Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Purgatory – The Forgotten Church

What Do You Believe 
About the Afterlife?
By Jan McClure

Movie Review of
Purgatory – The Forgotten Church
Director: Friar John Clote

Purgatory – The Forgotten Church is a recently released DVD about purgatory and the afterlife.  It is a Lightbridge film production, a ministry of the Conventual  Franciscan Friars of Saint Bonaventure Province in Chicago, and is available at

The writer and director of the film is Franciscan Friar John Clote, who in 1997 founded as ministry the non-profit film production company, Mercy Foundation, located at the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Chicago. Saint Kolbe had had a vision of what role films would play in defining our culture, and Friar John Clote has the same vision. 

The DVD is a very well done film and is in a documentary style.  It is divided into two parts.   It begins with the history of cultures and their belief in the afterlife, and the second part covers historical and biblical sources of understanding purgatory. 

The film explains that well-documented and scientific studies have revealed common experiences across all cultures and age groups regarding near-death experiences. There is a common experience of an afterlife.   We are then introduced to a radiology oncologist, Dr. Jeffrey Long, MD, who conducted a 10-year study of survivors of near death experiences. According to his statistics, 5% of all people have been clinically dead and reported similar occurrences

Dr. Long lists nine lines of proof that is common among these experiences: crystal-clear consciousness, realistic out-of-body experiences, heightened senses, consciousness during anesthesia, perfect playback, life reviews, family reunions with relatives who have died, children having the same afterlife experiences as adults, worldwide consistency, and the after-effects of changed lives. (More information can be found in his book, Evidence of the After Life – The Science of Near Death Experience or at his website  The film describes these proofs along with personal and compelling testimonies of those that have experienced this.

The description of one of the survivors explaining about her life review was very convicting. She makes it clear that we will fully understand the will of God and what His plans were for us and we will be able to see the difference between that and what we actually did with our lives.  We will see how we lived in His plan and we will know when we fell short.  It made me realize how important discernment is and how thankful I am for God’s mercy.

"If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!"
- Saint Catherine of Sienna

This DVD reminded me of two books that I recently read, which are testimonies of near-death experiences by two people who have scientific backgrounds.  The first, Struck By Lightening, Death, Judgment and Conversion, was written by a Columbian dentist, Gloria Polo.  She describes much of what Dr. Long found.  From this book, I realized the importance of intercessory prayer, as well as the miracles our Lord still performs.

Another book, written by neurosurgeon Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven, A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife, explains that even when there is no brain activity and no scientific explanation of how the consciousness continues during a near-death experience, there is some sort of consciousness.  He himself experienced this, although it defied all that he learned scientifically, and believes that he has been called to a mission of warning others that we need to prepare now for the afterlife. His book mentions most of the nine lines of proof that Dr. Long gives in the video.

I am currently reading A Travel Guide to Heaven, by Anthony DeStafano, which describes what we know about heaven from the Bible and from Saints. (I didn’t realize I have been studying the afterlife until writing this review!)

The second part of the film defines purgatory and how it is a purification of self, a letting go of what gets in the way of becoming closer to God.  The film includes some of the scriptures that point to what purgatory is and reminds viewers that just as the Holy Trinity is not spelled out specifically in the Bible, it's the same with the word purgatory.

The film also shows us the history of our understanding of purgatory and how the Jews also believe in a purification process.  It explains how the Reformation came about partially due to the abuse of indulgences (which affect our afterlife) and it does a good job of explaining the Church's true teachings on what and why we have indulgences.  The Communion of Saints, the Church Militant, the Church Triumphant, and the Church Suffering are defined, explaining how we are all connected.

We are reminded that we must pray for the souls of the dead and how this practice seems to be fading.  The film points out that there is a lot of misinformation on what purgatory is.  Detailed explanations of the four most misunderstood ideas included: indulgences, time and space, suicide, and how the image of fire is often confused with the fires of hell.

[Editor's Note: If you are a non-Catholic, before reacting to this review or condemning it, we suggest you first watch the video and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your understanding of it. Or at least watch the film clips provided below. Your initial reaction might be based on the misinformation that is so very prevalent. Learn more about this topic before making up your mind about it. Go to the source of the information you're objecting to and find out what that source is really saying. The Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth, will be your guide if you ask for greater understanding and are humbly open to learning more truth; therefore it is safe to explore this topic further.]

This film is a great teaching tool and could be used in youth groups, RCIA, and other church settings.

To view the official trailer, go to

Here are three short clips:

Questions for youth groups, families, and other small group discussions (and we hope you will post a Christ-honoring, respectful comment below!):
  1. If you were to die today, would your life have been so Christ-like and so unattached to the things of this world that you'd be holy enough for heaven? If not, what can you do to prepare better for heaven?
  2. Imagine a movie about your life. What would it show that is probably in line with God’s plan for you?
  3. How can we become better at discerning what God's will for us really is?


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