Purgatory: One of Catholicism’s Most Bizarre Teachings and Best Kept Secrets
Whether you have heard it described as a hot bath for souls, God’s safety net, or Heaven’s ultimate waiting room, it seems that there could not be more confusion about what exactly Purgatory actually is. Recently I got curious about Purgatory, especially since they never tell us much about it in school other than the fact that it exists. I have protestant friends who occasionally ask questions about Purgatory and I figured it was time I broke out the books and took a deeper look at what it is. What I found was extensive but amazing, and I think that belief in existence of Purgatory is a call to change our lives! Because my findings were so extensive and interesting, I am making this post the first of a six part series of posts that will discuss:
- Scriptural Historical and Evidence for Purgatory
- What the Catechism Says About Purgatory
- Scriptural Analogies for Understanding Purgatory
- What Our Holy Experts Say About Purgatory
- The Little Purgatory Museum
- Conclusion: How Does This Relate To Us?
So without further ado, let’s get started!
Biblical History: Historical evidence can debunk many of the misconceptions about why Catholics believe in Purgatory. The two most common Protestant arguments against Purgatory are (1) that it is never mentioned in the Bible, and (2) it was concocted by Catholics in the Middle Ages; neither of which are true. Catholics attribute their belief in Purgatory to the Jewish tradition of prayer for the dead, which is primarily displayed in the Old Testament [2 Maccabees 12: 41-45]. In this passage Judas Maccabeus and his men are collecting their dead after a long battle. Before the burial, Maccabeus and his army pray and make sacrifices for those who died while wearing medals to pagan idols. It would be illogical for Maccabeus and his army to pray for those who had died if they believed the souls of those wearing medals were already in Heaven or Hell, and did not need their prayers (The Holy Bible, Staples). Furthermore, Jews today continue the tradition of praying for the dead through their Mourner’s Kaddish prayer, which is prayed by family members for eleven months after a person dies (Catholic Answers 2).
Church History: Although it is true that the Church did not formally define and name the doctrine of Purgatory until the Middle Ages, this does not mean that Christians did not believe in it before then. This actually makes sense in the context of the time period and traditional Church procedure. The Church does not typically define ancient Christian tradition and doctrine, unless there is significant confusion and question over the specific belief, and further explanation is needed (Catholic Answers 1). During the Middle Ages and the Protestant Reformation, there was a considerable amount confusion concerning many doctrines including the doctrine on Purgatory. In response to this confusion, the Church clarified its teachings on Purgatory. Even now, Sacred Tradition can trace many beliefs challenged during the Protestant Reformation back to the writings of the Church Fathers and what was originally taught before the Bible even existed.
To Be Continued… Part 2 Coming Soon…
Have any questions or comments about Purgatory? Write them below below and I will try and respond them.