“…a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.” Catholic Encyclopedia
The continuity between the Church Suffering, must, in some way, be connected to the sufferings of Christ on the Cross; all suffering is seemingly being forsaken by God physically, emotionally and spiritually. We are all called to take up our cross and follow him, to witness to the reality that He is actually there, emptying Himself and us so that we may be filled with Divine Life anew. The very fact that we define it as the Church Suffering connects it to Christ for the Church is both the Bride and the Body of Christ on earth. In following Christ, if we have not lived for Him a holy life, enabling Him to work through us on earth, if we have not died for Him, witnessing [as martyrs] to the world the reality of His death and faith in the Resurrection by sharing in His suffering, if we have not shared in His Kenosis, then we owe Him, the Church, the world and ourselves to simultaneously make up for these failings by completing this, our destiny, our calling, in Purgatory.
Paul, in Colossians 1:24 states: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.” Roland Faley, TOR, wrote in “The Paschal Mystery: Reflections on John and Paul, in The Bible Today (Vol 50, No. 2: March/April 2012): “But what could be lacking in the all-sufficient sacrificial death of Christ? The answer is that the total offering of Christ to the Father will not be completed before the end time. The offering of Christ is not complete until the afflictions of our daily apostolic life form part of his total offering to the Father. It is that offering of the total Christ, head and members, that constitutes the entire oblation presented to the Father.” If we have not been able to complete our portion of this offering here on earth by interfering with our self-oblation to the Father, perhaps we must first render our obedience and finish that oblation in Purgatory before being welcomed into the Heavenly Kingdom.
However, I do not think that this can or will be forced penance. Indeed, I believe that we will, at that time, see our lives in the context of the building of the Kingdom and the work of the entire Mystical Body and desire with all our hearts, strength and will to contribute our part, and indeed thanking and praising God for the opportunity to serve Him and show his glory by our reception of His Goodness and Mercy.
Perhaps the reason “…[t]here is a purgatory, and that the souls therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar…” Trent, No. 25., is that we all are called upon and indeed must share in each others sufferings, whether it be by providing that cup of water to the least or by sharing in the greatest of Sufferings, the most holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist.
Though we can do nothing good on our own, without participating fully in turning our will and our lives in and through obedience, perfect listening, over to God, we have not freely chosen the Tree of Life, the Cross and, knowing us perfectly, He knows without such, we will not truly value the gifts of His Adoption and Resurrection.