Lesson 12: Purgatory
"And the day following Judas [Machabeus] came with his company, to take away the bodies of them that were slain, and to bury them with their kinsmen, in the sepulchres of their fathers.  And they found under the coats of the slain some of the donaries of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbiddeth to the Jews:  So that all plainly saw, that for this cause they were slain.  Then they all blessed the just judgment of the Lord, who had discovered the things that were hidden.  And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought Him, that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten.  But the most valiant Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forasmuch as they saw before their eyes what had happened, because of the sins of those that were slain.  And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection, (for if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead), and because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them.  It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins."  (2 Machabees 12:39-46)

  1. What is Purgatory?

  2.     A place and state of temporary punishment in the next world.  Hell, on the other hand, is a place of eternal or everlasting punishment.

  3. What does the word "Purgatory" mean?

  4.     It means "cleansing" (or "purging").  Purgatory is a place where the soul is cleansed of unforgiven venial sin and/or the "debt" of sins already forgiven but not yet made up for.
    "If any one abide not in Me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth."    (John 15:6)

  5. How do you know there is a Purgatory?

  6.     The constant teaching and practice of the Catholic Church, based on the Bible and tradition, and even common sense, prove the existence of Purgatory.

  7. How does common sense indicate the existence of Purgatory?

  8.     Only people with mortal sin go to Hell, and on the other hand, no one can enter Heaven with even the smallest sin.  Therefore, there must be a place in the next world where lesser sins can be taken off the soul.

  9. Who will go to Purgatory?

  10.     People who die with Sanctifying Grace in their souls, but --
    1. who die with venial sin on their souls, or
    2. who have not completed (satisfied for) the punishment still due to their already forgiven sins.

  11. What is meant by the "punishment still due to sin"?

  12.    This means that, even though God forgives your sins, He still requires that you be punished for them (i.e. "pay" for them), either in this life or in the next.
    For example:  A boy playing ball in his yard breaks his neighbor's window.  He goes and tells the lady he is sorry, and she forgives him but she tells him he will still have to pay for the window.

  13. Do you suffer in Purgatory?

  14.    Yes.  Besides not being allowed to see God face to face, the souls in Purgatory suffer a great deal.
    "The fire of Purgatory", says St. Augustine, "is more terrible than man can suffer in this life."

  15. How long will you have suffer in Purgatory?

  16.    That depends on the number and seriousness of the sins to be atoned for.
    "My soul hath thirsted after the strong living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God."    (Psalm 41:3)

  17. Where do you go when you leave Purgatory?

  18.    To Heaven to see God and enjoy Him forever.
    "Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not come out from thence till thou repay the last farthing."    (Matthew 5:26)

  19. Will Purgatory ever end?

  20.    Yes, at the Last Judgment.  After that all souls will be in either Heaven or Hell forever.

  21. Can you help the souls in Purgatory?

  22.    You can shorten their stay by having Masses said for them, by praying for them and by doing good works for them.
    "Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least you my friends, because the hand of the Lord hath touched me."    (Job 19:21)

  23. Does the Bible say anything about praying for the dead?

  24.    Yes.  We read that Judas Machabeus, "sent twelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifices to be offered for the sins of the dead."  (2 Machabees 12:43)

  25. How can you avoid Purgatory?

  26. Avoid even the smallest faults, do penance for sins already forgiven, gain indulgences and receive Extreme Unction (See Lesson 26.)


  1. All Souls' Day is the day set aside by the Church for special prayers and Masses for all the souls suffering in Purgatory.  It is celebrated every year on November 2.
  2. The souls in Purgatory cannot help themselves.  We should help them by our prayers and sacrifices.  They, in turn, can and do pray for us.
  3. The souls in Purgatory are known as the Poor Souls.
  4. Litany for the Poor Souls