Getting In... and Out of Purgatory

by Joseph Toone

When I, or one my equally klutzy siblings, ran to Mom following a tumble we were invariably told to take our pain and “offer it up to the poor souls in purgatory.”  Once after stammering, “I’m hungry,” and being admonished by my mother yet again to “Offer it up to the poor souls in purgatory,” I retorted “Why?  Are they hungry, too?”


Purgatory has always been an odd concept to me.  I could never understand why my physical discomfort offered up to the suffering souls in purgatory aided a soul's ascent into heaven from what could be best be described as God’s waiting room.  Then by the time I reached high school, purgatory, like St. Christopher and limbo, appeared to vanish from Catholic theology.

Well, not so much here.  Many believe purgatory is a suburb of hell and that we all must pass through it to reach heaven in a cleansed state. Purgatory is believed by many to be where Jesus spent three days before coming back to earth and then going on to heaven. Frankly, if the Son of God needed three days in purgatory you and I will be spending an awful lot longer there!


When I started to volunteer to teach dance in Escobedo, south of Comonfort, I was surprised to learn a neighboring town with Chichimeca roots is called “The Corner of Purgatory”.  Oddly, I never thought of God’s waiting room as being square shaped or having actual corners.  Then, who picks Purgatory to name an actual town?  Also, unless you are currently in heaven, who wants to admit they are from Purgatory?


If you Google map Purgatory it is a short leap from Jalpa off the highway to Querétaro. Trust me, only a billy goat can get to Purgatory that way. Instead go to Comonfort and take a downtown street lined with Catrina murals, an apt entrance to purgatory. You’ll soon find yourself in the countryside where corn and the flowers for Day of the Dead are grown around a decaying hacienda called Oliveras. You’ll likely pass all types of livestock in transit and a descasnar ("repose") to three young men that died at the same time a year ago. The three crosses mark where they had their appointments with death just outside of Purgatory and by all the fresh flowers there they are clearly still very much missed.

(I once had a priest tell me funerals for children were easily understood. The logic being that God wants an angel to come home. Similarly with the deaths of adults over 30 as they have completed what God wanted from them. However, folks in their late teens and early twenties were the most difficult to reconcile as there is no apparent logic to their departure.)


After about an hour drive you’ll be in Purgatory, a mountain town with lovely views and a well-maintained church to the Lord of Good Health. That’s pretty much it as beyond this purgatory the road leads not to heaven, but turns to muddy adventures.


And I, one of the few lucky enough to enter Purgatory and come back, and without having to die first, still fail to understand the relationship, what good my sufferings are to its inhabitants.

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Joseph Toone is Amazon's bestselling author of the San Miguel de Allende Secrets series of books and TripAdvisor's best rated historical walking tour guide. For more information contact toone.joseph@yahoo.com or visit History and Culture Walking Tours or JosephTooneTours.com, also on FaceBook.

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