The Duration of Purgatory.

The Duration of 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.

The Duration of Purgatory.

The Church teaches the pains of Purgatory . . . are proportioned by God with strict justice to the number and gravity of the sins to be expiated. But God may, without any prejudice to His justice, abridge the sufferings by increasing their intensity. The suffrages offered by the Church for the dead may also obtain from God a shortening of the period of their pains. But the common opinion of the Doctors of the Church, supported by revelations of the Saints, is that the Purgatorial pains are of very long duration.
Cardinal Bellarmine, for instance, says that the pains of Purgatory in some cases last for centuries. But even suppose we knew that they were in a certain case to last but ten or twenty years, that cannot be counted an alleviation. If a man knew that he must suffer a violent pain in some member of his body, the feet, or the eyes, for twenty years, without a moment’s respite, the very anticipation of it would be a most keen suffering; he would rather die than live in such a state. Therefore, no trouble which we take can be too great to relieve these poor sufferers, whose state is incomparably worse than such a life of torture here on earth would be.
Some pious writers have calculated so many hours or days of expiation for each fault committed here, and thus reached averages which are terrifying to contemplate. But there are so many ways of satisfying for these daily faults; one act of true love of God blots out all sin. . . God counts many things as satisfactory for sin, such as heroic acts of virtue, self-renunciation, and charity.
St. Frances of Rome had a revelation to the effect that there was an average penalty of seven years of Purgatory for every mortal sin, even after its forgiveness. This theory is sometimes taken for granted by other Saints such as Blessed Henry Suso. If one who had committed many mortal sins died without having expiated them, it can easily be imagined that the penalty would continue for centuries. . . In the revelations of the Saints we read of very long periods of Purgatory. A Cistercian Abbot appeared to St. Lutgarda and told her that for an excess of zeal and undue severity towards his subordinates he was condemned to forty years in Purgatory.
Pope Innocent III, who was one of the greatest Pontiffs who ever sat on the Chair of Peter, and who presided at the celebrated Council of Lateran in 1215, appeared on the day of his death, to the same St. Lutgarda in a monastery of Brabant, as a spectre enveloped in flames, and told her that, if she did not come to his relief, he was condemned to an expiation of several centuries for three faults which, but for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, might have caused the eternal loss of his soul.
A sister of St. Vincent Ferrer, who had led a worldly life, appeared after her death to her brother while he was celebrating the Holy Sacrifice. “Alas, my dear brother,” she said, “I am condemned to undergo these tortures until the day of the last judgment. But so great is the efficacy of the Holy Sacrifice that you can assist me. Offer thirty Masses for me, and I have great hope of release.” He said the thirty Masses, and on the thirtieth day his sister again appeared to him, but now surrounded by angels and in the act of mounting to Heaven. So that an expiation of several centuries was reduced to thirty days by this Divine Sacrifice. This fact should teach us to neglect no opportunity of having the Holy Sacrifice offered for the departed, for without it they may have to languish in Purgatory for terribly long periods.

Practice.—As often as you can, get Masses said for the departed, especially those you have known in life or for those souls who are most neglected.

Indulgenced Prayer.—The Divine Praises. Two years’ indulgence when said publicly after Mass and Benediction; a plenary indulgence once a month, under the usual conditions.


Father Philip Schoofs, of the Company of Jesus, who died at Louvain in 1878, related the following fact, which occurred in Antwerp during the first years of his ministry in that city. He had just preached a mission when he was told that some one asked for him in the parlour. He found there two young men, with a pale and sickly child. They explained that they had adopted the child, who had been with them for a year, quite happy and in good health. But latterly the child had been awaked by apparitions every night, which had reduced him to the state he was in. He saw a man before him. Father Schoofs told them to ask in the name of God what the man wanted. They described him as an old man, wearing an ancient costume. It turned out that he had been a banker in the same house in which they lived and had died in 1636. He said he was in Purgatory and that but few prayers had been said for him. He begged that all the persons living in the house would offer up Holy Communion for him and asked that two pilgrimages be made to shrines of Our Lady for his release. They did all with fervour and zeal. The apparition returned, thanked them for their kindness, and prayed with indescribable fervour when reciting the Pater and Ave, as the priest had recommended that he be asked to do. He was eventually entirely delivered, and since that day the house has never been haunted, and the entire family have prospered and become rich. Certain documents proving the authenticity of all the statements made by the apparition were discovered, and corresponded entirely with his account. Thus we see that a soul had had two centuries of expiation, and only appeared when but a small part remained to him to complete.


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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