Splendor of Truth - What We Believe



What happens to people when they die? (CCC 1021-1022)

A person, after death, will end up in one of three places – Heaven, Hell or Purgatory.

What is Heaven? (CCC 1023-1029)

Heaven is a place of eternal happiness in total union with God, and through Him, union with one another. In heaven, there is no suffering, sickness, deformity or pain. All of our desires will be filled to overflowing, and we will be like Him; we will share in his divinity. Here we will see God face to face, we will know Him perfectly, and we will participate in His life. This is called the beatific vision.

How do I make to Heaven? (CCC 1023)

Most simply, we must freely believe in all God has revealed and we must act on these beliefs in our lives. Most importantly, it means having faith Jesus Christ His Son; that He was born on earth, died, and resurrected in order to save us so that we could be an adopted child of God. What does this mean for us in our everyday life? We must live in His friendship and grace. It means we must, by our thoughts, words and actions, try to love God and one another to the best of our ability, choosing God first in all things out of love for Him. If we fail, we must repent with humility, trusting in His mercy and His desire to always forgive us.

What is hell? (CCC 1033-1037)

Hell is for those who have rejected the love and mercy of God by the decisions they have made on earth. They have sinned gravely (mortal sin) against God, neighbor, or themselves, and they have not repented. It is a place of eternal suffering, the chief punishment being separation from God, the source of all good. All are created for heaven and eternal happiness with God. However, He has gifted us with free will, which He will not violate. Therefore, if we choose to say “no” to His invitation to heaven, willfully and freely turning away from Him, He will respect that choice. (CCC 1033-1037)

Why would someone ever choose hell? (CCC 1036-1037)

God should be loved first before all else. Some people, however, choose to love other things at the expense of loving God – themselves, things, pleasure. All of these things are good, but when they are placed in front of the Lord, it is a rejection of Him and His love for us. These things do not bring the happiness that can be found only in God. When a person willfully rejects God by choosing something else, and does not repent, he will spend eternity in this state of separation, which he created for himself.

What is Purgatory? (CCC 1030-1032)

Purgatory is a place where souls go who have died in the grace and friendship of God. However, these souls still have to be fully purified of their imperfections before they enter heaven. Purgatory is the place of this final purification, accomplished through suffering, and it is only for souls who are eventually going to heaven. No soul in purgatory will ever go to hell.

Why is Purgatory necessary? Why can’t souls go straight to heaven if they have died in God’s friendship and grace? (Purgatory, Fr. F.X. Schouppe)

Allow a few examples to help explain. Keep in mind that no analogy fully explains or does justice to the real thing, but they can help us understand better. 

First, let us say that a person purposely breaks his neighbor’s window. Afterwards he feels sorry for it, and he goes to the neighbor’s house to apologize. The neighbor accepts the apology and forgives him. However, the neighbor also asks him to fix the broken window, and if the person is truly sorry, he should want to do so, and even offer to do so, before it is required of him. This situation is repeated constantly in families, schools, and our justice system; justice is consequences for an offense, not merely an apology. Purgatory is “making up for” the offenses committed (sins) during our lives. What we pay is termed temporal consequences for our sins.

Imagine a person tied to the earth with hundreds of ropes. This is the human problem. We are attached to earthly things instead of God. During our life, our purification consists of cutting the ropes holding us to earth and reattaching ourselves to the Lord above. Each cut and reattachment causes pain and suffering, but in the end, joy. The cutting could be looked at as the temporal punishment of sin. In order to go to Heaven, we must be completely unattached from earth and attached to the Lord. If we do not finish this work of purification on earth (which we can), we will finish it in Purgatory.

Very simply. There is no sin or imperfection in heaven. Our lives on earth are dedicated to filling the “holes” and wounds caused by sin. It is a painful process that involves suffering. This suffering restores us. We will not enter heaven until the process is complete, until all darkness is filled with light. What we do not finish on earth, we will finish in Purgatory.

How long do people spend in Purgatory? (Purgatory, Fr. F.X. Schouppe)

It varies with each person. Each person is there the amount of time he or she needs. For some, it may be only a second, whereas others may be there until Jesus comes again.

Can a person spend eternity in Purgatory? (Purgatory, Fr. F.X. Schouppe)

No. When Jesus comes again (the Second Coming), all souls in Purgatory will go to Heaven.

What do the souls in Purgatory do? (CCC 1030-1032)

From the revelations of many saints and the Church’s rich Tradition, we know that it is a place of suffering, a “purifying fire.” (1 Cor 3:15, 1 Pt 1:7) Generally, we believe there are two primary means of suffering, suffering of the senses and the spirit. Suffering of the senses refers to physical pain. Suffering of the spirit is the suffering due to a state of separation from God. This suffering is the greatest and most painful.

Is the suffering in Purgatory similar to the suffering in Hell? (Purgatory, Fr. F.X. Schouppe)

The suffering in Purgatory is indeed great, but there are some essential differences that make it completely distinct from the sufferings of Hell. First, the souls in Purgatory have inner peace and even joy primarily because they are certain of going to Heaven. As well, when a person dies, he is given full clarity concerning the state of his soul. Therefore, he is fully aware of his just due – Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. A soul who must undergo the purifications of Purgatory knows perfectly that he needs it, and in fact, he wants it. Presented with the majesty of God and the perfection of Heaven, a soul in need of purification would never want to enter Heaven until he is completely clean and perfected.

Is it better to suffer on earth or in Purgatory? (Purgatory, Fr. F.X. Schouppe)

Without question, it is better to suffer on earth for 3 important reasons.

One, suffering on earth is easier and less painful.

Two, we increase our own merit with our sufferings here on earth. However, our sufferings in Purgatory earn us no extra merit. All opportunity to gain merit ends at death. Here is a simple example to illustrate. Imagine we are “cups” of all sizes, meant to be filled with God’s grace. Sin empties us, taking away grace. Each time we suffer on earth and unite our sufferings to Christ’s, offering them as a sacrifice to the Lord for ourselves and others, we not only add grace to our cup, but we increase the size of our cup. Therefore, each time we embrace suffering as God’s gift for our betterment, we increase our capacity to hold more grace. In Heaven, our “cup” will be completely filled, no matter our size. All souls will be completely happy and fulfilled, but some will have the capacity to hold more. This “extra capacity” is the merit we have earned on earth by saying to “yes” to all God sends us. However, in Purgatory, our sufferings do not increase the size of our “cup” any longer.

Third, each time we embrace suffering here on earth with love, not only do we bring grace to ourselves, but also to the whole world. This perhaps is the greatest reason to willingly embrace suffering here on earth because it is true charity toward others. Each good act here on earth has positive benefits for the entire Body of Christ, i.e. fellow man. Each act brings grace into us and the world. Suffering in purgatory does not bring grace to the world; it simply serves as a means to purify us, but brings no added grace or merit to anyone on earth. True charity impels us to desire suffering on earth in order that we can help others by accepting our own. Many of the saints actually said that the angels have a holy jealousy toward us because of our ability to suffer, which demonstrates our love for God and others.

Can we on earth help souls get out of Purgatory? (Purgatory, Fr. F.X. Schouppe)

Yes. We can offer prayers, sacrifices, and alms for the souls in Purgatory. The offering of the Mass is the greatest way to help a soul leave Purgatory. The souls in Purgatory are part of the Church. Acts we perform on earth benefit all members of the Church – on earth and in Purgatory.

When we die, do we automatically go to heaven, hell or purgatory, or is there someplace where we wait for a while? (CCC 1021-1022)

Immediately upon death, every soul undergoes a particular judgment by God. The soul will be judged on his faith and works, and will immediately receive his just due – Heaven, Purgatory or Hell.

Do we still have our bodies when we die? (CCC 988-1001, 1038-1041)

Upon death, the soul will separated from its body, and at the particular judgment only the soul (not the body) will initially go to its eternal rest. The body itself will die and decay. However, our souls will be reunited to our bodies when Christ comes again for a second time. We will receive our own body back, but it will be glorified, perfect and immortal. All people, regardless of their eternal home, will receive their bodies again.

Will Jesus ever come again to earth? (CCC 668-679)

Yes, Jesus promises that He will come again. We call this the Second Coming or the Parousia, when Christ comes to judge both those living and those already dead. At this event, those who had died will receive their bodies back. There will be a general judgment of all mankind (distinct from the particular judgment at our death between only a particular soul and God). This judgment will be public. Purgatory will be eliminated (the souls will go to Heaven), and all souls will either be in Heaven or Hell for eternity.

Will the world still exist after the Second Coming? (CCC 1042-1050)

Currently, the Lord is establishing His kingdom here on earth through the Church. But there will come a day in which evil is fully defeated and banished and Christ will manifest His full reign. The world as we know it will end, and God will establish a new and perfect heavens and earth. The visible universe will be transformed and will be no longer subject to sin or decay. God will dwell among men, and all those in Heaven will enjoy perfect happiness and peace with God.


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