I was over at Sphere of Influence
and saw this
discussion of Purgatory and explaining it to children. It just so happens I had the very same conversation with my children and a neighbor child just this morning. I left this comment on her blog, but wanted to share it to get you input. My understanding of Purgatory has been affected by the Eastern Christian tradition that explains purgatory as Theosis - becoming like God (a-la St. Paul). Anyway, here is my comment. Any feedback would be appreciated!
For my younger children, I explain purgatory like this:
When you are wounded by sin, it leaves a mark on you. This doesn't mean your are not forgiven, but you may not be entirely healed of the wound. That is why you can fall into that sin again and again, and be forgiven again and again, and yet still have an "attachment" to the sin.
We can be completely healed in this life of the wound, but it takes complete abandonment to God to do so and let Him heal you. Often, due to our fallen natures, we do not COMPLETELY abandon ourselves to His healing grace.
When we die, and even if we have been completely forgiven, we may still have the wound of sin on us. We will find ourselves in God's very presence, we will see His utter perfection and Love and Mercy, and then look upon ourselves and see our own imperfections.
We will then ask for some time to "cleaned up" if you will, to get ready for the banquet feast, because until we were in God's presence, we did not know that we weren't dressed quite appropriately. Purgatory is the state our souls are in to complete our healing and "purging", if you will, of our attachments and wounds.
It is like taking a hot shower, scrubbing behind our ears, and getting as perfect and Christ-like as He made us able to be.
Sort of like in the Wizard of Oz movie, when Dorothy and her gang had to get all fancied up before they could go in the presence of the Wizard.
The pain of Purgatory, I think, will be the distance from God, especially after experiencing His presence for a while while we examine ourselves after death (I often think of the Samaritan woman at the well, and how being in Christ's presence made her able to see herself as she really was).
To know where we want to be, to know all the times you could have abandoned yourself to His healing grace and didn't, to wait until we can be with Him again, excruciating longing for the Beloved. However, great anticipation and excitement, and of course, certainty of our eternity with God.
Usually, these talks inspire the kids to try as hard as they can to abandon themselves to the merciful healing of God's love, which can't be bad, right? =) It is that very abandonment and love that makes the heroes of our faith, the ones that could leave everything and follow Him. And I don't think too many of those folks needed much cleaning up before the feast.