The great Doctor of Milan, St. Ambrose, has beautiful words on the subject. ” It has been easier for me,” he writes, ” to find men who have preserved their innocence, than sinners who have performed a suitable penance. St Ambrose 340 -397AD.
A DOCTRINAL CATECHISM; WHEREIN DIVERS POINTS OF CATHOLIC FAITH AND PRACTICE ASSAILED BY
MODERN HERETICS ARE SUSTAINED BY AN APPEAL TO THE
HOLY SCRIPTURES, THE TESTIMONY OF THE ANCIENT
FATHERS, AND THE DICTATES OF REASON
CHAPTER I – Essentials of MASS INSTITUTED BY CHRIST
Q. How do you prove that there is a Purgatory, or middle state between hell and heaven?
A. It is proved, 1st, from the Old Testament; 2dly, from the New Testament; and, 3dly, from tradition.
Q. What is your proof from the Old Testament?
A. In [2d Machab. chap. 12], where Judas, the valiant commander, collects and sends to Jerusalem twelve thousand drachmas of silver, for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead. “It is therefore,” says this passage, “a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins.”
Q. What do you conclude from this passage?
A. That besides heaven and hell there is a middle state; because, as the souls in heaven require not the aid of prayer, so the souls in hell can receive no benefit from it; hence, there must be some third state of souls, in which prayer is beneficial to them.
Q. But is this book of Machabees a canonical book, containing God’s word?
A. It has been recognized as such from the earliest ages. St. Augustine (Civit. Dei, chap. 36) says: “The Church of God has always acknowledged the Machabees as a canonical book.” Protestants have rejected this book like many other books of Scripture, because it contains doctrines opposed to their novel inventions. They do not seem to reflect, that it is on the authority of the Catholic Church they know the Scriptures which they admit to be God’s word, and they have that authority for this book as well as for the rest.
Q. Does not the author of Machabees make an apology for the errors it contains?
A. Yes; for errors of style, but not for errors in fact or doctrine. See, for another argument on this subject of Purgatory, [Gen xxxvii. 33].
CHAPTER II. – Proofs New Testament
Q. How do you prove from the New Testament that there is a Purgatory?
A. From Matthew, chap. 12: “Whosoever speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him; neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”
Q. What inference does St. Augustine draw from this passage? (Civit. Dei, chap, xiv, lib 21.)
A. That some sins are forgiven in the next world, otherwise this passage of Scripture would be nonsense. Now sins are not remitted in heaven, for no sin can enter there; nor in hell, for there is no redemption from that awful abode: therefore there must be some third place, where some sins are forgiven.
Q. Cite the words of St. Paul? (1 Cor. chap. iii.)
A. “And the fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide….he shall receive a reward; if any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer
loss, but he himself shall be saved, yet so by fire.”
Q. What on this do you remark?
A. There can be no pain, or suffering, a fire in heaven; nor is the fire of hell for salvation, but damnation: therefore this fire, which work unto salvation, must be in Purgatory.
Q. What says the same Apostle? (Philip chap. ii, 10.)
A. “That, at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.”
Q. How do you reason on this?
A. By those under the earth, are evidently evidently meant, not the dead bodies, but the souls of the dead not yet in heaven. Now these souls are certainly either in hell or in Purgatory: or in both. But St. Paul cannot allude to those in hell, for he knew well that they would not bow the knee to Jesus, therefore he may allude to souls in some other place; which is not heaven, or earth, or the hell of the damned; therefore that place exists, and it is that which Catholics call Purgatory.
Q. What does St. John say (Apoc. chap xxi, 27) of Heaven?
A. “And there shall not enter into it anything defiled.”
Q. What do you conclude from this?
A. That there must be some place for the purification of souls after death; because the Scripture assures us, that even the just man falls seven times,—and can any one in his senses suppose that many will not die without expiating these faults? With these they cannot enter heaven, which receive nothing defiled; they cannot be sent to hell, for they are, according to Scripture, JUST. Therefore there must be a third place, where these railings of even the just man will be expiated. See also 1 Corinth. chap. xv, 29; 2 Tim. i, 18,—where St. Paul prays for Onesiphorus after he was dead.
Q. Did any one ascend to heaven before our Saviour?
A. No; for in St. John, chap. iii, 18, Christ says—”No man hath ascended up to heaven but He that came down from heaven.”
Q. Where then were all the just souls of the Old Testament until Christ’s ascension?
A. They were not in heaven, they were not in hell; therefore they were in some middle place or state.
Q. What is the meaning of that passage in 1 Peter, iii, 18, which says, that Christ went and preached unto the spirits in prison? Where were these spirits?
A. They were not in heaven, for there they
would require no preaching; they were not in hell for there preaching could be of no use to them;—therefore they were in some middle state where the souls of the just were awaiting the coming of the Redeemer, by whom the gates of heaven were to be re-opened, and they admitted into the presence of God.
Q. Does not the Scripture say, that as the tree falls so it shall Lie?
A. Yes; but this means, simply, that every man who dies, is either saved or lost; and it may also refer to the state of the soul after the last judgment. The moment man dies, his ultimate fate is decided, either for the south or the north, for heaven or hell.
Q. Is it not said, (Apoc. xiv.)—”Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they shall rest from their labors?”
A. Yes; thrice blessed we say; but this text only alludes to martyrs, and such as die free from all sin and debt of temporal punishment, and such, of course, require not purification. They really die in the Lord.
Q. Does not Christ say to the good thief, “This day thou shalt be with me in paradise?”
A. Yes; but it is not clear, that by paradise, is here meant heaven and not Purgatory; and even if this were clear, a miracle of God’s grace, wrought in favor of a penitent on the very day the world was redeemed, is not to be considered as God’s general rule with regard to sinners. In fine, the good thief suffered much on the cross, and Christ might have received his patient sufferings there as his purgatorial expiation.
CHAPTER III. – Proofs from Tradition
Q. What is your third mode of proving that there is a Purgatory?
A. By tradition, or the unanimous testimony of the Fathers.
Q. Was all antiquity of the belief that there is a Purgatory?
A. The third Council of Carthage, anno 253, decreed prayers for the dead. The Council of Chalons in 579, the Council of Worms in 829, and the Council of Trent, all came to the same decision.
Q. Are the Ancient Fathers unanimous on this question?
A. You have only to consult Berrington’s and Kirk’s Faith of Catholics, to be satisfied that they are most unanimous. St. Ephrem orders prayers for the repose of his soul after his death. The Emperor Constantine wished to be buried in a church, that the faithful might remember him in their prayers to God. St. Chrysostom, in his 1 Hom. on 1 Epist. to Corinth. says: ” The tears of the living are not useless to the dead,—that prayers and alms relieve them.” St. Jerom, in his Epistle to Pammachius, remarks: “It is customary to strew with flowers the graves of the female dead, but you have followed a better usage in strewing the grave of your wife with alms for the solace of her soul.”
St. Augustine, in 13th chap. or his 9th Book of Confession, says: “I shed not a tear, whilst they offered the holy sacrifice for the peace of my dear mother’s soul.” On the 37th Psalm, he prays thus: “Purify me, O Lord, in this life, that I may not require the application of that fire, by which souls are tried in the next;” and, in his Work on the Heresies, (Heresy 53,) he says: “Aerius was the first who dared to teach, that it was of no use to offer up prayers and sacrifices for the dead, and this doctrine of Aerius is the fifty-third heresy.”
Q. Does it follow, from the circumstance that the ancient Church prayed for the dead that there is a Purgatory?
A. Certainly; if the Church always prayed for the dead, she believed the dead were in a place where prayer could be beneficial to them; this place was not heaven, nor could it be hell, therefore it was Purgatory.
Indulgence Today: V – THE HEROIC ACT OF CHARITY #593 (S.C. Ind. Sep 30m1852 and Nov 20,1854; S.P. Ap., Jan 26,1932.) RACCOLTA pg 473.
The faithful who make the heroic act in favor of the souls detained in purgatory, may gain: A plenary indulgence, only applicable to the Dead: 1. on any day that they receive Holy communion, if they have made their confession an visited some church or public oratory and prayed for the intentions of the Sovereign Pontiff; 2. on any Monday of the year, or if some impediment arises, on the following Sunday, if they attend Mass in supplication for the faithful departed and moreover fulfill the usual conditions.