Growth of Virtue in Purgatory
If we restrict the question to acquired virtues, the
answer cannot be doubtful. Souls in purgatory can
in virtue by repetition of natural acts. On earth
virtues, justice, say, or fortitude, grow even in the
state of mortal sin, wherein man cannot merit.
defective habitudes, the "remains of sin," disappear
step by step. They are replaced by acquired virtues.
This seems reasonable, above all for such souls as
entered purgatory only by absolution at the moment of
death, souls which before, we may say, had acquired
virtue. Acquired virtue, we have seen, prepares for
infused virtue, as finger agility subserves the art
the musician. Hence acquired virtues can grow in
purgatory, at least those which are in the faculties
purely spiritual, as, for instance, prudence and
justice. But virtues which involve sense powers,
chastity, say, cannot thus grow.
What of the infused virtues and the seven gifts? An
answer is difficult. There are serious arguments for
First, the negative view. If infused virtues grow in
purgatory, then charity too would grow, and thus the
final degree of glory would be proportioned, not to
degree of charity at the moment of death, but to the
degree of charity at the end of purgatorial
Now this conclusion seems contrary to the general
belief, that the degree of glory is proportioned to
merits which the soul has at the instant of death.
Now the positive view. The souls in purgatory do
perform intense acts of faith, hope, charity,
and hence it seems that infused virtues, too, would
increase, not indeed by repetition of acts, because
these virtues are infused and not acquired, but
God, in mercy, would grant this growth without any
merit. This opinion has been defended by Palmieri,
 and before him by Lessius.  According to
Lessius, growth in infused virtue does not absolutely
require new merit. What suffices is a good
Thus a Christian in mortal sin, who from time to time
makes acts of faith and hope, could, by divine mercy,
grow in these virtues.
But this view, too, makes the degree of glory
correspond, not to the degree of charity at the
of death, but to the degree of charity at the end of
purgatory. This is not in harmony with the
doctrine. St. Thomas says: "After death there is no
to acquire grace or to increase it " 
Many Thomists nevertheless defend an increase of
charity in purgatory, an increase based on
meritorious acts, acts which on earth would not have
obtained an increase of charity. They quote St.
"On earth, each act of charity merits increase of
virtue, but it does not always obtain this
at once. This augmentation is obtained only when the
soul makes an act of charity intense enough to
it to receive this augmentation."  Take, for
example, a man who has a charity corresponding to
talents. Let him act as if he had only two talents.
charity, for the moment, remains where it was. It
not grow until he disposes himself by an act
sufficiently intense to receive growth. Now the merit
due to these feeble meritorious acts, imperfect and
remiss, may lie dormant until death.  May this
increase in virtue not be granted to them in
We see here a serious probability, but no more.
Under this view, it would still be true that the
of charity is proportioned to the degree of merits
gathered on earth. But it would not be proportioned
the degree of charity at the moment of death. It
correspond to the degree of charity at the end of
Souls that have entered purgatory by death-bed
absolution, not preceded even by feeble merits, would
naturally have glory corresponding to the degree of
charity at the moment of death. But, solve this
mysterious question as we may, the principle remains:
 the degree of glory is proportioned to that of
the merit acquired on earth. Hence the importance of
learning to love God while we are still on earth.
everlasting is the standard whereby to judge of life
Ultimate Disposition for Heaven
Ultimate disposition, in its strictest sense, is
realized only at the instant of the soul's entrance
into glory, just as the last disposition for the
creation of the human soul is not produced except at
the very instant of the creation of this soul, or as
the last disposition for justification does not exist
except at the moment when sanctifying grace isinfused.
 The reason is that the disposition properly
called ultimate precedes the form only in the order
material dispositive causality, but follows the form
all other orders of causality: formal, efficient, and
This ultimate disposition to the beatific vision,
is realized only in the instant when the soul is
glorified, and this instant is the one unique instant
of participated eternity.
But may we find in the poor souls a disposition
quasi-ultimate? In what would it consist? We may
it negatively and positively.
Negatively, this disposition excludes all sin, all
defective disposition, all "remains of sin." The soul
is completely purified, approaches definitive
Positively this disposition is realized in different
degrees: "In my Father's house there are many
mansions." It includes firm faith and assured hope
above all, ardent charity, an intense desire of God.
The sublime gift of the beatific vision cannot be
granted to one who does not have this burning desire.
Without this desire the soul would be still
for the vision. In illustration, think of the teacher
who reserves a sublime doctrine for those who
appreciate its value, and thus are disposed to profit
This intense desire is proportioned to charity. Some
have twenty talents, others ten, others five, others
still less, but each has an intense desire,
to the measure of the gift of Christ."  Each in
his own manner reaches full age in Christ. 
This quasi-ultimate disposition to glory supposes
perfection in infused virtue, and in the gifts of the
Holy Spirit, in particular a vivid faith which is
penetrating and savorous, the infused contemplation
the mysteries of salvation. We find here then a
confirmation of the doctrine we have often expounded.
Infused contemplation belongs to the normal road of
sanctity. If not learned on earth, it must be learned
in purgatory. Better learn it now with merit, than
to learn it, in pain and without merit, after death.
Doctrine of St. Catherine of Genoa
St. Catherine's treatise,  dictated in ecstasy,
has always been highly esteemed by theologians, who
find therein a supplement of theological science.
We give here an outline of her teachings.
Chapter I. The souls in purgatory willingly remain
where they are because God so wills it. They cannot
sin. But neither do they merit by abstaining from
Chapter 2. No peace can be compared to the peace of
purgatory, unless it be the peace of heaven.
Purgatorial peace grows continually as obstacles
disappear. These obstacles are like rust. Excellence
grows as the rust diminishes.
Chapter 3. God increases in them the desire to see
He enkindles in their heart a fire so strong that
obstacles become insupportable.
Chapter 4. After life on earth the soul remains
confirmed, either in good or in evil. Hence the souls
in purgatory are confirmed in grace.
Chapter 5. God punishes the reprobate less than they
Chapter 6. The souls in purgatory have perfect
conformity with the will of God.
Chapter 7. Comparisons are weak. Yet we may think of
one loaf of bread, capable, merely by being seen, of
satisfying the hunger of all human creatures.
Chapter 8. Hell and purgatory manifest the wonderful
wisdom of God. The separated soul goes naturally to
own place. The soul in the state of sin, finding no
place more suitable, throws itself of its own accord
into hell. And the soul which is not yet ready for
divine union, casts itself voluntarily into
Chapter 9. Heaven has no gates. Whoever will can
there, because God is all goodness. But the divine
essence is so pure that the soul, finding in itself
obstacles, prefers to enter purgatory, and there to
find in mercy the removal of the impediment.
Chapter 10. Their greatest suffering is that of
sinned against divine goodness, still finding those
rusty "remains of sin."
Chapter 11. The soul feels God's loving attraction.
it feels also its own inability to follow this
attraction. If it could find a purgatory still more
excruciating, where it could more quickly be
it would at once plunge into it.
Chapter 12. I see the rays of faith which purify the
soul, as fire in a crucible cleanses gold from dregs.
When the soul is entirely purified, the fire can no
longer cause pain.
Chapter 13. The soul's desire of God is itself a
torment. God's mercy hides certain consequences of
until they are destroyed, that the soul may
the divine action which has restored its purity.
Chapter 14. These souls enjoy inexpressible peace,
compounded of joy and pain, neither diminishing the
Chapter 15. If these souls could still merit, one
single act of repentance would pay their debt, by
reason of the intensity of this act. But they know
not one penny will be remitted. Such is the decree of
divine justice. If prayers are offered for them by
the living, they rejoice therein only according to
of God, without any selfishness.
Chapter 16. As long as the process of purification
lasts, these souls understand that the beatific
is not for them. They would suffer more from that
vision than they suffer in purgatory.
Chapter 17. Illumined on the necessity of reparation,
they would cry out to men on earth: "O wretched
creatures, why so blindly attached to things that
Why not make provision for the future? You say
'I will go to confession, I will gain a plenary
indulgence, I will be saved.' But remember that the
adequate confession and the perfect contrition,
required for gaining a plenary indulgence, are not
Chapter 18. These souls would not in any way lessen
their sufferings they have merited.
Chapter 19. These purgatorial pains, the saint adds,
have myself experienced these last two years. All
consolation, corporal and spiritual, has gradually
taken from me. To conclude, only God's omnipotent
can cure human deficiency. This transformation is the
work of purgatory.
Another mystic, Mother Mary of St. Austin, 
compares the souls in purgatory with Mary Magdalen at
the foot of the cross. She writes as follows: "Mary
Magdalen, the penitent, at the foot of the cross: was
she not penetrated by that light which reveals to
in purgatory the malice of sin? She stood before the
cross like a living mirror, without movement, her
lifted to Him. The sublimity of the revelation she
received there surpasses all word, all thought, all
sentiment. Christ's unspeakable holiness, His
measureless pain, His radiating peace, wrapped her
round. These three hours on Calvary were her
But she would not have given one moment of this pain
for all the joys of Thabor. In our Lord and through
she expiated her own faults, while all thought of
herself disappeared. She was immersed in the
contemplation of the Word made flesh, suffering for
sins of the world. In Him rather than in herself, she
understood what sin means for God and for man. Surely
here we have an image of the souls in purgatory.
Calvary shows how divine light penetrates purgatorial
darkness. It shows divine light radiating these
souls with all the pains of Jesus crucified.
Purgatorial pain and peace are found also on earth,
beneath the holiness of Him who takes away the sins
These reflections lead us to think that passive
purification, described by St. John of the Cross,
should be undergone as far as possible during the
present life, by generous acceptance of all
contrarieties. Reparation is thus made with merit,
with growth in charity, and hence with a claim for a
vision of God more penetrating, and a love of God
strong and intense. But souls that completely escape
all purgatory are probably rather rare. Among the
religious whom St. Theresa knew, only three had
completed their purgatory on earth.
The Purgatory of Perfect Souls
Monsignor A. Saudreau speaks thus of perfect souls:
"The Lord leads even His friends through purifying
pains, but He seems to regret that He must do so. He
cannot refrain from consolations which sweeten their
sufferings."  Moses was punished for a lack of
confidence, dying before he could enter the promised
land. But, on Mount Nebo, in the twinkling of an eye,
God showed him the entire country which for forty
had been the object of his desires. 
"The Lord, for example, shows to generous souls how
agreeable their generosity has been to Him, how
fruitful it has been for others, how eternally
profitable to themselves. These consolations enable
them to suffer with great love. St. Lawrence on his
gridiron suffered awful pains, but the ardor of his
love let him find them very light. This truth
purgatory. Purification reveals God's ineffable
goodness, His wisdom, His holiness, a holiness
even to the least spot. These souls, like the saints
earth, exercise submission, profound adoration. They
accept with a courageous heart the sufferings which
holy will imposes on them, and which they deserve."
Divine providence is irreproachable. It permits
which it might prevent, in view of a greater good,
manifestation of divine mercy and justice. This
good becomes more and more clear to the soul as it
approaches heaven. It understands the words of St.
Paul: "All things work together unto good for those
love God."  Even the faults of these souls, says
St. Augustine, work together unto good, as St.
fall taught him humility. 
|| De novissimis, II, nos. 2, 3.
|| De summo bono, Bk. 11, chap. 29; cf. Dict. theol.
cath., "Purgatoire," col. 1298.
|| Supplementum, q.71, a. 12; Quodlibet II, q. 7, a.
2; Quodlibet VIII, q. 5 a. 2.
|| IIa IIae, q. 24, a. 6 ad 1.
|| John of St. Thomas, Gonet, Billuart, De caritate,
diss. II, a.3, dico 40.
|| Denz., no. 692.
|| Ia IIae, q. 112, a. 2 ad 1; q. 113, a. 6-8; IIIa,
q. 7, a. 13 ad 2. Cf. Billuart, De gratia, diss, VII,
|| Eph. 4:7.
|| Ibid., 4:13.
|| Treatise on Purgatory. Cf. Dict. de spiritualite,
"St. Catherine of Genoa," cols. 304 ff.
|| St. Catherine of Genoa, born in 1447, of the
illustrious family of the Fieschi received great
at a very early age. At the age of eight she began to
sleep on straw, placing her head on a piece of hard
wood. At twelve years she received the gift of
At thirteen, feeling a strong vocation for the
religious life, she attempted to enter among the
Canonesses of the Lateran, in the convent where her
sister Limbania had already been received. She was
rejected on account of her youth, although her
confessor interceded for her. At the age of sixteen,
yielding to the will of her parents, she married
Adorno. The choice was unhappy. He was a violent man,
of bad morals, whereas she was pious and recollected.
During five years of deep aridity Catherine suffered
sadness without remedy. In the meantime her husband
dissipated her patrimony and brought the family into
financial distress. She who was called to be a great
saint began to feel discouragement. To forget this
discouragement she gave herself to exterior affairs,
and began to take pleasure in the delights and
of the world. It is probable that she never sinned
mortally, but a great tepidity ruled her heart.
One day in great dejection, after praying to St.
Benedict in the church which bears his name, she
listened to her religious sister, and went to
confession. This confession became her conversion.
Paulo de Savone relates the manner of this
As she knelt down in the confessional. she received
suddenly a wound in her heart, the wound of an
love of God, with deep insight into her own misery,
also into God's goodness. In sentiments of
love, recognition, she was purified, nearly fell to
earth, had to suspend her confession, which she
finished on the morrow. Jesus appeared to her
His cross. She did heroic penance, until God revealed
to her that she had satisfied divine justice. She
spoke these words: "If I should go back, I would wish
in punishment to have someone tear out my eyes, and
this itself would be too small a punishment, because
turn back would be to lose the eyes of my soul,
incomparably more precious than those of the body."
obtained the conversion of her husband and gave
with him to care for the sick in the chief hospital
Genoa. She led at that time a life of intense union
with God, and suffered much for the deliverance of
souls from purgatory. A fire, mysterious and
supernatural, tortured her frame and made her feel a
hunger and thirst quite abnormal. During this time
had ecstasies of pain, during which she dictated her
treatise on purgatory, which is as pithy as it is
The Divine Crucible of Purgatory, by Mother Mary
St. Austin, Helper of the Poor Souls, New York, 1940,
|| L'Ideal de l'ame fervente, 1920, p. 53.
|| Deut. 3:23 ff.
|| See note 37.
|| Rom 8:28.
|| See also the Visions of Purgatory, described in
book already cited, Un Appel a l'Amour.