How To Avoid Purgatory – Fr. Paul O’Sullivan Part 1

Our Lord came on earth expressly to give us a perfect Redemption. He gave us a Law
of Love, a Religion in every way to suit our human hearts, destined to make us holy and
happy. His Commandments, counsels and promises all breathe peace, joy, mercy and

The idea that nearly all of us shall, notwithstanding, have to pass a period more or less
long in the excruciating fires of Purgatory after death seems to be at variance with this
all-merciful and all-loving plan of our Divine Lord.

It is true that we are weak and fall many times and that God’s justice is rigorous and
exacting, but it is equally certain that God’s mercy and love are above all His works. It is
no less certain that Our Lord has given us abundant grace and strength to save us from
sin and many (and most efficacious) means of satisfying for any sins that we may have
committed. This last fact seems to be almost entirely overlooked, or imperfectly
understood by the majority of Catholics.

Of course, those who go on deliberately sinning and who make no effort to correct their
faults and refuse to use the many wonderful means God offers them for satisfying for
sin, condemn themselves to Purgatory.

The object of this little book is to show how we can avoid Purgatory by using the means
God has so generously offered us, and, secondly, to show that the use of these means
is within the reach of every ordinary Christian. The careful perusal of these pages will
be a source of much benefit and consolation to all who read them. The author offers
them to the loving Heart of Jesus and asks Him to bless them.

Chapter 1
Can We Avoid Purgatory? Yes.

Many think that it is practically impossible for the ordinary Christian to avoid Purgatory.
Go there we all must–so they say.
They laughingly remark: “It will be well for us if we ever get there” Alas! When too late
they will recognize how terribly rash their words were. As a consequence of such
fatalistic ideas, many make no serious effort to avoid Purgatory, or even to lessen the
term they may have to pass there. Thank God all do not hold such gloomy views.
a) How all can notably shorten their period of expiation in Purgatory;
b) And how they may even avoid Purgatory altogether. These pages are well worth
reading and re-reading. The fact is that a great number of souls go to Purgatory and
remain there for long years simply because they had never been told how they could
have avoided it.
The means we suggest are easy, practical and within the reach of all. Moreover, far
from being irksome, the use of these means will only serve to make our lives on this
earth holier and happier and will take away the exaggerated fear of death which terrifies
so many. We ask you, Dear Reader, to put this little booklet into the hands of all your
friends. You cannot do them a greater service.

Chapter 2
How Can We Avoid Purgatory?

The reason why we have to pass through Purgatory after death is that we have
committed sins and have not made satisfaction for them. Every individual sin must be
expiated–in this life or the next! Not even the slightest shadow of sin or evil can enter
the all-holy presence of God. The graver, the more frequent the sins, the longer will be
the period of expiation and the more intense the pain. It is not God’s fault, nor God’s
wish, that we go to Purgatory! The fault is all our own. We have sinned and have not
made satisfaction.
Even after our sin, God, in His infinite goodness, places at our disposal many easy and
efficacious means by which we may considerably lessen our term of expiation, or even
entirely cancel it.
Most Christians, with incomprehensible rashness, neglect these means and so have to
pay their debts in the dreadful prison house of Purgatory.
We will briefly enumerate some of the principal means by which we can avoid
Purgatory-or at least lessen its severity and duration.

Chapter 3
The First Means: Removing the Cause

The First Means of avoiding Purgatory is manifestly to remove the cause which sends
us there, which is sin. It may not be easy to refrain from all sin, even the smaller sins,
but every ordinary Christian can, by the frequent use of the Sacraments, easily abstain
from mortal sin.
Secondly, we can all avoid deliberate and grave venial sin.
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It is an awful thing to offend
the good God deliberately. Deliberation intensifies enormously the malice of sin and
offends God much more than faults of weakness, or sins committed when we are off our
Lastly, we must use our best endeavors to break off bad habits. Habits, like deliberation,
add seriously to the malice of sin.
A deliberate falsehood is very much worse than a hasty lie of excuse, and a lie resulting
from the inveterate habit of lying is very much worse than a casual lie.
A lady once told us how she had, when younger, the habit of constantly speaking ill of
her neighbors. Having heard a sermon on the subject, she made a strong resolution
never to do so again, and kept it.
That simple, strong resolution changed the whole trend of her life and saved her from
thousands of sins, and most surely from a long and painful Purgatory.
Who cannot make a like resolution and keep it?
If a Christian avoids, as he easily can, these three classes of sin, viz., mortal sins,
deliberate and grave venial sins, and habits of sin, it will be relatively easy for him to
atone for faults of frailty, as we shall presently see.
We would be well advised to pronounce with special emphasis and fervor, every time
we say the Our Father, the words: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who
trespass against us.” These are the very words of God Himself and repeated
frequently and fervently will certainly obtain for us pardon of our sins.

Chapter 4
The Second Means: Penance

The Second Means of avoiding Purgatory is to satisfy for our sins in this life by doing
penance. “Do penance or you shall all likewise perish” Do penance, or you will burn
long years in Purgatory, is a fact that there is no getting away from.
This is a terrifying thought and one that makes the bravest man shudder. Which of us
does not tremble when he thinks of those who have been burnt to death in a slow fire?
What fear would not be ours if we had to face a similar death? Yet their suffering was of
relatively short duration. The incomparably fiercer fire of Purgatory, which we may have
to face, may last 20, or 50 or 100 years!
Many people have such a horror of penance that they never even dream of practicing it.
It is like the fear that children have of ghosts, a very great but a very unfounded fear.
Their idea is that penance is something awful. They think perhaps of the severe
penances of the great Saints and of course are afraid to attempt anything of a like kind.
God does not ask us, as a rule, to do what is heroic. When He does, He gives us all the
strength necessary, as in the case of the Saints. He asks each one to do a little. If we
are afraid of doing much, and it is only natural that some should be, let us do at least a
little. No one but a coward is afraid to do a little, especially if he gets much in exchange.
The easy road to Heaven of Saint Therese, the Little Flower, is to do many little things.
God was infinitely pleased with the widow’s mite; He will be equally pleased with our
little penances.
As a result of little mortifications, we can deliver ourselves from the awful fires of
Purgatory and amass rich merits for Heaven. To go into the matter further, there is not
much difficulty about mortification or penance, notwithstanding the absurd fear that
people have of it.
Penance is not only easy, it is useful and necessary, and it will bring us very great
happiness. Not to do penance is the greatest penance of all. As a matter of fact, every
man of the world naturally, spontaneously mortifies himself. The first principle, for
instance, of politeness and good breeding is to sacrifice our whims and tastes for the
sake of others. The selfish man is a boor; the generous man is the idol of all.
Again, the only way of securing good health is to eschew the most appetizing viands
when they do us harm and to make use of plain foods when they do us good.
Overeating is the cause of the vast majority of sickness and premature deaths.
To take another example: The secret of success is strenuous, methodical, regular work.
Now generosity, self-denial, method, regularity are other forms of very genuine but
practical mortification. Yet no man can get on without them. To insist on our own likes
and dislikes, to do only as we please, is to lead a life bristling with difficulties, in which
every duty is a burden, every good act an effort and a labor.
Boy scouts and girl scouts are bound to do a kind act every day, even though it costs
them a big effort. Christians should surely do more. Daily acts of self-restraint, of
patience with others, of kindness to others, the exact fulfillment of duty are splendid
penances and a great aid to happiness.
If we are afraid to do much, let us do many little things.

Chapter 5
The Third Means: Suffering

The Third Means of avoiding Purgatory is very easy. It consists in making a virtue of
necessity, by bearing patiently what we cannot avoid, and all the more since suffering,
borne patiently, becomes easy and light. Suffering, if accepted with calmness and for
God’s sake, loses all its sting. If received badly, in the spirit of revolt and with
repugnance, it is intensified a hundredfold, and becomes almost intolerable.
Everyone in this vale of tears has to face sorrows innumerable and infinite in variety.
Crosses light and crosses heavy are the lot of us all.
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Strange as it may seem, these
sorrows, which most of us would gladly dispense with, are in truth God’s greatest
graces. They are the little share He offers us of His Passion and which He asks us to
bear for love of Him and as penance for our sins.
Borne in this spirit they will lessen considerably our time in Purgatory and very possibly
completely remove it–with this difference, that Purgatory, even a Purgatory of 50 or 100
years, will in no wise increase our merits in Heaven; whereas, every pain and sorrow
and disappointment in this life will lessen our suffering in Purgatory, and also bring us
more happiness and glory in Heaven.
How sad it is that so many Christians, for want of thought, make their sufferings a
thousand times worse than they are and lose all the immense merits that they could so
easily gain.
Let us suffer with calmness and serenity for the love of God. We shall thus save
ourselves from Purgatory.

One Reply to “How To Avoid Purgatory – Fr. Paul O’Sullivan Part 1”

  1. A good and holy teaching. Almost NEVER taught from the pulpit or in Catholic schools.
    I blame the ‘spirit of vatican 2’ that was allowed to extinguish so much of traditional Catholic teaching.
    The Church is in a right mess.

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