A note on purgatoryDOUG MCMANAMAN
A priest friend of a nearby diocese was once accosted by a woman who had purchased a Mass for her deceased father. What upset her was that during the Mass, my friend implied that her father was in purgatory.
Purgatory is an official doctrine of the Church. The Catechism describes it as the final purification of the elect, which is undergone “so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (sec. 1030). C.S. Lewis, who was not a Catholic, argued that our souls demand purgatory: “Would it not break the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy’? Should we not reply, ‘With submission, Sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.’ ‘It may hurt, you know.’‘Even so, sir.’” (The Business of Heaven, p. 121).
Recently I was told of a great victory for the Church. It’s the story of a man who about forty years ago decided to abandon the Church and all it represented for the sake of his freedom. He’d decided that no one was going to tell him what to do, how to choose, what is right and wrong, etc., and he chose to raise his children on the same attitude.
About thirty five years later, though, he found himself pointing a loaded gun to his head. His life had become so empty and intolerable that he was simply going to end it. He does not know why, but he didn’t end his life that day. Instead, he sought professional help.
It was his psychiatrist, however, who finally made the suggestion that he choose the reverse, the exact opposite of what he’d chosen in the past, which brought him to the point of suicide. He thought about it for a while and realized that this would mean returning to God, to the sacraments, and allowing the Church to tell him what and what not to do. And so he went to a Church one night and listened.
This man now speaks of the profound joy in his life, a joy that increases with every passing day. But he also tells of the profound sorrow that he feels, a sorrow that also increases with each passing day as he is forced to take note of the ruined lives of his children, raised as they were within the secular and permissive household of a practical atheist.
Allow me to imagine that I am a window. During the night I see nothing wrong with myself. Anyone can look through me and see the outside world. But as the sun begins to rise and its rays begin to penetrate me, I see all sorts of stains, finger prints, dried spittle, dirt, etc., that I didn’t notice before. All I can do is hope that someone will come along and wipe me clean, because if someone were to look out the window at this point, their vision would be obscured, distorted, and they would find me rather cumbersome; for my stains prevent the beauty of the world outside of me, which I am bound to channel, from being fully appreciated.
Douglas McManaman. "A Note on Purgatory". (June 2006).
Reprinted with permission of Douglas McManaman.
Douglas McManaman is a high school religion teacher with the York Catholic District School Board in Ontario. He is currently teaching at Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy in Markham, Ontario and maintains a web site, A Catholic Philosophy and Theology Resource Page, in support of his students. He studied Philosophy at St. Jerome's College in Waterloo, and Theology at the University of Montreal. Mr. McManaman is the past President of the Canadian Chapter of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. He is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.
Copyright © 2006 Douglas McManaman
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