What happens when I die?
At the moment of death, our soul and body will go their own way. Now it is time for our personal judgment. We will immediately be informed as to whether we will spend eternity in heaven or hell.
If Gabby Gossip dies one hour from now and is not in a state of grace, then Gabby Gossip will be in hell in exactly one hour.
On the other hand, if Persevering Pamela dies in a state of grace, with no mortal sin on her soul, she will spend eternity in paradise. Going straight to heaven is possible, but as Pamela correctly expects that she will first have to stop through purgatory to have her soul cleansed of any remaining attachment to earthly desires. Purgatory is no party.
What is purgatory? It is the final purification or purging of our souls before we enter heaven. Purgatory is temporary. It will pass away on the last day of Earth.
Is purgatory a place? Purgatory only refers to the state of being purged of our sinfulness. Whether or not there is a physical place where this occurs, we will not know until we arrive.
Since it is difficult for us earthlings to envision supernatural things, some of us may tend to envision purgatory as a place, which is fine, as long we realize that the Church has not yet defined whether or not it involves a place.
Is purgatory a second chance for us? No. There are no second chances after we die. Purgatory is only for the elect (the heaven-bound folks who were already forgiven for their sins upon dying). Forgiveness is available only while we are on Earth. It is available to us thanks to Christ's death and resurrection.
Why do we need purgatory? Very simple. In heaven there is no sin. I sin. Therefore, I cannot enter as I am now.
The Bible says "But nothing unclean shall enter [heaven]" (Rev. 21:27)
Our purification is for the good of all the people living eternally in heaven. God knew that his children would be most happy if the people around them had been refined into the most loving, caring people they could be. Realistically, would you rather spend heaven with a group of judgmental, snippety, greedy folks, or a community of generous, selfless, loving, happy, caring friends?
What is the end goal of purgatory?
After purgatory, we will truly be holy enough to meet Christ face to face. In heaven, we will actually see him and know him as He is.
Who gets to skip purgatory and go straight to heaven?
The lucky ones who will go directly to heaven are the ones who have already shed every last trace of self-love left in their hearts. They are the saints who have already made reparation for the sins of their life. Their hearts are left with nothing but pure love for Christ.
Remember, one sin might take just seconds to commit, but the reparation or punishment could take years, and could involve severe pain. Thanks to the merits of Christ won for us, our souls can indeed be repaired and can be made beautiful, just as they were intended to be.
So what happens when we get to purgatory?
Expect some sort of pain.
Perhaps you went through a time in your life when you were in severe physical or emotional pain. Perhaps you came out of it closer to God. Perhaps during the painful experience, you recognized a serious sin you had been committing and turned away from it.
If that happened, you experienced purification.
Purgatory is just a finishing up of the purification we go through on Earth.
Even if we have been forgiven from our sins in Confession, it’s possible we have not yet been punished or have not yet done sufficient penance to heal the damage we caused by those sins while on earth. That’s what purgatory is for.
Don't be surprised if the pain from the punishment outweighs the pleasure you derived from the sin.
St. Augustine said: "Man is forced to suffer even after his sins are forgiven, though it was sin that brought down on him this penalty. For the punishment outlasts the guilt, lest the guilt should be thought slight if with its forgiveness the punishment also came to an end."
No, our work is not done when we exit the confessional. Let’s say Johnny picked up your new computer in a rage and threw it out the window from the tenth floor. But later, he is truly sorry. You, in your great mercy, forgive him. But to make things completely right, Johnny plans to buy you a new computer. He doesn’t have the money, so he gets an extra job to pay for it and simultaneously works to restore your trust. But what if he dies before he gets to make amends?
That’s where purgatory comes in. That’s where final amends can be made.
Purgatory was created for our benefit, so that we may all enjoy eternity to the fullest. In the same way, surgery may be painful, but a doctor may order it for a patient with the goal of providing her patient with a more fulfilling future.
Some theologians have compared the pain of purgatory to child labor. The woman has severe pain, but rejoices in knowing what is to come.
Unlike on Earth, where we experience alternating periods of punishment, purification, work and play, in purgatory there is nothing but purging going on. Therefore, we assume it will be the most severe and most prolonged pain we’ve experienced.
How painful is it?
By most accounts, it is brutal. Many Church Fathers and later theologians said that the fires of purgatory were actually the same as the fires of hell. The difference, they speculated, was that purgatory was a temporary cleansing fire, rather than a fire of eternally punishment. Nevertheless, the Church has never officially declared whether or not purgatory involves fire or any specific kind of punishment.
St. Thomas Aquinas said the worst pain we feel on earth is not as painful as the least pain in purgatory.
Aquinas explains, “It is the same fire that torments the reprobate in hell, and the just in purgatory. The least pain in purgatory,’ he says, "surpasses the greatest suffering in this life. ' Nothing but the eternal duration makes the fire of hell more terrible than that of purgatory."
St. Augustine: "Even as in the same fire gold glistens and straw smokes, so in the same fire the sinner burns and the elect is cleansed." Here, St. Thomas Aquinas quotes Gregory the Great quoting St. Augustine.
How long do people have to spend in purgatory?
We do not know. Some theologians would say it could last anywhere from a second to many centuries, depending on the depth and number of sins, the intensity of one's attachments to earthly things, and the amount of penance one had done on Earth.
Is there any way to help the souls in purgatory?
Yes. If you are in a state of grace, then your prayer, fasting, and other sacrifices can be offered up to assist souls in purgatory and reduce their punishment. Try saying a prayer right now for a soul in purgatory. He or she will appreciate it. Offer up Holy Communion, attend Mass frequently (daily, if possible), and obtain plenary and partial indulgences for the souls awaiting heaven. Requirements for indulgences are easily obtained on the Internet.
St. Augustine’s mother, St. Monica, asked her son to remember her at the altar after she died. Her saintly son complied, and noted in his work, Confessions, that “the sacrifice of our redemption” was offered up for his mother.
How can our efforts really help a soul who is so far away from us?
We are all one body in Christ. We are connected. Right now, the body of believers is on earth, in purgatory and in heaven, but after the last day, the entire body of Christ will be in heaven.
In his 2007 encyclical, Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: "The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death—this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today . . . "
" . . . Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death."
Who should be prayed for?
If there is someone who surely resides in heaven, such as a saint or martyr, then there is no reason to pray for the soul. If there is someone who is certainly in hell, there is no reason to pray for that soul either, since there is no escape. But do pray for all others.
Did the first Christians pray for the dead?
Yes. In fact, evidence of this can be found in inscriptions on underground tombs, called catacombs, determined by archeologists date back to the first century. The inscriptions say things like “Peter and Paul, pray for Victor.”
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “In a word, so overwhelming is the witness of the early Christian monuments in favor of prayer for the dead that no historian any longer denies that the practice and the belief which the practice implies were universal in the primitive Church. There was no break of continuity in this respect between Judaism and Christianity.”
What do the Jews say about the final purification?
Even before Christ’s time, Jews were teaching that we undergo a final purification between death and final glory. Today, devout Orthodox Jews who lose a loved one, pray a prayer called the “the mourner's Qaddish” for 11 months after the death for the purpose of speeding up the purification process. They stop praying before the year is up because they feel it would be an insult to imply a person is guilty of so many sins that need purging.
note to my friends: Please don’t stop praying for me 11 months after my death
(of course I plan to outlive all of you, but just in case…). Also, I do not
wish to hear any gooey, sappy platitudes after I die, like “She’s in a
better place” or “She’s at peace” while I am undergoing a purging fire
and earnestly desiring your urgent prayers. Please make a note of this on your
Are there any groups devoted to helping the poor souls in purgatory through prayer, offering up Masses and acts of mercy?
Yes. The Prayer Warriors of the Holy Souls (www.pwhs-mfi.org)
What might be an interesting and thorough book on purgatory?Purgatory Explained by Father F.X. Schouppe, S.J.
What does the Bible say about purgatory?
Like the words “Trinity,” and “Incarnation” the exact term “purgatory” is not in the Bible. But the Bible certainly does contain the doctrine.
In the Book of Maccabees, the teaching of purgatory is spelled out crystal clear, and so is the practice of offering up sacrifices for the dead, which was done by the early Christians and even Jews before Christ.
2 Maccabees 12:44-46 talks about atoning for the dead so they can be free from their sin. It also tells us it is “a holy and pious thought” to pray for the dead
The Bible has many other examples of dead people who are forgiven from sins but need to atone for those sins before entering heaven.
For example, in 2 Tim 1:16-18, the apostle Paul prays for the dead man, Onesiphorous.
In 1 Cor 15:29-30, St. Paul talks about baptizing people for the dead.
In 2 Sam 12:13-14, we see that David is forgiven by the Lord for his sin, but that he must still endure punishment for the sin (the punishment is the death of his first child).
Hebrews 12:14 tells us to strive “for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
The Bible urges us to be perfect Christians. Being a Christian with remaining sins or attachments to earthly pleasures does not cut it. Matthew 5:48 says “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Matthew 12:32 “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.” (no sins can be repented for in hell, so this has to be talking about purgatory)
“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 Cor. 3:10-15).
And of course, there are passages like Rev. 21:27, where we see that nothing unclean will enter heaven. And in Mt 5:22-26, we see that we will not be released until we pay the last penny (obviously this verse is talking about purgatory, since nobody will be released from hell….. See http://www.canapologetics.net/html/there_is_a_purgatory_.html)
Why don't Protestants believe in Purgatory?
They should! They are going to have to suffer through it with the rest of us! The final purification before heaven was a consistent doctrine seamlessly passed on through Judaic and Christian history. The first millennium and a half of Christians believed in it. But then Luther realized purgatory did not mesh with his new "Faith Alone" theory so he got rid of the doctrine, and simultaneously removed the Book of Maccabees from the Old Testament because of its clear stating of the doctrine.
For more info on purgatory, and its Biblical basis, see this great article by Patrick Madrid
For additional info on purgatory, Protestants and Maccabees, see:
http://matt1618.freeyellow.com/deutero.html (Why Protestants do not have 7 books of the Old Testament) http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/most/getwork.cfm?worknum=152 (Purgatory)
http://www.star.ucl.ac.uk/~vgg/rc/e-bks/scrp/s525/s525_chap7.html, http://www.canapologetics.net/html/bible_and_the_church.html, http://matt1618.freeyellow.com/cloud.html, http://www.catholic.com/library/Old_Testament_Canon.asp, http://www.catholic-defense.com/otcanon.htm)
http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=4677 (Doctrine of Purgatory)
What do the Jews say about the final purification?
Even before Christ’s time, Jews were teaching that we undergo a final purification between death and final glory. Today, devout Orthodox Jews who lose a loved one, pray a prayer called the “the mourner's Qaddish” for 11 months after the death for the purpose of speeding up the purification process. They stop praying before the year’s up because they feel it would be an insult to imply the person is guilty of so many sins that need purging.
A note to my friends: Please don’t stop praying for me 11 months after my death (of course I plan to outlive all of you, but just in case…). Also, I don’t want to hear any gooey, sappy stuff after I die, like “She’s in a better place” or “She’s at peace” because I will be undergoing a purging fire and will be greatly in need of your prayers. Please make a note of this on your refrigerator.
Why is suffering a necessary part of Christianity?
For one, God is a loving and just father. A parent who punishes a child for running out into the street or for touching a hot stove has the well being of the child in mind.
When it comes down to it, Christ’s work on the cross is completed. But God gives us work to do…. work that he has in mind for the well being of the whole body of believers…. work that is done for the sake of the body…whether one prays for another or makes an even larger sacrifice, it all helps repair the damage that was done to the whole body by sin.
One of St. Peter’s main goals in writing his first epistle (I Peter) was the show the value of sharing in Christ’s suffering.
In Romans 7:18, Paul tells us we can only be heirs of the kingdom if we suffer with Him. There are many other examples in the Bible.
Are there any groups devoted to helping the poor souls in purgatory through prayer, offering up Masses and acts of mercy?
Yes. The Prayer Warriors of the Holy Souls (www.pwhs-mfi.org)
What is considered the most interesting book on purgatory?
Purgatory Explained by Father F.X. Schouppe, S.J.
Back to www.StillCatholic.com
What did the great Christian theologian, St. Augustine, say about purgatory?
"The time which interposes between the death of a man and the final resurrection holds souls in hidden retreats, accordingly as each is deserving of rest or of hardship, in view of what it merited when it was living in the flesh. Nor can it be denied that the souls of the dead find relief through the piety of their friends and relatives who are still alive, when the Sacrifice of the Mediator [Mass] is offered for them, or when alms are given in the Church. But these things are of profit to those who, when they were alive, merited that they might afterward be able to be helped by these things. There is a certain manner of living, neither so good that there is no need of these helps after death, nor yet so wicked that these helps are of no avail after death" (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Charity 29:109 [A.D. 421]).
'That you purify me in this life and render me such that I may not stand in need of that purging fire" - St. Augustine
What did other Church Fathers say about purgatory?
"Then we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition; next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already fallen asleep, for we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this holy and most solemn sacrifice is laid out." St. Cyril of Jerusalem ("Catechetical Lectures" c. 350 A.D.)
"Useful too is the prayer fashioned on their behalf, even if it does not force back the whole of guilty charges laid to them. And it is useful also, because in this world we often stumble either voluntarily or involuntarily, and thus it is a reminder to do better." St. Epiphanius of Salamis ("Medicine Chest Against All Heresies" c. 375 A.D.)
"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." St. John Chrysostom ("Homilies on 1 Corinthians" c. 392 A.D.)
"Weep for those who die in their wealth and who with all their wealth prepared no consolation for their own souls, who had the power to wash away their sins and did not will to do it. Let us weep for them, let us assist them to the extant of our ability, let us think of some assistance for them, small as it may be, yet let us somehow assist them. But how, and in what way? By praying for them and by entreating others to pray for them, by constantly giving alms to the poor on their behalf. Not in vain was it decreed by the apostles that in the awesome mysteries remembrance should be made of the departed. They knew that here there was much gain for them, much benefit. when the entire people stands with hands uplifted, a priestly assembly, and that awesome sacrificial Victim is laid out, how, when we are calling upon God, should we not succeed in their defense? But this is done for those who have departed in the faith, while even the catechumens are not reckoned as worthy of this consolation, but are deprived of every means of assistance except one. And what is that? We may give alms to the poor on their behalf." St. John Chrysostom ("Homilies on Philippians" c. 402 A.D.)
"And after the exhibition, Tryphaena again received
her [Thecla]. For her daughter Falconilla had died, and said to her in a dream:
‘Mother, you shall have this stranger Thecla in my place, in order that she may
pray concerning me, and that I may be transferred to the place of the
righteous’" (Acts of Paul and
Thecla [A.D. 160]).
"The citizen of a prominent city, I erected this while I lived, that I might have a resting place for my body. Abercius is my name, a disciple of the chaste Shepherd who feeds his sheep on the mountains and in the fields, who has great eyes surveying everywhere, who taught me the faithful writings of life. Standing by, I, Abercius, ordered this to be inscribed: Truly, I was in my seventy-second year. May everyone who is in accord with this and who understands it pray for Abercius" (Abercius in Epitaph of Abercius [A.D. 190]).
"[T]hat very night, this was shown to me in a vision: I [Perpetua] saw Dinocrates going out from a gloomy place, where also there were several others, and he was parched and very thirsty, with a filthy countenance and pallid color, and the wound on his face which he had when he died. This Dinocrates had been my brother after the flesh, seven years of age, who died miserably with disease. . . . For him I had made my prayer, and between him and me there was a large interval, so that neither of us could approach to the other . . . and [I] knew that my brother was in suffering. But I trusted that my prayer would bring help to his suffering; and I prayed for him every day until we passed over into the prison of the camp, for we were to fight in the camp-show. Then . . . I made my prayer for my brother day and night, groaning and weeping that he might be granted to me. Then, on the day on which we remained in fetters, this was shown to me: I saw that the place which I had formerly observed to be in gloom was now bright; and Dinocrates, with a clean body well clad, was finding refreshment. . . . [And] he went away from the water to play joyously, after the manner of children, and I awoke. Then I understood that he was translated from the place of punishment" (The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity 2:3–4 [A.D. 202]).
"[T]hat allegory of the Lord [Matt. 5:25–26] . . . is extremely clear and simple in its meaning . . . [beware lest as] a transgressor of your agreement, before God the Judge . . . and lest this Judge deliver you over to the angel who is to execute the sentence, and he commit you to the prison of hell, out of which there will be no dismissal until the smallest even of your delinquencies be paid off in the period before the resurrection. What can be a more fitting sense than this? What a truer interpretation?" (The Soul 35 [A.D. 210]).
"We offer sacrifices for the dead on their birthday anniversaries [the date of death—birth into eternal life]" (The Crown 3:3 [A.D. 211]).
"A woman, after the death of her husband . . . prays for his soul and asks that he may, while waiting, find rest; and that he may share in the first resurrection. And each year, on the anniversary of his death, she offers the sacrifice" (Tertullian in Monogamy 10:1–2 [A.D. 216]).
"The strength of the truly believing remains unshaken; and with those who fear and love God with their whole heart, their integrity continues steady and strong. For to adulterers even a time of repentance is granted by us, and peace [i.e., reconciliation] is given. Yet virginity is not therefore deficient in the Church, nor does the glorious design of continence languish through the sins of others. The Church, crowned with so many virgins, flourishes; and chastity and modesty preserve the tenor of their glory. Nor is the vigor of continence broken down because repentance and pardon are facilitated to the adulterer. It is one thing to stand for pardon, another thing to attain to glory; it is one thing, when cast into prison, not to go out thence until one has paid the uttermost farthing; another thing at once to receive the wages of faith and courage. It is one thing, tortured by long suffering for sins, to be cleansed and long purged by fire; another to have purged all sins by suffering. It is one thing, in fine, to be in suspense till the sentence of God at the day of judgment; another to be at once crowned by the Lord" (Cyprian of Carhage in Letters 51:20 [A.D. 253]).
"But also, when God will judge the just, it is likewise in fire that he will try them. At that time, they whose sins are uppermost, either because of their gravity or their number, will be drawn together by the fire and will be burned. Those, however, who have been imbued with full justice and maturity of virtue, will not feel that fire; for they have something of God in them which will repel and turn back the strength of the flame" (Lactantius in Divine Institutes 7:21:6 [A.D. 307]).
"Then we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition; next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already fallen asleep, for we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this holy and most solemn sacrifice is laid out" (Cyril of Jerusalem in Catechetical Lectures 23:5:9 [A.D. 350]).
"If a man distinguish in himself what is peculiarly human from that which is irrational, and if he be on the watch for a life of greater urbanity for himself, in this present life he will purify himself of any evil contracted, overcoming the irrational by reason. If he has inclined to the irrational pressure of the passions, using for the passions the cooperating hide of things irrational, he may afterward in a quite different manner be very much interested in what is better, when, after his departure out of the body, he gains knowledge of the difference between virtue and vice and finds that he is not able to partake of divinity until he has been purged of the filthy contagion in his soul by the purifying fire" (Gregory of Nyssa in Sermon on the Dead [A.D. 382]).
"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" (John Chrysostom in Homilies on First Corinthians 41:5 [A.D. 392]).
"Weep for those who die in their wealth and who with all their wealth prepared no consolation for their own souls, who had the power to wash away their sins and did not will to do it. Let us weep for them, let us assist them to the extent of our ability, let us think of some assistance for them, small as it may be, yet let us somehow assist them. But how, and in what way? By praying for them and by entreating others to pray for them, by constantly giving alms to the poor on their behalf. Not in vain was it decreed by the apostles that in the awesome mysteries remembrance should be made of the departed. They knew that here there was much gain for them, much benefit. When the entire people stands with hands uplifted, a priestly assembly, and that awesome sacrificial Victim is laid out, how, when we are calling upon God, should we not succeed in their defense? But this is done for those who have departed in the faith, while even the catechumens are not reckoned as worthy of this consolation, but are deprived of every means of assistance except one. And what is that? We may give alms to the poor on their behalf" (John Chrysostom in Homilies on Philippians 3:9–10 [A.D. 402]).
http://www.scborromeo.org/truth/q3.htm (Purgatory throughout History)
http://www.star.ucl.ac.uk/~vgg/rc/aplgtc/hahn/m4/pg.html (Purgatory: Holy Fire)
http://matt1618.freeyellow.com/purgatory.html (Scriptural Basis)
http://catholiccitizens.org/platform/platformview.asp?c=9914 (in the Bible)
http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/PURGATOR.HTM (there’s no sinning in heaven)
http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=4677 (Explanation of purgatory, including contrary views)
http://www.cin.org/users/james/files/how2purg.htm (explaining purgatory to your Protestant friends)
http://www.pwhs-mfi.org/newsletter/news12/why_purgatory.htm (Jimmy Swaggart vs. purgatory)
http://www.catholicintl.com/epologetics/Rebuttal_to_Dr_White_on_Purgatory.html (advanced apologetics discussion with evangelical James White)
BOOK: Purgatory by Father F.X. Schouppe, S.J.
BOOK: Ecclesiastical History of Bede
Finally, the book “The Salvation Controversy” by James Akin does a good job at explaining that although Jesus died and rose so that we could have forgiveness of sins, our God is a just God who will punish us when He knows it will benefit us in the long run.
Has anybody seen purgatory?
Yes. Throughout the years, God has allowed various saints and non-saints to see purgatory, hell and even heaven (but without the Beatific Vision), and to report back.
Because this all came through private revelation rather than public revelation or official council pronouncements, Catholics have no obligation to believe it or take any interest in it. But the holiness and integrity of these saints, especially after seeing what they saw, and the historical facts surrounding the events, lend credence to them. I will only mention a couple of the numerous times where people have been shown these things. If you are not interested in private revelation (occurring after the time of the apostles), just skip this section.
The following accounts are found in RAISED FROM THE DEAD: TRUE STORIES OF 400 RESURRECTION MIRACLES by Father Albert J Hebert: (this book has the imprimatur, which means the book contains no doctrines or morals contrary to Catholic teaching)
1. An Englishman named Drithelm returned to life right before burial (and this is confirmed even by St. Bede the Venerable (672-735), a Doctor of the Church and perhaps the greatest historian on early English history). Here's what Drithelem said:
"On leaving my body I was received by a benevolent person who took me under his guidance. His face was brilliant, and he appeared surrounded with light. He arrived at a large deep valley of immense extent, all fire on one side, all ice and snow on the other; on the one hand braziers and caldrons of flame, onthe other the most intense cold and the blasts of glacial wind."
"Drithelm went on to tell how he saw innumerable souls tossed as if by a furious tempest from the side with the freezing cold to the side with the blazing heat, from torture to torture, constantly seeking relief in the opposite extreme, to and fro. HE thought the terrible place was Hell, but his guide informed him that it was a special place in Purgatory. In this place were the souls who had deferred repentance to the end of their lives, but had been saved by the mercy of God at the last minute. There in Purgatory they would endure their temporal punishment for forgiven sin. Most of them would do penance there, he understood, until Judgment Day. Drithelm saw a crew of jeering spirits, demons, dragging into the pit five wailing and weeping souls, among them one who was tonsured, a layman, and a woman. On the happier side he saw flower fields, youthful spirits, happy abodes, but that was not Heaven. He came to a place where he heard the sound of sweet singing amid a delightful fragrance and glorious light. His guide told him that Heaven was nearby , but Drithelm did not see it. Then his heavenly guide told him to return to earth. and he ended up in the monastery at Melrose by the bend of the Tweed River. When Drithelm was asked why he did such great penances as plunging his body into freezing water he would reply, "I have seen penances still more astonishing." [p. 98 Raised from the Dead: True Stories of 400 Resurrection Miracles, Father Albert J. Hebert]
2. St. Christina the Admirable (1150-1224) of Belgium rose out of her coffin after dying at age 32. The story was supported by two holy and well-respected cardinals: St. Robert Cardinal Bellarmine, S.J. and Cardinal James de Vitry. Hebert writes:
"It is said that the whole city of Trond witnessed this miracle with amazement, and were even more astonished at what she then related:
"As soon as my soul was separated from my body, it was received by angels who conducted it to a very gloomy place entirely filled with souls. The torments which they there endured and appeared to me to be so excessive that it is impossible for me to give any idea of their rigor. I saw among them many of my acquaintances, and, deeply touched by their sad condition, I asked what place it was, for I believed it to be Hell. My guide answered me that is was Purgatory, where sinners were punished who before death had repented of their faults, but who had not made worthy satisfaction to God. From there I was conducted into Hell, and there also I recognized among the reprobates some whom I had formerly known. The angels then transported me into Heaven...."
"In Heaven (again, not the full Heaven of the Beatific Vision) the Lord gave Christina a choice of remaining in glory, or having been so moved with compassion for the souls in Purgatory, and horror for those in Hell, to return to earth, there to suffer dreadful torments and penances without dying. By such reparational sufferings she would deliver souls from Purgatory and convert sinners away from the road to Hell and toward that of eternal salvation. The Lord told Christina that then, "after having ended this new life, you shall return here laden with merits."
Christina told the people on earth that she had answered the Lord without hesitation: she would return to life on earth. At that instant she arose from her coffin. She warned the people not to be surprised at the extraordinary penances she planned to suffer from then on."
Thenceforth Christina lived without house or fire; she threw herself into burning furnaces, where she survived the torment of flames. The Lord told her that she would endure great torments without dying from the effects - this would constitute a constant miracle. She prayed in winter in the frozen waters, and on and on.
Cardinal Bellarmine wrote that everyone could see Christina standing in the midst of the flames without being consumed, and covered with wounds, every trace of which disappeared a few moments afterwards."
. . . Christina led this terrible life of penance for 42 years." [p. 99-100 Raised from the Dead: True Stories of 400 Resurrection Miracles, Father Albert J. Hebert]
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