When talking with friends and family about Purgatory, it's important they know the basics:
Purgatory does exist.
Purgatory is not a third place along with Heaven and Hell nor is it a second chance.
Purgatory has nothing to do with Limbo, which was only a theological opinion and was never a doctrine of the Church.
Souls in Purgatory have been saved just as much as the souls in Heaven.
Purgatory is like the Holy Hospital of Heaven.
Purgatory refers to a temporary state of purification for those who have
died in the state of grace but still need to get rid of any lingering imperfections
(venial sins, earthly attachments, self-will, etc.) before entering the perfection
Purgatory has nothing to
do with one's justification or salvation. Those in Purgatory are justified; they are saved. Purgatory
has to do with one's personal holiness and the burning away of remaining self-love. Revelation
21:27 It's our personal holiness because each person uses their free will differently in life to make good or bad choices on our pilgrimage to our particular judgment.
The Scriptures tell us, Our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:29) We believe that All Consuming Fire is Our Very Lord Jesus Himself burning away all the self-love from our souls.
This article by Emily Stimpson from Our Sunday Visitor (osv.com) September 29, 2013 will also be helpful.
If you struggle to understand the Catholic view of Purgatory, this analogy may help:
Think of sin as a self-inflicted wound in your life.
When we physically hurt ourselves, many times we have to be brought to the hospital and the doctor or nurse will put an alcoholic disinfectant in our cut or wound. It will hurt ... a lot!!! but it's a good hurt; it's a holy hurt, that is needed to make us physically better.
We also have to distinguish between less severe physical injuries where we cut ourselves and require stitches and more severe injuries, like a NASCAR racing driver who gets into a major collision and ends up with third or fourth-degree burns over 90 percent of their body. There are varying degrees of damage that we do to our bodies, not only physically, but spiritually too!
Because Revelation tells us that nothing impure can enter Heaven (Revelation 21:27) and because God Himself is all Holy, we too, have to be all Holy to enter Heaven. To achieve this, any remaining self-inflicted spiritual wounds (meaning self-love) from our pilgrimage on earth has to be burned off, healed, and purified.
If our spiritual injuries are along the line of just needing stitches, that healing period where our self-love has to be burned off will be short;
but if our self-inflicted injuries are along the line of third or fourth-degree burns, the healing process will take longer.
Saints in the past have had private revelations from the souls in Purgatory. They (the Holy Souls in Purgatory) have shared that, while the (healing|burning) fires of God's Love in Purgatory are painful (Hebrews 12:29, Exodus 3:1-6), at the same time they had an internal, burning joy because they knew they were being conformed to the image of God and their final destiny would be total union with Him.
Instead of the good healing pain that the alcoholic disinfectant gave us under a doctor's care to prepare us to re-enter the earthly world again, in Purgatory, we experience a holy, healing pain under Jesus' Care which purifies our souls and and the Holy Souls in Purgatory and prepares (us|them) to enter eternal life with God who is all Holy.
Interested in helping the Saved, Holy Souls in Purgatory?
Think of the number of saved Faithful Departed who have passed from this life to the next since 33 A.D.: many with major spiritual injuries. There's a lot! This is why praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory is very important — and they can't wait to be purified for Heaven! (Revelation 21:27) If there are any Catholics (who live in the United States) reading this answer, who have a strong devotion to praying for the Holy Souls, check out my other website at:
I work with another colleague, Brian Bagley on this. Together we are trying to re-kindle this devotion among the lay faithful and Catholic clergy in praying for the Holy Souls and for those interested, we will send out a FREE Purgatory Prayer Program for you to get started.
"Next day, they came to find Judas (since the necessity was by now urgent) to have the bodies of the fallen taken up and laid to rest among their relatives in their ancestral tombs. But when they found on each of the dead men, under their tunics, objects dedicated to the idols of Jamnia, which the Law prohibits to Jews, it became clear to everyone that this was why these men had lost their lives. All then blessed the ways of the Lord, the upright judge who brings hidden things to light, and gave themselves to prayer, begging that the sin committed might be completely forgiven. Next, the valiant Judas urged the soldiers to keep themselves free from all sin, having seen with their own eyes the effects of the sin of those who had fallen; after this he took a collection from them individually, amounting to nearly two thousand drachmas, and sent it to Jerusalem to have a sacrifice for sin offered, an action altogether fine and noble, prompted by his belief in the resurrection. For had he not expected the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead, whereas if he had in view the splendid recompense reserved for those who make a pious end, the thought was holy and devout. Hence, he had this expiatory sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sin."
Note: Though this book was rejected by the Protestant reformers and therefore is not in Protestant Bibles, one can not ignore the historical reality of this event and the reality of the words which were said.
The scandal of selling indulgences is thought to
be the precipitating cause of the Protestant Revolt.
The Catholic Church forbade the sale of indulgences
at the Council of Trent (abuses of the practice were
previously condemned in Council in 1215, 1245, 1274
and 1312). But Martin Luther went beyond a critique
of the abuse of indulgences, and declared the entire
practice null and void and contrary to the Bible.
This is not correct:
Many saints suffer more than enough to satisfy God's
justice. Jesus Christ (and Mary in Catholic theology)
didn't have any sin and yet suffered greatly. The
Catholic Church gives credit for this suffering to
persons who have repented. Thus it indulges these
persons, not in their sin, but in taking away punishment
for the sins. This act is called an indulgence. The
Catholic Church will not do away with this beautiful
concept and practice (rightly understood) because
of the occasional criminal misuse of it in the past.
The doctrine of indulgences is closely connected
with the Communion of Saints. The transfer of merit
through an indulgence is a profound act of community and
a taking seriously of the communal and unified nature
of the Mystical Body of Christ.
In a papal decree given in 1968 by Pope Paul VI,
it was made abundantly clear that the pious disposition
of the seeker of an indulgence was of paramount importance.
In other words, an indulgence was not a piece of
magic which existed apart from the spiritual state
of its user. It is inconsistent for Protestants to
find fault with the Catholic Church for mitigating
the austerities of penance in granting an indulgence
since their own fundamental principle is the notion
of faith alone without good works (as pertaining
to the nature of salvation). Thus, indulgences are
merely a limited application of a concept which Protestantism
raises to universality.
All the main ideas upon which an indulgence is based
are found in the Bible: the Church's power to bind
and loose, vicarious atonement among members of the
Church, and penance. Although the doctrine has developed,
like all others, it is not unbiblical in the least.