“Yes, my sweet girl?”
“I hope when you die you go to heaven, but Purgatory first!!”
This exchange with my impish six year old happened last month. She ran off before I could retaliate with a tickle - I was slowed by my need to process.
Had someone been reading to her about Therese of Lisieux? As a very small child, Therese famously told her mother, St. Zelie Martin, that she wished her an imminent death so that she could be in heaven.
Note: Therese did NOT wish Purgatory for her mother.
My daughter knew she was being hilarious. I love that she used humor to work out what she is learning about our faith.
She is curious about death and what happens after, and that is natural. I am not interested in hiding anything from her.
You might think it gloomy and morbid, or you might think it too early, or you might think it too esoteric to teach her about Purgatory.
I disagree. It isn’t only that I owe a fellow human being answers about her inevitable death, but also that Purgatory is a beautiful doctrine.
Purgatory means purification. You can say it is the process of finishing dying, that is, of leaving behind all our brokenness and selfishness. Purgatory is the space between physical death and the Beatific Vision during which the refiner’s fire burns away all the dross.
If you are a parish catechist, parent, grandparent, or school teacher, consider bringing the doctrine of Purgatory to the fore. Praying for the dead is one important way to do this, but explanations are crucial.
Check out these great resources so that you are ready to explain that Purgatory is synonymous with the hope of salvation we have in Jesus: