In Lent we practice penance by helping the material and spiritual poor, including “the poor souls in purgatory”. Although we are called to give ourselves and our gifts and talents completely to God for the salvation of souls, only some people will love God perfectly to give everything, like the martyrs, and thus be brought to the fullness of heaven immediately.
The majority of us practicing the Christian faith will have to be purified in purgatory because of our attachment to earthly things at the expense of our relationship to Jesus Christ and his Church, and those who are materially or spiritually poor.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph,#1030) states: “All who die in God‟s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven.”
“The Church gives the name "Purgatory‟ to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned …As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. (Mt 12, 32) From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.” (Catechism, #1031)
Fortunately, those who follow Christ on earth can help the suffering faithful who are in purgatory. The following is a summary of norms for gaining indulgences for the poor souls in purgatory or oneself (Updated in the Jubilee Year, 2000). A plenary indulgence is a complete release from the temporal punishment due for sins already forgiven (as far as their guilt is concerned, assuredly through the Sacrament of Confession).
Conditions to receive the gift of a plenary indulgence:
A) One must have a least a general intention to gain a plenary indulgence.
B) One must be baptized and in the state of grace.
C) One must receive Holy Communion each time a plenary indulgence is sought.
D) One must go to Confession within approximately a two-week period. A single sacramental confession suffices for gaining one plenary indulgence each day for that two-week period (it is recommended that a person make a good confession at the beginning of the process).
E) One must have a disposition of mind and heart which totally excludes all attachment to sin, even venial sin (this is the most challenging part), otherwise that person can gain only a partial indulgence.
F) One must pray for the intentions of the Holy Father— the Pope—preferably one “Our Father” and one “Hail Mary,” however, any other pious prayer may be substituted.
G) One must also fulfill one of the following suggested spiritual works: At least a half hour of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; or a family or group Rosary; a private Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament; a half hour of pious reading of the Sacred Scripture (Bible); walking the Stations of the Cross in a church or with a properly erected display.
You can apply a plenary indulgence once a day to yourself or to someone who has died. Also, you may ask that person to pray for you and your intentions. In this manner we share in the spiritual treasury of the mercy of Christ who is Lord of all the members of the Church.
Let us recall what Christ Jesus said to St. Peter, our first Pope, when he gave him the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will loosed in Heaven.” Mt. 16, 19. A special indulgence is given for those who pray the Divine Mercy Novena that starts on Good Friday and ends on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter. Divine Mercy Novena brochures can be found in the entrance of all three of our churches, or go online for more information.
I thank all those who help with providing for the material poor during Lent, but let us not forget those who may yet be in Purgatory.
Peace in Christ, Fountain of all Mercy,
Fr. Thomas McCabe