Purgatory is a lonely place, where individuals work through their sufferings alone, at least compared to the communal banquet of heaven. C.S. Lewis, in The Great Divorce (a delightful little novel about a bus trip from purgatory to heaven), portrays it as a vast and lonely plain where people move farther and farther away from each other, until they are completely isolated, which by then is hell.
St. Therese does not plan to go to hell, but neither does she expect purgatory. “Listen,”, she writes, “this is how great your confidence should be! It should make you believe that purgatory is not made for you, but only for the souls what failed to recognize God’s merciful love or who doubted its power to purify…yes, despite your little infidelities, you can hope to go straight to heaven, because the good Lord desires it even more than you do…” Yes, St. Therese, we should want to go straight to heaven, and to expect it—to work for it with all our strength here below, and believe it is possible to go straight to perfect happiness after death. We should not be afraid to ask for it, and to recognize that God wants this for us more than we do.
So St. Therese speaks. She speaks directly to us. I invite you to Leonardo de Filippis’ one-woman play next week in my parish here in San Francisco. Actress Audrey Ahern will play our little Saint, and believe me, she brings Therese to life. No tickets needed, just an open heart, next Wednesday, February 24 in our parish auditorium, at 7pm. See you there!