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Friday, 1 July 2016

Purgatory: Explained by the lives and Legend of the saints


The book Purgatory, by Fr. Schouppe, is a book to read in order to understand why people go to Purgatory rather than hell. It shows the consequences of sin and what must be done to expiate it should one die in these sins which are not mortal (1 John 5:17). You can find the link to the book by clinking here

Father Schouppe's book Purgatory is a classic that relates stories and private revelations from the lives of saints, blessed, religious, and other holy men and women.

It is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on purgatory as God's justice and the second part focuses on purgatory as God's mercy.

Part one contains 41 chapters while part 2 contains 65 chapters with each chapter around 5 pages each. It is easy to spend only 10 minutes a day reading this book, as each chapter relates one or several self-contained stories. Hence this makes a wonderful book for daily spiritual reading. It is not an apologetic for the existence of purgatory or even a systematic theological treatise on purgatory, yet I would say ultimately a meditation on the reason for the existence of purgatory.

The author is careful to balance the seriousness of sin and the terror and torment of purgatory with the loving and unbounded mercy of our Lord. We see both of these being illustrated in the stories of the saints. It should be noted that this is not a book for someone who is skeptical or not docile to accepting supernatural phenomena. Many stories will seem "exaggerated" and "from a time when people were scientifically ignorant." But this attitude is problematic, as given the truth of the Catholic faith, there is simply no reason to doubt all kinds of supernatural phenomena related in the book, including many conversations, locutions, and visitations with those in purgatory. Please avoid being skeptical of these pious stories that exist for our edification and salvation.

The book makes abundantly clear the need for us to pray for the dead. Often we neglect the poor souls in purgatory since "they'll make it to heaven anyway" but once again, this attitude belies an ignorance of the pains and sufferings of purgatory, the doctrine of merit, as well as the doctrine of the communion of saints. The slightest venial sin is shown to cause tremendous suffering in purgatory (often described in years) and the holy souls have no recourse to merit in purgatory anymore. Hence the need for our prayers to relieve their sufferings. Again at the same time, the stories relayed by the saints also make clear how great the mercy of Our Lord is and how much good we can do to relieve the souls through our prayers.

Finally I have heard some people express serious reservations about this book since according to them the book may have concentrated too much on the terrors and pains of purgatory. This is hardly the truth. While it is true that there is much focus on the justice of God especially in terms of the pain and suffering of purgatory, I think what it can do for the reader is to indirectly express to them the holiness of God. How can one convey God's holiness? God's holy! No, I mean, he's really really holy! Wait, you don't understand- really, really, really holy!

This does not quite do it. But there is a way to get a closer approximation through mediation on purgatory found in this book. There are several stories that have the following element: there was an extremely holy saint. He lived a life almost totally free from sin and from all punishment due to sin. By the time he died, the only punishment that he had not undergone due to sin upon earth was punishment for, say, taking too much joy in the pleasures of a comfortable chair (I'm making this up, but something as seemingly innocuous as this).

At death, this saint was sentenced to 30 years in purgatory where he would experience the most intense pains similar to being stabbed with needles all over his body. Now, one can draw at least two conclusions from this.

 "Wow, God is mean and sadistic! How can he punish someone in such a severe manner for such a small thing?" This of course is a wrong conclusion to draw. The other, the point of this paragraph, is that one could also conclude "Wow! Look at how horrible our sin is! The simplest sin on our souls offends God in a way that we cannot even begin to comprehend! If such a "small" sin is so offensive to such a holy and pure God, how much more is a mortal sin offensive to him?"

I think this is a good way to begin to understand how holy God is. By the way, stories like this usually end with the soul in purgatory being released much sooner than the punishment originally stated, as someone (like you or me!) said prayers and merited for them. That is one of the upshots of such stories.

I definitely recommend this book for a good spiritual reading which you can put into practice immediately. Develop a devotion to the holy souls in purgatory. For before you know it, it will be you in purgatory, hoping for prayers from those on earth.

Usually it is recommended that before you live the house just say: “Eternal Rest grant unto them oh Lord and let they perpetual light shine upon them, Amen”

Presented by Malachy Mary Igwilo, on the Feast day of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, 1st July 2016

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