Why I believe in Purgatory...and why I still have questions about it....
I haven't truly prayed for my grandfather's repentance. I mean, I've said a few half-baked prayers. But mostly I've been so full of rage, betrayal, disillusionment and heart-ache that I've found it easier to just pretend he doesn't exist. For a few years, I believed my grandfather was a total fraud. I couldn't begin to reconcile his adultery, cover-up of domestic violence and misappropriation of monies with his supposed Christianity.
Inside the context of my Protestant understanding, I was given two choices: either my grandfather had never really been a Christian to begin with or he had lost his salvation somewhere along the way. The Protestant mindset, then, allows only one of two options: Heaven or Hell.
Despite being estranged from him and despite my trying to pretend he didn't exist, I still woke up at night wondering: Is my grandfather going to Hell? Was he ever saved?
And what really bothered me was this nagging thought that perhaps I was missing something. What if my grandfather WAS a legitimate Christian and he died in a state of unrepentant sin? Then what?
Of course, as a Protestant, I had always simply dismissed the idea of Purgatory. I never even considered it, really. The non-existence of Purgatory was about as self-evident a fact as the non-existence of flying unicorns (as opposed to regular unicorns which TOTALLY exist, yo!).
But the state of my grandfather's soul kept bothering me. It just didn't seem right that he had been a fraud. A lying narcissist? Yes. An egomaniac? Sure.
But I became increasingly convinced that if I was going to be intellectually honest, I couldn't entirely dismiss the possibility that my grandfather HAD been a true, legitimate Christian. And if that were true, then I had to admit the possibility of a third option, namely: My grandfather IS a Christian and if he dies in a state of unrepentant sin, there will be a reckoning--not a reckoning unto perdition--but a reckoning of purgation. A severe mercy.
So, it didn't surprise me that when I started wrestling with the doctrines of the Catholic Church, the beliefs about Purgatory were the least difficult for me to accept. Mainly, I began to wonder why the doctrines regarding Purgatory had been thrown out.
Honestly, Purgatory makes so much sense--from a Biblical viewpoint AND from the beliefs of the earliest Christians. One of my priests describes Purgatory as the "foyer to Heaven." You're in, but you need a moment to gather yourself. Or maybe you need a few centuries to gather yourself--perhaps with some PURGATION involved. Maybe A LOT of purgation.
Still, it's no easy out. As it pertains to my grandfather, I'm not even sure he is worthy of Purgatory. His sins were not venial sins. They were definitely mortal sins (as defined thusly: For a deliberate mortal sin there must be full advertence on the part of the intellect and full consenton the part of the will in a grave matter.)--and as far as I know, he hasn't repented.
So, where I'm still confused about Purgatory is if it pertains only to those who are "not entirely free from venial faults." In other words, what is the Catholic teaching about Christians who die in a state of mortal sin?
Either way, I have determined to sincerely and earnestly pray for my grandfather's soul. In fact, I probably should fast. It's the least I can do while he still lives.
Anyone know what the Catholic teaching is regarding Christians who die in a state of mortal sin?
[NOTE: this post is not a debate topic. All anti-Catholic comments will be summarily deleted. Sincere questions, as always, are welcomed!]