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Fascinating it is that our Protestant brethren discount the existence of purgatory, when its place in the afterlife and praying for souls there go back not only to the apostles but also Hebrews who lived before Jesus. It is part of our Mother Religion.

Indeed, besides the Book of Maccabees (which mentions sacrifices "for the sins of the dead," so they may be "loosed"), even today, Jews who accept the Talmud believe in a period of purification of up to twelve months. There is a traditional Jewish prayer for the deceased that's similar to Catholic prayers in the Holy Mass of Requiem.

This is emphasized by author Gerard J. M. Van Den Aardweg -- who in a new book discussing notions of purgatory points out that "affirmations of the ancient Church Fathers show that the apostles themselves professed them. St. John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinope around the year 400, said that the apostles ordained the commemoration of the departed during Holy Mass, as it is a great help for them."

Let us keep Protestants in our prayers and also remind our own priests of the need to discuss purgatory. At the same time, let us not obsess about eternal "punishment." In Jesus the experience of death is fantastic bliss!

But there are aspects we must take seriously.

For while forgiveness of sins saves us from condemnation, it does not remove the need to expiate -- that is, purify the stains left in our souls -- on our heavenly garments.

As reported in Dr. Van Den Aardweg's book, Hungry Souls, a soul gets to Heaven only when that soul has been purified close to its "first creation."

In other words, back to the purity of infancy.

Those are the powerful words of St. Catherine of Genoa (above). Symbolically, it is represented by fire.

Often, says Van Den Aardweg, mystics who encounter souls from the "in-between place" see them in a way that symbolizes what they need to purify. A quick-tempered person may be witnessed with a mouth locked with a nail; others appear in flames. "There are roughly three variants of the visible forms or figures of appearing poor souls," says Van Den Aardweg, a Catholic psychotherapist. "Either they come in the figures of the persons they were in life, with their typical clothes; amid flames; or again as deformed humans with remarkable symbolic features that represent their sins and/or punishments -- sometimes even as humanized animals or animalized humans."

For your consideration.

A caution: in the afterlife, we can expect the negative too much, when the vast majority of those who "die" and return emphasize the joy, even if they have to purify.

Said a mystic named Ruth, who lived in Poland and echoed Saint Faustina (who also saw souls), there is always hope because "God is infinitely merciful for all who call upon Him and trust Him."

But there are serious aspects.

A nun named Sister Mary Seraphine who was visited by her deceased father said she was told by him that "if a person could but once visit purgatory, he would never commit the least sin, so rigorous are the souls punished."

Ghosts from purgatory are often most recognizable by their eyes and mouths, claims the author -- relying on the testimony of a twentieth-century princess and mystic in Germany named Eugenie von der Leyen [right], who said she was frequently visited by grotesque apparitions seeking Mass, sacrifices, and prayers.

A concept this is:

That we have to cleanse the soul back to the purify of a newborn -- which is why the Lord has told us that unless we are like children, we will not see the Kingdom of Heaven.

Think of the success of Jesus: the Infant was also the Man Who died on the Cross.

Some souls, said St. Bede, are in purgatory until the end of the world (which was also said to a Fatima seer).

Especially powerful for the souls are the Rosary, invocations to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, novenas dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the De profundis (Psalm 130), and above all, we are affirmed, the Mass.

Sometimes, asserts Dr. Van Den Aardweg, souls from hell visit humans. They are distinguished from purgatorial ones in that they show not the slightest bit of hope (and may even ask a person to stop praying for them!).

On the other hand, if a soul dies with "a perfect act of love," that soul attains Heaven.

How many of us could do this? How many practice love -- or are we swept into the harshness of modern diatribes? Said one visiting soul, a deceased Dominican priest, to Princess Eugenie: "The more you love God, the greater the beatitude. Act according to that."


[resources: Hungry Souls]

[see also: Mystery church has strange burn marks from purgatorial souls]

[also: retreats on afterlife: San Antonio and San Francisco]

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