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Is Purgatory Gone?

We don’t hear much about Purgatory today.  Some people interpret that to mean that the Catholic Church doesn’t believe in Purgatory anymore.  That is not true.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses Purgatory in paragraphs 1030-1032.  It speaks of the need for purification. 

Let me use the following story to explain the need for purification (I read this story in an email several years ago but do not know the original source). 

The Fence

There was a little boy with a bad temper.  His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, to hammer a nail in the back fence.  The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence.  Then it gradually dwindled down.  He discovered it was easier to hold temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all… He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.  The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence.  The fence will never be the same.  When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.  You can put a knife in a man and draw it out.  It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.  A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.  Friends are a very rare jewel, indeed.  They make you smile and encourage you to succeed.  They lend an ear, they share a word of praise, and they always want to open their hearts to us.

Now, allow me to change the analogy some.  In an oversimplified way, the driving of the nail into the fence represents our act of sin.  The nail is removed by God’s forgiveness.  God’s forgiveness is perfect.  Yet, the sin has already made its effect on us.  To enter into Heaven, we must  perfect.  Purgatory cleanses us of imperfection.  Purgatory is an encounter with God who makes us clean.

What about praying for the dead?  We have Masses said for the dead (see 2 Maccabees 12:32-46).  The month of November is considered a special time to pray for the dead.  November 2nd is the Feast of All Souls’ Day.  In praying for the dead, we are praying for their time in Purgatory to be swift and easy.


Fr. Jeff

One Comment

  1. Darlene says:

    Father, I loved your story, which to me makes VERY clear how sin damages our souls. The real question for me is why aren’t we still teaching these truths to our children. I have home educated my children for 17 years, and still have two children in the home. I find the catechisms that are used in the churches today very secular in their approach. With fundamentalists and Christians in our midst who are forever telling us that to be saved we must only declare that Jesus is our savior, we must make sure that our Catholic children understand that salvation takes more work than that!! They must learn what the church teaches about purgatory, good works, prayer and all the things that we must do throughout our lives in order to some day be with God in Heaven. I find the St Joseph Catechisms and (for teens) Chief Truths of the Faith by Fr. John Laux, to be very good teaching tools for learning about our Catholic faith. I wish that our parishes were looking at these older catechisms as part of their programs.
    Thanks for the blog. It helps me to reflect and gives me a lot of insight.
    God Bless,
    Dar B.

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