Sunday, October 21, 2007

St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J. And Purgatory

Theologians commonly hold, with St. Robert Bellarmine, that in some way the pains of purgatory are greater than those on earth. At least objectively the loss of the beatific vision after death, is worse than its non-possession now. But on the subjective side, it is an open question. Probably the pains in purgatory are gradually diminished, so that in the latter stages we could not compare sufferings on earth with the state of a soul approaching the vision of God.
Parallel with their sufferings, the souls also experience intense spiritual joy. Among the mystics, St. Catherine of Genoa wrote, "It seems to me there is no joy comparable to that of the pure souls in purgatory, except the joy of heavenly beatitude." There are many reasons for this happiness. They are absolutely sure of their salvation. They have faith, hope and great charity. They know themselves to be in divine friendship, confirmed in grace and no longer able to offend God.
Although the souls in purgation perform supernatural acts, they cannot merit because they are no longer in the state of wayfarers, nor can they increase in supernatural charity. By the same token, they cannot make satisfaction, which is the free acceptance of suffering as compensation for injury, accepted by God on account of the dignity of the one satisfying. The sufferings in purgatory are imposed on the departed, without leaving them the option of "free acceptance" such as they had in mortal life. They can only make "satispassion" for their sins, by patiently suffering the demand of God's justice. Link to Fr. Hardon's great article (here)

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