The Short Explanation

Purgatory is a temporary state of purification where souls (after they have died) have the effects of their sins cleansed before they are able to enter heaven. Even though God forgives our sins in the Sacrament of Confession, the temporal punishment of our sin remains and this is what we make up for by spending time in Purgatory. The temporal punishment is the effect of sin that remains on our souls, even after the sin has been forgiven. It’s like a broken window — though the offense is forgiven, the effect remains and has to be fixed.

Why it Matters to You

The existence of Purgatory can give you a lot of hope because it means that even though we may not be perfectly holy when we die, God’s mercy allows for us to make up the difference by being purified in Purgatory. You can also pray for the souls in Purgatory and their purification will be aided, or helped along, by the grace of your prayers!

Catechism References about Purgatory

Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1030-36, 1472, 1861

Bible Verses about Purgatory

Matthew 12:32
Revelation 21:27
1 Corinthians 3:15
Isaiah 4:4
2 Maccabees 12:39-42,44-45

Saint Quotes About Purgatory

St. John Chrysostom – Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice (Job 1:5), why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them. (Homilies on 1 Corinthians 41:5 [A.D. 392])

St. Augustine – But by the prayers of the Holy Church, and by the salvific sacrifice, and by the alms which are given for their spirits, there is no doubt that the dead are aided, that the Lord might deal more mercifully with them than their sins would deserve. The whole Church observes this practice which was handed down by the Fathers: that it prays for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, when they are commemorated in their own place in the sacrifice itself; and the sacrifice is offered also in memory of them, on their behalf. If, then, works of mercy are celebrated for the sake of those who are being remembered, who would hesitate to recommend them, on whose behalf prayers to God are not offered in vain? It is not at all to be doubted that such prayers are of profit to the dead; but for such of them as lived before their death in a way that makes it possible for these things to be useful to them after death.

St. John Vianney – We must say many prayers for the souls of the faithful departed, for one must be so pure to enter heaven.

St. Augustine: Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment”
-Saint Augustine, Father and Doctor of the Church. (The City of God 21:13 [A.D. 419])

St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church: I do not think that part from the felicity of Heaven, there can be a joy comparable to that experienced by the souls in Purgatory. An incessant communication from God renders their joy more vivid from day to day: and this communication becomes more and more intimate, to the extent that it consumes the obstacles still existing in the soul….On the other hand, they endure pain so intense, that no tongue is able to describe it. Nor is any mind capable of comprehending the smallest spark of that consuming fire, unless God should show it to him by a special grace.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, The Angelic Doctor: The more one longs for a thing, the more painful does deprivation of it become. And because after this life, the desire for God, the Supreme Good, is intense in the souls of the just (because this impetus toward him is not hampered by the weight of the body, and that time of enjoyment of the Perfect Good would have come) had there been no obstacle; the soul suffers enormously from the delay.

Read More About This Topic Purgatory: Heaven’s Waiting Room Is Purgatory in the Bible? 10 Truths About Purgatory Heaven: Catholic Cheat Sheet Hell: Catholic Cheat Sheet

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