Indulgences and Purgatory
Submitted by Thomas Stidl
An indulgence, as per the Catholic Catechism, is a remission of the temporal punishment, which comes from the commission of sin. Since we are all sinners, all of us will acquire the need for the forgiveness of sin by either receiving absolution from a priest during the Sacrament of Penance or by praying the Perfect Act of Contrition in the absence of a priest, which I detailed in my article on Pandemic Practices. This will forgive your sins, but it will not relieve the temporal punishment connected with the sin.
This is why most of us after our death and particular judgment where we must give an accounting of our lives, wind up in a place called Purgatory. So what caused all the sin? Why it was an act of “Un-Love” where we failed to love God or love our neighbor. By not loving our neighbor, we also fail to love God.
There are two commandments that the entire law is based. You must love God with your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength and your neighbor as you love yourself. All acts of “Un-Love” must be atoned. So where do indulgences enter the picture? We, the Church Militant, by praying for the Church Suffering commit an act of love in two ways.
First, we offer prayers for the deceased so that they may experience our love and concern for them. The flames of Purgatory are flames of love so that the deceased can love the living more. This will help expiate the punishment for their sins and move closer to God, which in turn will intensify the soul’s love for God and all beings. At the time of our death the righteous souls experience a oneness with all of creation. As Saint Paul describes it, “absent from the body, present with the Lord”. Second, by showing love to the happy souls of Purgatory, we expiate our own temporal punishment due to our sins. Let all of us try to live “present with the Lord” in this life so our time in Purgatory is short.
This should make you understand that love is the reason for living a fruitful life. Most of us have been taught from youth to perform the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The Corporal Works of Mercy are to feed the hungry, quench the thirst of our fellow human being, give clothing to the naked, find homes for the homeless, visit the sick and those in prison, and bury the dead. The Spiritual Works of Mercy are to counsel the sinner an doubtful, teach the ignorant, comfort those who are in sorrow, forgive and bear wrongs and injuries patiently, and pray for the living and the dead. Remember, whatever you do to the smallest being or piece of creation, you do unto God.
By performing these works, we have others joining us to unification with God in Heaven. This is the quest for all of us. After all why did God make us? To know, love, and serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him in heaven. We all know from our religious training that God is everywhere. The expiation of our temporal punishment and temporal punishment of the deceased takes place when we accomplish these acts.
Until next time, Laus Tibi, Christe. Deo Gratias. Praise be to God. See you in Paradise.