As a priest witha disposition for apologetics and teaching, I'm always looking for new ways to illustrate truths of the faith. In my three years of working with college students a new light has shone for me in regard to explaining purgatory. Christmas break. Christmas break is useful because it exposes tendencies and habits- which, depending on their nature, we call virtue or vice. If we do not understand our humanity in terms of habit, virtue, and vice, we will not understand the mercy that is purgatory.
Many students go on Christmas break with an appetite and expectation for a heavenly experience. It is a blessed time free from outside trial and tribulation- especially after the crucible of final exams. There is no thing out side fo them which would cause them distress or sadness. Yet they often return from break with one or even several regrets about wasted opportunity. Where does the problem occur? Too many obligations? No. Too many stressers? No.
The difficulty lies within. Our tendencies or habits are what keep us from having the Christmas break we desire. It are those habits and especially our vices that the mercy of purgatory removes from us. Then we are truly free to enjoy the Divine blessing of heaven. Frank Sheed, in his smartly titled Theology and Sanity speaks of it as "spiritual gravity."
Next time you wonder about Purgatory, consider the spiritual gravity within you and how you are not simply in love with God. You are complex, a mixture of love of God and love of self. If that mixture is not purified on this earth, thanks be to God he will purify us before heaven. That is why I am grateful for Purgatory.
Cross posted at SDState Newman Center.