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Whatever Happened to Purgatory?

Been to any Catholic funerals in the last few years?  I’ll bet you heard the Priest or Deacon say things like “in a better place now” or “he is with his beloved now” or some such soothing comments.  Although these comments may bring some comfort to the mourners, they do not reflect true Catholic teaching.

It has been….and continues to be….  a belief in purgatory as a necessary process along the road to heaven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Purgatory, 1031, states:

"Purgatory" by Peter Paul Rubens
“Purgatory” by Peter Paul Rubens (1634-1636)

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. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.

Although not pleasant ( I certainly don’t look forward to it), purgatory is a place of purification or temporary punishment in which the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for heaven.  At least if I make it that far I know I am on the right track!

The leaders of the Church bemoan the lack of catechesis these days, and yet often when they have the chance, they fail to take advantage of the occasion.  Is it any wonder that the laity is so ignorant of Church teaching?

Did you know there are Purgatory Museums and Shrines?

We know of two……do know of any others?  If so, please let us know.

There is a purgatory museum in Rome

And…a Shrine to the Holy Souls in Purgatory in Berwyn, Illinois.


After coming up with the title, which I thought would be snappy and original, I discovered this article by Father Dwight Longenecker had the same title and was written much more eloquently than my poor effort.

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Why will Holy Water Fonts be empty on the holiest of weeks?

As we enter Holy Week, memories of Easters past tend to occupy our minds. Church on Easter morning, pretty hats and newly bought clothing, along with the arrival of dearly loved relatives, were always something to which I  looked forward each year.

But, before that, came the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday).

I remember, as a very young child, going to Easter week services with my parents and being surprised when I went to bless myself with Holy Water but found a dry font.

I had been taught to appreciate the value of holy water and its frequent use.  Many saints and religious have emphasized the use of Holy Water to ward off evil.  Just one example is Saint Teresa of Avila,  who wrote that she used it to repel evil and temptations, but there are many, many others.

So why were the holy water fonts in our church empty on these three days?

Well, there was a reason for that:

Each year during the Easter Triduum the practice of the Church has been to empty the Holy Water fonts on those days when the Eucharist is not celebrated any where in the world.  At the Easter Vigil Mass, the water will be blessed and the fonts will be filled again.

Note:  In the past some pastors expanded the practice of empty holy water fonts to include all the days of Lent. No doubt this was done with good intent…to remind people of the dryness of Lent, but in fact, this is not the accepted practice in the Church. To correct this error, on March 14, 2020 the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship stated: “The encouragement of the Church that the faithful avail themselves frequently of her sacraments and sacramentals is to be understood to apply also to the season of Lent.”


Editors’ note:  During the Covid-19 pandemic, some parishes removed holy water from their fonts as a precaution.  It is the opinion of this editor that removing the holy water to prevent the spread of an airborne virus that does not survive in water was an absurd thing to do.  Obviously, many did not agree with my position.  What are your thoughts on the subject?