Purgatory on Earth

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Guest Post by Supertradmum

Years ago, I asked God to give me my purgatory on earth. He has and is. A few years afterwards, one of my newer spiritual directors asked me if I had asked my spiritual director at the time I petitioned God for that grace. I said no, as it was at a time when I was between spiritual directors. This new one said something to the effect that he would have weighed such a request from a directee.

However, one can ask to have one’s purgatory on earth. This is not quite the same as going through the purgative stage of holiness. Allowing one’s self to take on pain on earth for the reparation of one’s own sin is not only laudatory, but recommended by some of the saints.

The purgative stage happens before one gets to the stage of experiencing suffering for the sake of love. That second description is what one experiences in purgatory. One has seen God in all His Beauty and loves Him. The separation from that Love is part if not all of the pain of purgatory. This is key and a great insight. Suffering for the love of God means desiring purgation only for that love.

The stage where one begins to suffer for one’s sins in order to be perfect before death comes at the beginning of the unitive state or the end of the illuminative stage. This is when the soul yearns to be with God and the final perfection of the soul with regard to sin and the effects of sin is under way. Dying to self is key. That one gives up all one has is not enough. One must give up the desire for things. Years ago, I walking through the lovely shopping district of central Dublin and seeing the happy shoppers, I happened to be in the neighbourhood of the jewellers. Now, I had no jewellery at this time. I dressed simply and if I did have anything bling, it would be simple. I discovered on that walk, however, the twinge of desire still in me. How horrible to face that sinful desire for things of the world. It is not enough to give all away, or sell what one has and give the money to the poor, one must follow Jesus into the dark realms of the heart so that one can be purified. I used custody of the eyes and moved on from the area. How good God was to show me this imperfection. Again, as in the article above, custody of the eyes and mind must be employed to break the habits of desire.

Because one wills to have one’s purgatory on earth, God blesses one exceedingly. Accepting pain freely now is of much more merit than the necessary purging of purgatory. Remember, only the perfect see God. Now that I have cancer, I can understand the type of reparation necessary for one’s sins more clearly. Most of us do not realise how bad even one venial sin is. We cannot comprehend the Holiness of God and how we offend Him.

As I quickly walked past the shops so many years ago, I prayed to be delivered from all desires except for the desire for God. If I had not seen the bling in the windows, I would not have realised the depths of my imperfections. This is good. Only God can change the lasting remains of worldly longings in my heart. If I actually had the bling, I would not want it. But, the desire must be purged from my heart, no matter how small it is. Of course, Satan tempts us and we must know the difference between temptation and a desire. Thankfully, temptations can be refused. I was tempted to look and feed desire and I refused. A quiet peace follows these decisions. Custody of the eyes helps, as does custody of the mind.

Now, I have a greater pain than not buying or even looking at jewellery. All my belongings are in two places of storage and as I am too poor to rent an apartment and must rent a room, I no longer have the joy of my books, my artwork, photographs, etc. This is another level of the purging of my desires. And a hard one—yet, I asked for this grace of purgation which would happen either her or in purgatory, as only the perfect see God. God is allowing this request to become reality. I waste no suffering.

To pray for such purification of heart and mind now, and to desire to only want to love God and to love Him with all one’s heart and mind and soul is the goal of this journey of perfection. One can also pray for that intense love. All is gift. Anything good we do or think is from God. Any evil is from ourselves…this is the teaching of our Church and the saints’ lives make it easy to see this journey In action.

One’s Guardian Angel can help on this journey of purgation. In fact, one can ask one’s Guardian Angel to interiorly humiliate one daily, to show one his or her sins immediately, to be able to repent on the spot, and most importantly, to show one the predominant fault each person has, which causes all sin in each person. I ask my angel to do this—show me my predominant fault and to humiliate me interiorly —he did today and I recognised the grace. I saw my pride and longing for human love. One must desire nothing but God, not even human love.

One cannot be attached to anything-neither the opinion of other people, status, comfort, family. This detachment is the goal of purgatory on earth. It is actually attainable. Many saints did attain this through grace. It is all in God’s timing. Sometimes, God does not give us the graces we want, at first. However, God will never deny us graces for which we sincerely ask. To be a saint on earth means to achieve, through grace, the unitive state. The unitive state is one which St. John of the Cross expresses in this poem. He is in the unitive state in this poem. He has experienced the Love Who is a Person. He has been purified on earth through purgation. Now, he desires in this poem only God. I pray I have time, but perhaps God does not want that. Cancer has given me the warning that the journey will be intense. St. John of the Cross understood the need for this total desire for God alone. May God grant me and you this grace.

 St. John of the Cross on the Desire for God

I live, but not in myself,

and I have such hope

that I die because I do not die.

 I no longer live within myself

and I cannot live without God,

for having neither him nor myself

what will life be?

It will be a thousand deaths,

longing for my true life

and dying because I do not die.

 This life that I live

is no life at all,

and so I die continually

until I live with you;

hear me, my God:

I do not desire this life,

I am dying because I do not die.

 When I am away from you

what life can I have

except to endure

the bitterest death known?

I pity myself,

for I go on and on living,

dying because I do not die.

 A fish that leaves the water

has this relief:

the dying it endures

ends at last in death.

What death can equal my pitiable life?

For the longer I live, the more drawn out is my dying.

When I try to find relief

seeing you in the Sacrament,

I find this greater sorrow:

I cannot enjoy you wholly.

All things are affliction

since I do not see you as I desire,

and I die because I do not die.

 And if I rejoice, Lord,

in the hope of seeing you,

yet seeing I can lose you

doubles my sorrow.

Living in such fear

and hoping as I hope,

I die because I do not die.

 Lift me from this death,

my God, and give me life;

do not hold me bound

with these bonds so strong;

see how I long to see you;

my wretchedness is so complete

that I die because I do not die.

I will cry out for death

and mourn my living

while I am held here

for my sins.

O my God, when will it be

that I can truly say:

now I live because I do not die?

By Supertradmum

JMJ, pray for us!

God is good,

Jay

9 comments on “Purgatory on Earth”

  1. Every. Night and morning I pray to God to give my wife and me the grace of a holy death. I have been doing this for years. My wife is 74 and I am 75.

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  2. I had the privilege of attending a good Catholic school run by Dominican Sisters, who were learned and holy. In the second grade, dear Sr Mary Phillip, who was already as old as I am now (70) told us children the benefits of asking to suffer our Purgatory on earth. It made such good sense (because I was both lazy and pragmatic) that I asked God for this grace. There were 40 children in my class, and I’m guessing many of them also decided it was a smart thing to do. ( I’ll find them out in heaven and we can compare notes.)
    I have never had cause to regret or retract this “bargain” as I want to see God as soon after death as possible. I think too many confessors don’t challenge people to be spiritually adventurous.
    I had the spectacular but horrible grace of unexpectedly experiencing Purgatory for about 24 hours when I was about 31. There are no words to express the seemingly eternal undistracted desolation and loneliness, while at the same time perfect and peaceful acceptance that this was God’s will. Even my sleep was permeated with this existential agony of heart and soul, aching for God, who seemed to have abandoned the universe so that everything was pointless, meaningless without Him. When it was suddenly over, I was “normal” again, though with much to ponder.
    I also asked God for the grace of martyrdom, –even though I don’t deserve this privilege (because I’m basically selfish, and don’t always fight it), because martyrdom would prove that I love Him more than myself.
    The old nun was a good teacher, and a great grace in my otherwise rather ordinary life.

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  3. Prayers for you, Maria. You have been living as a monk in the world for years. I remember your son, too, in my prayers.

    A blessing for you is the cancer, because the passions still claw at you, but, from an evagrian sense, you are in the contemplative state. This is the most beautiful thing you have written.

    I know you burn with a fiery desire like the seraphim as you want so to see your true love, God. But, I do know someone who will get you with a hug and an exclamation of friendship- your dear friend st. Ethelreda!

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