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Hello Father Angelo,

My name is Alessandro, I’m 2… years old and I’m undergoing a time of conversion that involves all aspects of my life.

Among my daily prayers, there are the prayers of St. Bridget, to be said for 12 years; prayers that I started by chance on August 26th, the day that, as I discovered, is dedicated to my name saint. I start by saying that I believe in the promises adjoined to this pious practice, among which there is this: “You will not go to Purgatory”.

One day, while I was praying, a news story about an unsolved crime came to my mind: a murder to which no one has yet confessed and for which the suspects’ eyes seem to experience no sign of conversion. Therefore, a question gripped my mind until I powerfully cried out: “Why don’t you ask the Lord to let you experience Purgatory, which is due to you for your way of life anyway, and give up ‘instant Heaven’, offering such sufferings for the conversion and salvation of that soul?”

The voice in my mind also said: “If you don’t do it, you are putting your well-being before the salvation of a soul! That is not to be!”

As my heart was racing, I said: “Lord, if you really want, if you really have to, if you really send this to me, that’s fine, I agree to go to Purgatory so that this soul may be saved”. I said this because:

1. I would have felt “bad” should I not have accepted;

2. I cannot deny a request for salvation if He himself is asking me;

3. I had the hope that it would be unnecessary or not valid;

4. I had the hope that commitment to the sacraments (daily Eucharist, confession roughly every 20 days) could make this “Purgatory” of mine less hard.

I don’t know if this “vow” is valid (a question comes to mind: why offer the sufferings of Purgatory and not those of our life on Earth? Mystics and saints of all times describe the sufferings of Purgatory as much worse than those of life. Saints have offered themselves for suffering during their life on Earth, but if it were possible to go to Purgatory to save souls, they would have agreed to that too. I am very careful not to ask for suffering in life out of fear of pain, why then should I ask for the pains of Purgatory even though I’ve been praying devoutly for years to be spared that? This makes me think deeply.)

In the whirlwind of my thoughts, I am afraid that this “vow” is valid, and I wonder if its inspiration comes from the Lord; I believe that the confessor can nullify it, but the thought of nullifying it, if it is valid at all, makes me believe I’m going against God’s plan of salvation for this soul, and the thought of going against His Will unsettles my conscience. Furthermore, could it even be a sin to pull back, and a deadly one?

I realize that I am overthinking, that I am fastidious, and I know the Lord is softening that too.

I thank you for the time you gave me, for your enlightening answers, for your pastoral commitment.

I remember you in my prayers,


Answer from the priest

Dear Alessandro,

1. your vow is null, because it arises from an insufficient knowledge of Purgatory.

Purgatory is not simply a place of punishment, more or less like a prison, where one could (if one could) ask to stay a bit longer in order to serve the sentence of others.

Purgatory is, in essence, a state of purification.

Once purified, the soul is ready to go to Heaven.

And once it is purified, what would be the point of staying further in Purgatory?

Even more, by going to Heaven it can at last pray for those who are on Earth, as the Saints do, who reign in unity with Christ.

2. Since it is a state of purification and it is now outside of time, there cannot be merit in Purgatory. One is purified in order to enjoy the merit gained on Earth.

For this reason, the spiritual life teachers are all in agreement in saying that the Purgatory that can be endured here is better than the one that is endured in the afterlife. The one here is both purifying and meritorious, the one in the afterlife is only purifying.

3. Therefore, if the inspiration comes to you to do something so that someone is converted, do not offer the Purgatory of the afterlife, but start now already to live and do penance to bring about the salvation and conversion of your brothers.

Try to follow the advice that St. Francis gave when he spoke with Brother Leo about perfect happiness.

We read in the Franciscan Sources that Brother Leo asked: “Father, I beg you in God’s name that you tell me where perfect joy is”.

And St. Francis thus replied to him: “When we will be at Saint Mary of the Angels, so soaked by rain and chilled by cold and stained by mud and pained by hunger, we will knock on the door of that place, and the doorman will come angrily and will say: ‘Who are you?’ and we will say: ‘We are two brothers of yours’; and he will say: ‘You are not telling the truth, rather, you are two scoundrels who go about deceiving everyone and stealing the alms of the poor; go away’; and he will not open to us, and make us stay outside in snow and in rain, in cold and in hunger until nightfall; then, if we will bear so much injury and so much cruelty and so many dismissals patiently, without being upset and without murmuring against him, and we will humbly think that that doorman truly knows us, that it is God that makes him speak against us; O Brother Leo, write that here is perfect joy”.

Therefore, the true purgatory, the one that purifies, sanctifies, and fills with merit, is the one that we endure when we accept “patiently, without being upset and without murmuring” the abuse that our neighbour has in store for us.

4. Regarding the promise adjoined to the prayers of St. Bridget: I can say that one does not go to Heaven simply because one has prayed a certain amount, but because one’s soul is clean, unblemished.

If St. Bridget’s prayers are made well, if they transform our lives, if they lead us to avoid giving offence to God even by venial sin, then it is true, they gain us the merit to go to Heaven without going through Purgatory.

But if they are said mechanically and leave nothing inside the soul, if they go along with rancour towards one’s neighbour, with the failure to keep the Lord’s Day holy, or with other sins, we can close by saying that as one can go to hell even if one has sometimes attended Mass on Sunday, so one can go to hell even if one has said the prayers of St. Bridget.

Unless, by the virtue of those prayers having once been said with fervour, God grants at the end of life an extraordinary grace of repentance for one’s sins.

5. Thank you so much for remembering me in your prayers.

I will do the same for you.

In the meantime, I ask you to keep going on your beautiful journey of Christian life, because there is nothing that pleases the Lord as much as the conversion of our brothers and sisters, and taking action towards this cause, which was the reason for his incarnation, passion, and death.

I wish you well, I say goodbye to you, and bless you.

Father Angelo