Ask a Franciscan

Purgatory on Earth?

I read somewhere a theory that after death we live our lives over again to see the sins we committed, the people we hurt, and that impact on others. At my advanced age, I am constantly recalling various times in my life where I hurt others (in no criminal or unlawful way); some of the memories are too painful to recall (for example, my son’s suicide). Is it possible to experience our purgatory while still here on earth?

Please know that your son has always been in God’s loving hands. So are you. Joy is God’s natural gift; we could say that Satan, on the other hand, has the monopoly on discouragement, using it to maximum effect. Yes, it is possible to experience purgatory on earth, not necessarily eliminating “more” purgatory after death. As to the theory that you mentioned, we can only live once; that is what makes each day’s decisions so significant.

We can in later years, however, come to appreciate more fully the effect of our actions on other people and how their actions have influenced our lives—positively or negatively. Sometimes we can directly repair some of the damage we have done. Other times, we can allow that experience to make us more compassionate or generous people.

Beneath the Catholic Church’s teaching about purgatory is its conviction that not everyone who is going to heaven is necessarily ready to be with God. Without a further cleansing of some type, being in God’s presence continually could be more frustrating than consoling, because the person has not yet accepted God’s ways completely and how they impact our dealings with other people.


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4 thoughts on “Purgatory on Earth?”

  1. How can we accept God’s ways completely, if we only know Him hidden in the immensity of his majesty.
    Only the Beatific Vision can allow us to comprehend and even then in a fractional way, understand Him.
    I think purgatory has to be first an act of love, for when you love you are willing to suffer for the Love One.
    In the words of Our Dear Lord: “ Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends “
    the only difference here is that instead of purging for sins he never had, He was purging our sins to rescue
    us from the enemy of humanity, the Devil. The Greatest Gift Ever Given.
    Yes we must be willingly accept the purification of our souls as an act of love for Him to whom we caused
    so much pain. Only then we will be ready for the banquet.

  2. I am not Catholic, but have recently begun to feel led to pray for people who have died that they could be forgiven of their sins and be welcomed into heaven. Jesus sacrificed his human body and suffered on the cross in full payment for our sins. Forgiveness is received by believing in Jesus and accepting this gift. (John 3:16-17) We are forgiven and yet still imperfect humans. I have been reading about purgatory and find there are many interpretations. I was raised in the Methodist church and I am still a member today, so I was never introduced to this concept. I have read that purgatory is like a concentration camp situated next to the fires of hell for suffering to pay for our sins and also another more merciful approach, that purgatory is the flame of God’s love cleansing us of all sins so that we may be received into the joy of God’s communion. A fire not of punishment but of love that each soul must pass through to be purified as we enter into the joy of heaven.

  3. With all due respect Father, you left out the pains/fires of purification in purgatory. While, God acceptance of our souls will surely provide relief the accounts of saints passed have shown us that purgatory is not going be pleasant. That’s why reconciliation is paramount in shortening our stay. 🙏

  4. Through the fire unscathed and the fire is there to purify us. To me it’s a good thing once you surrender and accept the punishment and or discipline purgatory can end up being a blessing once you learn how to truly love

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