There is a devout Catholic lady and good friend that bristles at the following: Priests, family and friends who comfort the grieving family by telling them everything is alright, that their loved one is in heaven....or that their loved one is smiling at them from heaven.
The truth is only God knows who in fact goes directly to heaven after their immediate death. We should therefore go on the assumption that our loved one is in Purgatory and help them get them to heaven as soon as possible. More on how to help the holy souls in future posts.
Omnium fidelium defunctorum
It is our Christian duty and obligation to pray for all the holy souls in Purgatory. It is not sufficient for us to pray for our dearly departed family and friends. This is essential since as mentioned above, we have no idea who is in Purgatory and who isn't. We are also all brothers (and sisters) in Christ and Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. But we do know that all the holy souls in Purgatory are in need of our assistance as they can no longer help themselves. Just think about those holy souls who have no one to remember them in pray, let alone have masses said for them to shorten their time in Purgatory.
There are and have been rare circumstances where God reveals to certain holy people, souls who are in Purgatory and needing help. But again, this is rare. The rest of us have to pray for the repose of the souls whether the world deems them as great sinners or very virtuous. An example is given in the book Purgatory that even saintly Monica asked that she be remembered at the altar of the Lord and her likewise saintly son, Augustine was not content to pray for the repose of his mother, but he asked that his readers not to cease recommending her soul to Divine Mercy.
It is very tempting to judge those we think should be in heaven and those we think belong in hell. However, until the very last instant of our life, God, Divine Mercy Himself, can save us and wants very much to save us. We may not necessarily agree with His decisions on where the soul will go, and for that I am grateful that He makes such decisions and not the rest of us.
They say we will be very surprised who we find in heaven. Let this be a lesson for us to lead an exemplary life so no one will be surprised if and when they find us in heaven.
Dei judicium est
Faith teaches us that all men dying in the state of mortal sin incur eternal damnation; but who are those that in reality die in that state? God alone, who reserves to Himself the judgment of the living and the dead, knows this. As to ourselves, we can but draw a conjectural conclusion from exterior circumstances, and from [even] this we must refrain. It must, however, be confessed that there is everything to be feared for those who die, unprepared for death, and all hope seems to vanish for those who refuse to receive the Sacraments.St. Francis de Sales has forbidden us to judge evil of those who have led a bad life. "With the exception of those sinners whose reprobation is made manifest by Holy Scripture, we may not, conclude that a person is damned, but must respect the secret of God." This holy and wise saint taught that as "first grace is gratuitous, so also is the last, which is final perseverance or a good death..."
Purgatory Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints, Fr. F.X. Schoppes, Tan Books