Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 1

detail of a fresco depicting Purgatory by Johann and Ignaz Finsterwalder, c.1738; nave dome, parish church of Saint Martin, Gabelbach, Zusmarshausen, Augsburg, Bavaraia, Germany; photographed on 28 April 2011 by GFreihalter; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Purgatory in the Divine Plan

Purgatory occupies an important place in our holy religion: it forms one of the principal parts of the work of Jesus Christ, and plays an essential role in the economy of the salvation of man.

Let us call to mind that the Holy Church of God, considered as a whole, is composed of three parts: The Church Militant, the Church Triumphant, and the Church Suffering or Purgatory. This triple Church constitutes the mystical body of Jesus Christ, and the souls in Purgatory are no less His members than are the faithful upon earth and the elect in Heaven. In the Gospel, the Church is ordinarily called the Kingdom of Heaven; now Purgatory, just as the heavenly and terrestrial Church, is a province of this vast kingdom.

The three sister Churches have incessant relations with each other, a continual communication which we call the Communion of Saints. These relations have no other object than to conduct souls to eternal glory, the final term to which all the elect tend. The three Churches mutually assist in peopling Heaven, which is the permanent city, the glorious Jerusalem.

What then is the work which we, members of the Church Militant, have to do for the souls in Purgatory? We have to alleviate their sufferings. God has placed in our hands the key of this mysterious prison: it is prayer for the dead, devotion to the souls in Purgatory.

MLA Citation