Here are some thoughts from my favorite Roman Catholic author and theologian, Aidan Nichols, O.P. The "money statement" is in the last paragraph in bold print (emphasis mine).
In her dogmatic teaching, the Catholic Church speaks with discretion of the intermediate state. In 1979 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in its Letter on Certain Questions concerning Eschatology declared: "The Church believers there may be purification of the elect previous to the vision of God, which is nevertheless totally different from the pains of the damned." About the "place" of this purification, its duration, and its manner the teaching office of the Church falls silent, leaving the question to spiritual tradition. In that tradition we find a number of images: in the Alexandrian Fathers, Athanasius and the Cappadocians, purification by fire (where "fire" may represent the intensity of desire for God); in the Cappadocians and Ambrose of Milan, an opening of the paradise gates guarded as these are by the cherubim and the flaming sword; in Athanasius and the Desert Fathers, stages along the roads leading to heaven.
The crucial thing to note is that, in the Church's vision, the "holy souls" deserve our prayers because of their goodness. Their presence in purgatory is proof of their faith, hope, and charity. The alms Christian bestow in the cultus of the dead is par excellence charity to the poor: the holy dead are the most deserving poor of all. The souls in Thomas More's Supplycacyon put it simply: "Remember, friends, how nature and Christendom [=baptism] bindeth you to remember us." The Gaelic tradition of the western isles of Scotland calls purgatory the "Hell of the Holy Fathers," and sees Christ's people purified there
Till they are whiter the the swan of songs,
Till they are whiter than the seagull of the waves,
Till they are whiter than the snow of the peaks,
And whiter than the white love of the heroes.
The Protestant rejection of purgatory (and prayer for the dead) is seen by Catholicism as based on a mistaken interpretation of the mediation of Christ. Christ's mediation of human salvation is indeed unique and all-sufficient, but it is not separated from the prayer of his Church. The head and the body are one, and the head's glory as Savior is the greater in that he encourages the body to share in the communication to the whole human mass of the effects of his redeeming work. What the Lord has done for us in his mighty salvation he grants to us to do ourselves. The continuum of life in Christ is more primary than the biological continuum. As sharers, in via, of the life of Christ who called himself "the way," we (super)naturally wish both to pray for the holy souls and to seek their prayers.
--Aidan Nichols, Epiphany: A Theological Introduction to Catholicism (Liturgical Press, 1996), pp. 197-8.
Until next time.
P.S. That I describe Nichols, a Dominican, as "my favorite Roman Catholic author and theologian," demonstrates that, yes, I do think one can occasionally learn something from a Thomist.