Catholicism - Now I Get It!


Study Guide to CHAPTER 8: "Now I Get . . . Purgatory"




What did St. Thomas Aquinas say about purgatory?

What did St. Augustine say about purgatory?

What did C.S. Lewis say about purgatory?

Why do some people suffer more in purgatory than others?

Where do all souls in purgatory wind up in the end?

Which book of the Old Testament encourages prayers for the dead?

What prayer do Jews say for the good of deceased souls? What is the customary length of time for saying the prayer?

How will purgatory benefit our souls eternally?

 Who do you think would have a harsher sentence in purgatory - a person who committed heinous crimes his whole life and repented a moment before dying - or a person who committed venial sins his whole life, but who spent many hours each week praying, helping the poor, doing penance and attending daily Mass?

What is the difference between a partial indulgence and a plenary indulgence?


Suggestions for further reading:

Treatise on Purgatory by St. Catherine of Genoa

How to Avoid Purgatory ( a $2 booklet by Fr. Paul O'Sullivan)

Purgatory: Explained by the Lives and the Legends of the Saints by Fr. F.X. Schouppe, S.J.

Charity for the Suffering Souls: An Explanation of the Catholic Doctrine of Purgatory by Fr. John A. Nageleisen


Helpful entries from the online Catholic Encyclopedia.


Prayers for the Dead 



HELPFUL WEB SITES (Questions about purgatory answered) (Treatise on purgatory by St. Catherine of Genoa) (Treatise on purgatory) (How to Avoid Purgatory) (article by Fr. William G. Most) (Eastern Orthodox Belief in purgator

History of Purgatory (Doctrine of Purgatory Explained) (Indulgences approved by the pope)




2 Maccabees 12:44-46   For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.

1 Cor 3:14-15   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

Mt. 12:32  And whoever says 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.

1 Cor 15: 29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

Heb 12:14  Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord



St. Augustine:   There is an ecclesiastical discipline, as the faithful know, when the names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God, where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for other dead who are remembered. It is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended (Sermons 159:1 [ 411 A.D.]).

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 (The City of God 21:13 [A.D. 419]).

St. Augustine: That there should be some fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired into and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater or lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish, through a certain purgatorial fire (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Charity l8:69 [421 A.D.]).

St. Ambrose of Milan: Give perfect rest to thy servant Theodosius, that rest which thou hast prepared for thy saints… I have loved him, and therefore will I follow him into the land of the living; nor will I leave him until by tears and prayers I shall lead him wither his merits summon him, unto the holy mountain of the Lord (Funeral Sermon of Theodosius 36-37 [A.D. 395]).

St. John Chrysostom:   Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice [Job l: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 First Corinthians 41:5 (A.D. 392)).

Origen: If a man departs this life with lighter faults, he is condemned to fire which burns away the lighter materials, and prepares the soul for the kingdom of God, where nothing defiled may enter.

More Church Fathers at



1030 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.

1031  The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.608

1032  This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, 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.611



Further Helps

Make it a point before going to bed each night to say a prayer for a loved one who might be suffering in purgatory. If you are watching the news, perhaps say a little prayer for the accident victims or victims of crimes who have died. Pray for the souls of deceased soldiers and victims of natural disasters. Pray for souls in purgatory who have no one to pray for them. The Sacrifice of the Mass can provide a powerful help for souls. Any little sacrifice you make during the day can be offered up for souls in order to expedite their entrance into heaven.




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