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Roy Doyle wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Is there anyone in Purgatory now?
  • If I commit five mortal sins and two venial sins and confess them in Confession, but before I die, commit two more venial sins that are not forgiven, am I allowed access to Purgatory and the grace of God?
  • If I have confessed all mortal sins at my death but have remaining unconfessed venial sins, would I be purified of all those sins?
  • How long would one mortal sin sentence you to in Purgatory?

Roy

  { Can you help me understand Purgatory better by answering these questions? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Roy —

Thanks for the question.

You said:

  • Is there anyone in Purgatory now?

Though the Church has no official answer to this question in the Catechism, based on what the Catechism does say, I am very sure there are many, many people currently being purified of their remaining self-love. Purgatory is more of a process then an a place. Catholic Notes:

When talking with friends and family on Purgatory, it’s important they know the basics:

  • Purgatory does exist.
  • Purgatory is not a third place along with Heaven and Hell nor it is a second chance.
  • Purgatory has nothing to do with Limbo, which was only a theological opinion and was never a doctrine of the Church.
  • Purgatory is like the Holy Hospital of Heaven.
  • Souls in Purgatory have been saved just as much as the souls in Heaven.

Purgatory refers to a temporary state of purification for those who have died in the state of grace but still need to get rid of any lingering imperfections (venial sins, earthly attachments, self-will, etc.) before entering the perfection of Heaven.

Purgatory has nothing to do with one's justification or salvation. Those in Purgatory are justified; they are saved.  Purgatory has to do with one's personal holiness and the burning away of remaining self-love.  Revelation 21:27 It's our personal holiness because each person uses their free will differently in life to make good or bad choices on our pilgrimage to our particular judgment.

This article by Emily Stimpson from Our Sunday Visitor (osv.com) September 29, 2013 will also be helpful.

If you struggle to understand the Catholic view of Purgatory, this analogy may help:

Think of sin as a self-inflicted wound in your life.

When we physically hurt ourselves, many times we have to be brought to the hospital and the doctor or nurse will put an alcoholic disinfectant in our cut or wound. It will hurt ... a lot!!! but it's a good hurt; it's a holy hurt, that is needed to make us physically better.

We also have to distinguish between less severe physical injures where we cut ourselves and require stitches and more severe injures, like a NASCAR racing driver who gets into a major collision and ends up with third or fourth-degree burns over 90 percent of their body. There are varying degrees of damage that we do to our bodies, not only physically, but spiritually too!

Because Revelation tells us that nothing impure can enter Heaven (Revelation 21:27) and because God Himself is all Holy, we too, have to be all Holy to enter Heaven. To achieve this, any remaining self-inflicted spiritual wounds (meaning self-love) from our pilgrimage on earth has to be burned off, healed, and purified.

  • If our spiritual injures are along the line of just needing stitches, that healing period where our self-love has to be burned off will be short;
  • but if our self-inflicted injuries are along the line of third or fourth-degree burns, the healing process will take longer.

Saints in the past have had private revelations from the souls in Purgatory. They [the Holy Souls in Purgatory] have shared that, while the [healing|burning] fires of God’s Love in Purgatory are painful (Hebrews 12:29, Exodus 3:1-6), at the same time they had an internal, burning joy because they knew they were being conformed to the image of God and their final destiny would be total union with Him.

Instead of the good healing pain that the alcoholic disinfectant gave us under a doctor’s care to prepare us to re-enter the earthly world again, in Purgatory, we experience a holy, healing pain under Jesus’ Care which purifies our souls and prepares us to enter eternal life with God who is all Holy.

Think of the number of people who have passed from this life to the next since 33 A.D., many with major spiritual injuries. There are a lot! This is why praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory is very important — and they can't wait for Heaven! If there are any Catholics reading this answer who have a strong devotion to praying for the Holy Souls, check out my other web site:

I work with another colleague, Brian Bagley. Together we are trying to re-kindle this devotion among the lay faithful and clergy. If you are interested we can send you a FREE starter-kit today at:

You said:

  • If I commit five mortal sins and two venial sins and confess them in Confession, but before I die, commit two more venial sins that are not forgiven, am I allowed access to Purgatory and the grace of God?

Yes! They would be forgiven and your soul would be purified of the temporal punishment due to those sins until it was totally healed and as radiant as God Himself.

You said:

  • If I have confessed all mortal sins at my death but have remaining unconfessed venial sins, would I be purified of all those sins?

Yes!

You said:

  • How long would one mortal sin sentence you to in Purgatory?

Your question raises an impossible scenario. Those who die with true mortal sins on their soul have chosen Hell and could never be saved or purified in Purgatory plus you are looking at Purgatory the wrong way.

There really isn't a sentence, in the way that prisoners are locked up in a jail for a period of time, but a purification process. Hebrews tells us Our God is a consuming fire! (Hebrews 12:29)

Those in Purgatory have had any previous mortal sins forgiven through the sacrament of Confession. The only thing missing between their total union with our Lord is the final purification of remaining self-attachments.

Mortal sin is a complete turning away from God. This is what St. Thomas Aquinas says on the issue in CCC 1856:

When the will sets itself upon something that is of its nature incompatible with the charity that orients man toward his ultimate end, then the sin is mortal by its very object . . . whether it contradicts the love of God, such as blasphemy or perjury, or the love of neighbor, such as homicide or adultery. . . . But when the sinner's will is set upon something that of its nature involves a disorder, but is not opposed to the love of God and neighbor, such as thoughtless chatter or immoderate laughter and the like, such sins are venial.

St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II,88,2, corp. art.

I hope this helps,

Mike

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