Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 57

Saint Catherine of GenoaArticle

Advantages – Stimulant to Fervor – Cautions to us – Probability of going to Purgatory – Means of Escaping it – Employment of those Means – Saint Catherine of Genoa

If holy Religious pass through Purgatory, although not detained there, have we not to fear that we shall not only pass through it, but also remain for a longer or shorter time? Can we live in a security that would be, to say the least, very imprudent? Our faith and our conscience tell us that our fear of Purgatory is well grounded. I go still further, dear reader, and say that with a little reflection you yourself must acknowledge that it is very probable, and almost certain, that you will go to Purgatory. Is it not true that on leaving this earth your soul will enter into one of those three abodes pointed out to us by faith: Hell, Heaven or Purgatory? Will you go to Hell? It is not probable, because you have a horror of mortal sin, and for nothing in the world would you commit one, or keep it upon your conscience after having committed it. Will you go to Heaven? You answer immediately that you think yourself unworthy of such a favor. There remains, then, but Purgatory; and you must own that it is very probable, almost certain, that you will go into that place of expiation.

By setting this grave truth before your eyes, do not think, dear reader, that we wish to frighten you, or take from you all hope of entering Heaven without Purgatory. On the contrary, this hope must ever remain deeply impressed upon our hearts, for it is the spirit of Jesus Christ, who nowise desires that His disciples should stand in need of future expiation. He even instituted Sacraments and established all sorts of means to assist us to make full satisfaction in this world. But these means are too often neglected; and it is especially by a salutary fear that we are stimulated to make use of them.

Now, what are those means which we have to employ in order to avoid, or at least shorten, our Purgatory and mitigate its rigor? They are evidently those exercises and good works which most assist us to satisfy for our faults in this world and to find mercy before God, namely, the following: devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and fidelity in wearing her scapular; charity towards the living and the dead; mortification and obedience; a pious reception of the Sacraments, especially on the approach of death; confidence in the Divine Mercy; and, finally, the holy acceptation of death in union with the death of Jesus upon the cross.

These means are sufficiently powerful to preserve us from Purgatory, but we must make use of them. Now, to employ them seriously and with perseverance, one condition is necessary: it is to form a firm resolution of satisfying in this world rather than in the next. This resolution must be based upon faith, which teaches us how easy is satisfaction in this life, how terrible is Purgatory. Be at agreement with thy adversary betimes, says Jesus Christ, whilst thou art in the way with him; lest, perhaps, thy adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Amen, I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last farthing. (Matthew 5:25)

To be reconciled with our adversary in the way, signifies, in the mouth of Our Lord, to appease Divine Justice, and to make satisfaction on our way through life, before reaching that unchangeable end, that eternity where all penance is impossible, and where we shall have to submit to all the rigors of Justice. Is not this counsel of our Divine Saviour most wise?

Can we appear before the tribunal of God burdened with an enormous debt, which we might so easily have discharged by some works of penance, and which we shall then have to pay by years of torment? “He who purifies himself from his faults in the present life,” says Saint Catherine of Genoa, “satisfies with a penny a debt of a thousand ducats; and he who waits until the other life to discharge his debts, consents to pay a thousand ducats for that which he might before have paid with a penny.” We must, therefore, begin with the firm and efficacious resolution of making satisfaction in this world; that is the foundation stone. This foundation once laid, we must employ the means enumerated above.

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