During Our Lady's first apparition in Fatima, on May 13, 1917, Lucia asked the Blessed Virgin if her friend Amelia, who had recently died, was already in heaven. Our Lady answers: "She will be in Purgatory until the end of the world”.
Our Lady, who previously promised that Francis, Jacinta and Lucia would go to heaven, now explains that "going to heaven" is not so easy.
The way to holiness is a hard work and requires heroic generosity. If “going to Heaven” i. e. the salvation of the soul, holiness, and overwhelming happiness in the “Light that is God Himself” is certainly the main purpose of Our Lady's apparition, it is also important to know that only the “totally pure will see God,” and as long as man is infected by darkness (sin) he cannot unite himself with Him, Who is pure light.
But as almost nobody finds himself totally pure at the moment of death, almost nobody could go to Heaven, if God's mercy had not created the “possibility of purification after death”: Purgatory. But this place of purification is a spiritual fire, which purifies the souls through enormous sufferings. Our Lady uses the example of Lucia's friend, Amelia, to show how intense these sufferings might be: “till the end of the world”. Which, translated into our language, means: full sufferings up to the end of all possibilities. If, according to the fathers of the Church, one minute in Purgatory is more than 100 years of worst sufferings here on earth, we can have an idea of what, “till the end of the world” means. Again, what a lesson for us, who are fully occupied with our earthly problems and sufferings, shut up into our little years on earth, and the little group of people surrounding us.
Life on earth could be compared to a small hill, from which we look down into a valley full of a huge fire in which burn innumerable souls. Amongst them we can recognize our ancestors, relatives, and friends. And all of them have fixed their eyes towards Heaven and towards this small hill, earth, from where they could get immense relief and often full deliverance of their pains, if only the people would not be occupied only with themselves, but have a small love of the neighbour to help them in their pains.
Our Lady reminds us from the very beginning of her apparition about this gigantic world of Purgatory filled with billions of souls. She does this, first, to excite us to help them (because they all are her beloved children), and, secondly, to remind us that for many, many, years this could be our place after the short while on earth, if we do not care about “going to Heaven”. The thought of Purgatory helps us to detach ourselves from our ridiculous little world and have a glimpse into the “other world”, the essential and true one, and so to live in truth.