See Purgatory as Joyful Purification
Fr Ralph de Hahn, Cape Town – Your October 24 edition featured a traditional interpretation of purgatory, with a plea to offer prayer and indulgences for the “suffering souls” to release these “suffering children” from this frightening “place of torment”.
The writer, Professor Michael Ogunu, tries to define temporal and eternal punishment, and rightly encourages all Christians to assist the faithful departed.
And so we must; sacred scripture is very clear that this state of purgation is a reality for “Nothing defiled can enter heaven” (Rev 21:27), and “You shall not get out till you have paid the very last penny” (Mt 5:26; Lk 12:59).
Peter is certain that our faith and love is ultimately “tested by fire…and you will be filled with joy so glorious that it cannot be described” (1 Pet1:7-9)
Of course, we know the famous text from 2 Maccabees 12:46, praying for the dead “that they may be cleansed from their sins”.
Hospital of a Merciful God
Now, the editor very wisely, on that same page, posted a different understanding on this subject by Mgr Francis Mannion, which is excellent and more to my limited understanding of this mystery.
I think we should see purgatory as the “hospital of a merciful God”, rather than a place of torment.
Indeed we have a mystery to ponder, for passing from this material world there is no place and no time. We enter God’s world: Eternity. No beginning, no end!
The soul of man is created by God and yearns to return to its creator. Listen to Psalm 42: “Like a deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is longing for you my God.”
I understand this loving, burning yearning for what lies ahead is the necessary state of purification and sanctification, for who would dare face the all-beautiful, uniquely pure and holy God with even the slightest speck of dirt?
I cannot help but see this purgatory as a joyful state, and also recall that “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8).
And our souls do, in fact, long to be totally enveloped in this divine, eternal and majestic Love — and that, surely, is heaven.