Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira


Suffering in Purgatory

Difference between Purgatory and Hell

Importance of suffrage for

the souls of Purgatory








Saint of the Day, Saturday, October 27, 1973

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The idea that presides over the Christmas of Souls is a very delicate one. It is this: Just as we who are alive here on earth have the feast of Christmas in which we give each other presents, good wishes, prayers; and as the Christmas feast is, par excellence the feast in which people who have ties with one another, family relationships, friendship, etc. then seek to please one another, it is also natural, according to the dictates of the faith, that people also try to hold a Christmas feast for the poor souls in Purgatory.

As you know, Purgatory is a place just as Heaven is a place, and hell is a place. Purgatory is a place in which there is a terrible, devouring fire that burns souls terribly! They suffer a lot there to atone for the sins they committed on this earth. They are mortal sins for which they were absolved (otherwise they would be in hell) but did not adequately suffer and atone for them suitably – and so they had to pass through the fire of Purgatory. Or they are venial sins the person did not confess well or completely or did not adequately atoned for and must do so before going to Heaven.

The torments of Purgatory are unspeakable! Evidently, they are not like those in hell. Two circumstances differentiate Purgatory from Hell that I will mention in a moment. But they are unspeakable torments, so much so that all that a person can suffer throughout his entire life on earth is not comparable to a day in Purgatory. Can you imagine a person put on fire for 10 or 50 years? You can imagine how much that person suffers. Of course, it is a terrible thing!

That is all the more so because punishments in Purgatory often last a long time. There are saints who had revelations about Purgatory and who saw, for example, – the image is metaphorical, but the thought is real – a soldier who, just before he died, had obtained absolution for his sins, which were very serious mortal sins. In Purgatory, he was placed on horseback on a board that separated [Purgatory] from hell. This is a metaphorical way of saying that in some ways, that torment was almost equal to hell’s, in a situation almost like that of a damned soul. And he was going to stay there – don’t be surprised – quite simply until the end of the world! This vision, if I’m not mistaken, was from the 15th century. To gauge this time span, you can imagine everything that has happened in the world since the discovery of America. During this entire time, this man was riding the famous board waiting for the end of the world to be released. You can understand what this means.

There are two circumstances that fundamentally differentiate Purgatory from Hell. The first is that a soul condemned to Purgatory is one in the state of grace, who loves God and is loved by God. Her sins compel Divine Justice to purify her in this way, but in fact, the soul is in a state of grace and is loved by God.

Now, as a corollary (not so fundamental, but of great importance), a soul in Purgatory is sure that one day he will come out, and when he does, he will be eternally happy.

The soul is in Purgatory willingly because it loves God, recognizes it has to suffer what it deserves and knows that Purgatory purifies it. It knows that it needs that to be able to appear before the purest presence of God.

On the contrary, a soul condemned to hell hates God, is hated by God, and feels God’s wrath crushing it all the time. It feels the pain of hating its own Creator and has no hope of getting out of there. So the difference in situations is capital. However, the situation in Purgatory is also terrible!

That is why the Church prays a lot for the deceased. And that is why she has a feast day for the dead, which is for all the dead but especially for those in Purgatory suffering endless pains. Because all their relatives, friends and acquaintances on this earth, who knew and took an interest in the person, have died, and as a result there is no one left to pray for him. And so on this feast, the Church prays for them to go to Heaven.

What happens to the souls in Purgatory? Because God loves them, He considers it excellent work to pray for them and rewards those who do so. In His infinite justice and mercy, at the same time, God wants to punish the souls in Purgatory and loves them. And while keeping them under arrest in Purgatory, He is pleased with those who make them get out.

That is why His very justice locks that soul in Purgatory, but He lavishes grace throughout the earth inspiring people to pray for the deceased to leave Purgatory. Numerous saints had visions about Purgatory in which they saw the Mother of Mercy, the channel of all God’s graces, descend to Purgatory on the Church’s great feast days, and especially on Her feasts and those of Her Divine Son of Her, and free countless souls.

Our Lady goes to Purgatory like a Queen radiant with light, surrounded by a wonderful dew, carried by Angels singing most perfect melodies. She descends into that place of darkness and torment, and as Queen, She releases thousands of souls and takes them to Heaven.

Our Lady is naturally very pleased to receive prayers from people who enable her to present something to Her Divine Son, saying, “Here it is, this devotee of mine has prayed for such son of mine in Purgatory, so now I am going to set him free.”

Imagine – God forbid – that a fire breaks out here and 50 TFP members are trapped in the fire and that it was a purgatorial fire – a fire that did not kill but burned those poor members for 20 or 50 years. What would we not do to free them from it! We would do everything to free them from it!

This is the thought we should have for our brothers in the faith – some of whom belonged to the TFP. Who knows if they are not in Purgatory. They are brothers in the faith who are dying and deserve our help. And therefore, God is most pleased with this help.

What can we do for the souls in Purgatory? Prayers, penances, alms. The souls in Purgatory reward us. We very often see graces that God grants through the souls of Purgatory. We ask for something, and He grants it.

A touching example in this regard is the famous request to wake up on time. I believe you all have experienced it. It never fails!


A TFP member who later changed but was a kind of vagabond told me he would not pray to the souls in Purgatory because they took it seriously and really woke him up. He said to me, “I wanted to wake up, but not that much.”

Besides, the awakening produced by the action of the souls of Purgatory is very beneficial, very smooth. But the individual really loses his sleep and gets up.

If help from the souls in Purgatory is so constant, so continuous, so great regarding something relatively small, you can imagine what it is like for complicated things!

That also explains the frequent apparitions of souls. While the Church rejects spiritism completely, it has never denied that souls can and do appear from time to time. One is not entitled to call upon souls. But they appear from time to time by divine permission. Demons appear out of hate, by order of God, to instill a horror of hell in us. Souls in Purgatory appear to remind us of them and make us pray for them.

When I was a boy, about eight years old, the doctors required me to take a nap during the day and stay in bed for the scheduled time whether I was sleeping or not. At that time, I sleep in a bed. I later took a nap on the floor because of a deviation in my spine. So I was lying in bed and the bedroom door slightly ajar to make a dim light.

There was in front of me a beveled mirror in a large piece of furniture that went almost from the ceiling to the floor. Suddenly, I noticed movements like varied little strings of light that began to move.

I saw coming out of the mirror a vaporous figure of a woman in her 30s or 40s who appeared entirely made of smoke. Her hairstyle was à la Belle Epoque, with some of the hair in a bun. She was dressed in a long and simple costume that reached her feet. She kept looking at me, and I looked at her. She would peek at me and then go away.

One day she appeared and nodded, calling me, and I answered “no” waving my finger. No way. I am not going anywhere! She never appeared to me again. I have no idea who this woman was, but it was a spirit. I told my parents about it several times, and they paid no attention. But one day, my father took courage and went to wait, revolver in hand. That day, the spirit did not appear.

All of you have heard stories in your family about spirits that appeared, things like that, souls of reprobates who went to hell and come back to torment people etc.

My mother told me about an episode that happened with her father, for whom she had great veneration, and whom I never got to know. He had a very strong flu, and she went to see him. It was during the day and he was tormented and agitated. She saw a horrible figure sitting at her father’s bedside, all haggard, with hideous features. She looked and recognized an “x” person whose name I was not allowed to mention. He was a very bad man who had died, and with whom my grandfather had had business relationships and later other relationships. My mother figured that this “x” had gone to hell and was there tormenting my grandfather.

When she got close, that figure left his bedside, walked away limping, and went out through a closed door. She put her hand on my grandfather’s forehead, and my grandfather woke up. He said, “My daughter, what a good thing you did to wake me up! You can’t imagine how I was having a horrible, tormented sleep!” Mom was the mother of all possible benevolence and would never imagine that man had gone to hell. But she saw the episode as a manifestation of otherworldly souls. This also happens with souls in Purgatory.

Given the above, you understand that Providence allows souls to appear to ask for prayers, and so we must pray for them. Therefore, the idea of holding a Christmas for the souls in Purgatory is lovely. We truly give Our Lady a Christmas present for her to free many souls from Purgatory who will then pray for us here on earth.

Here you have a broad argument to convince people to buy these (Mass) cards (for the souls in Purgatory). Each card of this can be worth one soul.

I was talking about prayers, penances, alms. These should be given to the poorest, most needy, most humiliated, most shabby, and mistreated (institution) today, which is the queen of all humanity: the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church. We should therefore give to the Catholic cause, work for the Catholic cause, suffer and fight for the cause of the TFP. Giving money to the TFP is evidently a splendid way to support the souls of Purgatory.

Nothing, however, has the value of a Mass. Because the Mass that the priest offers is the bloodless renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary, the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ renewed in a bloodless way, without real shedding of blood. Therefore, no act of piety can have the value of a Mass. None. Absolutely nothing can compare to the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

So, to ask a priest to say a Mass according to a certain intention is to ask for the best thing one can ask for. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with the communion through which the faithful participate in the priest’s action at Mass is the center of Catholic worship and piety.

Therefore, obtaining the prayers and penances of these nuns and the masses celebrated by trustworthy priests who therefore pray the Mass of St. Pius V piously all makes a splendid gift. With this argument, you may obtain a large number of Mass cards for the good of souls and that of the TFP.

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