Today we celebrate the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls), in which we remember and pray for those who have died. Why do we pray for them? The answer is so that they undergo the transformation of purgatory, perhaps the most controversial and misunderstood concept in our faith.
In order to understand purgatory, maybe it is best to first explain what purgatory is not. Purgatory is not God’s “waiting room” where souls languish in interminable boredom, nor is it “Heaven-lite” where souls sort of get to be with God (but not really). Purgatory is simply purification, a means by which our souls are stripped of any remaining sinfulness. As the Catechism teaches, “All who die in God’s grace and friendship but imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”
So, you might be thinking, where is purgatory and how long will I (or my loved ones) have to be there?
This is where Einstein comes in. The great physicist and mathematician proved that both space and time are woven together in the physical world. What that means is that both time and space are merely a “creation” of God. As a result, when we die and leave this physical world, we step out of space and time. Thus the answer to the question is that purification will happen, but we will be in a state where time and space no longer are relevant to us. Our prayers also go outside of space and time and reach our loved ones as they are being purified.
Let us today pray for all of our faithful departed family and friends, that their purification may be complete and they may spend the rest of eternity with God!