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The Reality of Purgatory

"There is a purgatory, a place of purging, My child--suffering great as in the abyss, but with the knowledge of a reprieve in time to come. It is a bleak longing of the spirit to look upon the Father. Know, My child, this longing of the heart in the fires is of great magnitude encompassing the being of the waiting soul." - Our Lady, March 29, 1975


An excerpt from the book The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life by Fr. Charles Arminjon, originally published in 1881: 


"It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins." - 2 Macchabees 12:46

The existence of purgatory is explicitly attested by Holy Scripture and by the constant tradition of the Jewish and Christian I Church. It is said in the books of Maccabees that it is a holy and I wholesome thought to pray for the dead, so that they may be freed from the faults and imperfections by which they sullied themselves in life: ut a peccatis solvantur. (Cf. 2 Macc. 12:46) Speaking of easygoing and presumptuous preachers who, in the exercise of their ministry, are led astray by love of praise and yield to thoughts of vanity and feelings of self-satisfaction, St. Paul says that they will be saved, but after having first been tried by fire: sic quasi per ignem. (Cf. 1 Cor. 15:32) St. Gregory teaches that souls guilty of trespasses for which they have not sufficiently atoned during their life will be baptized in fire: ab igne baptizabuntur. It will be their second baptism. The first is necessary in order to introduce us into the Church on earth, the second to introduce us into the Church in heaven.

According to St. Cyril and St. Thomas, the fire of purgatory is of the same kind as that of hell. It has the same intensity, and differs only in that it is temporary. Lastly, the sacred liturgy teaches us that purgatory is a frightful abyss, a place in which the souls are in anguish and cruel expectation, a brazier where they burn unceasingly, subjected to the effect of subtle fire, lit by the breath of divine justice, the strength of which is the measure of His most just and most dreadful vengeance: Dies irae, dies ilia ... Lacrymosa dies ilia, qua resurget ex favilla judicandus homo reus.

In the Canon of the Mass, the Church offers her petitions to God in order to obtain for these souls locum lucis, a place of light: whence it follows that they are in the night, and enveloped in dense, impenetrable darkness. She seeks for them locum refrigerii, a place of refreshment; whence it follows that they are in intolerable, burning pain. Again, she asks for them locum pacis, a place of peace: whence it follows that they are consumed by fears and inexpressible anxieties.

This simple description makes our whole being shake with horror. Let us hasten to say that the consolations these captive souls experience are also inexpressible.

It is true that their eyes are not yet refreshed by the sight of the gentle light, and the angels do not descend from heaven to transform their flames into a refreshing dew; but they have the sweetest treasure, one that is enough by itself to raise up the man most despondent beneath the weight of his afflictions, and bring the dawn of calmness to the most doleful and dejected countenances: they possess the good that, on earth, is left to the most wretched and deprived of men, when he has drained the ever-filling cup of all afflictions and pains: they have hope. They possess hope in the highest order, in that degree which excludes all uncertainty and apprehension, which sets the heart at rest, in the deepest and most absolute security: "a merited crown awaits me." (2 Tim. 4:8)

These souls are assured of their salvation. St. Thomas gives us two reasons for this unshakable certainty which is so consoling that it makes them, in a certain sense, forget their pains. In the first place, these souls know that it is of faith that the reprobate can neither love God, nor hate their sins, nor fulfill any good work: now they have an inner awareness that they love God, that they hate their faults and can no longer do evil. Moreover, they know with the certainty of faith that souls who die in a state of mortal sin are cast into hell without delay, the very moment they utter their final sigh. They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment they go down to hell. (Cf. Job 21:13)

Now, the souls of whom I speak are not given up to despair, do not see the faces of the demons, do not hear their curses and blasphemies: from this fact, they infallibly conclude that they did not die in a state of mortal sin, but are in a state of grace and pleasing to God.

Also, what a source of happiness it is for them to be able to exclaim with St. Paul's confidence: "No more relapses into sin! No more separation between God and myself: Certus sum enim! For I am certain! No more terrifying doubts about my predestination. Ah! it is over, I am saved ... I have heard from the very mouth of my God the irrevocable declaration of my salvation; I know so as never again to doubt it that one day the gates of the heavenly city will open for my triumphal entry and that heaven, earth, the principalities and powers together are powerless to separate me from the charity of God and dispossess me of my eternal crown; 'for I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor powers, neither height nor depth nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.'" (Rom. 8:38-39)

Oh, no doubt this soul will exclaim: How sharp my pains are! Nothing can be compared with the violence of my punishment; but this punishment and these sufferings are powerless to take me away from God, to destroy the fire of His love within me: "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Trial, or distress, or hunger?" (Rom. 8:35) Oh! My weakness is now no longer liable to reveal itself in outbursts of temper, in impatience and murmuring. Resigned to God's will and pleasure, I bless the hand that chastises me; I accept joyfully all my torments.

These torments cannot crush my soul or make it uneasy, bitter, or anxious: Non contristabit justum quidquid ei acciderit (Cf. Prov. 12:21). I know that they are ordained and moderated by that Divine Providence which, for the good of creatures, arranges all things with love and equity.

I will say more: I should prefer my torments to the delights of heaven, if it could be granted to me to enjoy them against the desire of that sovereign will to which I am henceforth absolutely and irrevocably subject. My wishes and aspirations are summed up in a single motto: "All that God wishes, as He wishes it, and at the time He wishes it." O God of my heart, my treasure and my all, what am I that Thou deign to come down to me and, with Thy paternal hand, purify an ungrateful and unfaithful soul!

Oh, cut deep into the flesh, drain the unimaginable cup of Thy torments! Listen only to Thy honor and the interest of Thy justice, and, until this is fully satisfied, pay no heed to either my groans or my complaints.

Poor souls! They have but one passion, one burning desire, one wish: to break the obstacle that prevents them from springing forward toward God, who calls them and draws them to Himself with all the energy and all the violence of His beauty, mercy, and boundless love.

Oh, if they could, they would willingly stir up the flames that consume them, and vie with one another in accumulating torment upon torment, purgatory upon purgatory, in order to hasten the happy day of their deliverance. In these souls there are residual traces of sin, an alloy of afflictions, blemishes, and defects that do not permit them to unite with the divine substance. Their imperfections, the venial faults with which they allowed themselves to be tarnished, have darkened and maimed their inner eye. If, before their complete purification, the bright, dazzling light of heaven met their sick, enfeebled eyes, they would feel an impression a thousand times more painful and burning than those they feel amidst the deepest darkness of the abyss. God Himself would like to transform them immediately into the likeness of His glory by illuminating them with the pure rays of His divinity; but these rays, being too bright and dazzling, could not penetrate them. They would be intercepted by the dross and the remains of that earthly dust and mire with which they are still sullied. It is essential that, having been cast into a consuming crucible, they should lay aside the rest of human imperfections, so that, from being like base, black carbon, they may emerge in the form of a precious, transpar­ent crystal. They must be made subtle, purged of every admixture of shadow and darkness, and become capable of receiving, without opposition, the irradiations and splendors of divine glory that, flowing in superabundance within them, one day, will fill them, like a river without banks or bottom.

Imagine a person afflicted with a hideous ailment that gnaws his flesh and makes him an object of ostracism and disgust for those around him. The doctor, seeking to cure him, applies forceps and fire unsparingly. With his terrible instrument, he probes to the very marrow of the bones. He will attack the source and root of the disease in its innermost depths. So violent are the convulsions of the patient that he nearly expires; but, when the operation is over, he feels reborn, the disease has disappeared, and he has recovered his beauty, youth, and vigor. Ah! Far from flying into a rage with complaints and reproaches, he has no words or blessing great enough to express his gratitude to the skilled man who, by making him suffer a thousand woes, gave him the most precious of things: health and life.

So it is with the souls in purgatory. They quiver with joy as they see their stains and filth vanish through the marvelous effect of that reparatory punishment. Under the action of those purifying flames, their more or less disfigured being is refreshed and restored. The fire itself, St. Thomas says, loses its intensity in proportion as it consumes and destroys the faults and imperfections that feed its strength. A barrier of imperceptible size still separates these souls from the place of recompense. Oh! They feel indescribable transports of joy, as they see the wings growing that will enable them soon to rush forward toward the abodes of heaven. Already they glimpse the dawn of deliverance. Oh! They are not yet within reach of the promised land; but, like Moses, they draw up a mental picture of it. They have a presentiment of its lights and pleasant shores, and breathe in its fragrance and its sweet-smelling breezes in advance. Each day, each moment, they see the dawn of their deliverance rising in a less distant horizon; they feel the place of their eternal repose come nearer and nearer: Requies de labore. What else shall I say? These souls have charity which, this time, has taken complete and absolute possession of their hearts; they love God, they love Him so intensely that they are willing to be dis­solved and annihilated for His glory.

St. John Chrysostom says, "The man who is inflamed with the fire of divine love is as indifferent to glory and ignominy as if he were alone and unseen on this earth. He spurns all temptations. He is no more troubled by pincers, gridirons, or racks than if these sufferings were endured in a body other than his own. What is full of sweetness for the world has no attraction for him, no taste; he is no more liable to be captivated by some evil attachment than is gold, seven times tested, liable to be tarnished by rust. Such are, even on this earth, the effects of divine love when it firmly takes hold of a soul."

Now, divine love acts upon the souls of whom I am speaking with all the greater force, in that, being separated from their bodies, deprived of all human consolations, and abandoned to a thousand martyrdoms, they are compelled to have recourse to God and to seek in Him alone all that they lack.

One of the greatest of their sufferings is the knowledge that the pains they endure bring no benefit to them. Night has come for them, when they can no longer labor or acquire anything: "The night comes on when no one can work." (John 9:4) The time when man is able to make satisfaction himself for his sins, accumulate merit, and increase his heavenly crown ceases with death. The moment he enters the other life, every human being receives the pronouncement of his eternal sentence.

His fate is immutably fixed, and he no longer has the option of accomplishing good or bad works, for which he can once more be answerable at God's tribunal Yet, if the souls in purgatory cannot grow in holiness and amass new merits by their patience and resignation, they nevertheless know that they can no longer lose merit, and, for them, it is a sweet joy to suffer out of a free, altogether disinterested, love.

Without doubt this peculiar mixture of happiness amidst the most cruel torments is a state our dull minds cannot comprehend; but ask the martyrs: the Teresas, the Lucians, the celestial lovers of the Cross. They will tell you that, most often, it is in sorrow and amidst afflictions and the most cruel spiritual desolations that he who seeks to live in God alone experiences a kind of foretaste of paradise, and feels the sweetest and most exhilarating joys and delights pour into his heart.

The souls in purgatory love God; furthermore, they are loved by the churches of heaven and earth, who maintain continuous contact and relations with them. The Catholic Church appeals to the charity of her children, and, through their mediation, lavishes her petitions and aid upon them day and night. Every moment the charity of the good angels bestows upon them the heavenly dew that the good Jesus sends down from His Heart. They love one another, and console each other by ineffable conversations.

No unfathomable gulf separates these souls and their friends on earth, and we are free at every moment to bring them that drop of water which the rich fool sought in vain from the pity of Lazarus. (Luke 16:24)

St. John once had a wonderful vision: he saw a temple, and, in the sanctuary of this temple, perceived an altar, and beneath this altar, the multitude of suffering souls: vidi subtus altare animas interfectorum. (Rev. 6:9) These souls are not in front of the altar, as one commentator remarks; they are not permitted to be there. They participate in the fruit of the Eucharistic Sacrifice only indirectly, by means of intercession. They are below the altar, and await, resigned, although in torment, the portion we are willing to convey to their lips.




The Catholic Church has made no declaration on the location of purgatory. Different opinions have been expressed on this point by the Doctors and Fathers, and we are free to choose any of them without lacking in orthodoxy or departing from the true Faith.

St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, and St. Augustine teach that purgatory is situated in the center of the earth. They quote, in support of their opinion, the words sung by the Church's command: "Lord, deliver the souls of the faithful departed from the pains of hell and the deep pit."

Likewise, these words from Revelation: "But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could be found to open the scroll or examine its contents." (Rev. 5:3) From these words of St. John, it is certain that only just men were invited to open the mysterious book. Now, by this reference to those who are below the earth, does not the apostle John seem to give us to understand that there are some just people who are detained for a time in these dark depths? Elsewhere, in Sirach, it is said: "I shall enter into the lower parts of the earth, and shall visit those who sleep, and the hope of salvation shall appear in their sight." (Cf. Ecclus. 24:45) Scholars have shown that the inspired author intended in this passage to indicate limbo, where the Patriarchs and saints of the Old Testament rested in the bosom of Abraham. This explanation confirms, rather than invalidates, the view of St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure.

In fact, if the Patriarchs and the just of the Old Testament, once purified of all their actual sins, had the lower regions of the earth as their abode until the day when the sin transmitted to our race by Adam had been completely erased on the Cross, it seems the more fitting that souls guilty of actual sins for which they have not sufficiently atoned should be punished and detained in the depths of the earth: Inferiores partes terrae.

The testimony of St. Augustine adds a further degree of probability to this opinion: in his Epistle XCIX, ad Evodium, he states that, when Christ descended into hell, He went not only to limbo but also to purgatory, where He delivered some of the captive souls, as seems to be indicated in the Acts of the Apostles: Solutis doloribus inferni. (Cf. Acts 2:24)

The second opinion concerning the location of purgatory is shared by St. Victor and by St. Gregory the Great in his Dialogues. Both maintain that purgatory is not a fixed place, and that a large number of deceased souls atone for their faults on earth, and in the same places where they sinned the most frequently.

Sacred theology reconciles these different testimonies by establishing, first, that purgatory is a fixed place, with given bounds, situated at the center of the earth, where the majority of souls go in order to atone for the faults by which they were sullied.

Nevertheless, purgatory is not restricted to this one single place. Whether by reason of the gravity of their sins or through a special dispensation of divine wisdom, there are a considerable number of other souls who do not languish in that prison, but undergo their punishment on earth, and in that place where they had sinned. This interpretation, which comes from great theologians, explains and confirms a multitude of apparitions and revelations made to the saints, several of them having marks of truth that make it impossible to dismiss them.

In order fully to elucidate our doctrine, we shall select, among all the revelations quoted by St. Gregory in his Dialogues, those of which the authenticity is beyond all question.

In the annals of Citeaux, it is related that a pilgrim from the district of Rodez, returning from Jerusalem, was forced by a storm to pull into port at an island close to Sicily. There he visited a holy hermit, who inquired about matters pertaining to religion in his country of France, and also asked whether he knew the monastery of Cluny and Abbot Odilon. The pilgrim replied that he did, and added that he would be grateful if he would tell him what purpose he had in asking him that question. The hermit answered, "Very near this place, there is a crater, whose summit we can see; at certain times, it belches up clouds of smoke and flame. I have seen demons carrying off the souls of sinners and hurling them into that frightful abyss, in order to torment them for a while. Now, on certain days, I hear the evil spirits conversing among themselves, and complaining that some of these souls have escaped from them; they blame pious persons who, by their prayers and sacrifices, hasten the deliverance of these souls. Odilon and his monks are the ones who seem to terrify them most. That is why, when you return to your country, I ask you in the name of God to exhort the abbot and monks of Cluny to redouble their prayers and alms for the relief of these poor souls." The pilgrim, on his return, did as he was bidden. The holy Abbot Odilon pondered and weighed everything carefully. He sought enlightenment from God, and ordained that, in all the monasteries of his order, the second day of November each year should be established in commemoration of all the faithful departed. Such was the origin of the Feast of All Souls.


"Remember, My children, to offer your trials, your penance for those who are in purgatory, for very few come directly to Heaven but must spend a time of purging just beyond the veil. They are helpless without your aid. You will pray for the souls in purgatory, and in the Lenten season ahead you will gain many graces for them." - Jesus, February 1, 1978


Directives from Heaven

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March 13, 2018