HOW TO AVOID PURGATORY By Fr. Paul O’Sullivan O.P.
For those who have not read this little book and to refresh myself, I will be posting the entire book in daily doses. (To read later find in the Purgatory Category).
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.
The Second Means: Penance
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
appetising 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 fulfilment of duty are splendid penances and a great aid to
If we are afraid to do much, let us do many little things.