I used to view the Catholic teaching about Purgatory and prayer for the dead as a typical ‘error of Romanism.’ I considered the concept of Purgatory as contradictory to Scripture, superstitious, and too focused on on the personal holiness of Christians rather than the ‘imputed righteousness’ of Christ.
In essence, I viewed purgatory as a scare tactic invented by corrupt Clergymen late in the middle ages to manipulate their ignorant followers. Since I didn’t believe in Purgatory, offering prayer for the dead seemed equally ridiculous. My interpretation of scripture left only two possible destinations for a soul that departed this earth: immediate heaven or immediate hell. Prayer for the dead therefore seemed like praying for safe travels for one who is already at the destination!
I was very surprised to eventually learn that the Fathers of the the Early Church did not share these views. Nor did they require this teaching to be explicitly described (though it is strongly implied) in Sacred Scripture to be an authentic teaching of Apostolic Tradition. It’s worth mentioning that belief in purification after death and prayer for the dead were universal among Jews and all Christians (Coptic Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic) prior to the protestant “reformation” the 16th century.
Before moving into the ‘paper-trail’ of Purgatory throughout Church history, here is what the Catholic Church actually teaches about this notorious topic:
“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still 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.
The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire…
This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead…”
-Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1030-32
On a personal note, I have found believing in purgatory to be spiritually beneficial in many ways. Especially because of the motivation it provides to ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling’ through God’s grace. This requires letting go of all those sins that continue to cling to. It hurts to let them go, but a good Catholic knows that the longer we cling to them, the more it will hurt when we are inevitably purified of them. Its like getting a ‘splinter’ in your hand and waiting to pull it out, allowing it to go in deeper. I used to be okay with leaving a couple of these ‘spiritual splinters’ in my hand as a protestant, since I trusted in the completed work of Christ through ‘faith alone’ and when I died I thought I would be instantly and painlessly freed from all of the consequences of my former sins. As a Catholic, I know that having faith in Christ brings the grace that I need to cooperate with God in the process of salvation, which includes the painful process of purification now and also after death if that’s what it takes… But enough about me and my subjective experiences; Here is how Purgatory and prayer for the dead have always been rooted in the faith of the Church…
Relevant Biblical Passages
- 1 Corinthians 3:13,15: “each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done… If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” Notice that St. Paul is talking about believers who will have to give account for all of their works. They will be ‘tested by fire’ and may ‘suffer loss.’ He is not referring to Hell here, since he mentions the possibility of being ‘saved, but only as through fire.’ Early Church Fathers comment on this passage below.
- In 2 Samuel 12:13-14, David is forgiven, but still punished for sin. Like any good parent, God does not see forgiveness and discipline as being incompatible. Revelation 3:19: “Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten…”
- A true, personal righteousness is required to be in God’s heavenly presence. Revelation 21:27 says “But nothing unclean shall enter it [heaven], nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood…” Hebrews 12:14 says to “strive… for the holiness without which one cannot see God.” Matthew 5:48 says, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Hebrews 12:29 says, “For our God is a consuming fire.” Throughout scripture, God is so holy that sin cannot exist in his presence. If you die in God’s grace, yet still burn with sinful passions, they will be burned up by the consuming fire of God’s holiness.
- Matthew 5:25-26: “Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.” Here our Lord calls believers to live justly and warns those who don’t of the justice that will be exacted to the last cent. There is no getting out of Hell, so he is referring to something else, as Early Church Fathers comment below.
- In the ‘parable of the unmerciful servant’ that is found in Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus describes what happens to a forgiven servant acts unmerciful to others. “In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” There is no getting out of hell by ‘paying back all that you owe,’ but there is in purgatory.
- Matthew 12:32: “but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” Early Church Fathers comment on this passage below, noting that some sins must be forgivable in the age to come if not already forgiven.
- In 1 Peter 3:19, we read that after his death, our Lord ‘went and preached to the spirits in prison…’ 2 Peter 4:6 confirms that “…the gospel was preached even to the dead, that though judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the spirit like God.” This confirms a state that is neither Heaven nor Hell. The Biblical phrases ‘Sheol,’ ‘Hades,’ and ‘Abraham’s Bosom’ all refer to temporary spiritual states of the deceased that are neither Heaven nor Hell. This is why Revelation 20:14 states, “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” Catholicism holds that after the final judgement, there is no more purgatory, just heaven and hell.
- In 1 Corinthians 15:29-30, St. Paul mentions that people are ‘baptized on behalf of the dead.’ We know from Mark 10:38-39 and Luke 12:50 that the word baptism–when not referring to the sacrament– can symbolically refer to sacrificial works of atonement. Regardless of the intended meaning, St. Paul is using a well known pre-existing spiritual practice that is done ‘on behalf of the dead’ as an example to make another point.
- In 2 Timothy 1:16,18, many scholars believe that St. Paul is praying for a deceased Christian’s soul, as well as the well-being of his family: “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiph’orus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains… may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day — and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.”
- It is no surprise that Luther wanted the following removed from the canon of Scripture (by the late 19th century, all protestant Bibles had finally removed it): 2 Maccabees 12:40,42,43-4: “Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen… and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out…He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” Early Church Fathers comment on this passage below.
Relevant Early Church Writings
The Acts of Paul and Thecla [A.D. 160]
“And after the exhibition, Tryphaena again received her [Thecla]. For her daughter Falconilla had died, and said to her in a dream: ‘Mother, you shall have this stranger Thecla in my place, in order that she may pray concerning me, and that I may be transferred to the place of the righteous.”
The Burial Epitaph of Abercius [c. A.D. 180/200]
“The citizen of a prominent city, I erected this while I lived, that I might have a resting place for my body. Abercius is my name, a disciple of the chaste Shepherd who feeds his sheep on the mountains and in the fields, who has great eyes surveying everywhere, who taught me the faithful writings of life. Standing by, I, Abercius, ordered this to be inscribed: Truly, I was in my seventy-second year. May everyone who is in accord with this and who understands it pray for Abercius.”
The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity [A.D. 202]
“That very night, this was shown to me in a vision: I [Perpetua] saw Dinocrates going out from a gloomy place, where also there were several others, and he was parched and very thirsty, with a filthy countenance and pallid color, and the wound on his face which he had when he died. This Dinocrates had been my brother after the flesh, seven years of age, who died miserably with disease. . . . For him I had made my prayer, and between him and me there was a large interval, so that neither of us could approach to the other . . . and [I] knew that my brother was in suffering. But I trusted that my prayer would bring help to his suffering; and I prayed for him every day until we passed over into the prison of the camp, for we were to fight in the camp-show. Then . . . I made my prayer for my brother day and night, groaning and weeping that he might be granted to me. Then, on the day on which we remained in fetters, this was shown to me: I saw that the place which I had formerly observed to be in gloom was now bright; and Dinocrates, with a clean body well clad, was finding refreshment. . . . [And] he went away from the water to play joyously, after the manner of children, and I awoke. Then I understood that he was translated from the place of punishment.” -2:3-4
St. Clement of Alexandria, theologian
“The believer through discipline divests himself of his passions and passes to the mansion which is better than the former one, passes to the greatest torment, taking with him the characteristic of repentance for the faults he may have committed after baptism. He is tortured then still more, not yet attaining what he sees others have acquired. The greatest torments are assigned to the believer, for God’s righteousness is good, and His goodness righteous, and though these punishments cease in the course of the expiation and purification of each one…” – Stromata, book 6, ch. 14 [A.D.150-215]
“In the other life there will be two fires, a ‘devouring and consuming’ one for the incorrigible, and for the rest, a fire that ‘sanctifies’ and ‘does not consume, like the fire of the forge,’ a ‘prudent, intelligent’ fire which penetrates the soul that passes through it.” -Stromata 8.6, [c. A.D. 215]
“If a man departs this life with lighter faults, he is condemned to fire which burns away the lighter materials, and prepares the soul for the kingdom of God, where nothing defiled may enter. For if on the foundation of Christ you have built not only gold and silver and precious stones (I Cor., 3); but also wood and hay and stubble, what do you expect when the soul shall be separated from the body? Would you enter into heaven with your wood and hay and stubble and thus defile the kingdom of God; or on account of these hindrances would you remain without and receive no reward for your gold and silver and precious stones? Neither is this just. It remains then that you be committed to the fire which will burn the light materials; for our God to those who can comprehend heavenly things is called a cleansing fire. But this fire consumes not the creature, but what the creature has himself built, wood, and hay and stubble. It is manifest that the fire destroys the wood of our transgressions and then returns to us the reward of our great works.” – Patres Groeci. XIII, col. 445, 448 [A.D. 185-232]
“for (the Scripture) says: “The fire will try each man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide. which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work be burned, he shall suffer loss.” But what work can be spoken of in these words as being is a “consuming fire” in the sense in which we have taken the word; and thus He enters in as a “refiner’s fire,” to refine the rational nature, which has been filled with the lead of wickedness, and to free it from the other impure materials, which adulterate the natural gold or silver, so to speak, of the soul. And, in like manner, “rivers of fire” are said to be before God, who will thoroughly cleanse away the evil which is intermingled throughout the whole soul.” -Against Celsus, book 4, ch 8 (248 AD)
“That allegory of the Lord [Matt. 5:25-26] . . . is extremely clear and simple in its meaning . . . [beware lest as] a transgressor of your agreement, before God the judge . . . and lest this judge deliver you over to the angel who is to execute the sentence, and he commit you to the prison of hell, out of which there will be no dismissal until the smallest even of your delinquencies be paid off in the period before the resurrection. What can be a more fitting sense than this? What a truer interpretation?” -A Treatise on the Soul, 35 [A.D. 210]
[Speaking of Matthew 5:25-26] “It is therefore quite in keeping with this order of things, that that part of our nature should be the first to have the recompense and reward to which they are due on account of its priority. In short, inasmuch as we understand “the prison” pointed out in the Gospel to be Hades, and as we also interpret “the uttermost farthing” to mean the very smallest offence which has to be recompensed there before the resurrection, no one will hesitate to believe that the soul undergoes in Hades some compensatory discipline, without prejudice to the full process of the resurrection, when the recompense will be administered through the flesh besides.” -A Treatise on the Soul, 58 [A.D. 212]
“As often as the anniversary comes round, we make offerings for the dead as birthday honours.” – The Chaplut, ch 3 (c. 160-240 ad)
“Indeed, she prays for his soul, and requests refreshment for him meanwhile, and fellowship (with him) in the first resurrection; and she offers (her sacrifice) on the anniversaries of his falling asleep” -Monogamy 10:1–2 [A.D. 216]
St. Cyprian of Carthage, bishop
“It is one thing to stand for pardon, another thing to attain to glory it is one thing, when cast into prison, not to go out thence until one has paid the uttermost farthing; another thing at once to receive the wages of faith and courage. It is one thing, tortured by long suffering for sins, to be cleansed and long purged by fire; another to have purged all sins by suffering. It is one thing, in fine, to be in suspense till the sentence of God at the Day of Judgment; another to be at once crowned by the Lord.” – Letters 51:20 [A.D. 253]
“You read that it is written, that we must pay even the uttermost farthing. But the martyrs alone are relieved of this obligation; because they who trust to their desires for eternal salvation, and have overcome their longings for this life, have been made by the Lord’s precepts free from the universal suffering. Therefore from this especially, beloved brethren, we shall be able to set forth what great things the virtue of martyrdom is able to fulfill.” -Treatises attributed to Cyprian On the Glory of Martyrdom,13 (c. 200-270 A.D.)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, bishop
[Speaking of the Eucharistic prayers:] “Then we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition, next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already fallen asleep. For we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this holy and most solemn sacrifice is laid out.” -Catechetical Lectures, 23:5:9 [A.D. 350]
“And I wish to persuade you by an illustration. For I know that there are many who are saying this: “If a soul departs from this world with sins, what does it profit it to be remembered in the prayer?” Well, if a king were to banish certain persons who had offended him, and those intervening for them were to plait a crown and offer it to him on behalf of the ones who were being punished, would he not grant a remission of their penalties? In the same way we offer prayers to Him for those who have fallen asleep, though they be sinners. We do not plait a crown, but offer up Christ who has been sacrificed for our sins; and we thereby propitiate the benevolent God for them as well as for ourselves.” -Catechetical Lectures, 23:9-10 [A.D. 350]
St. Serapion of Thmuis, bishop / theologian
[Prayed during the Eucharistic offering:]
“We beseech You also on behalf of all the departed, of whom also this is the commemoration: – after the mentioning of their names – Sanctify these souls, for You know them all; sanctify all who have fallen asleep in the Lord and count them all among the ranks of Your saints and give them a place and abode in Your kingdom.” -The Sacramentary, 13:5 [c. A.D. 350]
St. Basil the Great of Caesarea, bishop
“And if any one knows the Hymn of Athenogenes, which, as he was hurrying on to his perfecting by fire, he left as a kind of farewell gift to his friends, he knows the mind of the martyrs as to the Spirit. On this head I shall say no more.” -The Holy Spirit ch 29.73 (c. 329-379 A.D.)
Acts of Phillip -(c. 350 ad)
Though this is an apocryphal ‘heroic romance’ writing, it further illustrates the widespread acknowledgement of purification after death.
“And the Saviour says to Philip: But since thou hast disobeyed me, and hast requited evil for evil, and hast not kept my commandment, on this account thou shalt finish thy course gloriously indeed, and shalt be led by the hand by my holy angels, and shalt come with them even to the paradise of delight; and they indeed shall come beside me into paradise, but thee will I order to be shut outside of paradise for forty days, in terror under the flaming and turning sword, and thou shall groan because thou hast done evil to those who have done evil to thee.”
St. Epiphanius of Salamis, bishop
“Furthermore, as to mentioning the names of the dead, how is there anything very useful in that? What is more timely or more excellent than that those who are still here should believe that the departed do live, and that they have not retreated into nothingness, but that they exist and are alive with the Master? And so that this most august proclamation might be told in full, how do they have hope, who are praying for the brethren as if they were but sojourning in a foreign land? Useful too is the prayer fashioned on their behalf, even if it does not force back the whole guilty charges laid against them. And so it is useful also, because in this world we often stumble either voluntarily or involuntarily, and thus it is a reminder to do better. For we make commemoration of the just and of sinners; of sinners, begging God’s mercy for them…” – Against All Heresies, 75:8 [inter A.D. 374/377]
St. Gregory of Nyssa, bishop
“If a man distinguish in himself what is peculiarly human from that which is irrational, and if he be on the watch for a life of greater urbanity for himself, in this present life he will purify himself of any evil contracted, overcoming the irrational by reason. If he has inclined to the irrational pressure of the passions, using for the passions the cooperating hide of things irrational, he may afterward in a quite different manner be very much interested in what is better, when, after his departure out of the body, he gains knowledge of the difference between virtue and vice and finds that he is not able to partake of divinity until he has been purged of the filthy contagion in his soul by the purifying fire.” – Sermon on the Dead [A.D. 382]
“Just as those who refine gold from the dross which it contains not only get this base alloy to melt in the fire, but are obliged to melt the pure gold along with the alloy, and then while this last is being consumed the gold remains, so, while evil is being consumed in the purgatorial fire, the soul that is welded to this evil must inevitably be in the fire too, until the spurious material alloy is consumed and annihilated by this fire.” -On the Soul and Resurrection (c. 325-386 AD)
“If, then whether by forethought here, or by purgation hereafter, our soul becomes free from any emotional connection with the brute creation, there will be nothing to impede its contemplation of the Beautiful” –On the Soul and Resurrection (c. 325-386 AD)
St. Ambrose of Milan, bishop
[Prayer in a funeral sermon:] “Give perfect rest to thy servant Theodosius, that rest which thou hast prepared for thy saints… I have loved him, and therefore will I follow him into the land of the living; nor will I leave him until by tears and prayers I shall lead him wither his merits summon him, unto the holy mountain of the Lord.” – Funeral Sermon of Theodosius, 36-37 [A.D. 395]
St. John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople
“Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice [Job 1:5], why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.” – Homilies on First Corinthians, 41:5 [A.D. 392]
“Let us not then be weary in giving aid to the departed, both by offering on their behalf and obtaining prayers for them: for the common Expiation of the world is even before us. Therefore with boldness do we then intreat for the whole world, and name their names with those of martyrs, of confessors, of priests. For in truth one body are we all, though some members are more glorious than others; and it is possible from every source to gather pardon for them, from our prayers, from our gifts in their behalf, from those whose names are named with theirs. Why therefore dost thou grieve? Why mourn, when it is in thy power to gather so much pardon for the departed?” -Homilies on First Corinthians, 41 [A.D. 392]
“Weep for those who die in their wealth, and who with all their wealth prepared no consolation for their own souls, who had the power to wash away their sins and did not will to do it. . . Let us weep for them, let us assist them to the extant of our ability, let us think of some assistance for them, small as it might be, yet let us somehow assist them. Hut how, and in what way? By praying for them and by entreating other to pray for them, by constantly giving alms to the poor on their behalf. . . . Not in vain was it decreed by the apostles that in the awesome mysteries remembrance should be made of the departed. They knew that here there was much gain for them, much benefit. For when the entire people stands with hands uplifted, a priestly assembly, and that awesome sacrificial Victim is laid out, how, when we are calling upon God, should we not succeed in their defense? But this is done for those who have departed in the faith, while even the catechumens are not reckoned as worthy of this consolation, but are deprived of every means of assistance except one. And what is that? We may give alms to the poor on their behalf.” – Homilies on Philippians, 3:9-10 [A.D. 402]
St. Augustine of Hippo, bishop
“This also is the reason why, though she the Church prays even for the wicked so long as they live, she yet does not even in this world pray for the unbelieving and godless who are dead. For some of the dead, indeed, the prayer of the Church or of pious individuals is heard; but it is for those who, having been regenerated in Christ, did not spend their life so wickedly that they can be judged unworthy of such compassion, nor so well that they can be considered to have no need of it. Also, after the resurrection, there will be some of the dead to whom, after they have endured the pains proper to the spirits of the dead, mercy shall be accorded, and acquittal from the punishment of the eternal fire. For were there not some whose sins, though not remitted in this life, shall be remitted in that which is to come, it could not be truly said, ‘They shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, neither in that which is to come.’” – City of God, 21:24 [A.D. 426]
“Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment.” -City of God, 21:13 [A.D. 426]
“That there should be some fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired into and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater or lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish, through a certain purgatorial fire.” -Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Charity, 18:69 [A.D. 421]
“The time which interposes between the death of a man and the final resurrection holds souls in hidden retreats, accordingly as each is deserving of rest or of hardship, in view of what it merited when it was living in the flesh. Nor can it be denied that the souls of the dead find relief through the piety of their friends and relatives who are still alive, when the Sacrifice of the Mediator [Mass] is offered for them, or when alms are given in the Church. But these things are of profit to those who, when they were alive, merited that they might afterward be able to be helped by these things. There is a certain manner of living, neither so good that there is no need of these helps after death, nor yet so wicked that these helps are of no avail after death.” -Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Charity, 29:109 [A.D. 421]
“There is an ecclesiastical discipline, as the faithful know, when the names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God, where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for other dead who are remembered. For it is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended. . . But by the prayers of the Holy Church, and by the salvific sacrifice, and by the alms which are given for their spirits, there is no doubt that the dead are aided, that the Lord might deal more mercifully with them than their sins would deserve. The whole Church observes this practice which was handed down by the Fathers: that it prays for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, when they are commemorated in their own place in the sacrifice itself; and the sacrifice is offered also in memory of them, on their behalf. If, then, works of mercy are celebrated for the sake of those who are being remembered, who would hesitate to recommend them, on whose behalf prayers to God are not offered in vain? It is not at all to be doubted that such prayers are of profit to the dead; but for such of them as lived before their death in a way that makes it possible for these things to be useful to them after death.” -Sermons, 159:1 [inter A.D. 391-430]
“But as these most plain and unmistakeable declarations of the apostles cannot be false, that obscure saying about those who build upon the foundation, Christ, not gold, silver, and precious stones, but wood, hay, and stubble (for it is these who, it is said, shall be saved, yet so as by fire, the merit of the foundation saving them, must be so interpreted as not to conflict with the plain statements quoted above. Now wood, hay, and stubble may, without incongruity, be understood to signify such an attachment to worldly things, however lawful these may be in themselves, that they cannot be lost without grief of mind. And though this grief burns, yet if Christ hold the place of foundation in the heart,–that is, if nothing be preferred to Him, and if the man, though burning with grief, is yet more willing to lose the things he loves so much than to lose Christ,–he is saved by fire. If, however, in time of temptation, he prefer to hold by temporal and earthly things rather than by Christ, he has not Christ as his foundation; for he puts earthly things in the first place, and in a building nothing comes before the foundation. Again, the fire of which the apostle speaks in this place must be such a fire as both men are made to pass through, that is, both the man who builds upon the foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, and the man who builds wood, hay, stubble. For he immediately adds: “The fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.”. . . .And it is not impossible that something of the same kind may take place even after this life. It is a matter that may be inquired into, and either ascertained or left doubtful, whether some believers shall pass through a kind of purgatorial fire, and in proportion as they have loved with more or less devotion the goods that perish, be less or more quickly delivered from it.” – Enchiridion, ch 68-69 [354-430 AD]
[Spoken by St. Augustine’s mother, St. Monica on her deathbed:] “Lay this body anywhere, let not the care for it trouble you at all. This only I ask, that you will remember me at the Lord’s altar, wherever you be.” -Confessions, 9:11 [A.D. 354-430]
“For she, when the day of her dissolution was near at hand, took no thought to have her body sumptuously covered, or embalmed with spices; nor did she covet a choice monument, or desire her paternal burial-place. These things she entrusted not to us, but only desired to have her name remembered at Thy altar, which she had served without the omission of a single day; whence she knew that the holy sacrifice was dispensed, by which the handwriting that was against us is blotted out”- -Confessions, Book 9, Ch 8.36 [354-430 A.D.]
“Let us pray for our brethren that are at rest in Christ, that God, the lover of mankind, who has received his soul, may forgive him every sin, voluntary and involuntary, and may be merciful and gracious to him, and give him his lot in the land of the pious that are sent into the bosom of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, with all those that have pleased Him and done His will from the beginning of the world, whence all sorrow, grief, and lamentation are banished.” –Apostolic Constitutions, book 8, section 4, par 41 (c. 400 A.D.)
“We read in the books of the Maccabees that sacrifice was offered for the dead. But even if it were found nowhere in the Old Testament writings, the authority of the universal Church which is clear on this point is of no small weight, where in the prayers of the priest poured forth to the Lord God at His altar the commendation of the dead has its place.” – The Care That Should Be Taken of The Dead, 1:3 [A.D. 421]
St. Caesarius of Arles, archbishop
“Although the apostle [Paul] has mentioned many grievous sins, we, nevertheless, lest we seem to promote despair, will state briefly what they are. Sacrilege, murder, adultery, false witness, theft, robbery, pride, envy, avarice, and, if it is of long standing, anger, drunkenness, if it is persistent, and slander are reckoned in their number. Or if anyone knows that these sins dominate him, if he does not do penance worthily and for a long time, if such time is given him . . . he cannot be purged in that transitory fire of which the apostle spoke [1 Cor. 3:11–15], but the eternal flames will torture him without any remedy. But since the lesser sins are, of course, known to all, and it would take too long to mention them all, it will be necessary for us only to name some of them. . . . There is no doubt that these and similar deeds belong to the lesser sins which, as I said before, can scarcely be counted, and from which not only all Christian people, but even all the saints could not and cannot always be free. We do not, of course, believe that the soul is killed by these sins, but still they make it ugly by covering it as if with some kind of pustules and, as it were, with horrible scabs” -(Sermons 179:2 [A.D. 522]).