Avoiding Purgatory

Suffering - Now or Later?

"Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus,
that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies."
Mortification of Jesus (Rev 22:12-15)

The Mystery of Suffering

Suffering, either in this world or the world to come, is a subject no one likes to think about. In our day, and, in particular, the Western culture, suffering is seen as an evil to be avoided at all costs. Not much has changed since Jesus suffered a horrible, shameful death on the Cross - with His Mother witnessing and sharing His agony.

Suffering - yes, it is a mystery. Yet if we wish to share in the glory of Jesus' Resurrection, we must be prepared to accept what He accepted - suffering for the sake of others in union with Jesus. All He did was for others. That's where suffering begins to make sense.

Jesus -- the Son of God -- was willing and eager to share in our sufferings. He experienced all of them in His flesh. Some might be tempted to say, "Suffering is evil -- the root of all evil." But that was what Peter thought when Jesus told him he would suffer, be crucified and die, and on the third day be raised again. Jesus rebuked Peter abruptly, and told him what was truly evil: "Get behind me, Satan".

No Cross, no Resurrection - no dying to self, no new life in Him.

For the majority of souls, self-will, self-love asserts itself: "My will be done, not yours, Lord." We are not willing to embrace suffering. We are not willing to be generous with our suffering and offer it for the salvation of souls, as Our Lady at Fatima lamented.

Most souls will not be ready to see Love in His Absolute Purity and Goodness. We have been blinded by our own selfishness, and have fallen for the ancient temptation 'to be like gods'. We want our way.

Most souls will to go to purgatory - to be cleansed, to be purified. One account, in particular, highlights this desire. St. Gertrude saw, in a vision, a very devout nun standing before Our Lord, but was unable to gaze at His Face. She backed away as He beckoned her to come. When the Saint asked her why she did not go to Him, she replied that she was not yet cleansed of every stain left on her soul by her sins. She knew she was not pure enough, and wanted to be purified. She chose to be purified in purgatory.

God is Love -- and if He suffered, and if we wish to call ourselves Christians, His followers, we must do the same, for the same reason. Blessed Mother Teresa once said,"when suffering comes to us, we should accept it with a smile, because it is the greatest gift that God gives us. It is a gift to have the courage to accept everything that He sends us."

The choice is ours. We can love now, as He loved, and willingly accept and offer our suffering for others. By doing so, we will show our love for Him and gain great merit. Or we can wait, and have it imposed later, by purifying necessity, with no merit.

Two Saints

Often, when we encounter someone who is suffering, we may be struck by their sense of courage and determination. We see them work hard to overcome weaknesses and to accept their illness within the framework of their lives. A few even rise to embrace their illness with heroic virtue.

Two young women stand out as wonderful examples of this virtue. Both were inflicted with a terribly virulent, utterly debilitating, fatal disease that wasted away their young lives. In their time period, their disease was not unlike many today in that it was 'untreatable' — TB (tuberculosis).

A singular feature shines through in both these women — their focus — during their torments. Neither mentioned their sufferings, but quietly and resolutely accepted them. They offered their sufferings so that others would have life — life with their loving God.

It would be worthwhile to pray that we have the courage to emulate these two young women. pray that Jesus will give us the grace to become little saints who love Him dearly, and who wish to bring His love into the hearts of all whom we meet.

The names of these two ladies: St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Bernadette Soubirous. (Bernadette's body is still 'incorrupt'. A photograph of her exhumed body clearly shows that her skin, fingers, and facial features have the rosy glow of life — all traces of her disease are gone!)

St. Bernadette Soubirous

Perhaps, as with other struggles in our lives, we need role-models to help keep us focused on what is important. There are four things we need to be aware of everyday, to give our lives meaning: death, judgment, heaven, hell. We are here to know, love, and serve Our God with our whole mind, heart, and soul and to love our neighbor as ourselves. These young women continue to inspire many to seek this loving God of ours in everyone we meet.

How a Desolate Person Ought to Offer Himself into the Hands of God

"O Lord God, holy Father, be Thou now and forever blessed; for as Thou wilt, so it is done, and what Thou dost is always good. Let Thy servant rejoice in Thee, not in himself nor in any other: for Thou alone art true joy. Thou alone art my hope and my crown. Thou art my joy and my honor, O Lord. What hath Thy servant but what he hath received from Thee, even without any merit on his part? All things are Thine, both what Thou hast given and what Thou hast made. I am poor, and in labors from my youth, and my soul is saddened sometimes even unto tears, and sometimes too my spirit is disturbed within herself by reason of impending suffering.

2. I desire the joy of peace; I beg earnestly for the peace of Thy children, who are fed by Thee in the light of consolation. If Thou give peace, if Thou infuse holy joy, the soul of Thy servant shall be full of melody, and devout in Thy praise. But if Thou withdraw Thyself, as Thou art very often accustomed to do, he will not be able to run in the way of Thy commandments, but must rather bow down his knees, and strike his breast; because it is not with him as yesterday and the day before, when Thy lamp shone over his head, and he was protected under the shadow of Thy wings from assaulting temptations.

3. O just Father, holy, and ever to be praised, the hour is come for Thy servant to be tried. O Father worthy of all love, it is fitting that Thy servant should be at this hour suffering something for Thee. O Father always to be honored, the hour is come which from all eternity Thou didst forsee would arrive; that Thy servant for a short time should be oppressed exteriorly, but interiorly should strive ever live unto Thee; that he should be for a little slighted and humbled, and should fail in the sight of men. That he should be severely afflicted with sufferings and languor, that so he may rise again with Thee in the dawning of a new light, and be glorified in heaven. O holy Father, Thou hast so appointed, and such is Thy will; and that has come to pass which Thou has ordained.

4. For this is a favor to Thy friend, that he should suffer and be afflicted in this world for the love of Thee how often soever, by whomsoever, Thou permittest it to befall him. Without Thy design and providence, and without cause, nothing happeneth in the world. It is good for me, O Lord, that Thou hast humbled me, that I may learn Thy justifications, and that I may cast away all pride of heart and presumption. It is profitable for me that shame hath covered my face, that I may rather seek my comfort from Thee than from men. I have also hereby learned to fear Thy inscrutable judgment; who afflictest the just with the impious, but not without equity and justice.

5. I return Thee thanks that Thou hast not spared my evil ways, but hast bruised me with bitter stripes, inflicting anguish, and sending distress both within and without. Of all things under heaven, there is none that can comfort me but Thou, O Lord my God, the Heavenly Physician of souls, who woundest and healest, bringest down to hell and leadest back again. Thy discipline is upon me, and thy rod itself shall instruct me.

6. Behold, O beloved Father, I am in Thy hands; I bow myself down under the rod of Thy correction. Strike Thou my back and neck, that I may bend my perversity to Thy will. Make me a pious and humble disciple, as Thou in Thy goodness art wont to do, that I may walk according to every indication of Thy will. Myself and all that are mine I commit to Thee for Thy correction; it is better to be chastised here than hereafter. Thou knowest all and everything, and nothing in man's conscience lieth hidden from Thee. Coming events Thou knowest before they happen; and Thou hast no need to be taught or admonished by any one of what is being done on earth. Thou knowest what is expedient for my progress, and how much tribulation serveth to cleanse away the rust of sin. Do with me according to Thy desired good pleasure; and despise not my sinful life, to no one better or more clearly known than to Thyself alone.

7. Grant me, O Lord, to know what I ought to know; to love what I ought to love; to praise that which is most pleasing to Thee; to esteem that which appeareth to Thee valuable; to abhor that which is filthy in Thy sight. suffer me not to judge according to the sight of the outward eyes, nor to give sentence according to the hearing of the ears of ignorant men; but to determine upon matters both visible and spiritual with true judgment and, above all things, ever to seek Thy good will and pleasure.

8. The senses of men are often deceived in giving judgments; and the lovers of this world are deceived in loving only visible things. How is a man a whit better for being reputed greater by man? The deceitful deceiveth the deceitful, the vain deceiveth the vain, the blind the blind, the weak the weak, as often as he extolleth him; and, in truth, doth rather confound him, whilst he vainly praiseth him. For how much soever each one is in Thy eyes, so much is he and no more, saith the humble Saint Francis.

Practical Reflections

As God is the sovereign purity and the essence of sanctity, so He is pleased to purify our souls by the most painful and humiliating sufferings in this life, or by torments the most acute and piercing in purgatory, to fit them for the possession of Himself in the kingdom of heaven. By these means He brings them to that degree of purity which is necessary to qualify them for the eternal and happy possession of His sanctity. Hence, that which constitutes the confirmity of a faithful soul, with the designs of God for its sanctification and salvation is, first, to live in such purity of heart as to avoid all willful sin, all human attachments, and, above all, the pursuits of self-love, habitual faults, and self-will; secondly, it is to be ready to receive, from Jesus Christ, trials the most humiliating, and most contrary to its own inclinations; thirdly, it is to support and fight without ceasing, against the most violent and importunate temptations, by having perpetual recourse to God, with a firm confidence in His goodness; fourthly, in all sufferings, it is to keep up a continual spirit of compunction, mortification, and of a horror of sin, which will preserve us from falling into it; fifthly, it is to be most diligent in keeping a guard over the senses and the heart, that no sensual or merely human satisfaction may enter in; sixthly, it is to be humble, dependent, little, and nothing before God, to desire nothing but His will, and to rejoice in its accomplishment, even under the pressure of the heaviest calamities.


Although! I am convinced, O God, of the necessity of being humble, faithful, and resigned to affliction, yet to excuse my impatience, how often do I pretend that it is the result of a religious fear and anxiety, lest these trials should end in sin, instead of victory. But dost Thou not know better than I do, O Father of mercies, and God of all consolation? didst Thou not see this danger? and is this not sufficient to induce Thee, the best of fathers, to assist me? Alas! O Lord, abandon me not, and deliver me not to the desires of my corrupt heart. Remember, O Jesus, how much I have cost Thee, and suffered not Thy torments and death to plead for me in vain. I ardently desire that peace which Thou givest to Thy children, and I find nothing within me but trouble and agitation. Why am I so averse to good, and so much inclined to evil? Why is my soul so frequently bewildered amidst the irregular demands of my passions, and carried by its first impulse towards everything that is contrary to Thy holy will? I mourn over the corruption of my heart, and from Thee alone do I hope for deliverance. It is just I should suffer, on account of my sins; but it is not just I should sin in my sufferings. May I never offend Thee and ruin myself by impatience under affliction, but, O God, grant that by them I may sanctify my soul and secure my salvation. Amen."

Taken from The Following Of Christ: In Four Books, by Thomas A. Kempis. Book 3, Chapter L, pp. 389-396.

Action Item

The Church teaches that one of the spiritual works of mercy is "to pray for the living and the dead." May we invite you to sponsor a Beloved? If you have already done so, would you consider 'adopting' another soul, and agree to pray for their repose?
May God bless you abundantly here and in the life to come!