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What is Purgatory?
The Catholic Church teaches that when we die there are three places where we can be sent by God. That is, we can be sent to Heaven if we are already sanctified at the moment of death, unfortunately we can be sent to Hell if we have rejected God in our lives and refused to repent before we die, or we can be sent to a temporary place of suffering called Purgatory where our souls are purified of the damage we have done to them by our sins and also any remaining reparation to divine justice is completed.
Every sin we commit damages and distorts our soul so that when we die we are not fit to enter into the Infinitely Holy Presence of God. In other words our souls are usually not perfectly "Sanctified" at the moment of death unless we are a saint! We can be sanctified in this life by daily repentance, by accepting whatever suffering God permits to come our way and by prayer and mortification. God the Father is our Creator, God the Son is our Redeemer and God the Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier. Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2: 13) and by prayer, mortification, repentance and suffering we can ask Him to sanctify us and He in His mercy will do that for us in a gradual process. Only Jesus by His Passion and Death has redeemed all mankind but it is up to us if we all want to accept that Redemption. Jesus by His passion and death has Redeemed us but He did not sanctify us then. He did of course merit the graces for us to be sanctified but that is a separate process to our redemption.
Justice or Mercy
When we die the amount of Justice or Mercy we will be treated with is up to us and it depends on how merciful we ourselves have been in our lives. Jesus in His Beattitudes said (See Mathew 5; 7 ) "Blessed are the Merciful for they shall receive Mercy") All the Beattitudes seem to apply to the next life. When we die repenting of our sins and if we have been very merciful and forgiving in our own lives we will receive a lot of mercy, if we were not very merciful we will receive a lot of Justice from God and be sent to purgatory for a certain lenght of time. In the "Our Father" prayer we say "Forgive us... ..AS we forgive ".
Many people when they are dying repent of their sins because they are more afraid of going to hell than they are sorry for their sins. This is mainly wrong because we should really only be sorry for our sins because they have hurt God and we should want to suffer gladly for them. Our repentance is imperfect and God cannot give us total Mercy and send us straight to Heaven. Think of a person who has done an awful lot of evil in their lives, perhaps murders and so on, well, when this person dies they may very well repent mainly to "save their skin" from hell and also with some sorrow for their sins, God in His Mercy will accept their sorrow and save them but because their repentance is imperfect they are still liable to Divine Justice in Purgatory.
Purgatory is a reminder to us that we are not free to do any evil we like in this life and then just repent when we die and go straight to heaven. Although God does not want to send anyone to Purgatory His Justice demands it. Jesus said (See Matthew 7: 1 - 2 ) "the amount you measure out is the amount you will receive" and that means that our own personal judgement will be governed by the amount of Mercy we have shown in our own lives. St Paul says in Romans (14 :10 and 12) "We shall all stand before the Judgement seat of God" and "each of us shall give account of himself to God". We do not believe that God loves to punish but we know that He is Just and will treat us fairly as the souls and demons who are sent to hell are also treated fairly. If God sends us to hell then our loved ones in Heaven will praise God's Justice because God is perfectly Just or Fair. But God is not a God who likes to make people suffer, He would rather pardon us than condemn us but that depends on us.
It seems when Jesus talked about "making up with your accusers before you get to court or else they will throw you into prison and you will not get out until you have paid the last penny" (See Mathew 5; 26) that what He said refers to purgatory. Also in Matthew 18: 21 - 35 there is the parable of the unforgiving servant. He was initially forgiven but then refused to forgive his neighbour and that shows that his repentance was not really genuine because when we genuinely repent we can more easily forgive others. Jesus warned Peter and His disciples that "That is how My Heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.". In the old Testament Book of Maccabees (See 2nd Macc 12; 42) there is the case where an offering was made for dead soldiers so that their sin would be totally forgiven, so that they would receive Mercy.
Mercy in action
The souls in Purgatory cannot pray for themselves because they are under the Justice of God but we can pray for them and God will grant them mercy. Catholics can go to the Sacrament of Confession where Jesus forgives our sins but He also starts healing our souls of the damage sin has done to us and so He makes us stronger so that we become less attached to sin and so need less time in purgatory for them. We can say the Rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for the souls in Purgatory and it is very powerful for them, or the best way of all to help them is to get a Mass offered for them which means the Sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary nearly 2000 years ago can be offered to the Father for them.
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy
The opening prayers of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
The Sign of the Cross
We begin and end these prayers by making the sign of the Cross with our right (for most people! or left hand for the rest. )hand on ourselves from our forehead to our belly button and from left shoulder to right shoulder while saying "In the name of the Father ( touch forehead ) and of the Son ( touch belly button ) and of the Holy ( touch left shoulder ) Spirit ( touch right shoulder ) Amen." We can then say the above 3 O' clock prayer ( this prayer is optional for the Chaplet ) followed by one "Our Father" one "Hail Mary" and the "Apostles Creed"
Three o'Clock Prayer
(Jesus asked St Faustina to say this prayer at 3 O'clock.)
"You expired Jesus,
Please remember though that at every Hour it is Three o'Clock somewhere in the world.
The Our Father
The Hail Mary
The Apostles Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
On the large beads we say this prayer:
"Eternal Father we offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly Beloved Son our Lord Jesus Christ in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world."
then on each of the ten small beads we say:
"For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world."
We repeat that process of large bead and ten small beads for the five decades around the rosary ring. Conclude the five decades (the full rosary ring) with this prayer said three times
We can finish with the "Sign of Cross" again.
The world needs Mercy and if Mercy is asked for then Mercy will be given but if Mercy is not asked for then Justice will be given.
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