The common teaching within the Church is that Purgatory can hardly be avoided. St. Therese thought otherwise, and her thoughts can seem shocking at first, but her beliefs are grounded in her deep humility, love and trust in God.
While still only a novice, St. Therese was discussing this subject with one of the sisters, who believed in the near impossibility of going to Heaven without passing through Purgatory. St. Therese said:
"You do not have enough trust. You have too much fear before the good God. I can assure you that He is grieved over this. You should not fear Purgatory because of the suffering there, but should instead ask that you not deserve to go there in order to please God, Who so reluctantly imposes this punishment. As soon as you try to please Him in everything and have an unshakable trust He purifies you every moment in His love and He lets no sin remain. And then you can be sure that you will not have to go to Purgatory."
This is certainly a different view of the near inevitability of Purgatory that we hear from other saints like St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, or St. John Vianney.
At one point the sub-prioress, Sr. Marie Febronia heard that St. Therese encouraged the novices to believe that they could go straight to heaven. She did not like this as she considered this kind of confidence presumptuous, and thus she reproached St Therese. The saint tried lovingly and calmly to convince the other sister of her point of view but with no success. Sr. Febronia clung to her belief. For St. Therese, God was more Father than Judge, and she took the liberty of finally responding to Sr. Febronia,
"My sister if you look for the
justice of God you will get it. The soul will receive from God exactly what she desires."
Within the year Sr. Febronia died as a result of flu and one night, St. Therese saw her in a dream. This is how she related it to the Mother Prioress:
"O my Mother, Sr. M. Febronia came to me last night and asked that we should pray for her. She is in Purgatory because surely she had trusted too little in the mercy of the good Lord. Through her imploring behaviour and her profound looks, it seemed she wanted to say, '
You were right. I am now delivered up to the full justice of God but it is my fault. If I had listened to you I would not be here now.
St. Therese of Lisieux was made a Doctor of the Church in 1997. If you would like to read more about her teaching on Purgatory go to the following link: