What is the purpose of purgatory?

Far from being a time to suffer God's vengeance, Purgatory is where we will be purified and learn to love

In his short book Le purgatoire dans tous ses états* (EdB), Don Paul Denizot makes purgatory acceptable. As the Church tells us, it is “space-time” where many of us will be working towards our salvation. Why did the idea of purgatory get scorned? What is the purpose of purgatory? The author shares some answers in Chronicles on Purgatory #1, a program produced by Guillaume Desanges for RCF.

*Roughly, “The many states of Purgatory”.

Why did purgatory get scorned ?

Especially in secularized Europe, purgatory got ‘polluted’ in the XIXᵉ century by romanticism and spiritualism. This did not happen in Africa, in South America and in the United States, where people still have strong faiths in praying for the souls in purgatory. This is why we need to correct some misconceptions about purgatory and call it good news.

Purgatory is good news in fact! Indeed, as Don Paul Préaux emphasizes in his preface to Don Paul Denizot’s book, its corollary is the meaning of sin and its consequences for us and for others. The existence of purgatory highlights the fact that all our actions play a role in shaping our personal history.

Through purgatory, we are also reminded that Christ’s gaze over the particular judgment is not like a shower that would clean you instantaneously. Instead, it is a gaze that transforms the soul of the departed very gradually.

Why is there such a thing as purgatory ?

Without purgatory, something would be missing from Christian faith. Whilst Purgatory is mercy, it is also justice. The inner transformation of the soul is the result of both. In purgatory, we benefit from God’s time and patience, who really takes the time to get us ready.

What is purgatory NOT?

Purgatory is not hell, it is not loneliness, it is not darkness. Nor is it God’s vengeance on the sinner or a place of ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’. Purgatory, on the other hand, is a time of joy and suffering, of inner transformation. It is a time for purification and also the opportunity for the the living to intercede for the dead.

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