In Matthew 5:48, Jesus commands us, “To be perfect, just as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Yet, how many of us can honestly say that we are perfect?
The Catholic Church emphasizes the absolute holiness and perfection of God. And to be in God’s presence in Heaven, one must be purified and fully sanctified.
While God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) removes the eternal consequences of sin, there still may be temporal consequences, imperfections, and attachments to sin that need to be purified. That is why, of course, so many souls first go to Purgatory before Heaven.
St. Joseph Cafasso, a 19th century Italian priest, encouraged the following prayer to be recited faithfully and daily, to serve as a reminder for the need to stay in the state of grace and to always recommit oneself to living the Gospel.
† PRAYER TO AVOID PURGATORY †
O sweet Jesus, in addition to the many graces which Thou hast conferred on us in the course of our lives, we ask Thee for this further one: when our souls shall have departed from this world, not only that they not be condemned to Hell, but that they shall not be compelled to remain away from Thee for even a moment in Purgatory. It is true that we are debtors to Divine Justice, but we hope to pay all our debts from the infinite merits of Thy Passion and Death.
O Heaven, holy city of our God, our dear native land! Oh, how we sigh for thee! O happy day when we shall reach thee! O Heaven, our dear Heaven, come quickly and satisfy the desires of wretched hearts that sighs for thee!
My God, we accept whatever kind of death it may please Thee to send us, with all the terrors, all the pains, all the sufferings that shall justly accompany it. Finally, we pray Thee to accept the destruction of our bodies as the last act of homage that we can offer to Thy Supreme Divine Majesty, in satisfaction for the offenses committed in the course of our lives.
O Mary, we ask thee for one more grace: obtain from thy Divine Son that we may die, but that we may die with thee, and that we may fly to Heaven along with thee. O merciful Mother, grant that when our souls are liberated from these wretched bodies we may go immediately to find thee in Heaven, there to commence that life which will be our occupation for all eternity.
ETERNAL rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.
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