During a homily, I heard the story told of an elderly man who had converted to the Catholic faith on his deathbed. “Why now?” many wanted to know.
“I’ve been thinking about it for awhile,” he explained. “The Catholics pray for their dead and the Protestants don’t. I want to be prayed for in case I will need it.”
Throughout the ages, visionaries have seen purgatory where souls long for Heaven. Catholics understand that purgatory is a place of suffering. And then, we live as if purgatory is the destination, unwilling to shoot for sainthood.
Visions of Purgatory: A Private Revelation is inspiration to live for heaven. Translated from the original French publication, the author (anonymous) under direction of a priestly spiritual director, recorded visions received from his guardian angel and messages from souls in purgatory.
His angel explained that purgatory is a place of God’s justice as much as mercy, but above all, it is a free gift of love. “My child, these holy souls in purgatory are the most beloved sons and daughters of the divine mercy. They are destined to be eternal jewels of the heavenly Jerusalem, jewels of the Immaculate Spouse. Therefore, they have to be perfectly pure; they are totally expiating the slightest sin, the minutest fault, and the slightest shadow is disappearing from them. For this reason these daughters and sons of mercy are exposed to the rigors of divine justice.”
People who have had near death experiences often report a light and not wanting to return to earth. In the book, it is explained that the souls in purgatory suffer deprivation of God after first being dazzled by the divine light, attracted by divine love and captivated by the beauty and holiness of God. Purgatory is the deprivation of God while each soul has its own particular experience of remorse for wrong doings and sufferings and from being forgotten and separated from those on earth.
The visionary came to understand that the desire of the souls in purgatory should be our own desire: total conformity to the will of God. He wrote: “Such is the terrible punishment of purgatory—a heat-rendering and ardent languishing of love in the soul. All the rest are nothing more than consequences of this languishing of love: the feeling of estrangement, being forgotten, darkness, hunger for God, the duration of this punishment, the forgetfulness or negligence of those who are still on earth, the clear vision of sin and sadness for having sinned, etc.”
The author wrote that as part of the communion of saints, we can pray to lessen the suffering of the souls in purgatory. “You have to pray much for the blessed souls—above all offer your Communions for them. This powerfully helps bring about their liberation.” The visionary learned that the Blessed Mother brings the great consolations of our prayers to the throne of God and then Jesus the blood and water from his divine heart, Mary adds her tears and love and then offers it all to the consolation for the souls in purgatory.
Having glimpsed purgatory, the author warned that no one should want to go there. “You should make an effort to do all you can to avoid purgatory and go directly to heaven after your death. If you knew what purgatory was like, you would do everything to avoid it and would take advantage of the time granted you on earth to advance through love, the hour of your meeting with God.”
To avoid purgatory, the angel told him: “You have to surrender yourself totally to divine love. You have to let yourself be transformed by love until you are converted into a perfect instrument of love.”
He said we should be motivated by love. “The only way to avoid purgatory is not to do everything to avoid it, but to do everything to go to heaven. It is to work untiringly for your own perfection and salvation, giving yourself to the infinite love of God in conformity in everything with his demands, not having anything else in mind other than the glory of God. Everything else is vanity.”
The souls that suffer most, according to the author, are those who sinned against charity and did not know how to be detached from themselves and give themselves to God and their neighbor. “ I saw how sins of the tongue, avarice, envy, and attachment to material goods are the cause of particularly severe punishment in purgatory. By contrast, charity, mercy, patience gentleness, humility, and joy communicated to others, long with abandonment to the will of God (above all when death is approaching), are attitudes that can shorten time in purgatory.”
It is hard not to be immersed in the worldly cares that surround us. Visions of Purgatory provides inspiration that makes it easier to begin living for heaven now.