Catherine Fieschi Adorno, the Italian saint and mystic, lived an honorable life selflessly helping the poor and sick and sharing her remarkable revelations with the world. What is incredibly inspiring, however, is her transformative journey. Only after a life-changing experience through which God’s grace enlightened the saint, she started leading a devout life. The purpose of the essay is to study one of St. Catherine’s works, in which she takes a new approach to the idea of purgatory, illuminating this concept from a previously unseen angle.
Purgation and Purgatory, where St. Catherine describes the soul’s evolution into a new purified state, is one of the unique accounts of that time. Before, purgatory was viewed as a place for mourning and sorrow, where people suffered contemplating sin. Even now, this concept is associated with a dark borderline state after death due to impending uncertainty. On the other hand, Saint Catherine uses an uplifting and inspiring tone to illuminate this process’s beauty. She depicts purgatory as a transient and fluid state where the soul reaches new heights, rather than something permanent.
This approach is also unusual since, for most people, the afterlife is the result of earthly life, a reward or punishment for their merits or sins. Saint Catherine presents purgatory as a space that allows the soul to grow and develop further. She emphasizes that such a transition should not be associated with negative emotions. The constant use of the words “joy,” “pleasure,” “paradise” connote happiness and goodness. She writes about the spirits in purgatory that “joy in God…is the end of these souls, an instinct implanted in them at their creation” (St. Catherine, 1979, p.76). Wherever a person’s soul goes, it will experience pleasure and joy, but not from what happens to it, but that development continues and proceeds according to the plan, which is predetermined by God.
In her account, the author describes purgatory as a fluid state of transformation. She starts the text with the passage “these souls cannot think,” hinting at their unusual situation and their distancing from the primitive worries they had when they were alive (St. Catherine, 1979, p.71). By thinking through the prism of God’s grace, they gain a new kind of awareness. This new knowledge allows the soul to separate from everything worldly and concentrate on improvement on further development. Purgatory is an intermediate state where a person is cleansed of sin, providing their bare soul to experience the depths of God’s mercy to the fullest. However, this borderline position is not static; the soul is not just helplessly waiting for the coming judgment. For every person, being in purgatory is a chance to improve and understand their life, goals, and tasks.
Thus, the soul is purified, and this process is close to being born again, renewing. St. Catherine emphasizes that it is never too late to acknowledge sin and embark on this transformative journey. Still, one shouldn’t forget that it is the primary purpose of our lives. The soul of a person must be directed to the process of purification, and the earthly life should be subordinated to this goal. However, Saint Catherine brings a new concept, saying that death is not the end of the development. It will continue in purgatory, and it is with the help of this borderline state, a person gets a chance to approach God. Through cleansing, a soul gets a chance for atonement for sins. Finally, the person is waiting to transition to the final stage of development, determined based on the path traveled both in the physical plane and in purgatory.
St. Catherine gifts the reader with a wholly heartfelt and sincere description of purgatory, where a soul can rejoice in suffering and be reborn with her revelational account. It is the journey of the soul through purification to renewal and reunification with God. St. Catherine emphasizes the soul’s beauty after it has known God’s limitless love and mercy and proves that one can always be saved when they acknowledge their sinful nature.
Catherine, S. (1979). Purgation and purgatory: The spiritual dialogue (S. Hughes, B. J. Groeschel, & C. D. Doherty, Trans.). Paulist Press.