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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

I was doing an “emotional healing exercise” in my [self-help spiritual healing workbook] today for the first time. . . . The first step was to write a letter and say “I’m angry” to the person who hurt me, write the reasons why, write about my fears, write about how my life has become because of my experience with this person, and write about my sad feelings. The second step was to write as if the person who hurt me was completely healed and was now in heaven standing next to Jesus. I had to write a letter of apology as if I were this person speaking to myself  with comforting and loving words. And even though I had to imagine this person as being completely healed, as being pure, as having no more sin, and as being filled with God’s love, I couldn’t help thinking, “He doesn’t mean what he said,” even though the letter was all my imagination. The next step was to write a letter of apology to this person, but I couldn’t bring myself to apologize no matter how many times I re-read that person’s letter of apology (that I wrote) to myself. I felt stubborn and proud, so I stopped. . . . I seem to be having the . . . problem of being unable to forgive and to trust.

Outline of the Answer
• Purified in Heaven
• Forgiveness versus Reconciliation
• Summary

This issue about forgiveness with which you are struggling actually involves two separate concepts.

Purified in Heaven

The first concept is touched upon when you are asked the hypothetical question, “If you met your worst enemy in heaven, could you forgive him?”

Now, most people, in considering their answer, forget the following basic concept: any soul who goes to heaven must, by necessity, have been purified in Purgatory, such that in Heaven the soul’s love is absolutely pure. There can be no deception here. It’s not like in a court of law where a criminal can fool a judge with false contrition just to escape punishment. Nor is it like an irresponsible father asking his children to forgive him when really, in his heart, he has no intention of changing. 

God cannot be fooled.

At the time of its judgment, the soul is confronted with the light of absolute truth; [1] any impurity will send the soul into perfectly just punishment, either in hell or in Purgatory, depending on whether or not sins have been repented. In Purgatory, the purification is absolute, and only after such purification can the soul stand in the presence of God’s pure love in heaven.

Therefore, it would not be possible for you to meet your enemy in heaven unless both of you were in a state of pure love; consequently, in heaven, there would be no doubt about the other person’s contrition; therefore, trust would not be a problem. Furthermore, in heaven forgiveness would not even be a question. Let’s see why.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

The second concept mentioned above concerns the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.

Forgiveness means that you relinquish all hatred for your enemy. That is, when you are in the place of forgiveness, all desire for for harm to come to your enemy is relinquished and therefore all desire for revenge is relinquished. In essence, you achieve forgiveness when you take the desire for justice out of your own hands and place justice into God’s hands where it truly belongs. Note that in doing this you are trusting in God’s perfect justice, knowing that your enemy will pay for his or her sins as God sees fit. If your enemy dies unrepentant, he will pay for his sins in hell; if he dies repentant, he will pay for his sins in Purgatory.

Therefore, any soul you meet in Heaven would have already experienced God’s justice in Purgatory. This explains why forgiveness would not be an issue if you met even your worst enemy in Heaven; that is, by the time both of you get to Heaven there is nothing more for either of you to pay for.

Let us be careful here, though, to understand a fundamental point about forgiveness: acknowledging and feeling the emotional hurt that you have suffered is a prerequisite to forgiveness. Hiding your feelings only drives them into the unconscious where they fester in unconscious anger, making forgiveness impossible.

Therefore, only when you have felt your pain, are honest with yourself about it, and have understood it psychologically and spiritually, can you make the conscious decision—that is, as an act of will—to lay down your weapons of revenge and then trust in God’s justice. 

Reconciliation applies to the time when both you and your enemy are still alive. Reconciliation adds something extra to your forgiveness; that is, after you have forgiven your enemy, if your enemy apologizes[2] to you and makes penance for the offense, then you will be reconciled to each other. Thus, your forgiveness plus your enemy’s repentance makes it possible for a relationship of trust to be restored between the two of you.

Note here that even if your enemy does not repent, thus preventing any reconciliation, you can still forgive him, and you can still pray for his eventual repentance before he dies.

Moreover, if he has already died, for the sake of charity you can assume that his soul is in Purgatory, and you can pray for his soul to assist his purgation; if he did not die in a state of repentance, and if he therefore is in hell rather than Purgatory, your prayers will be applied to another soul in Purgatory who needs them. Prayer is never wasted; such is God’s mercy.


When forgiveness is simply an ethical decision, rather than a mystical experience flowing from love for God, then it is like salt that has lost its flavor.



Altogether, then, that exercise you have been trying to complete misses the point. Perhaps, if you rethink things along the lines that I have just explained, you might grasp the real spiritual issue in front of you. 

Furthermore, you will then be able to understand the grievous wound that requires your repentance along with your apology to your enemy: the fact that until now you have failed to pray for his conversion but instead were preoccupied with hating him. [3]


Who wrote this web page?


1. See the books Hungry Souls by Gerard J.M. van den Aardweg (Saint Benedict Press, LLC and TAN Books, 2009) and An Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory by Sister M. de L. C. (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012); each book recounts stories of supernatural visits, messages, and warnings from Purgatory and includes a description of the judgment process as experienced by one soul.

2. That is, if he actually apologizes to you; your imagining his apology does not count for anything in regard to the reconciliation process.

3. In this regard, consider the story of Maria Goretti.


 Back to the list of questions

Recommended Reading

Hungry Souls by Gerard J.M. van den Aardweg recounts stories of supernatural visits, messages, and warnings from Purgatory. These are trustworthy, Church-verified accounts of earthly visitations from the dead in Purgatory. Accompanying these accounts are images from the "Museum of Purgatory" in Rome, which contains relics of encounters with the Holy Souls, including numerous evidences of hand prints burned into clothing and books; burn marks that cannot be explained by natural means or duplicated by artificial ones.

TAN Books and Publishers

An Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory by Sister M. de L. C. recounts the mysterious relation continued for several years between the living nun and a departed religious suffering in Purgatory.
   “When the soul leaves the body it is as if it were lost in or, if I may say so, surrounded by God. It finds itself in such a bewildering light that in the twinkling of an eye it sees its whole life spread out, and at this sight, it sees what it deserves, and this same light pronounces its sentence. If the soul deserves to go to Purgatory, it is so crushed by the weight of the faults that still remain to be blotted out, that it hurls itself into Purgatory.”
   “In the great Purgatory there are several stages. In the lowest and most painful, like a temporary hell, are the sinners who have committed terrible crimes during life. For such souls, Purgatory is terrible. Next to these come the souls, who though they did not commit great crimes like the others, were indifferent to God. They are in Purgatory for the long years of indifference. They suffer unheard of pains and are abandoned either without prayers or if they are said for them, they are not allowed to profit by them. In the second Purgatory are the souls of those who died with venial sins not fully expiated before death, or with mortal sins that have been forgiven but for which they have not made entire satisfaction to the Divine Justice. Lastly, there is the Purgatory of desire which is called the Threshold. Very few escape this. To avoid it altogether, one must ardently desire Heaven and the vision of God. That is rare, rarer than people think, because even pious people are afraid of God and have not, therefore, a sufficiently strong desire of going to Heaven.”

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Anger and Forgiveness by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D. explains how most of us carry more anger in our hearts than we are capable of admitting even to ourselves. As a result, we often feel stuck in lives of unfulfilled potential, unending resentments, and physical illness. In this book, Dr. Richmond explains the deep psychological implications of anger and forgiveness and shows how to turn the emotional wounds of daily life into psychological growth.

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Healing by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D. explains how psychological defenses help to protect us from emotional injury. But if you cling to the defense mechanisms that were created in your childhood and carry them on into adulthood—as most everyone does unconsciously—your quest for spiritual healing will be thwarted by overwhelming resentments and conflicts.
   Still, God has been trying to show you that there is more to life than resentment and conflict, something so beautiful and desirable that only one thing can resist its pull: hate.
   So now, and in every moment until you die, you will have a profound choice between your enslavement to old defenses and the beauty of God. That decision has to come from you. You will go where you desire.

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