Can our prayers shorten time in purgatory?

Is purgatory outside of the dimensions of time and space? If so, why do we offer prayers to shorten souls’ time in purgatory? Jeff asked these questions of Father Matthew Crane on Morning Air®, and the answer was very insightful.

“The first answer is yes; it is outside time and space. But then the follow-up on the question is very good; why do we talk about shortening ones’ time in purgatory? It’s because we are stuck on this side of heaven. We are stuck in time. So if you think about it, you’d be hard pressed to find a human being who can understand and describe their world without the concept of time,” explains Fr. Crane.

“So, when we say that we are shortening time in purgatory—or as the Catechism describes it: that when you’re in purgatory you are experiencing temporal punishment for sin—what the tradition is getting at is that unlike the ultimate states of either heaven or hell, which are eternal, purgatory is something that has an end. Here below, in this world, the only thing we can think of that consistently has an end is time.”

“Time marks a beginning and an end; it has a length; we can use it to measure a given period. So we use that sort of analogously. We don’t literally mean that there is a passage of time or an angel standing there counting with a stopwatch as you’re in purgatory. But we do know that purgatory is only for a fixed period, and the best we can do to describe it is to describe it as a period of time. Purgatory is outside the realm of time as we experience it here.”

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.