How Long Will I Be in Purgatory Part II
The souls in purgatory can no longer merit any grace. The state of holiness which they will experience in heaven ended with death. All merit must be gained while on earth. Virtues can grow in purgatory, as I noted in the last post, but not merit.
Merit is misunderstood by many Catholics. Merit is made after one is purged of mortal sins. More merit is gained when one is purged of egoism, and self-love, as well as one’s predominant fault. One reason why the Church is so weak in the world right now is that Her members are not working on gaining merit. The weakness of the clergy is a reflection of the lack of merit among all of us. When the vote for abortion was being passed in Ireland, many of us did penances and extra adoration to stop this. All these efforts failed. I asked a holy priest in Scotland, who had held special times for prayer and adoration in his parish why the prayers of the faithful in Great Britain and Ireland did not stop this vote from going through. His answer was simple. There is not enough merit in the Church, not enough holy people gaining merit, to stop such evils.
The same is true for the souls in purgatory. People think that praying for their dear dead ones for a year is enough. It most likely is not. Charity towards the souls in purgatory means having Masses said for a long time, offering up one’s merit for the souls in purgatory and so on.
Something called the “Heroic Act of Charity.” The wiki article is so good on this, I shall quote it at length here:
A decree of the Sacred Congregation of Indulgences dated 18 December, 1885, and confirmed by Leo XIII, says that “The Heroic Act of Charity in favour of the souls detained in purgatory consists in this, that a member of the Church militant (Christifidelis), either using a set formula or simply by an act of his will, offers to God for the souls in purgatory all the satisfactory works which he will perform during his lifetime, and also all the suffrages which may accrue to him after his death.” It is a pious custom for those particularly devoted to Mary, to make it a practice to deposit the said suffrages as it were into the hands of the Blessed Virgin that she may distribute these favours to the souls in purgatory according to her own merciful pleasure. It should not be made lightly, but only after serious reflection.
This can be done either using a set formula or by a simple act of will. It suffices to have the intention and to make it from the heart. As it is in the nature of an offering rather than a vow, it is revocable.
By this act one voluntarily resigns everything that might in any way be acceptable to God as atonement for the punishment incurred by one’s own sins.By doing this, one forgoes the lessening of his own time in Purgatory, hence the title Heroic Act. A somewhat frightening thought, one who makes the Heroic Act effectively offers to spend time in Purgatory on behalf of others, as he renounces all opportunities to remit temporal punishment for himself, although there remains the reasonable hope that God in His goodness, and the sainted souls in their gratitude, will not allow the punishment to be exacted to the full. The application of prayers for the souls in Purgatory is subject to the disposition of the will of God. By making this act with purity of intention, one is relying upon the mercy of God. A person who has made the Heroic Act may still pray for himself, friends and other intentions.
I made this Heroic Act years ago when a priest-confessor of mine, who was also an exorcist, and who is now dead, suggested it to me. This was because since my childhood, I have had a love for the souls in purgatory. It is a difficult thing to do, as one is offering up all one’s efforts at reparation for one’s own sins. However, I liken it to helping someone get out of a burning building. If you see a loved one suffering in a burning building, would you not run into the building to try and help that person? Or, if there is an earthquake, would you not try and help people out of a crumbling building? Such is the idea underlining the Heroic Act of Charity.
God will not be outdone in charity. By offering our merit to Mary, the Mother of God, to use to take souls out out purgatory, one is trusting in God’s mercy at the hour of death. One should consult a spiritual director, however, before doing this.
Some friends of mine have been told in prayer how long some people languish in purgatory. Why this was confirmed by more than one person is a mystery, and not all of those in purgatory are revealed in their sufferings to those of us on earth. Sometimes souls in purgatory appear to people and ask them for prayers, mostly Masses. In 2007, when I first got a job at Thomas Aquinas College as assistant librarian, I went into the small chapel to thank God for the position. While praying, I hear someone weeping rather loudly. I looked around and could see no one in the chapel. I thought to myself, maybe a young woman had broken up with her boyfriend and was sitting on the floor so I could not see her. However, it happened again when I next popped into the chapel to pray. There was no one in the chapel but me. I phoned my son who was living in one of the men’s dorms, and he told me he had heard the same weeping when he first came to the college. Together, we made an appointment with the priest-exorcist who was living in my son’s dorm at the time. He told me he knew who it was and why the weeping and gave me a book about a woman who was asked by souls to pray for them, which had happened to me now and then.
When the small chapel was built, the remains of many natives were found. It looked as if one tribe had wiped out another and left their bodies to rot in an unceremonious manner. According to California law, these remains had to be buried according to native customs and not Christian. The exorcist said that the dead were begging for prayers, as they were in purgatory, and since I had heard them, I needed to respond. They could have been baptised Christians. As I had some little experience in this, I phoned another exorcist friend of mine in Iowa, a priest I had known for more than 40 years at the time. I asked him to say Masses for these native souls and he did. The weeping stopped. Sometimes souls need to forgive someone who is living. Sometimes souls appear and ask for forgiveness or ask for prayers. Prayers, especially Masses, are most efficacious.
These souls in suffering are our brothers and sisters in Christ-the Church Suffering. We, as the Church Militant, can pray for them and do penance for their sins. We can make reparation for their souls. The Heroic Act of Charity is a reminder of how much these souls suffer. Again, I would suggest no one does this unless one asks a spiritual director first. It is a huge commitment.
All the suffering I now experience on earth is not merit for me, for the reparation of my sins, but for those in purgatory who Mary, Our Mother, chooses. I let it up to her to choose how to use such little merit. I hope all the dead members of my family have been freed from purgatory. With the knowledge that some people may be in purgatory for over a 100 years “our time,” is it not a good thing to pray for the dead? I hope when I am dead, that people will pray for me. Such is the charity of the Catholic towards the Church Suffering.
JMJ, pray for us!
God is good,