Where does the doctrine of Purgatory come from? Even before Christ, Jews believed God could forgive sins after death (2 Maccabees 12:46). Matthew 12:32, Luke 12:59, 1 Corinthians 3:15, and other passages may refer to Purgatory. Early Christians prayed for the dead.
Purgatory is not a second chance for those who reject Christ. It’s a place for those who follow Him to be purified of remaining sins or attachments so they can enter Heaven. If I steal, then repent, God forgives me, but I still must give back what I stole. If I hate my neighbor, I steal something from him too, and I must repay it, even after I repent—often in Purgatory.
We can avoid or reduce our time in Purgatory by going to confession often, performing acts of love for God or our neighbor, or—as St. Therese taught—having perfect trust in God.
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Connie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She is the author of the just-released Trusting God with St. Therese and the free ebook Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. She writes a spirituality column for The Prairie Catholic of the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, and blogs at Contemplative Homeschool. She and her husband Dan have four young sons.