Tag: levels of purgatory

Q. Indulgences and Purgatory

Q. Indulgences and Purgatory

Q. How can I get indulgences. As a former Protestant I’m still learning the Catholic faith. Can indulgences keep me out of purgatory? If I have to go there it’s apt to be a long sentence. I’ve got a lot of sin and I’ve done confessions but still sin. I’m a rough kind of guy, trying to get to Heaven. Needs LOTS of these indulgences. Please help.

A. Well, you’re also a very honest kind of guy. It’s good that you are aware of your sin, that’s the first step to receiving God’s mercy.

Forgiveness is Not Enough…The Grace of Indulgences

This seems like a strange subheading for this chapter, but it’s true. Forgiveness is not enough to grow holy. Here is a classic question that illustrates the point.

Often it is asked whether someone will go straight to Heaven if they go to confession, confess all their sins, and as they walk out of the church have a heart attack and die. They were just forgiven so this must mean they go straight to Heaven with no time in Purgatory! Right? Wrong.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation does in fact forgive all our sins. For that reason, someone who goes to confession and dies prior to committing an unrepented mortal sin will, indeed, go to Heaven. But getting into Heaven also requires something else. It requires complete freedom from all attachment to sin! And that’s a tall order.

Sin not only hurts our relationship with God, it also strengthens our “relationship” so to speak with sin itself. In other words, the more we sin, the more we are attached to sin. Confession forgives our past sins, and helps us overcome future sins, but we do need additional grace to be freed from the “attachment” we experience.

For example, say someone is a habitual liar. They have become so used to lying that they do it for no real reason. The habit is deep and strong and they practice it daily and throughout the day.

Now let’s say that person goes to confession and receives forgiveness for all past sins of lying. That’s excellent! But does this mean that as soon as the person walks out of the confessional they have also completely broken the habit they have formed? Certainly not. Most likely, within a few hours, they will be tempted to lie again simply because the habit is strong within them. This fact reveals to us that forgiveness is not enough, we also need a special grace to help us become detached from all tendencies toward sin. And this is where an indulgence comes in.

Catechism defines an indulgence in the following way:

“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints” (Paul VI, apostolic constitution, Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 1).

“An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin” (Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 2; cf. Norm 3). The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead (CIC, can. 994). (#1471)

Now there is a lot packed into this statement which may be confusing. So let’s look at it one piece at a time.

Temporal Punishment:

First of all, punishment due to sin is either eternal or temporal. Eternal punishment (Hell) is removed in confession, but temporal punishment remains. This language can be misleading. This is not a punishment from God. It’s not as if God says, “Because you did this you deserve 10 years in purgatory unless you make up for it now.” The “punishment” is “due to sin.” In other words, sin itself imposes a punishment upon us. What is that punishment? It’s attachment to sin. By sinning we become attached to the sin through our habit and this attachment is a punishment from the sin itself. God wants to break that attachment. The grace of an indulgence is specifically for this purpose.

Prescribed Actions of the Church:

All grace comes from God, but the Church is given the authority to dispense the grace of God through certain means. An indulgence is one of those means. Therefore, when the Church says that certain actions open the warehouse of grace, we can be certain that this is true. For example, one of the indulgences offered by the Church requires the following: Make a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, go to confession within seven days of that holy hour, receive communion within seven days, and pray for the pope. Upon the completion of these requirements we can be certain that all the grace we need to completely detach from the sins we confess is given to us. That’s right. The grace is there.

Interior Disposition:

But there is one catch to the above explanation! We have to be open to that grace if it is going to have an effect in our lives. And this is the most important part to remember (and the most difficult to fulfill). To illustrate, let’s go back to our earlier example. Say a person went to confession, completed the requirements of a full indulgence, and THEN walked outside and was hit by a car and died. Does the indulgence mean the person went straight to Heaven? Maybe, but probably not. The person would go straight to Heaven, bypassing Purgatory, if, and only if, that person’s heart was ALSO perfectly open to the infinite grace given through this indulgence. Forgiveness of sin is certain. Therefore, Heaven will happen. But whether one goes to Purgatory or not depends on how open the person is to completely detaching from all sin and all tendency to sin. This is the grace the indulgence seeks to give if we are willing to receive it. And if we do fully open our heart to it, this means we have completely converted to God and are perfectly in His grace. This, of course, must be our goal!

Types of Indulgences:

An indulgence is either “partial”or “full.” “Partial” meaning some of the grace needed for the full conversion is given, and “full” meaning that all of the grace needed is made available if the person’s heart is fully open.

So this is the glorious and transforming Sacrament of Penance, Reconciliation, Confession, and Forgiveness. It’s a gift so many fear, but a gift we ought to love. Examine your approach to this sacrament and let God speak to you, draw you to it and help you fall in love with it. If you do, you’ll find that this is one of the best ways available to encounter the love and mercy of our perfectly loving and merciful God!

What are the 9 levels of purgatory?

What are the 9 levels of purgatory?

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9 Levels of Purgatory

Purgatorio (“Purgatory” in English) is the second section of the Divine Comedy, which is an epic poem written by the great Italian poet, Dante. It follows after Inferno and tells the story of his climb up Mount Purgatory, accompanied by another Italian poet by the name of Virgil, who serves as his guide. The climb is supposed to teach him lessons about Christian life and God’s love and purify him of his sins before continuing on his journey to God.

First Stage (Stubbornness)


This stage is at the very base of the mountain and is part of what is known as Ante-Purgatory. In it, the two poets encounter the souls of those who delayed their Christian life because of their stubbornness to obey God’s laws. They are to remain in here for a time period that is thirty times longer than the period which they exhibited stubbornness.

Second Stage (Repentant)


This is the last part of Ante-Purgatory. In this terrace, they encounter deceased kings who were negligible during their rule, people who never repented while alive, and people who suffered violent deaths but managed to repent at the last minute.

Third Stage (Pride)


This terrace that the poets enter first is full of those that were prideful during their earthly lives. The walls of the terrace have sculptures with examples of humility, which is the opposite of pride. The prideful never get a chance to see these sculptures, since their backs are arched due to the huge weights they must carry using their backs as their sins get purged.

Fourth Stage (Envy)


This terrace is filled with the souls of envious penitents. Their earthly lives were spent desiring what made other people happy to the point they would even harm them in order to deprive them of this.  The penitents wear gray cloaks and cannot see where they are going because their eyes have been closed and sewn with iron wire.

Fifth Stage (Wrath)


Next, the poets enter the third terrace, which is filled with souls of wrathful penitents.  The wrathful forever wonder in a cloud of black smoke, which is a manifestation of the anger that clouded their mind and blinded them when they were alive.

Sixth Stage (Sloth)


The next terrace contains the souls of those who were slothful in their earthly lives.  The wrathful are forever preoccupied with running around the terrace without rest, since they never had zeal (the opposite of sloth) in their earthly lives, especially when it came to acting out of love. All example given in this terrace from the voices is the air are of zeal.

Seventh Stage (Avarice)


Their punishment is to lie on the floor, face down, with their hands and feet bound together. The souls are being punished and purged for desiring material goods with extravagance, greed, or ambition.

Eighth Stage (Gluttony)


The next terrace contains the souls of the gluttonous, and the poets witness their painful punishment: they experience excruciating hunger and thirst while there are plenty of trees with fruit around them. The souls experience this because they can never reach the trees. The voices in the trees give examples of temperance, which is the opposite of gluttony.

Ninth Stage (Lust)


As they continue to climb Mount Purgatory, Dante contemplates how the penitents in the terrace of the Gluttonous can be so thin but yet be souls. In the terrace of the lustful, the penitent souls must run through a great wall of flames. As they run through it, they call out examples of chastity, which is the opposite of lust.