In our article on purgatory we have proven the existence and reason behind the doctrine of purgatory. Here we’re presenting you with the work of Satin Catherine of Genoa, but before then we’d like to give you the option of reading about her life, click here.
SAINT CATHERINE OF GENOA
Treatise on Purgatory
First Published 1946
By Sheed And Ward, Inc.
63 Fifth Avenue
Nihil Obstat: Ernestus C. Messenger, Ph.D,
Imprimatur: E. Morrogh Bernard
Westmonasterii, die 18 Decembris 1945
Printed In Great Britain
TREATISE ON PURGATORY
How by Comparing it to the Divine Fire which she Felt in
Herself, this Soul Understood what Purgatory was like and how
the Souls there were Tormented.
The state of the souls who are in Purgatory, how they are exempt
from all self-love.
This holy Soul found herself, while still in the flesh, placed by the
fiery love of God in Purgatory, which burnt her, cleansing whatever in her
needed cleansing, to the end that when she passed from this life she might
be presented to the sight of God, her dear Love. By means of this loving
fire, she understood in her soul the state of the souls of the faithful who
are placed in Purgatory to purge them of all the rust and stains of sin of
which they have not rid themselves in this life. And since this Soul,
placed by the divine fire in this loving Purgatory, was united to that
divine love and content with all that was wrought in her, she understood
the state of the souls who are in Purgatory. And she said:
The souls who are in Purgatory cannot, as I understand, choose but be
there, and this is by God’s ordinance who therein has done justly. They
cannot turn their thoughts back to themselves, nor can they say, “Such sins
I have committed for which I deserve to be here “, nor, “I would that I had
not committed them for then I would go now to Paradise”, nor, “That one
will leave sooner than I”, nor, “I will leave sooner than he”. They can
have neither of themselves nor of others any memory, whether of good or
evil, whence they would have greater pain than they suffer ordinarily. So
happy are they to be within God’s ordinance, and that He should do all
which pleases Him, as it pleases Him that in their greatest pain they
cannot think of themselves. They see only the working of the divine
goodness, which leads man to itself mercifully, so that he no longer sees
aught of the pain or good which may befall him. Nor would these souls be in
pure charity if they could see that pain or good. They cannot see that they
are in pain because of their sins; that sight they cannot hold in their
minds because in it there would be an active imperfection, which cannot be
where no actual sin can be.
Only once, as they pass from this life, do they see the cause of the
Purgatory they endure; never again do they see it for in another sight of
it there would be self. Being then in charity from which they cannot now
depart by any actual fault, they can no longer will nor desire save with
the pure will of pure charity. Being in that fire of Purgatory, they are
within the divine ordinance, which is pure charity, and in nothing can they
depart thence for they are deprived of the power to sin as of the power to
1. The chapter headings are unlikely to have been written by
Saint Catherine, who would hardly refer to herself as a saint as
do the headings to Chapter IV and IX.
2. At least the word “holy” and perhaps all this introductory
paragraph were probably added by whoever wrote the chapter
What is the joy of the souls in Purgatory. A comparison to shew
how they see God ever more and more. The difficulty of speaking
of this state.
I believe no happiness can be found worthy to be compared with that of a
soul in Purgatory except that of the saints in Paradise; and day by day
this happiness grows as God flows into these souls, more and more as the
hindrance to His entrance is consumed. Sin’s rust is the hindrance, and the
fire burns the rust away so that more and more the soul opens itself up to
the divine inflowing. A thing which is covered cannot respond to the sun’s
rays, not because of any defect in the sun, which is shining all the time,
but because the cover is an obstacle; if the cover be burnt away, this
thing is open to the sun; more and more as the cover is consumed does it
respond to the rays of the sun
It is in this way that rust, which is sin, covers souls, and in Purgatory
is burnt away by fire; the more it is consumed, the more do the souls
respond to God, the true sun. As the rust lessens and the soul is opened up
to the divine ray, happiness grows; until the time be accomplished the one
wanes and the other waxes. Pain however does not lessen but only the time
for which pain is endured. As for will: never can the souls say these pains
are pains, so contented are they with God’s ordaining with which, in pure
charity, their will is united.
But, on the other hand, they endure a pain so extreme that no tongue can be
found to tell it, nor could the mind understand its least pang if God by
special grace did not shew so much. Which least pang God of His grace
shewed to this Soul, but with her tongue she cannot say what it is. This
sight which the Lord revealed to me has never since left my mind and I will
tell what I can of it. They will understand whose mind God deigns to open.
Separation from God is the chief punishment of Purgatory.
Wherein Purgatory differs from Hell.
All the pains of Purgatory arise from original or actual sin. God created
the soul pure, simple and clean of all stain of sin, with a certain
beatific instinct towards Himself whence original sin, which the soul finds
in itself, draws it away, and when actual is added to original sin the soul
is drawn yet further away. The further it departs from its beatific
instinct, the more malignant it becomes because it corresponds less to God.
There can be no good save by participation in God, who meets the needs of
irrational creatures as He wills and has ordained, never failing them, and
answers to a rational soul in the measure in which He finds it cleansed of
sin’s hindrance. When therefore a soul has come near to the pure and clear
state in which it was created, its beatific instinct discovers itself and
grows unceasingly, so impetuously and with such fierce charity (drawing it
to its last end) that any hindrance seems to this soul a thing past
bearing. The more it sees, the more extreme is its pain.
Because the souls in Purgatory are without the guilt of sin, there is no
hindrance between them and God except their pain, which holds them back so
that they cannot reach perfection. Clearly they see the grievousness of
every least hindrance in their way, and see too that their instinct is
hindered by a necessity of justice: thence is born a raging fire, like that
of Hell save that guilt is lacking to it. Guilt it is which makes the will
of the damned in Hell malignant, on whom God does not bestow His goodness
and who remain therefore in desperate ill will, opposed to the will of God.