-sculptures in the Admont Abbey, Austria, by Josef Stammel (1694-1795), please click on the image for greater detail
Death is represented by a human being at the end of their life in the form of an old male pilgrim, with cross, staff and scallop shell.
Behind him hovers a winged skeleton as the personification of death. This gruesome figure holds in its right hand a winged hourglass to indicate that the sands of life have run out. In its left, it holds a dagger as a symbol of the suddenness of death. The small putti at the feet of the dying man are also holding relevant ‘vanitas’ attributes (soap bubble, empty shell, extinguished and broken candle) to indicate the transience of all things on Earth. And there is the ‘Apple of Sodom’ that falls to dust as soon as it is touched. This motif evokes the words spoken during the Ash Wednesday service: “Remember, O man, that dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return!”
Judgment. Still partly wrapped in his shroud, the figure of a young man rises from his grave accompanied by a putto as angel.
Placed over his head is a rainbow on which the resurrected Christ is enthroned as Judge of the World. No judgment has yet been made in the case of the young man, whose gaze is directed at the demon cowering at his feet. This figure represents the prosecutor ‒ the advocate of the Devil, the Devil’s advocate, “diabolos” = Greek διάβολος, Latin “diabolus”, the divider, advocatus; Satan = Latin, “satanas”, the accuser, Rev 12:10 ‒ he wears glasses and is being pushed to one side under the weight of a mighty tome that records the deeds of the individual undergoing judgment. To the right, opposite the ‘Admont library devil’ as he is called, can be seen a displaced gravestone. It shows a skull, a candle in the process of being extinguished, the date ‘1760’ (presumably the date on which all the figures were completed) and the initials ‘ST’ for ‘Stammel’.
The conceptual highpoint of ‘The Four Last Things’ is the allegory of Heaven. Heaven is represented by the epitome of attractiveness magnificently clothed and jewelled and accompanied by several supporter figures.
Dressed as a crowned bride in the vestments of heavenly magnificence, this androgynous figure is being lifted up to Heaven by a slender angel. The figure’s transfigured gaze is directed away from the earthly observer into the higher spheres. In the elevated left hand, there is a heart to represent the unshakeable nature of the figure’s faith. In the aureole over the head is the symbol of the Holy Trinity. The figure bears a flaming star and a richly decorated cross on its breast. Below the crown on the figure’s forehead is the Greek letter ‘T’ (Tau), showing that the figure is one of the just (Ezekiel 9, 3 -4).
As in the case of Bernini, the ‘Anima Beata’ represents the counterpart to the ‘Anima Damnata’ in Hell. At the foot of the figure are seated three putti on a cloud bank. These allegories of three virtues (fasting, prayer, and charity) explain the judgment of Heaven’s court and contrast with the vices represented in the Hell sculpture. Here again, there is a circular serpent but this time it has a positive meaning as a symbol of eternal bliss; it is being held by the putto seated in the center of the cloud bank.
Once judged, each soul then passes to Heaven or to Hell as appropriate. The allegory of Hell consists of two forceful main figures and several minor accompanying figures.
A mature and naked man ‒ one of the damned souls ‒ rides on the shoulders of a macabre hybrid creature. It is part animal, part human, part man and part woman. Both figures are surrounded by flames that seem to draw them down into the dragon-headed jaws of Hell. The face of the damned soul expresses both rage and fear. In his raised right hand he holds a serpent that has formed a circle and is biting its own tail ‒ a symbol of eternity. In his left, he grasps a dagger in an attempt to defend himself. A worm bites his breast in the region of the heart.
In the lower part of the sculpture and provided as a warning of the reasons for the descent to Hell are bust-like heads symbolic of the vices: pride wearing a peacock cap and feathers, sloth as a sleeping child wearing a nightcap and with a tiny hippo on his head, avarice with a cap made of coins and a devil peering over his shoulder and gluttony with brandy bottle and sausages.
‘Hell’ is one of the most powerful and eloquent but also most unconventional and complex of the works of Josef Stammel. Images such as that of the Devil in Albrecht Dürer’s engraving ‘Knight, Death and the Devil’ (1513) and Bernini’s marble bust ‘Anima Damnata’ (1616) seem here to have been assimilated and transformed by Stammel’s own imagination into a coherent artistic concept.
“When the liturgical year winds down, the readings at mass focus on the Last Judgment and the end times. These subjects traditionally provoke mystique and fear. The biblical imagery depicting the end of the world is vivid and sometimes even bizarre.
On the one hand, the prospect of the Last Judgment and the end of the world should arouse a holy fear and awe. This world will not last forever. We will ultimately have to give an account of ourselves about either how grace has transformed us so that we love God above all things or how we have refused grace and preferred other things to God.
On the other hand, we should lend some thought to the Last Things—Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell—because they should affect how we think of the world right now. One way to hone this discussion is to raise the question why God created the world in the first place. God is perfectly good and happy. Not only does He not need anything outside Himself to make Himself happy, but nothing can make Him happier than He is. [Ed. God is beatitude, Itself.] In other words, God cannot benefit at all from creating.
This raises a difficulty because, if everything is done for a reason, God does not seem to have a reason to create the world. This leads us to the idea that God’s goodness is diffusive. In other words, God wishes to see His goodness flower not just in His own life but also in something that is not God. Being perfect in everything, God does not benefit from creating. Rather, God creates the world—something that is not God—so that he can pour out his goodness into the world.
God pours His goodness into the world when He creates, but the world doesn’t manifest God’s goodness after the manner of vendors selling goods at a flea market or a yard filled with chimes sounding random notes in the wind. The world isn’t filled with good things without any inherent order or reason. The world in its totality is ordered as a whole to reflect the goodness of God. Instead of randomly sounding chimes, it is more akin to a symphony that coordinates the sounding of many instruments that together evoke some acute human emotion. As a musical piece expresses the emotions of a human being, so the world expresses the goodness of God. The world is ordered, and the goodness that it manifests is greater than any one part. Furthermore, each part of the world—especially the persons in it—participate in the good of the whole.
Finally, as an ordered whole, the world is building up to something. This is the point of the Last Things. The world has been building up to this point ever since it began. The Last Things should give us pause to reflect how much we rely on God’s mercy and how we should pray to persevere until the end, but they should also affect how we think of the world now. All the good in the world—culminating in the triumph of Christ—will come to fruition. The reason for every evil God permitted will come to light. In the end, the mysteries of the present world and its vexations will be revealed, and we will rejoice in God’s goodness that has been manifested in His creation.
Virgil’s Aeneid has a line that reads, “Perhaps at a future time, recalling even these things will cause delight” (I.203). The first reading for today’s mass fleshes out a similar idea but with more clarity and certainty:
‘Then I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire. On the sea of glass were standing those who had won the victory over the beast and its image and the number that signified its name. They were holding God’s harps, and they sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb:
“Great and wonderful are your works, Lord God almighty. Just and true are your ways, O king of the nations. Who will not fear You, Lord, or glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. All the nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed” (Rev 34:2-4).'”
“Getting to heaven is often given as the reason we should be good. Unfortunately, heaven is frequently presented as a place of fluffy clouds and baby angels playing harps. In fact, my own idea of heaven growing up was largely shaped by such popular depictions epitomized by the movie The Littlest Angel. In light of these depictions, it’s no wonder that heaven isn’t particularly attractive to many people. Even if we don’t imagine fluffy clouds, we probably think of eternal life as a continuation of this life, forever; but, of course, without all of the bad stuff that goes along with our day-to-day lives.
That’s an excellent pagan version of heaven, like the Greek Fields of Elysium or the Norse Halls of Valhalla. But if heaven is just the best of this life forever, it’s nothing more than a delayed hedonism. Are we just being good now for a little while so that we can do whatever we want for eternity? God promises us that heaven is far more than that.
In the Bible, heaven seems strange. We read a description of God as one seated on a throne who “looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald”(Rev 4:3). Also, “in front of the throne, there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal”(Rev 4:6). Jesus is depicted as “a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes”(Rev 5:6); other denizens of heaven include “living creatures, each of them with six wings, [who] are full of eyes all around and inside”(Rev 4:8). All of the depictions of heaven are surreal because they are trying to tell us about something we can’t understand yet. “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”(1 Cor 2:9). Heaven is not worth the trouble if it’s something we already understand. Heaven is more. It’s more than the best we’ve ever experienced. It’s more than the best we’ve ever imagined.
The eternal rest that we so often speak of is more than an eternal lazy day in bed. Such days are nice because they are a relief from the cares of the world, but we would quickly grow bored with them. Life in heaven is an active rest. It’s the combination of the peace of that lazy day in bed with the rush that comes after a difficult struggle. Rest and activity are paradoxically present together because we are in no way disturbed by the activity in which we participate.
My favorite description of heaven comes from Fr. Walter Farrell, O.P.’s spiritual meditation on the Summa, My Way of Life: “Even in heaven itself, where we shall have an unobscured view of divinity, our knowledge will be joyously incomplete, stopping as far short of exhaustion of the ineffable as the finite stops short of the infinite; through all the length of eternity, there will always be more for us to know of God.”
Heaven will be an eternity of moments where each moment is better than the last. It will not be the elimination of our thirst to know God more deeply, but the unceasing satisfaction of an ever-deepening thirst being quenched. Part of that ever-increasing knowledge will be a continually expanding awareness of how much God loves us. As God shares Himself with us for eternity, the friendship we have with Him will grow ever more rich.”
“Every November, Holy Mother Church urges her members to become devout kleptomaniacs. Holy kleptomania may seem like an odd virtue to promote, but I would like to suggest that applying this concept with regards to the holy souls in purgatory can be a fruitful way to grow in friendship with our departed brothers and sisters.
Souls in purgatory are in such a state that they can, in a sense, be stolen for heaven. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting divine grace manifested in Christ.” What is more, souls who die in “God’s grace and friendship,” yet are still “imperfectly purified,” can be forgiven in “an age to come” (CCC 1030–1031), namely in a state of purification before entering the blessedness of heaven (Matt 12:31).
It is by the recommendation of Holy Scripture that the Church prays for these souls. Judas Maccabeus “made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin” (2 Macc 12:46), and the author of Revelation notes that “nothing unclean shall enter” the Kingdom of Heaven “but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev 21:27). Yet it is not only Scripture that extends this solemn responsibility to the Church, since the early fathers of the Church do so as well. Speaking about the dead, Saint John Chrysostom says, “let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation?” God uses our prayers and sacrifices offered in union with Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross to bring about some of the deepest designs of his heart, namely the salvation of souls and the renewal of his creation in Christ, the Eternal Word of the Father.
The great saints of the Church have heeded this call in a variety of ways, yet one example in the life of Saint Juan Macias highlights the sacred responsibility that the living members of the Church have in praying for the dead. Saint Juan Macias, a cooperator brother of the Order of Preachers who lived in Lima, Peru, during the sixteenth century, loved the rosary and had a special devotion of praying for the Holy Souls in purgatory. Such was his love for the rosary and the Holy Souls that he was described as the “thief of purgatory.”
Saint Juan Macias, in his response to the dual commandment of charity to love God and neighbor above all else, became a holy kleptomaniac for souls, as he zealously stole them from the purifying fires of purgatory and delivered them unto the blessed light of heaven. The charity which God inflamed in the heart of St. Juan Macias was one that recognized the profound importance of prayer within the providence of God.
Becoming a holy kleptomaniac, like St. Juan Macias, stretches the heart in mercy to those Holy Souls who long to behold their beloved Creator and Redeemer. It is a sacred and heroic task fueled by God’s grace that when done with devotion and love merits stolen treasures worth far more than any thief deserves.”
“beatific” etymology: Latin beatificus, beatific, blissful, imparting great happiness or blessedness; from beatus, happy.
In my own experience, both past and present, I love history, but it comes “alive” for me when I have the privilege to visit the physical place where it happened, makes it more undeniable, leaps off the page. I am meeting a lot of people “virtually” now, even before the pandemic. I am saying “nice to meet you, virtually” a lot more these days than actual greetings. Exchanges are reduced to quick, focused, on topic, email to the point. I look forward, however it might happen, to saying hello in person, someday. Some people I am grateful to never have had the displeasure to meet in person. Mea culpa. 🙁
“The beatific vision is when God, though transcendent, opens Himself up to man and gives man the capacity to contemplate God in His heavenly glory (CCC 1028). Contemplation is the prayer of silently focusing on God and heeding His Word; in other words, contemplation is the prayer of uniting with God (CCC 2715). The beatific vision, then, is ultimate union with God; indeed, it comes from sharing in God’s holy nature via sanctifying grace (CCC 163). Because God is beatitude and holiness itself, the beatific vision entails ultimate beatitude and holiness (CCC 1405). The beatific vision is a grace and a privilege intended for every man and angel, since God created men and angels to enjoy the beatific vision; the beatific vision is the ultimate purpose of each person’s and angel’s life (CCC 1722).
Thomas Aquinas defined the beatific vision as the human being’s “final end” in which one attains to a perfect happiness. Thomas reasons that one is perfectly happy only when all one’s desires are perfectly satisfied, to the degree that happiness could not increase and could not be lost. “Man is not perfectly happy, so long as something remains for him to desire and seek.”STh I–II, q., 3, a. 8. But this kind of perfect happiness cannot be found in any physical pleasure, any amount of worldly power, any degree of temporal fame or honor, or indeed in any finite reality. It can only be found in something that is infinite and perfect – and this is God. STh I–II, q. 2, a. 8. And since God is not a material thing but is pure spirit, we are united to God by knowing and loving Him. Consequently, the most perfect union with God is the most perfect human happiness and the goal of the whole of the human life. But we cannot attain to this happiness by our own natural powers; it is a gift that must be given us by God, Who strengthens us by the “light of glory” so that we can see Him as He is, without any intermediary. (Thomas quotes Psalm 36:9 on this point: “In your light we shall see light.”)STh I, q. 12, a. 4. Further, since every created image or likeness of God (including even the most perfect “ideas” or “images” of God we might generate in our minds) is necessarily finite, it would thus be infinitely less than God Himself.STh I, q. 12, a. 2. The only perfect and infinite good, therefore, is God Himself, which is why Aquinas argues that our perfect happiness and final end can only be the direct union with God Himself and not with any created image of Him. This union comes about by a kind of “seeing” perfectly the divine essence Itself, a gift given to our intellects when God joins them directly to Himself without any intermediary. And since in seeing this perfect vision of What (and Who) God is, we grasp also His perfect goodness, this act of “seeing” is at the same time a perfect act of loving God as the highest and infinite goodness. (Summa Theologiae, I–II, qq. 2–5)
According to Aquinas, the Beatific Vision surpasses both faith and reason. Rational knowledge does not fully satisfy humankind’s innate desire to know God, since reason is primarily concerned with sensible objects and thus can only infer its conclusions about God indirectly. -Summa Theologiae
The Theological virtue of faith, too, is incomplete, since Aquinas thinks that it always implies some imperfection in the understanding. The believer does not wish to remain merely on the level of faith but to grasp directly the object of faith, who is God himself. -Summa Contra Gentiles
Thus only the fullness of the Beatific Vision satisfies this fundamental desire of the human soul to know God. Quoting St Paul, Aquinas notes “We see now in a glass darkly, but then face to face” (i Cor. 13:12). The Beatific Vision is the final reward for those saints elect by God to partake in and “enjoy the same happiness wherewith God is happy, seeing Him in the way which He sees Himself” in the next life. -Summa Contra Gentiles”
-by Fr. Kenneth Doyle, CNS – Catholic News Service. Fr. Doyle is a priest of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y. He is the former Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service and director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“The “beatific vision” means the eternal and direct visual perception of God. It means seeing God face to face.
We have some sense, even in the natural order, of the importance of direct perception: Those who endured years of meetings by telephone conference call can appreciate what an advance “videoconferencing” has been, allowing people to see one another, and thereby making their presence much more real.
In the divine scheme of things, Christians have always believed that this direct vision of God is the goal that awaits us all. St. Paul said: “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known” (1 Cor 13:12).
St. Thomas Aquinas reasoned that one is perfectly happy only when all of one’s desires are perfectly satisfied, and this cannot occur until we are fully united with God.
That complete union can happen not through human imagining nor even in the most deeply contemplative prayer, but only by the direct presence of God in heaven.
It is a human instinct, and a good one, to try to imagine what heaven will feel like.
When I was a child, I may have thought that heaven would be like playing baseball all day, with occasional breaks to drink soda and read comic books – but deep down I knew even then that it would be much, much better than that.
We are cautioned that all of our efforts at imagining must fall short. (St. Paul says in I Corinthians 2:9 that “eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, (is) what God has prepared for those who love Him.”)
But it doesn’t hurt to dream.
Last year, a young woman, who would die two days later from cancer, told me what she was expecting in heaven.
“I think it will be like the way my mother loves me,” she said, “times a thousand.””
-Father Garrigou-Lagrange, Ch 8: “The True Nature of Christian Perfection,” The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume I
“St. Thomas admits also that in heaven our beatitude will consist essentially in the beatific vision, in the intellectual and immediate vision of the divine essence, for it is above all by this immediate vision that we shall take possession of God for eternity. We shall plunge the gaze of our intellect into the depths of His inner life seen directly. God will thus give Himself immediately to us, and we shall give ourselves to Him. We shall possess Him and He will possess us, because we shall know Him as He knows Himself and as He knows us. Beatific love will be in us a consequence of this immediate vision of the divine essence; it will even be a necessary consequence, for the beatific love of God will no longer be free, but superfree, above liberty. Our will will be invincibly ravished by the attraction of God seen face to face. We shall see His infinite goodness and beauty so clearly that we shall be unable not to love Him; we shall even be unable to find any pretext of momentarily interrupting this act of superfree love, which will no longer be measured by time, but by participated eternity, by the single instant of the immobile duration of God, the instant that never passes. In heaven the love of God and the joy of possessing Him will necessarily follow the beatific vision, which will thus be the essence of our beatitude.(31) All this is true. It is difficult to affirm more strongly than St. Thomas does the superiority of the intellect over the will in principle and in the perfect life of heaven.”
“The Catechism defines heaven as the “ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme definitive happiness” (CCC 1024).
The textbook answer is the knowledge that we will have of the divine essence, which theologians call the beatific vision. St. John writes about it in 1 John 3:2: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
In his 1336 Apostolic Constitution Benedictus Deus, Pope Benedict XII defined this vision as:
“[Seeing] the divine essence by intuitive vision, and even face to face, with no mediating creature, serving in the capacity of an object seen, but divine essence immediately revealing itself plainly, clearly, and openly, to them.”
By intuitive Benedict XII means this vision is a knowledge that is higher than all abstraction, discursive reasoning, and analogy. By immediate he means that we will know God’s essence without any mental image or created idea that merely represents the divine essence.
Just as the form of a dog is immediately united to my intellect when I know a dog, so too the divine essence will be immediately united to my intellect when I know God’s essence in the beatific vision. Rather than knowing a similitude of the divine essence, I will know the divine essence itself.
This immediate knowledge of God’s essence is what constitutes man’s perfect happiness—hence the name beatific (Latin for happy). The reason is because the intellect attains its complete perfection. And it does so in two ways.
First, it comes to know the essence of its ultimate end, that which it was created to know. Second, it arrives at the terminus of all intellectual inquiry. Because God is that than which nothing greater can be known, knowledge of his essence leaves the intellect with no further desire to acquire knowledge for its perfection.
Consider how when we seek to understand something we either look to the thing itself for answers to our questions or to something outside it. Take a tree, for example. We may ask, “What makes its leaves green?” The answer is chlorophyll. We may then ask, “Why do the leaves have chlorophyll?, and answer because the tree’s genes tell the tree to make chlorophyll. But why do its genes tell it to make chlorophyll? The answer is because the leaves need to make energy for the tree, and they use chlorophyll to do that.
Notice that to answer these questions we didn’t have to appeal to anything outside the tree.
But what if we ask, “How do the leaves make energy?” Unlike the other questions, we must appeal to something outside the tree to answer this one: Leaves make energy using light from the sun. They do this using chlorophyll in the process called photosynthesis.
Even the tree’s very existence must be explained by something outside itself. We know the tree doesn’t exist by nature—if it did, there would never be a time when the tree didn’t exist! So we must appeal to something else.
What all this means is that any reality that depends upon something else for its intelligibility leaves our intellect unsatisfied. The only thing that can fully satisfy its quest for truth is something that doesn’t rely on anything outside itself in order to be known. Knowing the essence of such a reality would leave the intellect desiring nothing else, thus perfecting it and constituting complete human happiness.
And this reality is God.
It’s important to note that the beatific vision—the intuitive and immediate knowledge of God’s essence—is not comprehensive. Our knowledge can’t exhaust the divine essence. Only God can fully know himself, as he does in the persons of the Trinity. It requires infinite intellective power to know infinite being.
So how do the saints know God perfectly but not fully? Consider how two people may know the same truth, but know it more or less profoundly.
For example, someone may know that God exists based on reasonable belief. He looks out into the world and sees a great complexity and order that extends all the way back to the beginning of the universe. And since complexity and order are ordinarily explained by intelligence, this person concludes that a super intelligence, like God, is responsible for making the universe. This is a reasonable belief.
Another person, however, might know the same truth—that God exists—but know it by way of metaphysical demonstration. He says, “I know God exists because it’s a matter of metaphysical necessity that he exists. For without him, nothing would exist.
In these two examples, we see that the same object can be known in accord with the mode of the knower. Both God and the saints know the divine essence, but in essentially different ways: according to the mode of the knower.
God’s intellective power is infinite, so he knows the divine essence in an infinite way. The blessed, however, know the divine essence in a way that is consistent with a finite intellect: they know it in a limited way. Although they have a real knowledge of God’s essence, their knowledge doesn’t exhaust it.
The knowledge that we can have of God on this side of the veil is real knowledge and can be a source of intellectual delight. But it pales in comparison to the delight that we will have when the intellect finally rests in seeing God face to face in the beatific vision and our rational natures are ultimately fulfilled.”
“Some questions need a second glance. Even when the answer seems obvious.
For instance, Saint Thomas fields this question: “Whether the essence of God can be seen with the bodily eye?” (ST I q. 12, a. 3).
If this was ever posed “live” in a thirteenth-century Dominican priory, one can imagine the other brothers’ own bodily eyes blinking in embarrassed frustration. Haven’t we been over this? The master already clarified that God is not a body (q. 3, a.1). We know God to be immaterial, infinite, pure act, pure spirit. “God is spirit,” our Lord says, “and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Why waste Father’s time like this?
The student scrambles to justify himself, remembering a quote from Saint Augustine. He had written that we will rise again with glorified eyes, which will be able to see “even incorporeal things” (q. 12, a. 3, obj. 2).
The brothers sit quietly, probably hoping for a one-word resolution: “No.”
To be sure, Aquinas gives a straightforward response: “It is impossible for God to be seen by the sense of sight, or by any other sense. . . . [E]very such kind of power is the act of a corporeal organ. . . . God is incorporeal, as was shown above” (q. 12, a. 3, corp.). Material sense powers have no proportion to immaterial objects. Therefore, even in heaven, God’s essence will not be seen with the corporeal eye.
The brothers know, of course, that we do see God spiritually, now by grace and then by glory, through the perfection of our intellect and will (q. 43 a. 5). This beatifying vision elevates these powers in wisdom and love, conforming us to the Triune God we know and love: “We know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). The perfection of this spiritual union, not some biological operation, will be our Heaven.
But St. Thomas is a wise teacher. He takes up his student’s citation and expands it: “It is very credible,” suggested Augustine, “that we shall so see the mundane bodies of the new heaven and the new earth, as to see most clearly God everywhere present, governing all corporeal things . . . as when we see men among whom we live, living and exercising the functions of human life, we do not believe they live, but see it.” After the resurrection, rather than gradually reasoning to the divine from the creature, we will recognize God’s presence as an immediate and indirect object of sight. The eye will still see material realities (“mundane bodies”), but the intellect will instantly perceive the divine presence sustaining all we see (q. 12, a. 3, ad 2).
Even now, our inability to see God with our bodily eyes doesn’t prevent us from seeing His works: “the heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork” (Ps 19:1). We can reason to and about God by recognizing that the universe demands a First Cause: “Ever since the creation of the world [God’s] invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20). After the resurrection, the saints will perceive God in the visible order effortlessly, “from the perspicuity of the intellect, and from the refulgence of the divine glory” (q. 12, a. 3, ad 2). We hope to join them in this, above all since we know that they look upon the Incarnate Lord, risen in his own humanity: the invisible God, yet visible in the flesh.
Some questions deserve a second glance. So does the whole universe, shot through as it is with light from the Creator. As Christians, we hope after death to give it that perfect, definitive, and spiritual “double-take” it deserves—aided by our own corporeal (resurrected) eyes.”
We are not angels, not merely pure spirit. We will not be pure spirit when resurrected. We will be spirit and resurrected, incorruptible, impassible flesh, as was intended from the beginning, but only more infinitely grand now to our elevation towards God Himself by Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
“Some Protestants pose a general scriptural objection to Catholic teaching on purgatory: that the doctrine of purgatory contradicts the Bible’s teaching on the immediacy of heaven after death. There are three passages that Protestants commonly appeal to:
Luke 23:43—Jesus promises the good thief on the cross to be with him in Paradise on that day.
2 Corinthians 5:6-8—“While we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord . . . we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
Philippians 1:23—“I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”
Protestants who make this argument see each passage teaching that a believer enters heaven immediately after death. This doesn’t leave any room for an intermediate state like purgatory.
What can we say in response?
Let’s first take Luke 23:43, the passage about the good thief on the cross. After the good thief asks Jesus to remember him when he enters into his kingdom, Jesus says in response, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Protestants who appeal to this passage argue that if heaven is given to the good thief on that day, then there’s no need for any sort of final purification.
The first thing we can say in response is that the challenge assumes that “paradise” is heaven. But that is not necessarily true. “Paradise” (Greek, paradeisos) could be referring to the “dwelling place of the righteous dead in a state of blessedness,” which at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion wasn’t heaven because Jesus had not yet ascended (CCC 661, 1023). And this probably is how the good thief would have understood it, given that he wasn’t aware of any revelation concerning the Christian concept of the beatific vision.
Such a place was instead the “prison” to which Jesus went after his death in order to preach to the spirits held there (1 Pet. 3:19; cf. CCC 633). So on that day, Jesus may have been promising to be with the good thief in the abode of the dead, not heaven. In that case, this verse does not rule out the good thief ’s (or anyone else’s) need for final purification before entrance into heaven.
Even if we say for argument’s sake that Jesus was talking about heaven when he spoke of “paradise,” and the good thief was going to receive heaven on that day without a final purification, it wouldn’t disprove the existence of purgatory. The Church teaches that it’s possible someone can have such a fervent degree of charity at death that it’s sufficient to remit all guilt of venial sin and satisfy the temporal punishment due for his sin and thus bypass purgatory (CCC 1022, 1472). The good thief may have been one of those people.
Moreover, the good thief was suffering on a cross for his crime. He was being justly punished for his crime and voluntarily embracing it as such: “We are receiving the due reward of our deeds” (v.41). The good thief’s suffering, therefore, could have been sufficient to free him from the temporal punishment due for his sins. And since Jesus’ promise to be with him in “paradise” implies that his sins were forgiven, it’s possible the good thief didn’t have to experience any postmortem purification.
This challenge assumes, grammatically, that “today” refers to the time when the good thief will be with Jesus in paradise. This is due to the punctuation in the English translation: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” But there are no punctuation marks in the original Greek. So the passage could be read as, “Truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise.” On this reading, “today” refers not to when the good thief will be with Jesus in paradise, but to when Jesus tells the good thief that he will be with him in paradise.
Let’s now consider the objection from 2 Corinthians 5:6-8. Paul writes, “While we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord . . . we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
Some Protestants argue that since the Bible says that for a Christian to be “away from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord,” there can’t be any intermediate state in the afterlife. Yet they fail to note that Paul doesn’t say “to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord.” Paul simply says, “While we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord” and that “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
Protestants may reply that although Paul doesn’t exactly say what the challenge claims, that’s what he means. Are they right? Does the logic follow? Does the statement, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” mean the same as, “To be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord”?
Suppose I’m at work and I’m wishing I could instead be away from work and at home. Can we conclude from this that if I’m away from work, I must be at home? Doesn’t seem like it. I could be away from work eating lunch at McDonald’s. I could be away from work on my way home but sitting in traffic. So it’s fallacious to conclude from this verse that once away from the body, a Christian must immediately be present with the Lord.
The third passage that some Protestants use to support the immediacy of heaven after death is Philippians 1:23. Paul writes, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”
In response, it’s important that we first establish the context for what Paul is saying. He is expressing a conflict, for he writes, “I am hard pressed between the two” (v.23). What are the two things that he’s in conflict about?
He’s torn between living and serving Christ on earth and being with him in heaven. In verses 22-23, he writes, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two.”
Then in verses 24-25, he writes, “But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all.”
All Paul is saying, then, is that his desire to serve Christ on earth conflicts with his desire to be with him in heaven. Paul doesn’t say this union takes place immediately after death, nor does the context suggest that he intends to say this in some implicit way.
Our Protestant friend might object, “You’re just begging the question. Paul is saying that this union takes place immediately after death because he says, ‘I desire to depart and be united with Christ.’”
But the unity that the two concepts have (departure from this life and union with Christ) doesn’t mean they must be simultaneously concurrent in time.
Similar to what we saw above, there is a conceptual unity between “being away from work” and “being at home with my family.” But that doesn’t entail that both concepts are united in time, since I have to drive home, and on the way I may be impeded by errands, traffic, or a flat tire. So just because Paul desires to depart and be with Christ, that doesn’t mean departing this life must immediately be followed with being with Christ in heaven.
Trent Horn makes a great comparison to illustrate this point. Consider 2 Corinthians 5:2, where Paul writes concerning our glorified bodies, “Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling.”
If we were to follow the logic of the immediacy objection, we’d have to say that because Paul desires to die and have his glorified body, after death he immediately gets his glorified body. But we know from 1 Corinthians 15:52 that we will not get our glorified bodies until the future at the end of time, for Paul speaks of the “last trumpet” in verse 52.
So the fact that Paul desires to have his glorified body after death doesn’t mean that he will get it immediately after death. Similarly, just because Paul desires to depart and be united with Christ, it doesn’t follow that his union with Christ will be immediate.
Therefore, the appeal to passages where Paul expresses his desire to depart from the body and be present with Christ fails to undermine the Catholic belief in purgatory.”
“All who die in God’s grace, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven (CCC 1030).”
“Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, pray for the souls of priests and religious brothers and sisters.”
“Eternal Father, we offer you the most Precious Blood of Jesus, for the souls of priests who in purgatory suffer the most and are the most abandoned.”
“Oh Lord Jesus Christ, Eternal Priest, Who during Your earthly life generously cared for every poor person who was afflicted and abandoned, I beg You, look with favor on the souls of priests in purgatory who suffer most atrociously and who are abandoned and forgotten by everyone. Look at how these Holy Souls, tormented by the voracity of the flames and with an agonizing voice plead for pity and help.
Oh most merciful heart of Jesus, Who in the Garden of Olives, in the midst of bitter solitude, victim of most cruel spiritual torments and bloody agony, begged: “Father, if it is possible take this chalice away from Me! Yet let not Mine, but Your will be done.” By this, Your submission and painful passion and agony, I beg you to have pity on the Holy Souls for whom I am praying to You and to relieve their suffering and to console them in the midst of their abandonment, as Your Celestial Father consoled You by sending you an angel. Amen.
Our Lady of Suffrage, Mother of Mercy, we favorably invoke you for our own sake and for the sake of the souls in purgatory. I would like to escape from that tremendous prison, by living a just life, avoiding sin, and doing everything with the fervor of a holy soul. But what can I do, without the help of heaven?
Dear Mother, cast your glance upon me and obtain for me the grace that the last day of my mortal life may be the first day that I will begin to enjoy the glories of heaven. Hope and Mother of the afflicted, run to the aid of those in purgatory. Be merciful towards my relatives, my friends, my benefactors, the souls who love Jesus and who love you and toward the abandoned souls.
Oh Mary, by the Cross on which Jesus died, by the Most Precious Blood with which He redeemed us, by the chalice which every day is offered up to the Eternal Father during the Mass, obtain grace and liberation for all of the souls in purgatory. Listen to the sighs of your sons & daughters in purgatory and opening the doors of this painful prison, let them all ascend into Heaven with you today. Amen.
– Our Lady of Suffrage, pray for us and the souls in purgatory. Eternal Rest grant unto them, oh Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. Amen.”
Love & prayers for our professed and ordained, certainly God will grant the grace you seek to do His will on earth,
“Jesus, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom!”-Lk 23:42
“Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of Himself. As gold in the furnace, He proved them, and as sacrificial offerings, He took them to Himself.”-Wisdom 3:5-6
“On this day is observed the commemoration of the faithful departed, in which our common and pious Mother the Church, immediately after having endeavored to celebrate by worthy praise all her children who already rejoice in heaven, strives to aid by her powerful intercession with Christ, her Lord and Spouse, all those who still groan in purgatory, so that they may join as soon as possible the inhabitants of the heavenly city.” —Roman Martyrology
“…the fire which both burns and saves is Christ Himself, the Judge and Savior. The encounter with Him is the decisive act of judgment. Before His gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with Him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw … and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of His heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation ‘as through fire.’ But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of His love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God.” -Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, Encyclical Letter, November 30, 2007, par. 47; http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20071130_spe-salvi.html
“It is no accident that each year, All Souls Day follows on the coattails of All Saints Day. In fact, if we look closely, we behold in their sequence a revelation of the Mystical Body of Christ and the place of our life and death within it.
Yesterday, we acclaimed the deceased who persevered in grace and now sing divine praises in a heavenly key. We especially heralded the hidden heroes—the innumerable “little” or “medium” saints known only to their family members, parishioners, religious brothers, etc.—and likewise the “big” saints whose time of earthly veneration has alas receded. (After all, there are too many “big” saints for even a calendar year to hold.) And so we beseech their aid—the aid of all of them, the whole “Church Triumphant”—that we, too, might join their ranks in glory and song.
Today, by contrast, it is our aid that is beseeched, and so we pray. We pray for those deceased who have need of prayer but cannot pray for themselves—whose wills, fixed by the separation of body and soul at death, entered eternal life rightly ordered toward God but not without earthly attachments, spiritual barnacles still unscraped by the agent of grace. Thus they endure purgation, for which they are named the “Church Suffering.”
We, the “Church Militant,” bear a unique charge in their regard. Since God has a penchant for deploying instruments, He deigns to use us, the woefully imperfect, to be the means of perfecting post mortem those judged worthy of eternal perfection. Indeed, He asks us to be the means for all of them, i.e. not solely those deceased loved ones whose anniversaries we already celebrate and whose names remain in our daily intentions.
Thus appears the nexus of life, death, and salvation. Death, it is said, is the great equalizer, the one fate all men must face, and in its face, our “condition is most shrouded in doubt” (GS 18). About the details of death and life hereafter, we have the certainty of faith but not the clarity of vision. We do not yet see with our eyes nor fully understand with our minds the realities that we know by grace. And so at death—whether our own or that of a loved one—the truth claims we’ve made all our lives long about God and the meaning of reality rush to the fore with a towering urgency, demanding that we live them to the end in their fullness.
On this side of our personal eschaton, there is need for a genuine ars moriendi—an art of dying, through which we ourselves are sealed by the grace of final perseverance. For those already on the other side, there is need for constant prayer on their behalf: our loved ones and all the suffering are best served not by sentimental memorialization but by the holy and pious works of [making] atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin (2 Macc 12:45).
Like complements, All Saints Day and All Souls Day, along with the entirety of November—the month of the Holy Souls—spur this confrontation with death, for which we must always keep watch and be ready (Matt 24:42, 44). Indeed, the Christian stands uniquely prepared for death because he has in a real way already died in Christ. Saint Paul is crystal clear: You were buried with [Christ] in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses … nailing [them] to the cross (Col 2:12–14).
Steeped in sanctifying grace, we actually possess heaven now, and yet we await the full reception of our inheritance in glory (see Gal 4:1–7, Rom 6:5–11, Rom 8, Eph 1:3–14, 2 Tim 2:11). Moreover, this same sanctifying grace, flowing from the headship of Christ, unites the Church—Militant, Suffering, and Triumphant—into one Mystical Body spanning space and time, heaven and earth. Life on earth is thereby rendered an arduous pilgrimage in grace, through which our fleshly bodies—good but afflicted with concupiscence—are animated by our resurrected souls—redeemed but in constant need of divine aid—unto their separation at death, after which they await reunion in bodily resurrection at the end of time. En route, we draw into the Way as many as we can, and we intercede for those who trod before us in grace but still await entry among the Triumphant.
This interplay between November 1 and November 2, between All Saints Day and All Souls Day, sums up the dynamics of salvation. Only in virtue of the astounding love of God can we the Church Militant stand confident before death—before our own and those of all the Church Suffering—and rejoice with the Church Triumphant: O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through Our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:55, 57).”
[Ed. our sufferings in this life are part of our purgation. What is not finished here, is resolved in the next. There is a guilt & a temporal punishment incurred through sin. Absolution absolves us from the guilt of our offense against God. Yet, there is still the temporal penalty to pay in penance, in this life or the next. Nothing unholy may enter before His presence. His unspeakable divinity consuming obliterates it. Our purgation in this life also adds to the Treasury of Merit to benefit the whole Church.]
“Among those throughout the history of the Church who have written and spoken about purgatory, many have emphasized the sorrows or pains.
They have done so rightly, since the sufferings of purgatory are real.
However, I think it’s safe to say some have over-emphasized the pains of purgatory, such that many have lost sight of its joys. It’s important that we find a happy medium.
St. Francis de Sales taught, “If purgatory is a species of hell as regards suffering, it is a species of paradise as regards charity. The charity which quickens those holy souls is stronger than death, more powerful than hell.”
His mention of charity being a species of heaven is noteworthy. As for his view that purgatory is a “species of hell,” we will see later that the Magisterium today does not articulate the sufferings of purgatory in this way. In fact, the Catechism teaches that the “final purification of the elect” in purgatory is “entirely different from the punishment of the damned”.
The Italian mystic St. Catherine of Genoa writes, “I believe no happiness can be found worthy to be compared with that of a soul in purgatory except that of the saints in paradise.”
Let’s now turn to that sweet joy of purgatory and see what might give a suffering soul reason to say with Paul, “I rejoice in my sufferings” (Col. 1:24).
A Keen Awareness of God’s Love for Us
The first thing we can say is that in purgatory, we become ever more aware of God’s love for us. Just as a thing is blocked from the forever shining rays of the sun due to it being covered, and the more the cover is removed, the more a thing is exposed to the sun’s rays, so too the souls in purgatory are more and more exposed to the divine love as impediments to entrance into heaven are removed through purification.
Catherine of Genoa explains it this way: “Day by day this happiness grows as God flows into these souls, more and more as the hindrance to his entrance is consumed.” With this influx of God’s presence within the soul, there comes a growing awareness of God’s love for the soul.
A Keen Appreciation for God’s “Order of Justice”
Another cause for great joy is the keen awareness and appreciation of God’s “order of justice”(God’s plan for human behavior as it relates to us as human beings and as it relates to him as our ultimate end). On this side of the veil, we don’t perceive just how wise and good God’s order of justice is, so we might perceive punishment for disrupting that order as unfair or unjust.
But in purgatory, we will have already received our judgment according to what we did in the body, whether good or evil (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10). From that judgment, we will see the perfect justice in the debt of temporal punishment due for our sins.
St. Catherine explains, “So intimate with God are the souls in purgatory and so changed to his will, that in all things they are content with his most holy ordinance.”There is no room for resentment of God’s order of justice in a soul that is confirmed in God’s love.
Moreover, the holy souls realize that their purgatorial pains are a manifestation of God’s order of justice. And since they love God, they desire the glory of that order to be upheld and manifest. This is why they willingly submit to such purgatorial pains for the discharge of the debt of temporal punishment.
An Intense Love for God and Neighbor
A third cause for joy is the intense love the suffering souls have for God and neighbor. Joy and love go hand in hand. For example, right after listing love as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, St. Paul lists “joy” and “peace.”
The Catechism lists joy as a fruit of charity itself (1829).
Joy is often defined as “the pleasure taken in a good possessed.”God is the ultimate good. Whoever loves God possesses him in some measure. The souls in purgatory are confirmed in their love for God. Therefore, they possess God in some measure, even though they won’t fully possess him until they enter the beatific vision. This possession of their ultimate good, God, although imperfect, is a source of joy.
Assurance of Receiving the Final Reward of Heaven
In this life, there exists the possibility to turn away from God as our life’s goal and thus lose our inheritance of heaven. St. Paul thought it was possible for him to become “disqualified” from receiving the crown of eternal life, causing him to “pummel” his body and “subdue it” (1 Cor. 9:27).
This is why he reminds the Romans, “Continue in [God’s] kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off” (Rom. 11:22). And the Corinthians, “Let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). And the Philippians, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).
Such worries are no longer present in purgatory. All the souls there are confirmed in charity and are assured of receiving their final reward in the beatific vision.
This perhaps is the greatest of joys for the souls in purgatory, what Fr. Jugie calls the “gift of gifts.”There is tremendous peace and joy in knowing that you no longer have to fight to overcome sin and worry about losing the ultimate good that we long to fully possess: God.
To use another metaphor, a soul in purgatory stands in the vestibule of the house of the Lord, the heavenly temple, saying with the Psalmist, “I rejoiced in the things that were said to me: we shall enter into the house of the Lord” (Ps. 121:1). This assurance gives new meaning to Paul’s words, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say it—Rejoice, for the Lord is nigh” (Phil. 4:4-5). The full measure of the Lord’s presence is truly near for the holy souls in purgatory, and that is indeed a source of joy.”
ALL is JOY, whatever it is that leads to Him!!!
Love & Joy,
I love the shows “Lucifer” and “Supernatural”, but their theology is meshuggah.
““Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.”-1 Peter 5:8–9
“‘Spiritual combat’ is another element of life which needs to be taught anew and proposed once more to all Christians today. It is a secret and interior art, an invisible struggle in which we engage every day against the temptations, the evil suggestions that the demon tries to plant in our hearts.” -Saint Pope John Paul II, May 25, 2002
“This generation, and many others, have been led to believe that the devil is a myth, a figure, an idea, the idea of evil… But the devil exists and we must fight against him.” -Pope Francis, Halloween 2014
How Demons Deceive Us
Although the powers of demons are infinitely weaker than the powers of God, they are still greater than those of humans, and their powers can fool us if we are not careful. For example, only God knows all things, including the future. God does not see time in a linear fashion as past, present, and future; rather, he sees all times at once. Everything that ever has been, is now, and ever will be, is present to him at once.
What Demons Can Do
Different Languages, Communication, Knowledge
Demons, however, exist in time as we do, so they do not know the future. However, they are very intelligent and can make it appear that they know the future. One might think of them as extremely accurate weathermen: they don’t know the future, but they can make very good predictions.
Demons also have knowledge of human beings throughout history, and thereby know all human languages, including ancient ones. As we will see later, signs of demon possession include knowledge of things that the possessed individuals could not have known on their own, as well as the ability to speak languages that they have never heard.
Demons have the power to communicate with other demons and with human beings. However, being pure spirits, they communicate in a spiritual rather than a physical way.
Aquinas maintained that demons could affect our imagination. This ability does not differ greatly from our powers of communication. We communicate ideas to one another all the time through speaking and writing. Every time we turn on the television, read a newspaper or magazine, or search the Internet, we see advertisements. These are nothing more than someone trying to plant ideas or images in our imagination.
A particularly frightening ability of demons involves how well they know our personal habits. We have only to think of people whom we know very well. When they talk to us, we often know more of what is on their minds than they say, due to hints in their affect: we notice their tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.
Demons Can Interact with Things in the Real World
They can listen and observe, even move physical objects
Because of demons’ greater intelligence, memory, and powers of observation, they are much better at interpreting human behavior and thought than we are. The demons can listen to us and observe us carefully, and may be able to see or hear subtle physical signs that show our emotions. Therefore, even though God alone knows all of our thoughts, demons can readily analyze what we are thinking and feeling, and make accurate predictions.
Demons can also deceive us through their ability to move physical objects. An example of telekinesis by a demon can be seen in the book of Job (1:13–19). In that biblical account, the devil caused lightning to kill the shepherds and sheep. In the same story, demons also caused a great wind that destroyed the house of Job’s children, thus killing them. The Gospels tell us that demons caused a herd of pigs to run off a cliff, fall into the lake, and drown (Mark 5:1–13).”
Holy Spirit!!! Make haste and come to our aid!!! Ye archangels of God, ye holy men and women of God, make haste, come to our aid!!!!
“Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.”
Love, pray always, all ways, our hope is in the Lord, who made heaven and earth (Ps 124:8),
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” -Mt 5:48
“A Joyful Truth
Purgatory Provides Consolation for Believers
Some Protestants criticize the doctrine of purgatory by saying it’s “bad news” in contrast to the “good news” of salvation revealed in the Bible. But nothing could be farther from the truth. The Catholic doctrine of purgatory is indeed good news.
Purgatory consoles believers who struggle with sin.
We’re all too familiar with our own weaknesses. Who in the world goes throughout the day without turning to a creaturely good in some inordinate way?
Perhaps it’s binging of Netflix, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, texting when someone is trying to have a conversation with you, using clock hours on the job to browse the internet for non-work-related stuff, a snappy comment to your co-worker, friend, or spouse, a brief indulgence of an uncharitable thought, a failure to promptly meet the needs of your spouse or friend when able. The list goes on and on.
It would be pretty darn hard to go through a day without falling short of Christian perfection in some way, at least for us ordinary folks. Such a task would be heroic. Heroes are rare!
Now think about the fact that death can surprise us at any moment. Jesus says, “The Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:44). Elsewhere, he says, “Remember then what you received and heard; keep that, and repent. If you will not awake, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you” (Rev. 3:3).
If death can come upon us so quickly, and we’re as spiritually ill adjusted as we are, it would seem there’s no hope for us entering into the glory of heaven. We might not die with our wills turned fully away from God as our life’s goal, but the guilt of venial sin and the effects of sin would impede us from entering such glory. Despair of final salvation would be inevitable—that is, if purgatory weren’t real.
Purgatory remedies that despair and infuses joy within the soul. It allows believers who love Jesus but continue to struggle with sin in their lives to know that their shortcomings against Christian perfection are not enough to guarantee keeping them from the glory of heaven. What’s so bad about that?
Consolation for us and our loved ones…
Purgatory consoles believers in knowing how much God loves them.
Purgatory also consoles us in that it manifests God’s love for us.
God loves us so much that he does everything he can to make it possible for us to be united with him, including providing us a postmortem opportunity to be freed from venial sin and any remnants of sin that impede us from entrance into heaven.
Isn’t God’s love for us part of the Gospel’s “good news”? Sure, it is!
Purgatory is a doctrine that manifests such love to us. Therefore, purgatory is good news.
Those who have gone before us in Faith…
Purgatory consoles believers concerning loved ones who die without the perfect holiness required for heaven.
Everything we said above with regard to our weaknesses and struggles with sin also applies to those we love. So purgatory consoles us not just with regard to our own entrance into heaven, but also with regard to our loved ones.
Purgatory gives us the assurance that even though our loved ones die without the perfect holiness required for heaven, we know they’re not forever excluded from there.
The late Marian scholar Fr. Martin Jugie puts it beautifully:
“They who mournfully follow the coffin, are consoled with thoughts of the mercy of God; of the expiation of venial sin and the cleansing of the wounds, left by mortal sin, after death; of extenuating circumstances which may have rendered certain sins venial for the dear deceased one. The anguished heart, torn with dread about the fate of the loved one, clings to this last hope, and there finds solace and some peace.”
That’s good news!”
Love, pray for me,
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP