Death and Purgatory

As a person who suffered from alcoholism, I can say that I have already experienced death of a sort.

The old me has died. Some parts of the old corpus may still be twitching, but essentially out of the agony and expiration of the old Paulcoholic a new person has been reborn.

Oblivion did not result from that death. It could have, as with the case of so many people who died of their addiction before being reached by treatment of whatever manner. Not to mean that oblivion follows death, as a Christian I believe in an afterlife. But an oblivion that results from dying anonymously, forgotten, and not-missed.

My rebirth as a sober alcoholic led me to return to the Catholic Church. In essence, my recovery helped to to sort out the garbage of my life and keep what’s best. My “truer self” is now represented by me.

The death throes of the old Paulcoholic could be likened to an experience of Purgatory. Purgatory is that state of existence after dying where the souls destined for Heaven need to be “purged” of their attachment to sin and the self. Nothing impure can enter into Heaven, and even if you die in the graces of God, you can still have an attachment to Earthly things that would prevent you from being fit to enter into the presence of God. Some Catholic mystics describe the purging as a pain caused by being near to God but separated from Him, and knowing that their Earthly attachments and selfishness is the cause of that separation. The pain is a longing for God that burns away those parts of the self that separates the soul from God.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.

Via CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH SECOND EDITION, courtesy St Charles Borromeo Parish, Picayune, MS, USA

I was “purged” of my addiction and character defects through withdrawal from alcohol and hallucinations, and finally just wanting what sober people had. The withdrawal could be likened to a “death”, the wanting of what others had with the purgation of the flaws of the old self.

In both deaths, the symbolic death of the alcoholic self and the real death we all face, a truer person emerges from the ordeal. In Heaven we will be free from all of our personal failings and shortcomings, all defects and things that hindered our true personality and development.

We will be the persons we are supposed to be.

That journey can begin now with a concerted effort in developing a vibrant prayer life, a commitment to involve oneself in the sacramental life of the Church, and a firm purpose of amending sinful ways.

Live as you were meant to live.

NOTE: This post is reblogged from another blog of mine on Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell that is discontinued. Relevant posts on recovery are being migrated one at a time over the next few years to Sober Catholic.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"