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Be Holy: A Catholic's Guide to the Spiritual Life

Chapter Previews by Rev. Thomas G. Morrow, S.T.D.

Be Holy: A Catholic's Guide to the Spiritual Life


A young boy told his mother once, "I don't want to go to heaven."

"Why not?" She asked.

"Because I think it's boring," he responded.

She realized she had a major task to prove to him that heaven was certainly not boring, and in fact is the most exciting, delightful thing we could ever imagine. She must have done a good job-he now goes all across the country to tell his conversion story to Catholic youth.

Why is it that so few people today strive for holiness? Why so few who even seek any religious involvement, any morality in their lives? I think a major reason is that they have been lulled to sleep about the most critical moment they will ever face: divine judgement. It seems certain that if more people kept in mind that they will surely die one day and meet the Lord-at which time their eternal destiny will be sealed-they might be more dedicated to preparing for that crucial day.

Add to this the all-important knowledge as to just what they can expect on that day, based on how they have lived, and we have powerful motivations to live the gospel. Alas, many believe nowadays that heaven is boring, hell is empty and purgatory is like a doctor's waiting-room. Not so, according to Christ and his Church. Far from it!

It does not matter what success we have had in this world, if we were rich, or famous, or had scores of wonderful friends, if we don't make it to the Kingdom, all is wasted. Our Blessed Lord said as much: "For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?" (Mt. 16:26)

Part I - Motivations for Holiness


The Delight of Heaven: The Divine Marriage

St. Augustine was born of a womanizing father but a devout mother, and in his early years he took after his father. He moved in with his mistress at the age of sixteen, and lived with her for the next fourteen years. Meanwhile his mother, Monica, prayed for him without ceasing. At the age of 31 he had a conversion, and began to pray and do penance for his past life of sin in preparation for Baptism. Eighteen months after his Baptism his mother died, happy to see the answer to her prayers, and three years later Augustine was ordained a priest. Four years after that he became a bishop. He became one of the most prolific writers the Church has ever known. He wrote beautifully of his conversion, especially in this passage from his autobiography:

"Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new... I rushed headlong after these things of beauty which you have made... They kept me far from you, those fair things which, were they not in you, would not exist at all... You have sent forth fragrance, and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant for you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you. You have touched me and I have burned for your peace." [1]

Augustine tasted the illicit delights of this world and was perceptive enough to realize they didn't satisfy. After just a taste of heaven, experienced through prayer and fasting, he realized that all beauty, all joys of this world are just a whisper of the beauty and joy to be found in God, in this life and in the life to come. That is the first task of every Christian, of every person: to discover the unfathomable glory of being united with God, now and forever. But first we must find motivation in the goal God has given us, namely heaven.

The Basics

Our Blessed Lord refers to heaven using several different terms about 170 times in the gospels. He uses the terms heaven, Kingdom of heaven, Kingdom of God, life, and eternal life to describe the place of eternal reward. He often speaks of the Kingdom of heaven by comparing it to things we are familiar with on earth:

The Kingdom of God is like a buried treasure which a man found in a field. He hid it again, and rejoicing at his find went and sold all he had and bought that field. Or again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant's search for fine pearls. When he found one really valuable pearl, he went back and put up for sale all that he had and bought it. (Mt 13:44-46)

Twice he speaks of the Kingdom as being like a wedding feast (Mt 22:1+, Mt 25:1+), as does the author of the book of Revelation (Rv 19:7+). Thus, Our Lord clearly speaks of the Kingdom of heaven as something very valuable, worth selling all you have to possess, as a feast celebrating a commitment of love, and as a rich reward for whatever sacrifice we make here on earth.

St. Paul speaks of heaven in glowing terms: "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor. 2:9).

Will everyone be at the same level in Heaven, or will some receive a greater reward than others? We find the answer in Church teaching:

[The souls of those who enter heaven] clearly behold the triune God as he is, yet one person more perfectly than another according to the difference of their merits. [2]

This is based on the words of Our Lord: "The Son of man... will reward each one according to his conduct," (Mt 16:27) and the words of [3] St. Paul: "each shall receive his wages according to his labor." (1 Cor 3:8; see also 2 Cor 9:6)

Many of the saints wrote of the tremendous joy and happiness that awaits those who are worthy of Heaven: To paraphrase St. Augustine, what must be the amazing joy of those in heaven, seeing how much beauty, how many delights and what great blessings we enjoy on earth? Teresa of Àvila remarked "Our life lasts only a couple of hours. Our reward is boundless." [4] And, St. Catherine of Siena wrote, "The indescribable sweetness of this perfect union cannot be told by tongue, which is but a finite thing."

Were (the soul) to have but a foreglimpse of the height and beauty of God, she would not only desire death in order to see him now forever, as she here desires, but she would very gladly undergo a thousand singularly bitter deaths to see Him only for a moment; and having seen Him, she would ask to suffer just as many more that she might see Him for another moment. [5]

What is heaven like? Do we have any clues, more than just a place with many clouds, and gold streets? It is primarily a relationship. But, what sort of a relationship?

The Divine Marriage

St. Gregory the Great said heaven would be like a marriage: "The husband of every Christian soul is God; for she is joined to Him by faith." [6] St. John of the Cross wrote along the same line:

One does not reach this garden of full transformation which is the joy, delight and glory of spiritual marriage, without first passing through the spiritual espousal and the loyal and mutual love of betrothed persons. For, after the soul has been for some time the betrothed of the Son of God in gentle and complete love, God calls her and places her in His flowering garden to consummate this most joyful state of marriage with Him... Yet in this life this union cannot be perfect, although it is beyond words and thought. [7]

(Thus, according to John, the "spiritual marriage" begins here, not just in the Kingdom.) In 1572 the Lord spoke to St. Teresa of Ávila as follows: " will be my bride from today on. Until now you have not merited this; from now on, not only will you look after my honor as [that of] your Creator, King and God, but... as my true bride." [8]

Others, including Sts Margaret of Cortona, Catherine of Siena, Lawrence Justinian, John of God, and John Vianney all received wedding rings from the Lord.9 When St. Margaret Mary Alacoque suffered great temptations against her vocation to be a nun, Jesus appeared to her one day after Communion and showed her that he was "the most beautiful, the wealthiest, the most powerful, the most perfect and the most accomplished among all lovers."10 He told her he had chosen her to be his spouse. After this she hesitated no more!

There are several Biblical passages which support this marriage-with-God theme. In Ezekiel 16 the Lord addresses his people, Jerusalem, as his unfaithful spouse with whom he later restores his covenant. In Isaiah 62 we read:

No more shall men call you "Forsaken," or your land "Desolate," But you shall be called "My Delight," and your land "Espoused." For the LORD delights in you, and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin your Builder shall marry you; And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you. [11]

Hosea 1 and 2 contain God's complaint against Israel: "...the land commits great harlotry by forsaking the LORD." (Hos. 1:2); God leads her back to Him and says after her return, "And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD." (Hos. 2:19, 20).

The implications of this heavenly marriage are important. If we are to be in a kind of marriage with God who is so holy, we must be holy ourselves. A marriage in which one party loves at an intensely high level and the other loves feebly simply won't do. In order for us to be in this eternal marriage, we must somehow be energized or super-charged to love God at least at a quasi-reciprocal level. We must love God with his power, in other words, with his Spirit.

How much of the Holy Spirit do we need to be in this marriage? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know it takes 100%, that is, we must be filled to capacity. The more the Holy Spirit dwells within us, the more we are ready for this marriage.

If you had the spirit of Mozart you could write great music. If you had the spirit of Shakespeare you could write great plays. But, if you have the Spirit of God, you can love at a quasi-divine level.

This need for profound holiness is fully supported elsewhere in Sacred Scripture. In Luke 10:27 we are told that the condition for entering eternal life is to " God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind" and "love your neighbor as yourself."

There is other biblical evidence for the need to be holy. Jesus said in Mt. 5:48 "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." In Leviticus 19:2 we read, "...Be holy for I, the Lord your God, am holy." [12] (See also Lv. 11:45 and 20:7.) In addition, we read in Ephesians 1:4, "...he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him." (Also see Eph 5:27, 1 Pet. 1:15, 16, 2:5.)

Vatican II speaks of this call to holiness:

Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. [13]

The Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary at one point and told her, "Learn that I am a Holy Master and One that teaches holiness. I am pure and cannot endure the slightest stain." [14] Thus, it should be clear: to live in this heavenly marriage with God we must be very holy.

How foolish we would be to underestimate the holiness we must arrive at to be worthy of the Kingdom. Living in the state of grace is enough to be saved, that is, to be worthy of Purgatory. However, to be worthy of entering the Kingdom, we must surrender all. For those who do well but do not give their all in this life, Purgatory is their lot. And, as we shall see, Purgatory is not a pleasant prospect.

Hard But Sweet

Loving God at that level is no easy task. Nor is loving our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus told us it would be hard: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to [eternal] destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to [eternal] life, and those who find it are few." (Mt. 7:13, 14). Elsewhere he said, "[Whoever] would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Mk 8:34). Clearly it will be a difficult path to come to this level of love.

However, Jesus did promise he would sweeten the journey: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy [or gentle], and my burden is light" (Mt. 11:28-30).

A Plan

If we were to die tomorrow and had to admit to the Lord, "I confess, I hadn't come to love you with all my heart, soul and mind," he would, we might speculate, be very understanding. But, if we died tomorrow and had to admit that we not only had not come to this level of love, but we had no plan as to how to get there, we should anticipate some great displeasure on his part. We need a plan. That plan is the subject of this book.

A Romantic View of Heaven

St. John of the Cross wrote of the beauty of the encounter with God:

Since the virtues of the bride are perfect she enjoys habitual peace in the visits of her Beloved, she sometimes has a sublime enjoyment of their sweetness and fragrance when her Beloved touches these virtues, just as a man enjoys the sweetness and beauty of flowers and lilies when they have blossomed, and he must handle them.

The soul feels that the Beloved is within her as in His own bed. She offers herself together with her virtues, which is the greatest service she can render Him. Thus, one of the most remarkable delights she receives in her interior communion with God comes from this gift of herself to her beloved. [15]

We should think often of the utter delight of heaven. Imagine being married to the most desirable member of the opposite sex you could ever conceive of. [16] A chaste embrace with the God who created in His own image the beauties we so desire on earth, and who has called us to be his spouse, is an image of heaven which is a mere whisper of the delight and the glory of heaven. And by using this sort of healthy "fantasy" we can inspire ourselves to strive harder in prayer and other spiritual activities.

We might pray thus:

O God, I have always dreamed of a lover like You: beautiful to the core beyond telling, kind, charming, alluring, fascinating, unfathomable, and faithful. You are so warmly inviting, yet you graciously and firmly correct my selfishness. O that you might always call me to that intimate Eucharistic Communion union with you, body and soul even in my imperfect but sincere love, as a sign and promise of the ecstatic intimacy to which you call me in the eternal marriage of Your Kingdom; an intimacy which married couples on earth could never dream of.

No doubt for some this romantic approach to God might seem strange or even uncomfortable. Yet, it is fully in accord with Scriptures and the writing of the saints. Hosea 1 and 2, and Ezekiel 16 are examples of how the Prophets, as Pope Benedict XVI wrote, "...described God's passion for His people, using boldly erotic images." [17] The Song of Songs and St. John of the Cross' Spiritual Canticle are further expressions of this recurring theme of God as our passionate, intimate lover.

Ultimately, it is only union with this Beloved, that will fulfill us completely as persons, and an imaginary embrace of such a Lover is noble fantasy, a powerful sign of that intimate union. And, it is more real than any earthly fantasy could ever be. Such an image should move us to pray and worship our God, that we might be worthy of this eternal, joyful, peaceful divine marriage with this "Beauty so ancient and so new."

The thought of heaven should be on our minds constantly. We should contemplate this joyful reality several times-even scores of times-daily, that we might be ever aware of our purpose on this earth: to become a worthy gift to live in that Kingdom of love forever.


The Reality of Hell

In this age of pseudo-sophistication, the mention of hell is considered much too harsh for polite company. I heard of one Catholic saying in public, "If there is a hell, there's no one there." Alas, there is no evidence to support such a statement in Scripture, or in the teaching of the Church, or in the writings of the saints.

St. Josemaria Escrivá wrote, "There is a hell. A trite enough statement, you think. I will repeat it then. There is a hell. Echo it, at the right moment in the care of a friend, and another, and another." [18] The saints did not shy away from mentioning hell.

Our Lord refers to Hell and its punishment fewer than 30 times in the gospels as compared to about 170 references to heaven. Thus, his emphasis is certainly on the positive, but he does not leave out the negative. He uses the terms Hades and Gehenna, both translated as Hell, but more often speaks of fire, everlasting fire or unquenchable fire.

...if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. (Mk 9:43-48)

Of course, Our Lord is not literally suggesting that anyone should cut off his hand or tear out his eye. He uses these comparisons simply to indicate the terrible nature of Hell, and the sin which sends one there. It seems he accomplished his goal very well, for the words are truly frightening.

Does anyone go to Hell? There is, of course no way of knowing who does go to Hell, but Our Blessed Lord did say the following:

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to [eternal] destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to [eternal] life, and those who find it are few. (Mt 7:13,14)

Jesus also said, "Many are called but few are chosen" (Mt 22:14).

Some people wonder if perhaps at some point in time Hell might end and all the souls be released. This is not a new idea. Origen, a theologian in the early Church, believed, as did some others, that Hell would not last for all eternity. However, the Church condemned this idea, declaring that the punishment of Hell would last for all eternity (Fourth Lateran Council). This was no doubt based on the use of the word "eternal" or "everlasting" in Scripture when describing the punishment of Hell. (See Mt 25:41 & 46; 2 Thess 1:9.)

Many people through the ages have had great difficulty in imagining that there is such a thing as Hell, in light of all the revelations about God's goodness and mercy. The doctrine of Hell is truly a mystery with which we must struggle, even after it has clearly been spelled out to us, and yet the Church doctors were all agreed on their acceptance of this doctrine. St. Augustine wrote, "[Hell] is not a matter of feeling, but a fact... there is no way of waiving or weakening the words which the Lord has told us He will pronounce at the Last Judgment..." [19] St. Bernard of Clairvaux urged us to go down into Hell now (by way of imagination) so that we don't end up there when we die. St. John Chrysostom said something similar: "What can be more grievous than hell? Yet nothing is more profitable than the fear of it." [20]

St. Teresa of Ávila relates the following:

...while I was at prayer one day when suddenly, I suddenly found that, without knowing how, I had seemingly been put in hell. I understood that the Lord wanted me to see the place the devils had prepared there for me and which I merited because of my sins... I felt a fire in the soul that I don't know how I could describe. The bodily pains were so unbearable that, though I had suffered excruciating ones in this life, and according to what the doctors say, the worst that can be suffered on earth (for all my nerves were shrunken when I was paralyzed...), these were nothing in comparison with what I experienced there. I saw furthermore that they would go on without end... This, however, was nothing next to the soul's agonizing: a constriction, a suffocation, an affliction so keenly deeply felt... that I don't know how to word it strongly enough... [21]

A concept which arose in the 12th century speaks of two pains in Hell: the pain of loss, of not seeing God; and the pain of sense, a burning sensation. St. Catherine of Siena received this insight from the Lord, "...they see themselves deprived of the vision of Me, which is such pain to them, that, were it possible, they would rather choose the fire, and the tortures and torments, and to see Me, than to be without the torments and not to see Me." [22] Thus, the pain of not seeing God is far more agonizing than the pain of sense.

Freedom and Love

The mystery of Hell is wrapped up with our freedom and the justice of God. Although God is all-merciful, one who enters Hell has rejected God's mercy, and God does not overrule his choice. Consider this simple analogy. Let's say you come upon someone working on his computer trying to solve a problem which you solved on your own computer the previous year. And, suppose you offer him some advice, explaining that you had the same problem a year ago, and it took you six months to solve it. "If you want," you explain, "I can help you get it fixed in about half an hour."

But, let's say he rejects your offer, saying, "Look, I don't need your help. I can fix it myself." You can't very well force him to accept your help. Thus, because he is too proud to accept your help, he is left to his problem which he may never solve. You might say, as you leave, "If you change your mind, call me."

So it is with the Lord. He comes along and tells us he has the answer to all our problems: live according to His way. But, if we reject his offer, he cannot, without denying our freedom (and thus the merit of our love), force us to accept Him. Thus, He must leave us in our self-chosen misery of having rejected God who is infinitely good. In a sense, he says, "If you change your mind, call Me."

This is how a person can choose hell. In order to be free to love, we must be free to refuse to love. If God were to force us to love we'd all be robots.

The Saints

The saints were not shy about speaking of hell. St. Francis de Sales dedicated a chapter in his Introduction to The Devout Life to a reflection on hell. This is what he wrote:

Picture to yourself a dark city, reeking with the flames of sulphur and brimstone, inhabited by citizens who cannot get out.

Even so the lost are plunged in their infernal abyss-suffering indescribable torture in every sense and every member; and that because having used their members and senses for sin, it is just that through them they should suffer now. Those eyes which delighted in impure vicious sights, now behold devils; the ears which took pleasure in unholy words, now are deafened with yells of despair...

Beyond all these sufferings, there is one greater still, the privation and pain of loss of God's Glory, which is forever denied to their vision...

Consider how insupportable the pains of Hell will be by reason of their eternal duration. If the irritating bite of an insect, or the restlessness of fever, makes an ordinary nightseem so long and tedious, how terrible will the endless night of eternity be, where nothing will be found save despair, blasphemy and fury! [23]

St. Ignatius of Loyola included a similar meditation on Hell in his Spiritual Exercises. [24]

Hell is real. As St. Augustine said, we can't get around the fact that there is a hell and Jesus said people go there. Our primary focus should be on heaven, but when we become lazy about our spiritual life we should heed the words of St. Bernard, St. Ignatius and St. Francis de Sales: think about going to hell. That should wake us up!


The Suffering of Purgatory

We might ask, what if you begin to grow in holiness, and you come to the point where you are in the state of grace and you love God with most of your heart, soul and mind-but not all. And, you love your neighbor nearly as much as you love yourself. And you die. Where would you go? Not to heaven, since Jesus said you must love God with all your heart, soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself to have everlasting life. You wouldn't go to hell since you died in the state of grace. You would go to purgatory.

The dogma of purgatory is an all-but-forgotten teaching of the Church, yet it is extremely valuable in supporting the call to perfection. The fundamental purpose of purgatory is not forgiveness of sins, but making up for sins, reparation. The damage done by sin, especially to our own souls, is "repaired" in purgatory.

When a boy accidentally throws a baseball through a neighbor's window, it is one thing to be forgiven by the owner, another thing to repair the window. When a man does something terrible to his wife, it is one thing to receive her forgiveness, quite another to make it up to her. True, Jesus has paid most of the price for sin, but we have a relatively small price to pay as well. St. Paul says, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and I make up in my own flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, for the sake of his body, which is the Church" (Col. 1:24). So, there is a place or state we enter to repair the damage our sins have caused.

The Biblical support for purgatory is found, among other passages, in St. Paul:

Each one's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Cor 3:13-15) [25]

This is a painful proposition, purgatory, one that is not well known. It was defined as a dogma of the Church at the Council of Trent in 1563. [26] The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: "As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire..." (Gregory the Great). (CCC, para. 1031)

St. Catherine of Genoa wrote: "...the divine essence is so pure and light-filled-much more than we can imagine-that the soul that has but the slightest imperfection would rather throw itself into a thousand hells than appear thus before the divine presence." [27] And the Anglican, C.S. Lewis, wrote:

Our souls demand Purgatory, don't they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, "It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy"? Should we not reply, "With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I'd rather be cleaned first." "It may hurt, you know." "Even so, sir." [28]

To deny the doctrine of Purgatory would be to make hollow Christ's teaching that we must be made perfect, as our heavenly Father, or that we should love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves. Is it reasonable to think that if we fall far short of this perfection, but die in the state of grace, Jesus will meet us at the gates of heaven and say, "That teaching on perfection (Mt. 5:48)-I didn't really mean it. Come on in."?

The Pain and Joy of Purgatory

St. Augustine wrote: "This fire of Purgatory will be more severe than any pain that can be felt, seen or conceived in this world." [29] Thomas Aquinas taught something similar:

In Purgatory there will be a twofold loss, namely the delay of the divine vision, and the pain of sense, namely the punishment by bodily fire. With regard to both, the least pain of Purgatory surpasses the greatest pain of this life. [30]

St. Francis de Sales balances this misery with a certain sweetness for the souls in purgatory:

...Their bitterest anguish is soothed by a certain profound peace. It is a species of Hell as regards the suffering; it is a Paradise as regards the delight infused into their hearts by charity---a charity stronger than death and more powerful than Hell... [31]

Why is there such joy in purgatory? Because once we are there, we are sure of entering heaven one day. It's guaranteed.

Nonetheless, despite the delight of those being cleansed, the Church herself calls them the "Church Suffering," and I know of not one holy soul in purgatory who has appeared to a saint-and several have appeared-and told them, "It's delightful here. Come and join me!" All have rather asked for prayers or penances or Masses to expedite their release.

The Horror of Sin

Why is purgatory so terribly painful? Because sin is so terribly horrible. Sin is totally incompatible with God, and as Jesus showed us on the cross, it is a painful thing to make reparation for it. Alas, we have lost the sense of sin, and with it the harshness of purgatory.

St. Ignatius of Loyola proposed as a "second mode of humility" that we come to say: "[I would not] for the sake of all creation, or for the purpose of saving my life, consider committing a single venial sin." [32] St. Catherine of Genoa wrote:

When I beheld that vision in which I saw the magnitude of the stain of even one least sin against God, I know not why I did not die. I said: `I no longer marvel that hell is so horrible, since it was made for sin; for even hell (as I have seen it) I do not believe to be really proportionate to the dreadfulness of sin; on the contrary, it seems to me that even in hell God is very merciful, since I have beheld the terrible stain caused by but one venial sin. [33]

Pope John Paul II taught regarding purgatory in August of 1999:

...we are invited to "cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit" (2 Cor 7: 1; cf. 1 Jn 3: 3), because the encounter with God requires absolute purity. Every trace of attachment to evil must be eliminated, every imperfection of the soul corrected. Purification must be complete, and indeed this is precisely what is meant by the Church's teaching on purgatory. [34]

Every time we sin, mortally or venially, we add to the debt. Can we "pay the debt" here on earth? Indeed we can! St. Teresa of Ávila said, "...let us praise God and strive to do penance in this life. How sweet will be the death of those who have done penance for all their sins, and [need] not to go to Purgatory!" [35]

Pope Paul VI taught the following:

The truth has been divinely revealed that sins bring punishments inflicted by God's sanctity and justice. These must be expiated either on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and calamities of this life, and above all, through death, or else in the life beyond, through fire and torments or "purifying" punishments. [36]

And, how much better it is to pay the debt in this life! St. Catherine of Genoa wrote, "He who purifies himself from his faults in the present life satisfies with a penny a debt of a thousand [silver pieces]..." [37]

The "Duration" of Purgatory

St. Robert Bellarmine, doctor of the Church, wrote, "There is no doubt that the pains of Purgatory are not limited to ten or twenty years, and that they last in some cases entire centuries." And, it seems that [38] to the souls in Purgatory the time seems much longer than the equivalent time on earth. St. Catherine of Genoa wrote, "If we regarded our own proper good, it would seem better to us to suffer here for a little than to remain in torments forever; better to suffer for a thousand years every woe possible to this body in this world, than to remain one hour in purgatory." [39]

Bl. James Alberione, founder of the Society of St. Paul and the Daughters of St. Paul, wrote:

Regarding the duration of the pains of the suffering souls, we can recall some things which make us think deeply and fear greatly... Absolute duration is one thing, and relative duration is another. The first is the time which the soul really spends in Purgatory; the second is the impression that the soul has of this time. That is, the soul which suffers but briefly believes that it has been suffering for a long time. Many revelations say that only an hour in Purgatory seems longer than a century. [40]

We speak of time in Purgatory only analogously. Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, a noted 20th century theologian commented:

...Theological opinion, in general, favors long duration of purgatorial purification. Private revelations mention three or four centuries, or even more, especially for those who have had high office and great responsibility.

...Purgatory is not measured by solar time, but by eviternity and discontinuous time. Discontinuous time... is composed of successive spiritual instants, and each of these instants may correspond to ten, twenty, thirty, sixty hours of our solar time... [41]

(Eviternity [or aeviternity] according to St. Thomas Aquinas, "differs from time, and from eternity, as the mean between them both." S. T. I q10 a5.)

So this is the sad fate of those who fail to take seriously the need to strive for perfection, or who take it seriously and don't quite make it but die in the state of grace: a miserably painful existence for however many (analogous) months, or years or centuries it takes. And, the soul's impression of time in Purgatory is much longer than its equivalent here on earth.


You might ask, "What happens to a person who goes to confession, does his penance, and is killed on his way home? Where would he most likely go? Not to heaven. Most likely to purgatory.

"But he completed his penance," you say? Yes, but some historical perspective is needed here. In the fourth and fifth centuries, the penance for one of the three major sins of murder, adultery/fornication, or denying the faith was truly severe. You might have to spend ten or fifteen years in penance for one instance of these, and if you were married, you could never again have relations with your spouse. If you were not married, you could never get married.

Needless to say, people guilty of these things were not coming in great numbers to go to confession. They would put off going to confession as long as possible, usually until their deathbed.

It appears that the Church noted this, and began to ease up on the penances. It seems it was deemed best to get people forgiven as soon as possible, to preserve them from losing their souls even if the penances had to be reduced considerably. The penances became more and more symbolic, not representing all that might be needed to make up for the sins confessed.

Thus, for most people, going to confession and doing the penance will not prepare them to enter the Kingdom. Some, who are particularly holy, would go directly to heaven, but for most it would ordinarily take a great deal more.

The Saints' Experiences

At one point Don Bernardino de Mendoza, the brother of the bishop of Ávila, had given St. Teresa of Ávila a house near Valladolid to found a new convent there. While she was at Alcalá Teresa received news of his death. The Lord told her this man had been in danger of losing his soul but Mary had interceded for him in gratitude for his donating the house for her Order, and he was in Purgatory. He would remain there until the first Mass occurred in that new house. [42]

Although she made every effort to expedite the founding of the new convent, she had to wait several months. When she finally had the first Mass said in the convent, she saw Bernardino standing next to the priest as she received Communion. He appeared in glory and thanked her for his release from purgatory. [43]

In November 1856, John Bosco's beloved mother and long-time helper died. Four years later she appeared to him. He asked her, "Are you happy?" Her reply was, "Very happy." He then asked, "Did you go straight to heaven when you died?" "No," was her abrupt response. This

saintly woman had to spend time in purgatory before she entered heaven. This should be a reminder to all of the true holiness we must attain, by God's grace, in order to enter heaven. [44]

St. Margaret Mary wrote of a Benedictine monk who appeared to her in a "pitiable condition," in fire of which she herself felt the heat. He told her that because he had directed her to receive holy Communion, he was given the grace to approach her and ask her to offer her sufferings and actions for him for three months to ease his sufferings. He told her he was in purgatory because he was too concerned about others' opinions of him, he was too attached to other people and he was not as charitable to his fellow monks as he should have been. She received permission from her superior to do as he asked and endured terrible suffering, feeling the heat from his presence, which continued the whole three months. After this he appeared to her in glory, about to enter heaven and promised to help her from there. [45]

Teresa of Ávila related two experiences:

Eighteen or twenty years ago another nun died in the house I was in. She had always been sick, and been a very good servant of God, devoted to her choir duties and most virtuous. I thought certainly she would not enter purgatory, because the illnesses she suffered were many, and that she would have a surplus of merits. Four hours after her death, while reciting the hours of the Office before her burial, I understood she departed from purgatory and went to Heaven. [46]

Another friar of our Order, a truly very good friar, was seriously ill; while I was at Mass I became recollected and saw that he was dead and that he ascended into heaven without entering purgatory. He had died at the hour I saw him, according to what I learned later. I was amazed that he hadn't entered purgatory. I understood that since he had been a friar who had observed his vows well, the Bulls of the Order about not entering purgatory were beneficial to him. [47]

Teresa said that from her visions, she was not aware that any soul had gone directly to heaven besides the friar she mentioned above, St. Peter of Alcántara, and one Dominican priest. [48]

In summary then, purgatory is a very difficult prospect. If we fail to take seriously Jesus' call to perfection, we can anticipate much suffering. God does not want us to go to purgatory; he urges us to give totally of ourselves, to become holy, to become totally loving. May we heed His call!


The Foundation: Prayer

At the end of World War II, the Russian army took over Austria. For three years they occupied that country, but then a priest by the name of Fr. Petrus began a rosary crusade in the country. He urged everyone to pray the rosary for their deliverance from Russian rule. His goal was 10% of the country to pledge, 700,000, and he got it. After seven years of rosaries, on May 13, 1955 inexplicably by [49] human terms, the Russian army left Austria. [50] Prayer is a most powerful tool against evil!

Is prayer primarily about asking for what we want? No, but it certainly should include that. The Lord does expect us to ask for things we need in prayer. In fact he said,

...ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened... If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Lk 11:9, 10, 13).

But this is not the only reason to pray. Prayer is our way of coming to know God, and to love him. We come to God to thank him, to seek his forgiveness, to adore him, and yes, to ask for what we need. Indeed, prayer is the foundation of our entire life with the Lord; everything we do in this life rests on this foundation of communication with God.

What exactly is prayer? Prayer is simply lifting up the mind and heart to God. Or, to put it differently, it is communicating with God. St. Thérèse, the Little Flower, put it as follows: "For me, prayer is an upward leap of the heart, an untroubled glance towards heaven, a cry of gratitude

and love which I utter from the depths of sorrow as well as the heights of joy. It has a supernatural grandeur which expands the soul and unites it with God." [51]

Motives for Prayer

There are four motives for prayer: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and petition or supplication. Certainly adoration is the highest motive for prayer, in general, but all four motives should be practiced. The Psalms, a hundred and fifty songs addressed to God, are a model for prayer. And they include all of the four motives. We often find the psalmist petitioning or asking God for help. For example, "Incline thy ear to me, rescue me speedily! Be thou a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! Yea, thou art my rock and my fortress; for thy name's sake lead me and guide me..." (Ps 31:2-3).


Why does God encourage us to ask for things in prayer? For several reasons. First, God wants us to be deeply aware that all good things come from Him. What better way than to invite us to seek His help in any need!

Second, God no doubt wants us to be humble enough to be aware of our neediness and to constantly realize that no matter what spiritual heights we might reach we are utterly dependent on Him for everything. Furthermore, God wants to manifest His presence and reward our faith by

answering our prayers. This He does, sometimes in dramatic ways. This is a way of encouraging our faith. Many, many people have had their faith boosted by an answer to prayer.

I met a young woman who was one of thirteen children and virtually all of them attended Mass and prayed the Rosary every day. I asked her to what she attributed this apparent faith among her self and her brothers and sisters. She said that when they were young they would all pray the Rosary together as a family for special intentions, and their prayers were almost always answered. Thus, turning to God in time of need became a habit for them. God wants us to get in the habit of communicating with Him. What better way than to appeal to one of our most basic instincts, our needs and desires!

Of course, we should understand how we are to ask for things and what we can expect. For example, Christ said: "...if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven" (Mt 18:19), would this include a prayer asking for the death of a business competitor? No, God who is good only grants good requests. That is why, at the end of any prayer in which we request something, we should add the words: "if it be for my good," or, "if it be your will."

Thomas Merton began praying in earnest that he would have a novel he wrote accepted for publication. That novel was never accepted. But this began in him the habit of prayer which was far more valuable than publishing a book.

When I was a young man working as an engineer, I used to pray for relief from difficult love relationships. The Lord gave me relief, and in gratitude I continued praying hard long after such relationships ended. As a result, I found a relationship with God which has far exceeded the relationships I had been seeking.

Perhaps this little poem by an unknown confederate soldier could help us understand how we pray and how God answers us.

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve;
I was made weak, that I might humbly learn to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life;
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I received nothing that I asked for -
but everything that I had hoped for;
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all men, most richly blessed. [52]

It seems that if God does not give us what we ask for He gives us something better. St. Thérèse, the Little Flower, wrote, "I no longer know how to ask passionately for anything, except that the Will of God shall be perfectly accomplished in my soul." [53] This is what it means to really pray, as a saint; to pray that the will of God shall be perfectly accomplished in our souls.


The motive of thanksgiving in prayer is extremely important. We are reminded to give thanks to God over forty times in the Psalms. Psalm 136 is a good example. It begins with the verse, "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever," and then goes on for the next 26 verses to enumerate the reasons why we should give him thanks. When Our Lord healed the ten lepers He lamented the fact that only one returned to give thanks for His healing (Lk 17:11-19). The word "thanks" appears 58 times in the Old Testament, 33 times in the New; thanksgiving 83 and 48 respectively.

We should be immensely thankful to God at every moment of every day. If we think clearly about our lives, most of us can find many, many things to thank God for. For family, for friends, for intelligence, for health, for food and drink, for the beauty of the world for our very existence. All of us have experienced at least some of these things.

I was working with a young woman once who was depressed. It was clear to me that she didn't have enough spiritual energy to pray the rosary daily, but she knew she needed to pray. I urged her to thank God for at least seven things every day, and to be quite specific about just what these things were. She began to do so, and I believe she drew closer to God each day. She became more and more positive. After some months of that she overcame some of her depression and was able to pray the rosary daily. Since that time I have made every effort to take some of my own medicine, and thank God all day long.

Some people have such wonderful gifts as a good, faithful spouse, good children, good parents, good health, a good job, a holy pastor, and any number of other good things-none of which they could claim to deserve-and they begin to take them for granted. Then, when one of these is taken away, they become angry at God for letting them down. What ingratitude!

Do we really believe God owes us all these things? This is not to downplay the deep emotional hurt that often occurs when we lose someone or something very dear to us, but to be angry at God for losing one of so many gifts? Be sad, and ask for His consolation, but not angry.

We should be thankful for the gifts we still have, especially our greatest gift, His friendship.

If God gave us nothing more than our existence, and the chance, the opportunity to learn to love Him and our neighbor, that we might experience the beauty and goodness of Love Himself in an eternal, intimate embrace, we would have reason to thank him at every moment of our life. If he never answered another prayer, we would still have reason to be grateful to him for all eternity.

In the United States we have one day a year dedicated to thanksgiving. It's good that we have such a day, but every day should be a day to thank God for the many blessings he has given us. The Church celebrates "thanksgiving" every day: that is the meaning of the word Eucharist. It

would seem that thanking God always is an integral part of holiness. As the angel told Tobit and his father, "Praise God and give thanks to him; exalt him and give thanks to him in the presence of all the living for what he has done for you. It is good to praise God and to exalt his name, worthily declaring the works of God. Do not be slow to give him thanks...." (Tobit 12:6)


Contrition, or sorrow for sins, is another motivation for prayer. Psalm 51 is a classic example of the prayer of contrition: "Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!" (Ps 51:3-4). This Psalm, also known as the Miserere or Prayer of Repentance, goes on for 21 verses.

St. John Vianney used to say near the end of his life that he wanted to retire from his pastorate and go to some monastery to "weep for his sins." The holier we become, the more deeply we are aware of our sins.

Contrition is so important in our Church that we have a sacrament in which to express it. No doubt God knew our psychological need to alleviate our (reasonable) guilt, express our sorrow and seek forgiveness.

It seems that many have lost a sense of sin, an awareness that we have done something wrong, and need to change our ways. At the same time, we sense that something is wrong. Could it be that we have... sinned?

We need not obsess over our sins, but we should have a healthy awareness of sin, our sin. One way to accomplish that is to make a list of our three (or fewer) most prevalent sins and look at that list each night and pray an act of contrition before going to bed.


Finally, adoration the highest motive for prayer is simply an outpouring of praise and love for God. Again we find over and over the praises of God sung in the Psalms such as: "Give to the Lord, you sons of God, give to the Lord glory and praise, give to the Lord the glory due his name, adore the Lord in holy attire" (Ps 29:1-2). (Incidentally, that last phrase "adore the Lord in holy attire" is something we should remember as we dress for Sunday Mass.)

When you think of it, we have very little to offer God in return for his many wonderful gifts. He has everything, and yet we know that he delights in our words of praise and adoration. When we pray the prayer of adoration, he allows us to get close to him, to be his intimate lover.

Think of how praise effects you. When others praise you, don't you feel good? Don't you usually thank them for those words of praise? Don't you feel a bit closer to them?

A child who receives constant criticism from his parents develops low esteem and will have little self-confidence. But if he receives much praise, he is likely to flourish, and behave better and better. The person who often praises his or her spouse will often reap abundant rewards very quickly.

Thus, it should be no surprise that this praise and adoration of God should please him and move him to bless us. And, there is no limit to the things we can praise God for: His kindness, His mercy, His beauty, His generosity, His wisdom, His glorious power, His infinite love... And, we find some of the best prayers of adoration and praise in the Psalms. Perhaps this is why the Church prescribes that priests and religious pray the Psalms at least five times a day in the Divine Office (also known as the Liturgy of The Hours).

May we never tire of adoring God, of praising Him, of honoring Him who has given us every good thing we have, and who has invited us to be His spouse forever.


Now, what are some of the methods of prayer? Certainly one which is familiar to all is vocal prayer or formal prayer. In vocal prayer we follow a set formula such as in the Our Father or the Psalms and allow our hearts and minds to be lifted up to God through these words. Another less formal method is simply to speak to God in our own words, telling Him of our troubles, our joys, our needs, and our desires. This is typically called conversation.

A third method of prayer is meditation, that is, thinking about the word of God or events in the life of Christ. Some times called "mental prayer," this is considered a richer type of prayer than Vocal prayer or conversation with God. We will dedicate the next chapter to meditative prayer and to contemplative prayer (something God works in us).

Vocal Prayer

"Vocal prayer, founded on the union of body and soul in human nature, associates the body with the interior prayer of the heart, following Christ's example of praying to His Father and teaching the Our Father to His disciples." [54] To put it more simply, vocal prayer is praying a set formula, such as the Our Father or one of the Psalms.

Presumably most of us say the Our Father every day, but do we really know what it means, and do we think about what it means? This is prayer from the heart-knowing what you are saying and thinking about it when you pray. Any other way is a kind of thoughtless recitation of words that is not very pleasing to God.

The Our Father

What exactly does the Our Father mean? The first word "our" should reminds us that the Lord would have us pray with others. St. John Chrysostom taught, "[The Lord] teaches us to make prayer in common for all our brethren. For he did not say ‘my Father' who art in heaven, but ‘our' Father, offering petitions for the common body." [55] In fact, Jesus is so pleased to see us pray together that He Joins us: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Mt 18:20). If Jesus prays with us, we shall certainly be heard! St. Francis de Sales said, "God has ordained that communion in prayer must always be preferred to every form of private prayer." [56]

The word "Father" reminds us of the intimacy God wishes to have with us. He is not merely King or Emperor or Teacher, but our own Father. And, he is the perfect father. If we had a father who was not so great, we can discover perfect fatherhood by getting to know God, especially in the Psalms. We are His sons and daughters. He loves us passionately, unconditionally. He cares for us and has "counted every hair on our heads."

"Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name": In other words, may your name be held holy by all. And, we are asking not only that God's name be held holy, but the entire person of God be held holy. In Scripture when the term "your name" is used, it refers to the person as a whole. We speak of "calling on your name," "glorifying your name," and "loving your name" in the Psalms. When the apostles were beaten and told not to speak about Jesus by the Sanhedrin, they rejoiced that "they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name" (Acts 5:41). So with these words we pray: May your entire person be held as holy by all.

"Thy Kingdom come." By this phrase we are saying, Lord, may your Kingdom soon be fully established in me and in the hearts of all, so that we might live together in your peace and love. Francis of Assisi and his friars brought the joy and peace of God's kingdom everywhere they went. In doing so they rekindled the fire of God's love in Europe and beyond.

"Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven". This is a parallel phrase to the one just given. May we all do and accept your will here on earth as it is done and accepted in Heaven. This is one of the most difficult phrases in the "Our Father," and should never be spoken lightly. It involves a surrender our wills to God's will, be it pleasant or unpleasant.

When we lose a loved one, it is hard to say these words, "Thy will be done." In fact, it is a barometer of our love of God to be able to say this sincerely is such a time of intense sadness. This is the cross Jesus promised us if we would follow him. Mysteriously, our happiness is contained in the will of God, nowhere else.

What is God's will for us? That we become holy, "perfected," as Jesus said (Mt. 5:48). We should keep that in mind when we pray the Our Father.

"Give us this day, our daily bread." Bread here refers to our needs. We ask God to supply them as He does the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields. And, if we pray this sincerely, we can be sure that God will indeed supply us with our true needs. The fathers of the Church also saw this bread as referring the bread of Life, the Eucharist, the food for our souls.

"And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Here again is a difficult thing to say. May You forgive our sins, Lord as we forgive others, even our enemies. In fact, this is the only passage in the Our Father upon which Jesus elaborates. He says "...if you do not forgive [others] their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Mt 6:15). Forgiveness is a central trait of a true Christian. When we think of the many sins God forgives us, it is a mere pittance for us to forgive even the most grievous injustices we have received. In fact, our chances of getting heart disease or cancer are considerably reduced if we forgive others. [57]

"And lead us not into temptation." That is, keep us not only from sin but from the very situation where sin is appealing. Anyone who truly loves another will not only avoid sinning against that person, but will stay far from the situation that has led to that sin. We pray to be delivered from temptation, but we must do our part to accept God's grace to avoid it. How many young men and women seek forgiveness for their sins of the flesh, yet go back to the same situations which have led to those sins.

"But deliver us from evil." That is, Lord, deliver us from the evil one. Let us never be under his spell in any way.

"Amen." Let it be so.

Notice, in this beautiful prayer, sometimes called the "perfect prayer" three of the four motives for prayer are exercised. Adoration is behind the words "hallowed be Thy name,"; supplication, or petitions are found throughout the prayer (for example, "Give us this day our daily bread"); and, contrition is the motive for saying "forgive us our trespasses." We should often pray the "Our Father" and slowly meditate on the meaning of these beautiful words.

St. Teresa of Avila wrote a long meditation on the "Our Father," and wrote at one point, "To keep you from thinking that little is gained through a perfect recitation of vocal prayer, I tell you that it is very possible that while you are reciting the Our Father or some other vocal prayer, the Lord may raise you to perfect contemplation." [58]

Conversation with God

The more we pray, the more comfortable we feel talking to God during our day. There should be scores of things each day that we thank God for, such as the weather, our own health, the blessing of food, our family and friends. Every good thing we experience should remind us to thank God. And, of course, we should feel comfortable asking God for what we need, adding the condition, "...if it be for my good and according to your will."

Ours is a personal God. Jesus told us that God has counted every hair on our head (Lk. 12:7). He cares about everything we do. If we have a personal relationship with God, we should feel comfortable speaking to Him all day long, knowing how close He is to us.


1. St. Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions of St. Augustine, Book 10, Ch. 27. This quote is an adaptation from that found in the trans. by John K. Ryan, New York: Image Books, 1960, pp. 254, 255.

2. Council of Florence, Session 6, 6 July 1439, as found at

3. Author's translation.

4. St. Teresa of Ávila, The Way of Perfection, E. Allison Peers trans., New York: Image Books, 1964, Chapter 2, n. 7, p. 43.

5. St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle, in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, tr. Kavanaugh and Rodriguez, Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1979, p. 450.

6. In The Sunday Sermons of The Great Fathers, Volume III, ed. M. F. Toal, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, p. 186.

7. St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle, in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, tr. Kavanaugh and Rodriguez, Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1979, p. 497.

8. St. Teresa of Ávila, Spiritual Testimonies, in The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Ávila, Volume I, trans. by Keiran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez, Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1976, p. 336.

9. Abbé Francis Trochu, The Curé d'Ars: St. Jean-Marie Baptiste Vianney, trans. by Dom Ernest Graf, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1977, p. 545.

10. St Margaret Mary, Autobiography, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1986 p. 40.

11. Is. 62:4, 5; New American Bible, New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1991.

12. New American Bible.

13. Lumen Gentium, n. 40, from

14. St. Margaret Mary, Autobiography, p. 64.

15. St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle, in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, tr. Kavanaugh and Rodriguez, Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1979, pp. 474, 475.

16. This takes more imagination for men than for women, to be sure. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, "We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God." (CCC para. 239) We call Him by male names and pronouns because he has a male role in relationship to us (provider, pursuer, etc.). Thus the soul is always feminine in spiritual writing (as above). Men who have difficulty imagining this embrace should realize that both men and women are created in the image and likeness of God. When a man sees the beauty of a woman, body and soul, he sees a reflection of the beauty of God.

It should be realized that such a fantasy focused on God could be taken to immoral extremes. However, if your thoughts were to become sexual, you should simply fast forward through that to a more sedate sharing of affection.

17 . Pope Benedict XVI , encyclical Deus Caritas Est, 2005, as found at n. 9.

18. St. Jose-Maria Escriva, from The Way, The Furrow, The Forge, New York: Scepter, 2001, n. 749, pp. 187, 188. Found at

19. St. Augustine in The City of God, XXII, 23, from John Hardon, "Demonology,",

20. St. John Chrysostom, St. Chrysostom: On the Priesthood; Ascetic Treatises; Select Homilies and Letters; Homilies on the Statutes, Homily XV. From

21. St. Teresa of Ávila The Book of Her Life, in The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Ávila, Volume I, trans. by Keiran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez, Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1976, p. 213.

22. St. Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue, trans. by Thorold, p. 105.

23. Adapted from St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to The Devout Life, London: Rivingtons translation, 1876, pp. 41, 42, at

24. See Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, trans. by Elder Mullan, S. J., 1909, First Week, Fifth Exercise, at

25. Adapted from the RSV Bible, Catholic Edition. Some other Biblical passages which support the teaching on purgatory: "And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, * till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." (Mt 18:34, 35). The implication here is that one may make up for sins after death. Also, in Maccabees we read, "Therefore, [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin." (2 Macc. 12:46). Prayer for the dead is linked to the doctrine of purgatory, since if the dead are in heaven or hell, there is no need or no reason to pray for them. See also

Mt. 12:32.

26. Council of Trent, Session 25, Dec. 3, 4, 1563: Decree Concerning Purgatory, see The Canons and Decrees of The Council of Trent, trans. by H. J. Shroeder, OP, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1978, p. 214.

27. St. Catherine of Genoa, Catherine of Genoa: Purgation and Purgatory, Classics of Western Spirituality, Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1979, p. 78.

28. C. S. Lewis, Letters To Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, chapter 20, paragraphs 7-10, pages 108-109 (as found at

29. Thomas Aquinas, Summaa Theologica, Supplement, App 1 Q2 a1; trans. by The Fathers of the English Dominican Province, New York: Benziger Bros., 1948, p. 3018.

30. Ibid.

31. St. Francis de Sales, in Esprit de Francis de Sales, Chapter 9, p. 16, as found in F. X. Schouppe, Purgatory, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1986, p. 26.

32. St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, trans. Anthony Mottola, Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1964, 2nd week, 12th day, p. 82.

33. St. Catherine of Genoa, The Life and Doctrine of Saint Catherine of Genoa, Trans. by Christian Press Assn., New York, 1907, chapter 22. Found at

34. General Audience, 4 August 1999, at

35. St. Teresa of Ávila, The Way of Perfection, chapter 40, trans. by E. Allison Peers, Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1964, p. 266.

36. Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution on the Revision of Indulgences, 1967 para. 2; as found at USCCB, Manual of Indulgences, Washington, DC, 2006, p. 122.

37. F. X. Schouppe, Purgatory, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1973, p. 287.

38. Robert Bellarmine, De Genitu, lib. ii. c. 9; as found in F. X. Schouppe, Purgatory, p. 68.

39. Life and Doctrine of Saint Catherine of Genoa, trans. from Italian by The Christian Press Assoc. Publishing Co., New York, 1907, Chapter XVI; found at

40. Bl. James Alberione, Lest We Forget, Boston, MA: Daughters of St. Paul, 1967, p. 77.

41. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Life Everlasting & the Immensity of the Soul: A Theological Treatise on the Four Last Things Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1991, p. 176, 177.

42. Teresa of Ávila, St., Foundations in The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Ávila, Volume III, trans. by Keiran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez, Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1976, p. 145; and Auclair, Marcelle, Saint Teresa of Ávila, New York, NY: Pantheon Books Inc, 1953, pp. 188, 189.

43. Teresa of Ávila, St., Foundations in The Collected Works Volume III, Kavanaugh and Rodriguez, p. 146.

44. Peter Lappin, Give Me Souls, New Rochelle, NY: Don Bosco Publications, 1986, p. 188.

45. St. Margaret Mary, Autobiography, Rockfore, IL:TAN Books, 1986, p. 110.

46. St. Teresa of Ávila, Autobiography, Kavanaugh and Rodriguez translation, Vol. I, Chap. 38, n. 29, p. 266.

47. St. Teresa of Ávila, Autobiography, Kavanaugh and Rodriguez translation, Vol. I, Chap. 38, n. 31, p. 266, 267.

48. St. Teresa of Ávila, Autobiography, Kavanaugh and Rodriguez translation, Vol I, Chap. 38, n. 32, p. 267.

49. May 13 was the date of the first apparition of Mary at Fatima. It was at one of the subsequent apparitions there that Mary predicted the Russian takeover of many countries.

50. Albert Shamon, The Power of The Rosary, Oak Lawn IL: CMJ Marian Publishers, 1990, pp. 30, 31.

51. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of A Soul, Trans. by John Beevers, Garden City, NY: Image Books, p. 136.

52. See

53. Ibid., p. 109.

54. CCC § 2722.

55. St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in Mt. 19, 4: PG 57, 278; as found in CCC § 2768, footnote 19.

56. St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life henceforth Introduction trans. and ed. John K. Ryan (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950), pt. 2, p. 102.

57. See for example, and Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2002, pp. 78, 79.

58. St. Teresa of Ávila, The Way of Perfection, Chapter 25, from The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Ávila, Volume II trans. by Keiran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez, Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1976, p. 131.

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