How to Avoid Purgatory
The pains of Purgatory are different according to the amount and type of sins that need to be cleansed. But even the “least” of these pains are worse than anything we could experience or even imagine in this life. Why are souls in Purgatory? Because, although they have mercifully been spared eternal damnation in hell, they did not make full reparation for their sins.
Therefore we can see easily that the three most important ways of avoiding Purgatory are:
1. Make full reparation for all your sins that have already been forgiven through the Sacrament of Confession. Our Lord repeatedly told the people to do penance.
2. Be merciful in this life so that God can be merciful to you when you die.
3. Stop sinning. This prevents the need for even more reparation before we die and gives us a much better chance to save our souls.
It is not the purpose of this discussion to explain how to accomplish point #3. There are many topics on our website that do explain this, so be sure to look at them. But there are a few very important things to know that will help you accomplish the first two points.
#1. MAKE FULL REPARATION FOR ALL YOUR SINS BEFORE YOU DIE
To make reparation for our sins we can: pray, offer up sacrifices, give alms, do good works, have Masses offered up for that intention, etc.
Whenever you are going to make a sacrifice or do a good work, always do it in Jesus’ Name and for the love of God. This is very important. Almighty God teaches us through Saint Paul : “All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” (Col. 3:17)
Doing a good thing for God’s sake gives it a supernatural intention and so God can give it a supernatural reward. Otherwise your sacrifice or good action will only have a natural intention. That means that you are doing it because you want to, or for someone else’s sake. This is fine, but God will then only give you a natural reward. A natural reward is a reward that we enjoy in this life. A supernatural reward is something that is enjoyed in eternity.
Jesus cautions us frequently in the Holy Bible to “build up our treasure in Heaven”. In other words, we should not be looking for a paradise on earth. We were not created for this earth - this is merely a period of testing during which we choose to save our soul or lose it. It is our choice to obey God and go to Heaven when we die or disobey God, and go to hell instead. To help us on the right path, Jesus reminds us to think and say and do things that are pleasing to God and do them for His greater Glory. In this way we will be earning supernatural merit or “building up our treasure in Heaven”.
Remember, a supernatural reward is something that is enjoyed in eternity. Purgatory is in eternity, so if you have to go there, the supernatural rewards that you have stored up will help you finish paying the debt, and repairing the damage, of your sins. This means that you will suffer less and for a shorter period of time.
You might ask, ‘What if I don’t go to Purgatory? Are the supernatural merits I worked hard to build up just wasted?” The answer is very definitely ‘NO’! God always rewards everyone who has sincerely done good for His greater honor and glory.
Your supernatural rewards will increase your level of happiness in Heaven forever!
#2. OBTAIN GOD’S MERCY WHEN YOU DIE BY BEING MERCIFUL NOW
God tells us again and again that if we want mercy we must be merciful to others. Jesus teaches us in the prayer “The Our Father” that God will ‘forgive us our trespasses’ only as much as we ‘forgive those who have trespassed us against us.’ Everyone - except the Blessed Virgin Mary - has and will commit sin. The Catholic Saints are people who, with God’s grace and Heaven’s help, have stopped sinning. But before they learned to control themselves completely they committed at least venial sins.
We all need God’s mercy to save our souls.
If we must go to Purgatory when we die, we will be desperately seeking His mercy to lessen our pains and shorten the time it takes to purify our souls so that we can enter into Heaven. We practice mercy when we spend time and effort helping to save souls from hell and relieve the suffering souls in Purgatory. Again, the Holy Bible tells us: “Charity covers (makes reparation for) a multitude (very many) of sins.”
If we have not been merciful in this life and we go to Purgatory, God, in His justice, will not let anything that is offered up to help us bring us any relief. Everything offered up for us will go to help others - especially those that we should have helped but did not.
We should offer up prayers, Masses, sacrifices, good works, etc. for all of our relatives who have died. Also we should remember friends (and even enemies), as well as those who we have been asked to pray for. When we offer something up we can mention someone by name (‘for Grandma Smith’) or by group (‘for all of the souls in Purgatory from my Dad’s family’) or even in a general way (‘for all of the souls in Purgatory that I should be helping’). God knows who each and every one is and He will take care of all whom you are trying to help.
It is also a wonderful and merciful thing to help those souls that you do not know or have no specific obligation to pray for. For example, you can offer up something to Our Blessed Mother and ask Her to apply it to the souls that are most in need, or who have been in Purgatory the longest. Or simply tell her to help whomever She wants.
Our Lady is very powerful in obtaining God’s mercy on the Poor Souls in Purgatory. There are countless stories - all of them true - from the lives of the Saints that tell of the powerful influence the Blessed Virgin Mary has with God. This is because She has obeyed the Holy Will of God, and suffered in the process, more than any other - and even all the other - humans and angels in all of Creation. God, Who is perfectly generous, rewards each of us according to our works, as the Holy Bible tells us. Since Mary has done the Will of God the most perfectly, it is easy to see that Her reward is the greatest. Fortunately for us, She is always using her power and influence with Her Divine Son, Jesus, to help us in all of our needs. She is the most loving, faithful and perfect of Mothers. When Jesus gave her to all of us as our true Mother it was the greatest act of His Divine Mercy towards us - after, of course, His great Passion and Death.