Father Wilgenbusch publishes book on purgatory

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

What started out as a single question while studying for his license in sacred theology has turned into a six-chapter academic work for Father Luke Wilgenbusch, director of vocations for the Diocese of Nashville.

His book, “Saved as Through Fire: A Thomist Account of Purgatory, Temporal Punishment, and Satisfaction,” is currently available for pre-order through the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. St. Paul Center’s imprint Emmaus Academic is the publisher of the work.

“The topic started with a question that I was asking in one of my theology classes about how we understand temporal punishment. We say that somebody who is baptized on their deathbed would go straight to heaven, even though we know that, if they live, they would still struggle with some of the consequences of their previous sins,” Father Wilgenbusch explained. “When I had my chance to write a thesis for my license, I started investigating that question and working on a deeper understanding of what purgatory is and the kind of purification we would have to undergo.”

Upon completing his thesis in 2020, Father Thomas Joseph White OP, his then-director and now rector of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, encouraged Father Wilgenbusch to expand the topic into a book. While the COVD-19 pandemic was at its height, Father Wilgenbusch, who was living at St. John Vianney Church in Gallatin at the time, took his mentor’s advice, adding two more chapters to the end of his original thesis.

“In the first chapter, I talk about the nature of man and sin, and its consequences in human nature as well as what kinds of things might survive with a person after death that would need to be purified,” Father Wilgenbusch explained. “Then, in chapter two, I discuss different theologians who have challenged one or more of those things that remain with us.

“In chapter three, I write about St. Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of the nature of punishment and how it fits into our understanding of the Christian life before applying that to purgatory in chapter four, which was really the heart of the original thesis,” he continued. “The added fifth and sixth chapters then discuss what all that means for what we can do during this life to work on purifying those things, including the idea of indulgences and how they assist in human purification.”

Upon completing the book, Father Wilgenbusch again took the advice of Father White who recommended he send it to the Catholic University of America Press where “it went through a peer review process, which actually improved the book because of the feedback of those reviewers,” Father Wilgenbusch explained. 

After a third reviewer did not approve it for publication, Father Wilgenbusch thought that was that, he said. But Father White encouraged him not to give up. Upon submitting it to Emmaus Academic, it was accepted immediately, and Father Wilgenbusch signed the publishing contract in June 2022. From there, the editing process began, and a year and a half later, it has now come to fruition.

“It’s very surreal. I didn’t think that this would be possible,” Father Wilgenbusch said. “Maybe down the road if I were to continue with academic work but not as a result of my thesis. It’s certainly a sense of accomplishment but also a surprise.

“I hope that those who read it will understand better how offering up our sacrifices in this life fits into the bigger picture of Christian life,” he added.

The book has received several positive reviews from Catholic professors at academic institutions, including the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Catholic University of America.

“To grapple with the mystery we call purgatory is to think more deeply about our common human con­dition, as we are all confronted with death and the afterlife. The Church’s teaching on purgatory is filled with hope and consolation,” said Father White. “In this book, Father Luke Wilgenbusch provides us with a wonderful theological introduction to Aquinas’ teaching on purgatory, illustrates its genuine insight, and shows us its ecumenical promise. This book provides a standard reference for those seeking greater understanding of the Church’s teaching on life after death.”

“Purgatory has fallen off the radar of many Catholics, but it has become a fruitful point of engagement between Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox theologians,” added Michael Root of the Catholic University of America. “Father Luke Wilgenbusch opens up the theology of purgatory in this clear and comprehensive analysis, showing both its importance for Christian hope and its ecumenical potential.”

Father Wilgenbusch’s book is available for purchase at stpaulcenter.com/product/saved-as-through-fire-a-thomistic-account-of-purgatory-temporal-punishment-and-satisfaction/

Upon its release, it will also be available through Amazon and other retailers, including St. Mary’s Bookstore in downtown Nashville.

Subscribe to our email list

Keep your finger on the pulse of Catholic life in Middle Tennessee by subscribing to the
weekday E-Register here.

* indicates required