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Why Do Catholics Believe in Purgatory?

What Is Purgatory?

Purgatory can be a topic of confusion for our young Catholics. If God forgives our sins, why do Catholics believe in Purgatory?

It is because even though we are forgiven, our sins have consequences. Through Jesus Christ we are saved from eternal separation from God. That is not in question. But there might be lingering consequences of sin in our lives which God in his mercy will remove from us. It is a place of hope, because God is making us ready to spend eternity with Him.

The short answer is that our sins are like breaking a window. God forgives us for doing that, but the effect is still there. The window is still broken. Purgatory is where that effect is “fixed up”. This is a good way to explain the Catholic belief.

What Does the Church Say?

Here it how it is explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.

CCC 1030-1031

Where Is It in the Bible?

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks of being forgiven after death:

And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Matthew 12:32

St. Paul speaks of being purified by fire:

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

1 Corinthians 3:10-15

See Furnace of Divine Love: The Biblical Roots of Purgatory for an excellent explanation of how this teaching is found in Scripture.

What You Should Know about Purgatory

What is meant by the final purification? Understanding the Catholic notion of purgatory requires knowing the difference between a temporal consequence and an eternal consequence; this difference has nothing to do with damnation and salvation. Some people reject the idea of purgatory because they misunderstand its purpose. In this video, Fr. Mike Schmitz explains

The Guardian’s Farewell

This article describes a beautiful poem and song which speak of being purified by an angel after death. An excerpt:

Softly and gently, dearly ransomed soul, in my most loving arms I now enfold thee, And o’re the purging waters as they roll, I poise thee and I lower thee and hold thee.

Why do Catholics Pray for the Dead

Why Do Catholics Pray for the Dead?

But why do Catholics pray for the dead? For many of us cradle Catholics, this is a very natural practice. But for non-Catholics this can seem strange and pointless. After all, our beloved dead are in God’s hands.

Prayer for the Grieving

Prayer for the Grieving

Even though we know our loved ones are in God’s hands, we still miss them. This prayer is appropriate for anyone who is grieving.

All Souls Day

All Souls Day

November 2 is the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day). On this day we pray for loved ones who have departed this earth.

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