I have always thought of praying for the souls in purgatory as just that random prayer that people sometimes tack onto the end of their meal blessings. I prayed sometimes for the souls in purgatory, more often when I knew someone who had passed away, but not very frequently.
On November 2nd, All Souls Day, we went to a monastery here that is up a mountain, about an hour away from us. When we got there, we went to pray in their adoration chapel. A few minutes later, their priest asked to talk to us about purgatory. He told us that many saints have said that one second in purgatory is more painful than all of the pain that we could ever experience on earth. He had printed out a paper for us. On the paper, there were some quotations from a soul in purgatory who had appeared to a sister or nun to warn her about purgatory. The first quotation said this: “If you could only know what I suffer! Pray for me, please. I suffer intensely everywhere. My God, how merciful you are! No one can imagine what purgatory is like. Be kind and take pity on the poor souls.” As a community we have spent a lot of time recently talking about this topic. I am now convicted of two things. One, I would really like to skip purgatory and go straight to Heaven. Two, I really need to be praying for those who are in purgatory. They can do nothing to help themselves, but we can pray for them daily to help them get out of purgatory and into Heaven.
The other quotation that really struck me that day was this: “When God wishes a soul to be entirely His, He begins by crushing it, very much as apples are crushed in the press—to extract its passions, its self-seeking, in a word, all its defects. When a soul is sufficiently broken, He reshapes it according to His will. If it is faithful, it is soon transformed. Only then does Jesus load it with His choicest graces and inundate it with His love.” – A soul in purgatory
These words helped me to understand both suffering and purgatory a little better. It seems confusing at first. God loves me and wants me to be entirely His, so He begins by breaking and crushing me? While this could be confusing, I also know that much of my life needs breaking. My stubborn pride, my own will, my sin, my laziness, the things that I put before God – all of these things need to be broken. I also know that I have experienced this happening in my life. God often takes things away, or breaks me of something, or allows me to suffer so that I can be closer to Him. Many times, the blessings of being closer to God and trusting Him more, come through trials and difficulties rather than ease and comfort. I also remember hearing someone say once that God loved his Son Jesus so much that He allowed Him to suffer and die on the cross. Suffering is a sign of God’s love for us. Why would we expect God to love us differently than He loved His Son?
This is a beautiful image of what purgatory is – a place where God allows us to suffer so that we can become closer to him, become perfect and live with Him forever in Heaven. Thank You Jesus for the grace to know your love through our suffering. Please bring many souls out of purgatory today and into their final resting place in Heaven with You.