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Diana wrote:

Hi, guys —

My dad passed away a couple of weeks ago and my mom passed away 4 months ago, so I have been doing a lot of thinking about what happens when our bodies die and the after life. I keep remembering what I was taught in Catholic school 50 years ago when I was a young girl.

As I am looking for confirmation of these views, more questions keep coming to my mind so here are my questions:

  • As soon as a person's body dies, will their soul be reunited immediately with their loved ones and people they knew on Earth?
  • That is, my dad missed my mom during her years with Alzheimer's and I was wondering
    • if he is able to be with her as soon as he dies, or
    • if he or she went to Purgatory first, if one will have to wait until the other leaves Purgatory and gets to Heaven?
  • He missed so many people on Earth, his parents, brothers, etc., that I was wondering if his soul gets to be with their souls immediately even in Purgatory?

In my previous question I am assuming we know each other after our bodies die on Earth.

  • Is this true?
  • That is, do we remember the people we encountered on Earth? and
  • Do we have a memory of our life on Earth?

I always assumed we did because I have been taught to believe that everything in our lives will appear before us as part of our Particular Judgment.

  • Will we keep this memory for eternity?
  • Do souls in Purgatory and/or Heaven know what is happening on Earth?
  • For example, do my mom and dad now know what is going on among their four children?
  • Do they know things that happened on Earth when they were here that they didn't know then?

I have been feeling guilty and I am sorry for not spending as much time as I could have with my dad before he passed.

  • Does he know this?
  • Can he hear me when I talk to him?

I realize the answers to these questions may not have definitive answers, since we can't know for sure what happens after this life. We can only speculate based on Scripture and maybe experiences.

Diana

  { Can you confirm my views of the after life and answer some related questions on Purgatory? }

Mike replied:

Dear Diana,

Let me give you the basic teachings on Purgatory. Hopefully any questions I don't answer, one of my colleagues will.

Catholic Notes:

When talking with friends and family on Purgatory, it’s important they know the basics:

  • Purgatory does exist.
  • Purgatory is not a third place along with Heaven and Hell nor it is a second chance.
  • Purgatory has nothing to do with Limbo, which was only a theological opinion and was never a doctrine of the Church.
  • Purgatory is like the Holy Hospital of Heaven.
  • Souls in Purgatory have been saved just as much as the souls in Heaven.

Purgatory refers to a temporary state of purification for those who have died in the state of grace but still need to get rid of any lingering imperfections (venial sins, earthly attachments, self-will, etc.) before entering the perfection of Heaven.

Purgatory has nothing to do with one's justification or salvation. Those in Purgatory are justified; they are saved.  Purgatory has to do with one's personal holiness and the burning away of remaining self-love.  Revelation 21:27 It's our personal holiness because each person uses their free will differently in life to make good or bad choices on our pilgrimage to our particular judgment.

This article by Emily Stimpson from Our Sunday Visitor (osv.com) September 29, 2013 will also be helpful.

If you struggle to understand the Catholic view of Purgatory, this analogy may help:

Think of sin as a self-inflicted wound in your life.

When we physically hurt ourselves, many times we have to be brought to the hospital and the doctor or nurse will put an alcoholic disinfectant in our cut or wound. It will hurt ... a lot!!! but it's a good hurt; it's a holy hurt, that is needed to make us physically better.

We also have to distinguish between less severe physical injuries where we cut ourselves and require stitches and more severe injuries, like a NASCAR racing driver who gets into a major collision and ends up with third or fourth-degree burns over 90 percent of their body. There are varying degrees of damage that we do to our bodies, not only physically, but spiritually too!

Because Revelation tells us that nothing impure can enter Heaven (Revelation 21:27) and because God Himself is all Holy, we too, have to be all Holy to enter Heaven. To achieve this, any remaining self-inflicted spiritual wounds (meaning self-love) from our pilgrimage on earth has to be burned off, healed, and purified.

  • If our spiritual injuries are along the line of just needing stitches, that healing period where our self-love has to be burned off will be short;
  • but if our self-inflicted injuries are along the line of third or fourth-degree burns, the healing process will take longer.

Saints in the past have had private revelations from the souls in Purgatory. They [the Holy Souls in Purgatory] have shared that, while the [healing|burning] fires of God’s Love in Purgatory are painful (Hebrews 12:29, Exodus 3:1-6), at the same time they had an internal, burning joy because they knew they were being conformed to the image of God and their final destiny would be total union with Him.

Instead of the good healing pain that the alcoholic disinfectant gave us under a doctor’s care to prepare us to re-enter the earthly world again, in Purgatory, we experience a holy, healing pain under Jesus’ Care which purifies our souls and prepares us to enter eternal life with God who is all Holy.

Although the Church is the pillar and foundation for our faith and Her teachings (1 Timothy 3:15) here are some Scriptural passages that backup Catholic teaching on this topic.

2 Samuel 12:13-14
David, though forgiven, is still punished for sin.
2 Maccabees 12:39-45
"Next day, they came to find Judas (since the necessity was by now urgent) to have the bodies of the fallen taken up and laid to rest among their relatives in their ancestral tombs. But when they found on each of the dead men, under their tunics, objects dedicated to the idols of Jamnia, which the Law prohibits to Jews, it became clear to everyone that this was why these men had lost their lives. All then blessed the ways of the Lord, the upright judge who brings hidden things to light, and gave themselves to prayer, begging that the sin committed might be completely forgiven. Next, the valiant Judas urged the soldiers to keep themselves free from all sin, having seen with their own eyes the effects of the sin of those who had fallen; after this he took a collection from them individually, amounting to nearly two thousand drachmas, and sent it to Jerusalem to have a sacrifice for sin offered, an action altogether fine and noble, prompted by his belief in the resurrection. For had he not expected the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead, whereas if he had in view the splendid recompense reserved for those who make a pious end, the thought was holy and devout. Hence, he had this expiatory sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sin."

Note: Though this book was rejected by the Protestant reformers and therefore is not in Protestant Bibles, one can not ignore the historical reality of this event and the reality of the words which were said.

Matthew 5:25-26
"You will be thrown into prison and not be released until you have paid the last penny."
Matthew 5:48
Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. (Perfection is to be strived for on earth.)
Matthew 12:32
Sin against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, in this age, or the next.
Matthew 12:36
You will have to account for every idle word on judgment day.
1 Corinthians 3:10-16
"If someone's work is burned ... the person will be saved, but only as through fire."
1 Corinthians 15:29-30
Paul mentions people baptizing for the dead.
2 Timothy 1:16-18
St. Paul prays - asks that God have mercy on his dead friend, Onesiphorus.
Hebrews 12:14
Strive for that holiness without which one cannot see God.
Hebrews 12:29
For our God is a consuming fire.
James 1:14-15
When sin reaches maturity it reaches death.
James 3:2
We all fall short in many respects.
1 Peter 3:18-20 to 1 Peter 4:6
Jesus preached to the spirits in prison.
1 John 5:16-17
Distinction made between deadly sins and one that are not deadly.
Revelation 21:27
Nothing unclean will be allowed to enter into Heaven.
See also:
Leviticus 26:41-43, Isaiah 4:4, Isaiah 6:5-7, Isaiah 33:11-14, Micah 7:8-9, Zechariah 9:11, Malachi 3:2-4, Matthew 18:34ff, Luke 12:58ff, Luke 16:19-31, 2 Corinthians 5:10,
2 Corinthians 7:1, Ephesians 4:8-10, Philippians 2:10-11, 1 Peter 4:6, Revelation 5:3, 13

Interested in what the very first Christians thought, taught, and died for?
Check out what they said on this topic.

The word Purgatory is mentioned four times in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Below are the sections which link to the on-line version of the Catechism so you can read and understand the text in context:

III. The Final Purification, or Purgatory

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.

The punishments of sin

1472 To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the "eternal punishment" of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the temporal punishment of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.

In the Communion of Saints

1475 In the communion of saints, "a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in Purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things." In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.

Under In Brief: The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation

1498 Through indulgences the faithful can obtain the remission of temporal punishment resulting from sin for themselves and also for the souls in Purgatory.

In addressing your questions, some of my answers may be based on theological opinion as opposed to doctrine, something which must be believed by the faithful.

You said:

  • As soon as a person's body dies, will their soul be reunited immediately with their loved ones and people they knew on Earth?

Not immediately, unless they both passed from this life totally sinless, which it highly doubtful. That said, both can both rejoice in their salvation seeing that souls being purified in Purgatory have nothing to do with their salvations. Souls being purified in Purgatory have been saved by the Blood of Jesus.

Again, think of Purgatory as the Holy Hospital of Heaven. Souls in either Heaven or Purgatory are just at different levels of purification.


You said:
In my previous question, I am assuming we know each other after our bodies die on Earth.

  • Is this true?
  • That is, do we remember the people we encountered on Earth? and
  • Do we have a memory of our life on Earth?

Yes, I believe so.

  • Do souls in Purgatory and/or Heaven know what is happening on Earth?

I personally think so.

You said:
I have been feeling guilty and I am sorry for not spending as much time as I could have with my dad before he passed.

Then have a local priest say a Mass for your father.

Maybe one of my colleagues can address your other questions.

Hope this helps,

Mike

Bob replied:

Diana,

When one dies, the soul is judged, some go to be with God, some don't.

Our response to God's grace is the difference. Some who go to be with God are purified along the way, leaving all the imperfections and baggage of a life that was less than perfect — that is Purgatory. Souls that are in God's care, either in Heaven or Purgatory, can know of each other, and rejoice together in their salvation.

Loved ones who are separated by the divide between Heaven and Purgatory can still have this consolation until the reunification is complete. Keep in mind that husband's and wives relationships have evolved — Christ is the Bridegroom, and our souls are married to Him. The love we share in this life is only a shadow of that perfect love we will experience in the life to come.

Your relatives cannot read your thoughts, but God can permit them to know your prayers, well-wishes, goings on, etc., inasmuch as it is beneficial (Hebrews 12 tells us we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1-3) — so they can urge us on in our struggle).

Our guardian angels are real and they can be messengers for us as well. Padre Pio made good use of that relationship. Really, we are all part of the Body of Christ, and therefore we are still connected. The greatest connection is at Mass, where all your relatives who are in God are celebrating the divine feast, of which we become partakers.

Trust in God and you will see your family again, and all the imperfect stuff will go away, just the love will remain.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

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