Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in his masterpiece Life is Worth Living, says about Purgatory, among other things, that it is “where the love of Man tempers the injustice of Man.”
Purgatory is that state in which people who have died in God’s Grace, but without letting go of some of the imperfections and attachments of sin, undergo a purification before entering Heaven, which nothing unclean can enter (Rev. 21:27).
Sin has many nasty consequences. Even after we are forgiven, the wounds and weaknesses may stay with us. We may even still harbor some attachment to our forgiven sin. Those in Purgatory have died in friendship with God and through His Mercy have been given the opportunity to be made perfect.
On Earth, we can actively purify ourselves, with God’s Grace, through prayer, penance and acts of charity. In Purgatory, however, the Holy Souls, as they are called, are passive as they are purified. They are receptive to God’s actions as a patient might be with a surgeon, or a precious metal that is purified by flame.
St. Catherine of Genoa, the fifteenth century mystic, wrote a tract on Purgatory that has been titled Fire of Love, and illustrates that reality. Though she says that souls rejoice to undergo purgation, like on Earth, where spiritual growth is often born of suffering, suffering does exist in Purgatory. The Church in Purgatory is even called the Church Suffering, as suffering is one of the things that distinguish Purgatory from Heaven.
One of the beautiful things about Purgatory is that God has allowed those of us still on Earth to aid, by our prayers, the purification of the Holy Souls. Just as we can pray for our loved ones who are living, and in a mysterious way our prayers can be channels of Grace for them, the same is true for our departed loved ones in Purgatory. Our prayers can help them more speedily reign in Heaven,