Tag Archives: Purgatory

Lamentation

Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young;
I will set up an everlasting covenant with you,
that you may remember and be covered with confusion,
and that you may be utterly silenced for shame
when I pardon you for all you have done, says the Lord GOD.
—Ezekiel 16:60–63

Matthias_Grünewald_-_Lamentation_of_Christ_(detail)_-_WGA10787
Matthias Grünewald, Lamentation of Christ (detail) / PD-US

This reading from Ezekiel reminds me of a recent video from Fr. Robert Barron, which is definitely worth a watch: Bishop Barron on Ezekiel and the Sex Abuse Crisis. Ezekiel wrote of the corruption within the holy city of Jerusalem and its cleansing through avengers from the North. Today, the “holy city” of the Church has fallen into corruption, and it too needs to be cleansed, to endure the painful siege of repentance. God will not abandon His covenant with us. But if we are to be cleansed, we must allow Him to show us the weight of our sin; we must be willing to feel our shame and sorrow.

It has been sobering to read reports of the horrific abuse that has occurred within the Church and the deep corruption that kept it hidden for years. As American Catholics, we are mourning over these unthinkable crimes and trying to figure out how we can possibly move forward through this mess.

The Gospel reading prior to this spoke of forgiveness, which may seem untimely at the moment. The Gospel asks us to forgive, but often we don’t understand the meaning of true forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean making excuses for the person who wronged you or brushing it under the rug. That’s not forgiveness; it’s denial. True forgiveness must acknowledge the sin and yet refuse to feed it. A person who forgives renounces any claim toward revenge and resists the tendency to harbor resentment. It is a daily decision, and it is not an easy one. But it is the only way that we can stop the cycle of sin and open our hearts to mercy. A truly forgiving heart is not indifferent to injustice; it is all the more deeply hurt by it, since it refuses to dehumanize either the victim or the perpetrator. It sees the tragedy of an innocent life altered irrevocably; it sees those individuals who used their God-given will for evil. And it resolves to do better.

I am reminded of the story of St. Maria Goretti and her murderer/attempted rapist, Alessandro Serenelli. Now, this is not a typical story—we should not go around assuming that all murderers and rapists will be reformed by our prayers and can be later welcomed into our families. But it is in fact what happened in the case of Alessandro Serenelli, incredible though it may seem. Though Alessandro was bitterly unrepentant for the first few years after Maria’s death, he experienced a profound conversion of heart after experiencing a vision of Maria in which she forgave him. He was moved to weep for his sins for the first time, and he began the process of true repentance. Due to Maria’s miraculous intercession (again, possible only through the grace of God and not by human means), he was completely reformed and eventually became an adopted son of Maria’s mother.

While Alessandro clung to his pride and callously denied his guilt, the seeds of sin and evil continued to fester within him. Only when he realized the depth of his sin and entered into a living purgatory of shame and regret was his heart opened to receive God’s mercy. This step was crucial: acknowledgment of wrongdoing, grief over what has been tainted and destroyed, ownership of one’s sinfulness. Unless we confront the realities of our sins and face our deepest wounds, we will never be able to receive healing. And Alessandro’s revelation of guilt—and thus his pathway to forgiveness—was made possible because of Maria’s purity and steadfast prayer.

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Alvar Cawén, Pietà / PD-US

As faithful Catholics who are shocked, saddened, and heartbroken over the recent scandals within the heart of our Church, we are called to step up and be the solution, to challenge the Church to rise up to her sacred calling. Now is the time for prayer and fasting. We will expect from the Church a higher standard, and we will start by being saints. The purification of the Church will begin with the purification of our own souls, by a deep desire for holiness and purity throughout every aspect of our lives. Jesus and Mary weep alongside us at these crimes. I’ve been encouraged by the discussion among young, faithful Catholics of the many ways in which we can carry this out, and I’ve compiled a list of resources here.

I stay with the Church because her teachings proclaim the dignity of the human person, even as some of those who represent her have trampled upon human dignity through objectification and abuse. I pray that we allow the light of truth to overcome the darkness, so that everything hidden will be exposed to the light. The truth of our own dignity and worth—and indeed that of our children—must prevail against the shadows.

Originally published at Frassati Reflections.

Spiritual Allies

For the past three months, the liturgical calendar has been reminding us of our spiritual allies.

Towards the end of September, we commemorated the feast of the Archangels.

On October 2, we celebrated the feast of the Guardian Angels.  On October 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, we reminded ourselves of the many victories and blessings that may be obtained through the Blessed Virgin’s intercession when we pray the Rosary.

We began November with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, and we are encouraged to spend the entire month remembering the souls in Purgatory whom we can pray for and who can pray for us.

It’s not that God alone is not willing and able to help us; we know He is omnipotent and all-good.  But God knows that we sometimes find it difficult to approach Him directly.  He also knows that, as human beings, we like the help and companionship of those who have gone before us, whom we probably have even known personally when they were on earth, and who have gone through what we are going through now.

Hence, it is by God’s own will that we have the Blessed Virgin Mary, the angels, and the saints (including the souls in Purgatory or the Church Suffering) to inspire us, give us good example, and intercede for us.Fra Angelico

It is beyond the scope of this post to distinguish between the Blessed Virgin, the angels, and the saints and the specific ways each of them help us.  It is sufficient, for now, to remember that all of them are our allies, and powerful allies at that.

A lot is being written in the Catholic blogosphere about spiritual warfare, about exorcism, about how powerful and active the devil has become in recent years. At least in my circles of fellow-Catholics, it has become normal to speak of oneself or one’s acquaintances suffering from diabolical oppression.

It is good that we are reminded of the reality of evil, that we are roused out of our complacency in face of the besieging enemies of our salvation.

Unfortunately, there is the danger that this increased awareness of evil would lead to nothing more than a morbid interest in sensational exorcism stories, or worse, that we become paralyzed by our awareness of evil that we despair of the possibility of defeating it. This, in itself, would be a victory for the devil.

To paraphrase a famous movie line, we should definitely not underestimate the power of the dark side. But neither should we forget that we have powerful spiritual allies ready to defend us and help us do the good we want to do.

Just as we, members of the Church Militant, give strength and hope to our fellow-warriors here on earth, our spiritual allies look out for us, help us, and intercede for us before God. Just as we dare not forget our loyal friends on earth, we should not forget that our spiritual allies assist us, often in ways we do not realize. We do not realize everything that they do for us, and how much more they are willing to do for us, if only we’d ask.

In the end, our spiritual allies will rejoice together with us at the final victory.

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Image: PD-US

Purgatory: The Antechamber of Heaven

Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy’? Should we not reply, ‘With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.’ ‘It may hurt, you know” — ‘Even so, sir.’”
C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Indeed, the most terrible thing for the soul is the inner tear produced by a love that, because of these still not completely annihilated impediments, sees his perfect possession of God delayed…
Purgatory is a crescendo of love and pain that leads to heaven, the perfect happiness. The souls in purgatory do experience great joy, similar to that of the Heavens, and also experience an immense pain, similar to that of Hell; and one does not remove the other.”
St. Catherine of Genoa1

My sister, if you desire God’s justice, you will have God’s justice. The soul receives exactly what she looks for from God… You do a great injury to God in believing you’re going to go to Purgatory. When we love, we can’t go there.”
St. Thérèse of Lisieux2

Purgatory, as the name suggests, is a state of purgation, a purification of the soul.3 From the earliest days of the Catholic Church, Christians prayed for the dead – we know this from inscriptions in the catacombs of Rome.4 There is no need to pray for those in Heaven, and there is no point in praying for those in Hell. The belief in a state of purification after death comes from the Jewish tradition: 2 Maccabees 12:46 says: “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.”5

Sometimes people have the misconception that Purgatory is equidistant between Heaven and Hell. Hell is the state of eternal separation from God, the source of all life and love. Those in Purgatory are united to Christ, as the Church Suffering – that’s why they are the Holy Souls. They are infinitely closer to Heaven and the Church Triumphant than those in Hell could ever be; they rejoice, for they have been saved. Their pain is like the pain of being almost with the person you love more than anything in the world; it is the pain of deep longing for perfect bliss.6

Souls in Purgatory rely on our loving prayers to enter into the presence of God. The Museum of Purgatory in Rome houses artifacts of purgatorial visitors pleading for the intercession of the Church Militant;7 the booklet Read Me or Rue It by Fr Paul O’Sullivan records similar visitations.

“Halloween” is short for “All Hallows’ Eve”, the night before All Saints Day. It was an old English custom that people would beg from door to door for a “soul cake” and in return, pray for the family’s dearly departed – the origin of today’s “Trick or Treat” (and possibly donuts). Today, faithful Catholics continue the beautiful tradition of a novena for the souls in Purgatory, praying in cemeteries during the month of November, which is dedicated to the Holy Souls. By this, we may gain indulgences for them. We also cultivate the habit of praying the short Eternal Rest prayer each time we pass a cemetery.8

One may even perform the Heroic Act of Charity and dedicate everything to the Holy Souls.

In the communion of saints, “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things.” (CCC 1475)

In a vision, St. Gertrude the Great was told by Our Lord that reciting the following prayer with love and devotion will release 1,000 souls from Purgatory:

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus,

in union with the Masses said throughout the world today,

for all the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere,

for sinners in the Universal Church,

those in my own home and within my family. Amen.

Holy Mass

Now, many Catholics think that we have to go through Purgatory, but St. Thérèse, a Doctor of the Church, said that it is not mandatory.

Do not be afraid of going to purgatory because of its pain, but rather long not to go there because this pleases God who imposes this expiation so regretfully. From the moment that you try to please Him in all things, if you have the unshakable confidence that He will purify you at every instant in His love and will leave in you no trace of sin, be very sure that you will not go to purgatory.”
St. Thérèse of Lisieux

God is purifying us throughout our lives by the crosses He gives us,9 the crosses which divest us of self-love, attachment to worldly goods, or sin – the crosses which open us to receive His salvific grace, the gift of Himself. Of course, it is very difficult to die in a state of perfection unless you are martyred, but as the saying goes: if you aim for the moon, you’ll land among the stars. Don’t aim for Purgatory – aim for Heaven!10 For Heaven is perfect union with God.

Purgatory, of course, is not someplace any of us are supposed to end up. God calls each of us to purify our lives of every sin while we are still alive here on earth. Indeed, we are called not only to purify our lives of every sin, but to purify the universe of every consequence of every sin we may have committed.
— Steve Kellmeyer, “Nailing Christ to the Cross: Explaining Purgatory and Indulgences

Purgatory was rejected by our Reformers, as undermining the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement; for it was taken to be the serving of a sentence by which the guilt of Christians was in some way worked off.
Such an objection has no force against the teaching, that we have a pain to pass through, in being reconciled to truth and love. And we may as well call this pain purgatorial, having no other name to call it. It seems strange, indeed, that so practical and pressing a truth as that of purgatory should be dismissed… Nor is it that ultimate fire is scriptural, while remedial fire is not. Remedial fire was taught plainly enough by St. Paul to his Corinthians.
Austin Farrer, Saving Belief (1964)

Purgatory is not… some kind of supra-worldly concentration camp where one is forced to undergo punishments in a more or less arbitrary fashion. Rather it is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God [i.e., capable of full unity with Christ and God] and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints. Simply to look at people with any degree of realism at all is to grasp the necessity of such a process. …What actually saves is the full assent of faith. But in most of us, that basic option is buried under a great deal of wood, hay and straw. Only with difficulty can it peer out from behind the latticework of an egoism we are powerless to pull down with our own hands. Man is the recipient of the divine mercy, yet this does not exonerate him from the need to be transformed. Encounter with the Lord is this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and re-forms us to be vessels of eternal joy.
— Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life (1988)

All Souls Day is unique among our liturgical feasts, because while all others celebrate members of the Church Triumphant, this one day of the year is dedicated to the members of the Church Suffering. It is also known as Soulmas, just as we have Christmas, Marymas, Roodmas, Michaelmas, Childermas, Candlemas, Hallowmas… it just wouldn’t be a feast without the Mass, the Heavenly Banquet where we receive the Bread of Life and the Chalice of Salvation. Remember to have Masses offered for your dearly departed! There is no greater gift on Earth or in Heaven, for this is God’s gift of Himself, His supreme act of love gathering us all into one family and one Body. Each and every Mass is a foretaste of Heaven, a cosmic outpouring of the purifying fire of Love.

Christ revealed to St. Gertrude that a single Mass offered for oneself during life may be worth more than a thousand celebrated for the same intention after death. After your death, you cannot change the conduct of your life on which your particular judgment is based (Matthew 25). You can only submit to the cleansing power of God’s love, the application of Christ’s sacrifice to your soul. That is why the dead depend on us for prayers for we as the living members of Christ’s body have been entrusted with the solemn duty of caring for our brothers, in life and in death; we have been granted the grace to participate in bringing God’s kingdom to birth throughout all Creation, visible and invisible. Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.

Of all prayers, the most meritorious, the most acceptable to God are prayers for the dead, because they imply all the works of charity, both corporal and spiritual.
— St. Thomas Aquinas

When we do ourselves up in costumes and tromp through the streets on Halloween, we are marching in a kind of Veterans’ Day Parade in honor of the sinners who went before us, not yet into glory but into the painful, therapeutic shadow it casts outside its doors.
John Zmirak, “My High Holy Day“, CatholiCity

We have loved them in life, let us not forget them in death.
St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787)

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Image: Signum-Crucis.

1 Daniel Esparza, “3 Little-known details about Purgatory”, Aleteia; cf. Fr. Stefan, “Heaven is Hotter than Hell: A Reflection on Purgatory”, Let the Fire Fall.

2 Connie Rossini, Trusting God with St. Therese.

3 Nick Rabiipour, “What Do Catholics Really Believe About Purgatory?”, The Catholic Company.

4 Hugh MacDonald, “Purgatory”, Catholic Bridge.

5 cf. Andres Ortiz, “Where is Purgatory in the Bible?”, About Catholics; Tim Staples, “Is Purgatory in the Bible?”, Catholic Answers; John Salza, “Purgatory”, Scripture Catholic; John Martignoni, “4 Biblical Principles That Show the Reality of Purgatory”, National Catholic Register; “Purgatory”, Catholic Bible 101; S. Bonney, “Abridging the Bible – Masoretic or Septuagint?

7 Diane Montagna, “Purgatory? There’s Actually a Museum for That!”, Aleteia.

8 Gretchen Filz, “20 Ways to Pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory”, The Catholic Company.

9 Gary Ludlam, “The Devil, Purgatory, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and Embracing the Cross”, Little Way of the Family.

10 Candida Kirkpatrick, OCDS, “St. Therese’s Teaching on Purgatory”, Carmel in the Desert.

Anointing His Feet

If you do not forgive others, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you.  Jesus could have said this to the scribes and Pharisees accusing the woman caught in adultery.  Take the plank out of your own eye before you try to take the speck out of your brother’s.  This quip would work for them as well.  But instead he writes in the sand with his finger.  The Church fathers say he is writing each of their sins.  Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.  The only one who could condemn her is the perfect Man, Jesus, but he forgives her.  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  But this forgiveness is purchased at the precious price of his blood.  In respect for this sacrifice, the woman goes and sins no more.

In the garden Satan acts both as tempter and accuser.  He seduces Adam and Eve into sin and then hurls their deeds back at them in the trial scene.  But the accuser of our brethren has been brought down.  Christ the Judge acts as pardoner.  Saint Ambrose prayed, “I would fear to draw near to you as my judge, but I seek you out as my Savior.”  We would perish in the fire of God’s justice, but he infuses us with grace.  The law brings death, but the spirit gives life.  We are not under the law but under grace.  But unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees you will by no means enter eternal life.  If you hate your brother, you have murdered him in your heart.  Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.

Mankind is under the universal call to holiness, purgatory, sanctification.  At his baptism the Christian is told, “You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ.  See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity.  With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.”  The baptismal robe is the wedding garment.  Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Such are the consequences of sullying the wedding garment.  This imperative to become holy drives home the importance of confession:  of patience, penance, prayer.

The woman caught in adultery is often identified with Mary Magdalene.  She is the only one called “The Penitent” in the Church’s liturgy.  Others receive the titles of “Apostle,” “Virgin,” “Confessor,” “Martyr,” “Bishop,” or “Doctor.”  Mary Magdalene is the patroness of the Dominicans, the Order of Preachers, because she is the first to see Jesus after His Resurrection and to proclaim the good news.  Tradition says she even tried to convert the emperor.  She thought if she could only go to him, she could tell him what she saw.  He mocked the Christians for worshiping a dead man.  He called their religion as ridiculous as the egg sitting in front of Mary at the table turning red before his eyes.  The egg turned red, and Mary held it up.  From this tradition we derive Easter eggs.

Mary Magdalene is depicted in iconography not only with a red egg but also with an alabaster jar.  Pope Saint Gregory the Great remarks that she puts the very things she used for prostitution to the service of Christ.  The eyes she used to lure men become a fountain of tears.  The hair she used for seduction becomes a rag for His feet.  The lips she used to kiss her lovers now shower His holy feet with love.  The oil she used to anoint her customers now prepares Him for His burial.  She puts her gifts to the service of the body of Christ.  Rather than using her body as a weapon for the enemy, Satan, she gives beauty back to God, beauty’s Self and beauty’s Giver.

Blessed are They Who Mourn

I feel truly blessed by God to be on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land that spans nearly ten weeks. The pilgrimage has afforded me the opportunity to pray at and visit many holy sites throughout this land where Jesus walked in addition to the study of Sacred Scripture and Ecumenism.

Recently our group visited a museum, which had an exhibit on Jewish Life: Birth, Marriage, and Death. What struck me the most about this exhibit was the portion dedicated to death and mounring. In reading the small descriptive plaques about the customs of Jewish people, I could not help but realize how in our contemporary culture we have lost the touch with the ability or even freedom to mourn.

In the time I have spent in hospitals and parishes I have realized that most people do not know how to mourn. Many places of work do not recognize the grief one experiences at the time of loss, granting days off only for close family members — usually only parents and siblings. Mourning the death of a loved one might make one also feel uncomfortable so they want to get over it as soon as possible. Some people view being emotional, especially for men, as a sign of weakness. The hurriedness, uncomfortableness, and reactions of our peers have stymied our ability to effectively mourn.

I learned three things from my survey of of the Jewish life exhibit. First, it is customary for Jewish people to light a candle in both the synagogue and their home in memory of the person who has died. The glowing light is likened to the light of God and the memorial flame to the soul of the departed, who is forever joined to the divine light and the memory of the people.

Secondly, according to Rabbinic literature, accompanying the dead on their journey to burial is one of the essential deeds for which one is rewarded in in their lifetime and earns a reward in the life to come.

Thirdly, mourning goes through stages, beginning with seven days, thirty days, and yearly. On the anniversary of the deceased’s death, it is customary to visit the gravesite.

These customs of the Jewish people are laudable because they recognize mourning to be a process and, like the corporal works of mercy, value is placed on burying the dead.

As Catholics we have our own process of grieving. Unfortunately it is a growing trend for families to forego the Mass of Christian Burial in favor of a service outside of Mass or gravesite service. Sometimes this is done because of cost or because the children do not share the same religiosity as their loved ones did. The Church envisions a three part liturgy: the vigil, Mass, and burial. I have found the Church’s funeral rites to be a very beautiful ritual of the Church.

We should not be afraid to mourn for our loved one’s who have died. Jesus himself in the scriptures mourned the death of two important people: John the Baptist (Mt 14:13) and Lazarus (John 11:35). He also showed pity toward the Widow of Naim by raising her son (Luke 7:11-14) and compassion toward his own mother by entrusting her to the beloved disciple. Furthermore Jesus taught in the Beatitudes “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Mt. 5:4). In light of Jesus’ resurrection we know that death does not have power over us because we too will rise on the last day.

As Catholics we recognize the value in praying for the dead. Let us never forget to pray for our departed loved ones. Have Masses said for their souls and visit their gravesite and pray for them. Pray for the souls in purgatory. Let us be confident in the teachings and promises of Jesus, and not be afraid to mourn, knowing that we will be comforted and that He will one day turn our mourning into joy.

When You Die You Won’t Go to Heaven and You Won’t Become an Angel: the Good News of Purgatory

not angel
First of all: Happy Halloween, Happy All Saints Day, Happy All Souls Day, and Happy Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time!

This sequence of days (okay, it doesn’t always include the thirty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time) is one of my favorite in the year. I love the children (and adults) dressed up to defy their fears and emulate their heroes. I love the joyful and triumphant music celebrating our forebears who already stand around the throne of the Lamb. I love the incense and the quiet as we remember our loved ones who are somewhere between here and Heaven. I love Sundays in general.

I must retract something from my title: when you (dear Reader) die, you might go to Heaven (with angels there is no “might,” they’re either in Heaven or Hell and have no chance to change their fate). In fact, I highly encourage you to go to Heaven, because I want you to be a saint, and so does God. Being a saint is not as easy as it looks, though. Sainthood does not mean sinlessness, but it does mean virtuous self-sacrifice and extreme dedication to God’s will (whose plan for you gets less attractive the more dedicated you are to it, because the devil steps in and reminds you of everything you would rather be doing) and performing at least a couple of miracles—don’t worry about that part, though: once you have the virtue-doing-God’s-will thing down, miracles will be as easy as walking on water.

But in general, I will probably see most of you in Purgatory before any of us make it to Heaven. And that, dear Reader, is spectacular news, because if I don’t see you in Purgatory. . .well, that probably means I ended up in Hell.

Purgatory is a great place to be. When you die and “wake up” in Purgatory, you will know without a doubt that you are on your way to union with God in the beatific vision. There are worse places you could be, and at this point the only way is “up.” In purgatory you will be “purged,” not in the eating-disorder sense but in the medicinal, poison-control sense. Purging will hurt—there are a lot of deeply imbedded vices in your soul, even if you are a generally good person. Purging the vices from your system is going to involve what feels like slowly tearing bits of you off the rest, emptying you of what makes you unique. In reality, the removal of those vices will leave behind you and only you, you as God made you perfectly and uniquely and wonderfully (well, half of you anyway, you’ll still be sans body, but that will come later).

Purgatory is boot camp for the soul. It is where God sends his trouble children (and most of us are trouble children) to straighten us out and make us fly right. We are not the really good ones who only ever strayed by accident, but we are not the really bad ones who sinned purposely and consistently and, upon death, spat in the face of God and preferred the “choice” of Hell.

In truth, upon death most of us have more in common with the people in Hell than the people in Heaven. We are selfish or prideful or intemperate or inconsiderate and we think we have good reason to be that way (or, worse, we think that our behavior is not viceful). The difference between souls that go to Purgatory and souls that go to Hell is very small and very, very significant: the souls that end up in Purgatory want to love God correctly. Because of that desire, God will keep us in Purgatory until we do love him correctly, at which point we are ready to join Him in Heaven. That is the good news of Purgatory: Purgatory saves you from Hell and facilitates passage to Heaven.

When we do join Him in Heaven, we will not get a pair of wings or join the angel chorus. Within each human person there is absolutely no potential to become an angel. And trust me, we’re better off that way. Human beings are the crown of God’s creation, the only creatures made in both God’s image and likeness. Angels, who are pure intellect, do not get to experience the movements of the appetites which allow for things like desire and love, and so they are unable to image God in His love for Creation. Angels don’t get to have bodies (and let’s be serious: who doesn’t love his or her body [except due to sin]), and you will get your body back at the Last Judgment.

Most importantly, God did not incarnate (increatureate?) as an angel, only as a human being. Angels could have used a savior taking on their nature so as to lead them back to God—that whole Satan and his angels contingent would have benefited from the kind of personalized intervention human beings got when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

After you die and spend some well-needed time in Purgatory, you will make your way to Heaven where you will be something much better than an angel: perfectly yourself in perfect union with God.