Q. What would be a reason for me to get into purgatory?
A. Let’s start with the painful truth. The only way to enter into the full glory and splendor of the Beatific Vision, thus seeing God face to face and being in perfect communion with Him, is to be forgiven of every sin AND to be purified of every attachment to sin. This is a glorious invitation and a demanding endeavor!
Purgation of all sin and all attachment to sin is not an option. Only when we are perfect in every way will we be ready to enter into what saints have called “Divine Union” or “Mystical Marriage.” Think of it this way: If you are attached to sin in your life, even the smallest imperfection, that attachment cannot enter into the presence of God. God is all holy and pure love. God wants you to be in union with Him, but He will not accept your sinful attachments.
The first step is forgiveness. But that’s the easy part. God, in His mercy, will forgive us of our sins if we are sorry and ask for forgiveness. But the second step is to then become completely detached from all remnants of sin. For example, if you have a habit of being critical of others in your speech and you confess this, then you can be assured you are forgiven of all past sins of being critical. But forgiveness does not mean you have been purified of the “attachment” you have to that sin. In this case, an attachment to the sin if being critical is the disordered tendency to be critical. An attachment is different from a temptation. An attachment is more of a habit you voluntarily formed.
Purgation is the process of breaking every sinful habit you have and detaching from all habitual sins and even imperfections so that you can be attached to God and His holy will alone. But how on Earth do you do this? In the end, you don’t do it by yourself. Instead, you allow God to come into your soul and purify it of all sinful habits and attachments. And that will hurt! But it will be a purifying hurt and will be freeing.
Purgatory refers to the purification process of all attachments we still have when we die. Ideally, we would go through the process of purification here on Earth, before death, so as to enjoy Divine Union here and now and not only in Heaven. But when we do not complete the process here on Earth, Purgatory will complete this process after death.
If that sounds gloomy, it’s not. It’s beautiful when understood and embraced. For more on this, you may be interested in the following book on this site: The Mystical Journey to Divine Union: Spiritual Wisdom from Saint John of the Cross.