‘Now it is certain that amongst our neighbours are to be reckoned the souls in purgatory, who, although no longer living in this world, yet have not left the communion of saints… Therefore, we ought to succour, according to our ability, those holy souls as our neighbours; and as their necessities are greater than those of our neighbours; and as their necessities are greater than those of our other neighbours, for this reason our duty to succour them seems also to be greater.
But now, what are the necessities of those holy prisoners? It is certain that their pains are immense. The fire that tortures them, says St Augustine, is more excruciating than any pain that man can endure in this life: “That fire will be more painful than anything that man can suffer in this life”… And this only relates to the pains of sense. But the pain of loss (that is, the privation of the sight of God), which those holy souls suffer, is much greater; because not only their natural affection, but also the supernatural love of God, wherewith they burn, draws them with such violence to be united with their Sovereign Good, that when they see the barrier which their sins have put in the way, they feel a pain so acute, that if they were capable of death, they could not live a moment.
…They are destined to reign with Christ; but they are withheld from taking possession of their kingdom till the time of their purgation is accomplished. And they cannot help themselves (at least not sufficiently, even according to those theologians who assert that they can by their prayers gain some relief,) to throw off their chains, until they have entirely satisfied the justice of God’.
from ‘Prayer, The Great Means of Obtaining Salvation and All the Graces
Which We Desire of God’ by St Alphonsus di Liguori, 1696-1787
Fr Lee Kenyon