We, Catholics has to be reminded of many things that we already know.
Our body has a soul and upon death the soul will need to be purified in order to enter heaven. That soul will have to be cleansed in purgatory in order to make sure “… nothing unclean will enter (heaven),” (Revelations 21:27). And by purification it is by means of fire. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1031): The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. 606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: 607.
Also “The fire of Purgatory is the same as the fire of Hell; the difference between them is that the fire of Purgatory is not everlasting,” said St. John Marie Vianney. A fire that cleanses and consumes. How blazing can a divine soul-purifying-fire can be compared to the material fire we know that can be extinguished here on earth. From the book Thirty Days’ Devotion to the Holy Souls, it was related by St. Peter Damian how even imperfections of saints need to be cleansed by the fire of purgatory. The book also revealed in one instance how a soul before his death, plead for prayer and offer a Holy Sacrifice of the Mass from his fellow priest. He suffered for what seemed to be 30 years in the flames of purgatory, when in fact it was barely an hour of his demise. If a fire can actually purify a soul how painful can it be? Can you picture a dear friend or love one suffering from a raging fire at this very moment? They are surely asking for our prayers, to offer them Holy Mass for the repose of their souls. Just how much do we love a departed love one?
The holy souls in purgatory cannot do acts of reparation for their sins. It’s being cleansed by the divine fire created by God out of His great love for us to purify us. The most loving Father has given us another chance to be worthy of heaven. 1030, 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. (CCC)
Praying for the dead is encouraged by the church for it is written in the Book of 2 Maccabees 12:44-45, “For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore, he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”
A big dilemma for our Protestant brothers for they do not agree and do not believe in such offering. They removed the Book of Maccabees from the original 73 books of the Bible as they have only 66. But even St. Paul prayed for Onesiphorus who has died, 2 Timothy 1: 17-18.
“Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their fathers sacrifices why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.”, said St. John Chrysostom.
Thus, as devout Catholics it is our duty to assist the holy souls in purgatory in order for them to be delivered from the cleansing flames. There are many ways we can help the departed, especially our love ones. The flames is constantly blazing to purify their soul, thus to picture their condition is beyond words. It is a must for us, the living, to free them with our ways as taught by the church and the saints.
Offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, a rosary prayer, a good deed, sprinkling holy water on the grave, and offering a prayer to the departed whenever we passed by a cemetery, a church or a vision from a dream will help alleviate the sufferings they have. These acts are part of tradition and taught to Catholics to aid the Church Suffering. It will quench their thirst for love and refresh their souls from the torture and pain they have to endure in purgatory.
Just how much do we love a departed loved one? We love them. And we should free them and join Jesus and Mary with the Church Triumphant, the saints. We can only show our true love and how much we value their memory by always always making the effort to gather all the necessary available grace and sacrifices for the release of their holy souls.
St. Margaret Mary once said:
“If only you knew with what great longing these holy souls yearn for relief from their suffering. Ingratitude has never entered Heaven.”