...this time coming from the ordinary teaching of the Holy Father. Last January 12 Pope Benedict, in speaking about St. Catherine of Genoa, agreed with this saint who described Purgatory as a fire, not an exterior one but an interior one
For Catherine, instead, purgatory is not represented as an element of the landscape of the core of the earth; it is a fire that is not exterior but interior.
This is purgatory, an interior fire. The saint speaks of the soul's journey of purification to full communion with God, based on her own experience of profound sorrow for the sins committed, in contrast to the infinite love of God. We have heard about the moment of her conversion, when Catherine suddenly felt God's goodness, the infinite distance of her life from this goodness and a burning fire within her. And this is the fire that purifies, it is the interior fire of purgatory.
Here also there is an original feature in relation to the thought of the era. She does not begin, in fact, from the beyond to narrate the torments of purgatory – as was usual at that time and perhaps also today – and then indicate the path for purification or conversion. Instead our saint begins from her own interior experience of her life on the path to eternity.
The soul, says Catherine, appears before God still bound to the desires and the sorrow that derive from sin, and this makes it impossible for it to enjoy the Beatific Vision of God. Catherine affirms that God is so pure and holy that the soul with stains of sin cannot be in the presence of the Divine Majesty. And we also realize how far we are, how full we are of so many things, so that we cannot see God. The soul is conscious of the immense love and perfect justice of God and, in consequence, suffers for not having responded correctly and perfectly to that love, and that is why the love itself of God becomes a flame. Love itself purifies it from its dross of sin.