"Spiritual persons ought to be equally ready to experience sweetness and consolation in the things of God, or to suffer and keep their ground in drynesses of spirit and devotion, and for as long as God pleases, without their making any complaint about it."

St Philip Neri

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"When the devil has failed in making a man fall, he puts forward all his energies to create distrust between the penitent and the confessor, and so by little and little he gains his end at last."

St Philip Neri

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"If, devout soul, it is your will to please God and live a life of serenity in this world, unite yourself always and in all things to the divine will. Reflect that all the sins of your past wicked life happened because you wandered from the path of God's will. For the future, embrace God's good pleasure and say to him in every happening: "Yea, Father, for so it hath seemed good in thy sight." "

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.  (1877 - 1964)  taught at the Angelicum in Rome from 1909 to 1960, and served for many years as a consulter to the Holy Office and other Roman Congregations.


By Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange,OP


 PART 4 : PURGATORY (cont)



Privation of God punishes man for having turned away from Him. The pain of sense, on the contrary, punishes the soul for having turned toward creatures without reference to God. In venial sin this second disorder exists without the first.

Both the Greeks and the Latins maintain this pain of sense: a positive affliction, sorrow, chagrin, shame of conscience. And most theologians admit that all souls in purgatory suffer this pain to the end. [422]

But the schismatic Greeks, although they admit the existence of this punishment of sense, deny the existence of fire in purgatory, whereas they recognize that fire exists in hell. The Council of Florence did not condemn this opinion of the Greeks. The Latins, on the contrary, hold that the pain of sense is nothing else but the purgatorial fire. [423] After long discussions and wide historical researches on this particular point, it seems wise to conclude with St. Robert Bellarmine and Suarez as follows: "Although the existence of fire in purgatory is less certain than that of fire in hell, the doctrine which admits a real fire in purgatory must be classified as a sententia probabilissima. Hence the contrary opinion is improbable." [424]

This view rests on seven reasons: first, the consent of scholastic theologians. Second, the authority of St. Gregory the Great. [425] Third, the authority of St. Augustine. [426] Fourth, the concordant testimonies of St. Cyprian, St. Basil, St. Caesarius, of the liturgy, which begs refreshment for these souls. Fifth, the unanimous decision of the Latin fathers at the Council of Florence. Sixth, the very probable foundation found in First Corinthians. [427] Seventh, particular revelations, for example, those of St. Catherine of Ricci. She suffered forty days to deliver a soul from purgatory. A novice, touching her hand, said: "But, my mother, you are burning." "Yes, my daughter," she replied, "this fire is not seen, but it consumes like a burning fever."

How can fire cause suffering in souls separated from their bodies? As we said above, [428] fire is an instrument of justice, as baptismal water is an instrument of grace. A soul which has refused the instruments of mercy must suffer from the instruments of justice.

The mode of this action remains mysterious. This fire has the power to bind the soul, [429] that is, to hinder it from acting as it would and where it would. It inflicts on the soul the humiliation of depending on
a material creature. An analogy is seen in paralyzed persons who cannot act as they would.

Are These Pains Voluntary?

St. Thomas replies: "Yes, in the sense that the soul wills to bear them, as benefits imposed upon it by divine justice. It realizes the suitableness of this vivid pain, to purify the depths of the soul, to erase all egoism and self-seeking. The soul, though it had not courage during life to impose upon itself this deep interior suffering, now accepts that suffering voluntarily." [430]

Do souls in purgatory suffer also from the demons? St. Thomas gives a profound answer. [431] They suffer only from divine justice. They do not suffer from the demons, because they have carried away the victory over these demons. And God does not use good angels as instruments for this purification. The suffering is inflicted by divine justice, which is always united with divine mercy.

Where is purgatory? The place cannot be determined with certitude. As revelation is not explicit, we can only make conjectures. What we know is that the poor souls, separated from their bodies, no longer deal with those on earth, though exceptionally they may appear to instruct us or to ask our prayers.

Do the sufferings of purgatory diminish progressively? [432] Yes and No. As "the remains of sin" disappear, little by little, the pain also diminishes. But as the desire to see God grows more vehement, the consequent pain grows too. Purgatory, we recall, is measured by discontinuous time. [433] One spiritual instant in purgatory may last several days of our solar time. [434]

How Long Must Souls Remain in Purgatory? [435]

Purgatory itself will last until the last judgment. [436] "And these shall go into everlasting punishment, but the just into life everlasting." [437] Purgatory will then be no longer. The last of the elect will find, before dying, sufficient purification. "There will arise false Christs and false prophets, and they will perform great prodigies, even so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect." [438] A little before this text we read: "Unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved, but for the sake of the elect those days shall be shortened." [439] The end of the world will come when the number of the elect is complete. Then purgatory will have an end.

But if the question regards the duration of purgatory for a particular soul, we can but answer that the punishment will be longer and more intense according to the expiation required. [440] Suffering corresponds to guilt, and its duration corresponds to the rootedness of sin. Thus one soul may suffer long, but with less affliction than another, whose more intense affliction brings earlier deliverance.

Let us illustrate by an analogy. Punishment on earth, say scourging, may be severe and brief, whereas imprisonment may be long and less severe. In the spiritual order, too, penance for a grave sin may be brief and severe, while for faults less grave but more deeply rooted, it may be long and mild.

Dominic Soto [441] and Maldonatus say that purgatory is so severe, and the suffrages of the Church so efficacious, that no soul remains there more than ten or twenty years. Theologians, all but unanimously, reject this view. Souls converted at the last moment, after a life of grave disorder, remain in purgatory much longer than ten or twenty years. Theological opinion, in general, favors long duration of purgatorial purification. [442] Private revelations mention three or four centuries, or even more, especially for those who have had high office and great responsibility.

To escape false imagining, let us again recall that purgatory is not measured by solar time, but by eviternity and discontinuous time. Discontinuous time, we have seen is composed of successive spiritual
instants, and each of these instants may correspond to ten, twenty, thirty, sixty hours of our solar time, just as a person can remain thirty hours in ecstasy absorbed by one sole thought. Hence there is no proportion between our solar time and the discontinuous time of purgatory. But if it be revealed that a soul has been delivered from purgatory at a definite instant of our time, it means that this instant corresponds to the spiritual instant of its deliverance.


422. Dict. theol. cath., "Purgatoire."
423. Ibid., cols. 2258-2261; Denz. 3047, 3050.
424. Ibid., col. 2260; Hugon, O.P., Tractatus logmatici, de novissimis, 1927, p. 824.
425. Dialogues, Bk. IV, chaps. 39 and 45.
426. Enchir., chap. 69; De civ. Dei, XXI, 26.
427. I Cor. 3 :13-15.
428. See above, chap. 16.
429. Contra Gentes, Bk. IV, chap. 90; IIIa Supplementum, q.70, a.3.
430. Appendix to the Supplement, a.4.
431. Ibid., a. 5.
432. Dict. theol. cath., "Purgatoire," col 1295.
433. See above, chap. 12.
434. Ia, a. 10, a. 5 et ad 1.
435. Dict. theol. cath., "Purgatoire," col 1289.
436. Denz., nos. 464, 693, 3035, 3047, 3050.
437. Matt. 25:46.
438. Ibid., 24:24.
439. Ibid., v. 22.
440. IV Sent., dist. 21, q. 1, a. 3; Appendix of the Supplement, a. 8.
441. In IV Sent., dist. 19, q. 3, a. 2.
442. 21 De gemitu colombae, Bk. II, chap. 9.