Since Purgatory ranks right up there with Mary among the most misunderstood doctrines of the Catholic Church, we've put together a list of resources to you both understand and explain Purgatory and praying for the dead during the month of November.
First on the list is an older book originally published in French. Purgatory and the Means to Avoid It was printed in English in 1949 after going through multiple printings in France. Some of the things you'll learn:
- Why Purgatory is not a “temporary hell”
- Why true mercy and justice require the existence of Purgatory
- Why we can't know how long any soul will be in Purgatory
- What we can do to help the souls in Purgatory
- How we can avoid or lessen our time in Purgatory
- (And a whole lot more)
St. Catherine of Genoa is one of the saints most associated with Purgatory. In the early 1500's she wrote a short work called On Purgation and Purgatory. This book has been reprinted many times and is now available in English as Fire of Love.
This small book isn't even 100 pages long but contains a very clear presentation of Catholic teaching:
- Why the souls in Purgatory are actually happy
- Why the existence of Purgatory shows God's mercy
- How spiritual hunger is different for souls in Purgatory than souls in Hell
- Why we need Purgatory
Some of the arguments that Protestants make against Purgatory is that it isn't in the Bible (because Luther got rid of Macabees) and that it wasn't taught in the early Church. Jimmy Akin is one of the best modern apologists when it comes to showing how the early Church Fathers were Catholic and not Protestant.
His book, The Fathers Know Best – Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church is an encyclopedia of Catholic teaching from the writings of the early Church. The section on Purgatory is only a few pages long but includes quotes from around 150 through the late 400's. The quotes come from Tertullian, St. Cyprian, St. Cyril, St. Gregory and many others, including the words from an inscription in the catacombs c. 150 asking for prayers after death.
If you would prefer to watch a video about Purgatory, the recently released Purgatory – The Forgotten Church is our recommendation. This dvd features interviews with several Catholic scholars including Cardinal George on Purgatory as well as beautiful footage of Catholic art and architecture. Watch the trailer:
While the previous books and dvds are mostly about what Purgatory is, during the month of the Holy Souls, it is especially good to know what we can do for those who are there. Susan Tassone has written a wonderful devotional to use while you pray the rosary. The Rosary for the Holy Souls in Purgatory is a scriptural rosary to pray for the intention of relieving the suffering of the Holy Souls. Cardinal George wrote the introduction.
He lives with his lovely wife and eleven kids in northern Colorado.