rest, etc.:
AN INDULGENCE OF TWO HUNDRED DAYS, once a day. – Raccolta 1898


His Holiness, Leo XIII., by a decree of the S. Congr. of Indulgences, January 17, 1888, granted to the faithful who shall perform some pious practice for the relief of the souls in Purgatory, every day during the whole month of November, whether in public or in private,
A PLENARY INDULGENCE, once during the same month, on any day of the month, on the usual conditions: Confession and Communion, and a visit to a church or public oratory, and there praying for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff. – Raccolta 1898.

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