Purgatory and the Valley of Death

What happens when someone dies.

Catholic teaching regarding prayers for the dead is bound up inseparably with the doctrine of purgatory and the more general doctrine of the communion of the saints, which is an article of the Apostle’s Creed. The definition of the Council of Trent (Sess. XXV), “that purgatory exists, and that the souls detained therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but especially by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar”, is merely a restatement in brief of the traditional teaching which had already been embodied in more than one authoritative formula — as in the creed prescribed for converted Waldenses by Innocent III in 1210 (Denzinger, Enchiridion, n. 3 73) and more fully in the profession of faith accepted for the Greeks by Michael Palaeologus at the Second Ecumenical Council of Florence in 1439: ” likewise, that if the truly penitent die in the love of God, before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for their sins of commission and omission, their souls are purified by purgatorial pains after death; and that for relief from these pains they are benefitted by the suffrages of the faithful in this life, that is, by Masses, prayers, and almsgiving, and by the other offices of piety usually performed by the faithful for one another according to the practice of the Church” (ibid., n. 588).
Prayers for the Dead – Catholic Encyclopedia

So, the basic assumption of Catholic doctrine appears to be that almost no one has “attained perfect holiness at death”, so almost everyone who dies who would be in Heaven doesn’t go there, but instead goes to ‘purgatory’.

Jesus said if we believe in Him, then we are assured of eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. John 3:16 (NIV) Paul wrote: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (NIV) Jesus doesn’t mention a half-way house between Earth and Heaven. Neither do any of the NT writers.

In her book Heaven is so Real, Choo Thomas writes of Jesus taking her on a guided tour of Heaven, including a valley of death full of sinful Christians wandering around dejected in ‘gray-colored robes’. Choo asks Jesus “What is going to happen to them?” Jesus tells Choo “Most of them will go to the lake of fire after the judgment.”
Heaven is so Real – Choo Thomas

The Catholic ‘purgatory’ is a half way house from where Christians eventually get to go to Heaven. It seems almost all Christians go there. The half way house of Choo Thomas is where ‘bad’ Christians go before they go to Hell. Some form of delaying the inevitable. But some seem to get to Heaven.

I can’t believe either. When my mother died I know she went to Heaven. Why and how could I possibly believe anything else. She deeply loved God, shown by her willingness to help anyone, and voluntary work at the local parish and schools despite her health problems. She went to Mass almost everyday of her life. To assume that because she was a sinner and required some form of purification in ‘purgatory’ makes no sense. She went to Confession often, said sorry for her sins and repented. Jesus paid for her sins. I don’t pray to Jesus for my mother. I know she is in Heaven. She is not in some mythical place called ‘purgatory’.

I don’t pretend to understand everything. But I believe that everyone’s future is decided the moment they die. Heaven or Hell. There is no half way house.

A friend of mine keeps trying to lend me the Choo Thomas book. Sorry, but I’d rather read the Bible.

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3 Replies to “Purgatory and the Valley of Death”

  1. I wouldn’t read Choo either, Gez. However, if you research some of the Jewish beliefs of the afterlife during the time of Christ, you’d be surprised how close some of them are.

    But, yeah, Choo’s train might not have made it to the station.

  2. The doctrine of purgatory, or the final purification, has been part of the true faith since before the time of Christ. The Jews already believed it before the coming of the Messiah, as revealed in the Old Testament (2 Maccabees 12:41–45) as well as in other pre-Christian Jewish works, such as one which records that Adam will be in mourning “until the day of dispensing punishment in the last years, when I will turn his sorrow into joy” (The Life of Adam and Eve 46–7). Orthodox Jews to this day believe in the final purification, and for eleven months after the death of a loved one, they pray a prayer called the Mourner’s Kaddish for their loved one’s purification.

    Jews, Catholics, and the Eastern Orthodox have always historically proclaimed the reality of the final purification. It was not until the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century that anyone denied this doctrine. As the quotes below from the early Church Fathers show, purgatory has been part of the Christian faith from the very beginning.

    1. I would tend to say, at the moment, that purgatory was the initial doctrine, following Judaism, but only later, as psychological fear was needed Eternal Torment was developed.

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