What People Are Asking
How Can a Soul Suffer Physically
In your articles [e.g.
] you often defend that there is physical suffering in Purgatory, for instance, in this one The Museum of the Poor Souls in Purgatory.
how can disembodied souls leave burn marks on physical objects?
how can a disembodied soul undergo PHYSICAL suffering?
Regarding your first question
, we believe Margaret Galitzin responded sufficiently in
of her article on the Museum of the Poor Souls. Citing St. Thomas, she says,
“There is no great difficulty in explaining how the souls of the dead (whether blessed in Heaven, suffering in Purgatory or damned in Hell) can appear in bodily form on earth or leave physical marks of their presence. The Church teaches that, with God’s permission, a spirit can assume some material substance in order to represent itself to the human eye, whether that substance be a body or light rays or some kind of cloud or vapor.”
Regarding your second question
, in one of the references Our Lord made to the Final Judgment, he said: “Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the Devil and his angels.” (Mt 25:41)
There is, one sees, a fire that was prepared for the pure spirits, which are the fallen angels. So, according to the words of Our Lord reported in the Gospel, the pure spirit can suffer from a physical fire, not only from spiritual torments.
Our Lady gives succor to the suffering souls in Purgatory
This mentioned fire is not the fire we know on earth, which consumes as it burns, but a different fire that endures forever, causing analogous similar pain, but does not consume.
This fire, from which our fire seems to be just an imperfect and transient image, is the fire that is also present in Purgatory. This is why a soul in Purgatory without its body can suffer from this fire.
About this more perfect fire, the great exegete Fr. Cornelius a Lapide comments on this passage of Matthew 25:41 -
Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the Devil and his angels
Note the antithesis: Christ actually says to the elect: Come to Me and to My glory. But to the reprobate He says: Depart from Me, to the devils and hell, because in life you adhered to the Devil and not to Me. The word
[depart] denotes the pain of loss, which is the eternal deprivation of the glory of Heaven. But the words
[in the fire] denote the pain of the senses, that is, burning. For the fire of Hell burns eternally, not only the bodies, but the souls of wicked, yet without reducing them to ashes and consuming them. This is a most severe penalty.
For as He bequeaths all goods to the Saints, Christ stresses that the torments are terrible and without any hope. On this point, St. John Chrysostom affirms that the deprivation of the vision of God is the greatest torment of the reprobates (
Paraenesi 1 ad Theodorum lapsum
). For this reason Isaiah (chap 26:10) also says: “The wicked will not see the glory of God.”
[the cursed] are those whom God will curse as His enemies, that is, will do them ill by subjecting them to all sorts of punishments and evils.
[in the fire] in Hell, therefore, there is real fire burning far fiercer than the earthly fire and of a different nature and quality from it, as St. Ambrose teaches on St. Luke (chap 14), St. Jerome on Isaiah (chaps 65, 66), and St. John Damascene (book IV, last chapter).
Further, this fire is fed by sulphur, which also God will preserve forever, that it may constantly smolder and burn the wicked, as Isaiah says (chaps 30, 33). This is the fire with which Moses threatened the Jews when he reported what God told him (Deut 32:22): “A fire is enkindled in my wrath, and shall burn even to the lowest Hell” (see my commentary there).
Hear what St. John Chrysostom says on this topic: “They shall be cast into the river of fire as large as the ocean, a sea of bitterness so wide that it can never be crossed, in which the waves of fire rise as high as mountains. Fire, I say, but not earthly fire, but far more terrible than any fire here, whose flames fill the great abyss so that all around one sees that horrible fire coming toward him like wild beasts” (
Shortly after, he continues: “What can we say about this when we cannot have an idea of either the horror of this fire is or the torments its flames cause? Especially when we consider that a man placed for a moment in earthly fire would burn and die; but there he is burned and suffers, but he will never be consumed.”
Therefore, there is a fire that burns the spirits, and this fire is different than ours.
We hope this responds your questions.
TIA correspondence desk
Posted February 14, 2013
Related Topics of Interest
The Physical Suffering of Purgatory
The Museum of the Poor Souls in Purgatory
The Forgotten Souls in Purgatory
Progressivist Concepts of Heaven, Hell & Purgatory
Why So Many People Go to Hell
Meditation on Hell by St. Robert Bellarmine
Related Works of Interest