St. Augustine said Christians should pray for the souls in:

  1. heaven
  2. purgatory
  3. hell






Augustine said it would not make sense to pray for those in hell, since they will not be getting out ever, nor would it make sense to pray for those in heaven, since we are the ones who could benefit from their prayers. Instead, he said prayers of the dead should only be directed at the dead who are not yet in heaven, i.e. the elect who still need purification before entering heaven.


This purification is known as purgatory….it’s the final purification that the elect go through before entering heaven to make up for sins that were already forgiven while we were alive.


Some of the elect go straight to heaven because they’ve already been purified on earth to the point they no longer have any selfish desires left in them….people like Mother Teresa and St. Francis of Assisi. 

But most of this will have to suffer before entering heaven. Being purged of any sinfulness left in us is necessary before entering heaven because:

The Bible says "But nothing unclean shall enter [heaven]" (Rev. 21:27)

God already paid for the permanent punishment for sins (which would have been hell), but the elect still need to undergo temporal punishments for our sins on Earth. Some of that punishment or penance may be on Earth, but the remainder will occur between dying and entering heaven.

For the Bible also says, “You will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” (Mt. 5:26)

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 were the most loving, caring people they could be. Think about two groups of friends you have. Maybe in one group, all the friends tend to be judgmental, gossipy and self-centered. In the other group, all are sincere, generous, and supportive and you know you can truly count on them for anything.

Obviously you will feel more loved around the second group, and will be more motivated to be kind around them.

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.

Many theologians believe the process involves fire. Although many people tend to think of purgatory as a place, it actually refers to the purging process. Whether or not there is a physical place where this purging occurs, we’ll have to wait until we die to find out.


The concept of purgatory is simple: I am still a sinner on Earth. But there is no sin at all in heaven. We need to go through this cleansing fire for our own eternal joy, and for good of the people that will be spending eternity with us.


Think of the last time you suffered a long bout with severe physical or emotional  pain…. If you came out of it closer to God, less attached to certain sins, then you underwent a partial purification.


 If you die in a state of grace, but without having completed this purification, you’re going to need to finish this purification/purging before entering heaven.


One thing is for sure….the moment we die, we’ll know whether our final destination is hell or heaven. Those in hell don’t have a snowball’s chance of getting out, but all those suffering in the state of purgatory are en route to heaven.













“The prayer either of the Church herself or of pious individuals is heard on behalf of certain of the dead; but it is heard for those who, having been regenerated in Christ, did not for the rest of their life in the body do such wickedness that they might be judged unworthy of such mercy, nor who yet lived so well that it might be supposed they have no need of such mercy. (21, 24, 2…..Augustine, “City of God”  A.D. 413-426)


"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.  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. Augustine of Hippo ("Sermons" c. 411 A.D.)


"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."  St. Augustine of Hippo ("The City of God" c. 419 A.D.)

"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."   St. Augustine of Hippo ("Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Charity" c. 421 A.D.)






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