Tag: Heaven

Can indulgences keep me out of purgatory and make heaven?

Can indulgences keep me out of purgatory and make heaven?

Q. Indulgences and Purgatory

Q. How can I get indulgences. As a former Protestant I’m still learning the Catholic faith. Can indulgences keep me out of purgatory? If I have to go there it’s apt to be a long sentence. I’ve got a lot of sin and I’ve done confessions but still sin. I’m a rough kind of guy, trying to get to Heaven. Needs LOTS of these indulgences. Please help.

A. Well, you’re also a very honest kind of guy. It’s good that you are aware of your sin, that’s the first step to receiving God’s mercy.

Forgiveness is Not Enough…The Grace of Indulgences

This seems like a strange subheading for this chapter, but it’s true. Forgiveness is not enough to grow holy. Here is a classic question that illustrates the point.

Often it is asked whether someone will go straight to Heaven if they go to confession, confess all their sins, and as they walk out of the church have a heart attack and die. They were just forgiven so this must mean they go straight to Heaven with no time in Purgatory! Right? Wrong.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation does in fact forgive all our sins. For that reason, someone who goes to confession and dies prior to committing an unrepented mortal sin will, indeed, go to Heaven. But getting into Heaven also requires something else. It requires complete freedom from all attachment to sin! And that’s a tall order.

Sin not only hurts our relationship with God, it also strengthens our “relationship” so to speak with sin itself. In other words, the more we sin, the more we are attached to sin. Confession forgives our past sins, and helps us overcome future sins, but we do need additional grace to be freed from the “attachment” we experience.

For example, say someone is a habitual liar. They have become so used to lying that they do it for no real reason. The habit is deep and strong and they practice it daily and throughout the day.

Now let’s say that person goes to confession and receives forgiveness for all past sins of lying. That’s excellent! But does this mean that as soon as the person walks out of the confessional they have also completely broken the habit they have formed? Certainly not. Most likely, within a few hours, they will be tempted to lie again simply because the habit is strong within them. This fact reveals to us that forgiveness is not enough, we also need a special grace to help us become detached from all tendencies toward sin. And this is where an indulgence comes in.

Catechism defines an indulgence in the following way:

“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints” (Paul VI, apostolic constitution, Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 1).

“An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin” (Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 2; cf. Norm 3). The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead (CIC, can. 994). (#1471)

Now there is a lot packed into this statement which may be confusing. So let’s look at it one piece at a time.

Temporal Punishment:

First of all, punishment due to sin is either eternal or temporal. Eternal punishment (Hell) is removed in confession, but temporal punishment remains. This language can be misleading. This is not a punishment from God. It’s not as if God says, “Because you did this you deserve 10 years in purgatory unless you make up for it now.” The “punishment” is “due to sin.” In other words, sin itself imposes a punishment upon us. What is that punishment? It’s attachment to sin. By sinning we become attached to the sin through our habit and this attachment is a punishment from the sin itself. God wants to break that attachment. The grace of an indulgence is specifically for this purpose.

Prescribed Actions of the Church:

All grace comes from God, but the Church is given the authority to dispense the grace of God through certain means. An indulgence is one of those means. Therefore, when the Church says that certain actions open the warehouse of grace, we can be certain that this is true. For example, one of the indulgences offered by the Church requires the following: Make a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, go to confession within seven days of that holy hour, receive communion within seven days, and pray for the pope. Upon the completion of these requirements we can be certain that all the grace we need to completely detach from the sins we confess is given to us. That’s right. The grace is there.

Interior Disposition:

But there is one catch to the above explanation! We have to be open to that grace if it is going to have an effect in our lives. And this is the most important part to remember (and the most difficult to fulfill). To illustrate, let’s go back to our earlier example. Say a person went to confession, completed the requirements of a full indulgence, and THEN walked outside and was hit by a car and died. Does the indulgence mean the person went straight to Heaven? Maybe, but probably not. The person would go straight to Heaven, bypassing Purgatory, if, and only if, that person’s heart was ALSO perfectly open to the infinite grace given through this indulgence. Forgiveness of sin is certain. Therefore, Heaven will happen. But whether one goes to Purgatory or not depends on how open the person is to completely detaching from all sin and all tendency to sin. This is the grace the indulgence seeks to give if we are willing to receive it. And if we do fully open our heart to it, this means we have completely converted to God and are perfectly in His grace. This, of course, must be our goal!

Types of Indulgences:

An indulgence is either “partial”or “full.” “Partial” meaning some of the grace needed for the full conversion is given, and “full” meaning that all of the grace needed is made available if the person’s heart is fully open.

So this is the glorious and transforming Sacrament of Penance, Reconciliation, Confession, and Forgiveness. It’s a gift so many fear, but a gift we ought to love. Examine your approach to this sacrament and let God speak to you, draw you to it and help you fall in love with it. If you do, you’ll find that this is one of the best ways available to encounter the love and mercy of our perfectly loving and merciful God!

Can this Be True That Animals Go To Heaven?

Can this Be True That Animals Go To Heaven?

Do animals go to Heaven?

A. This is a commonly asked question by children and youth. It seems that the deep affection people have for their pets leads them to a strong desire for a “yes” to this question. So the answer is…”yes,” “maybe,” “not exactly,” and “you can hope!”

This is a difficult question that does not have a clear and absolute answer. Therefore, any of the answers above could be correct. However, let’s offer some clarity and possibilities regarding the afterlife and animals.

First of all, when we humans die right now, that is, when we die in this age in history before Jesus returns to establish “The new Heavens and Earth,” we believe that our body and soul separate. The body dies and is “laid to rest” until Jesus returns in all His glory and brings about the resurrection of the body. Until then, the body is dead. However, the spirit of humans lives on. Our spirit cannot die and, thus, Heaven (or Purgatory or Hell) await our spirits after earthly death. Only humans, angels and God have eternal spirits. Animals do not. Therefore, for now, when an animal dies it is dead and there is no spirit that lives on in Heaven.

But wait just a moment! There is hope that your pet, and all creatures, will rise again. How and why? The reason you can have this hope is because from the very beginning of time, in the original state of holiness (the Garden of Eden) it appears there were animals. So, even though animals do not have eternal spirits, they are physical and have what we may call an animal soul. An animal soul does die when the animal dies but there is no telling what may happen at the resurrection of the dead! When Jesus returns in all His glory and all humans rise from the dead will animals and all living creatures also rise? This is something you can hope for.

Furthermore, Isaiah 11:6 speaks prophetically about this new age to come. And in that passage it says, “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.” So is this a literal statement? Is it proof that animals will rise? Or is it just symbolic and figurative? Hard to tell. However, for that reason it is worth having hope that animals will have some share in the new Heavens and Earth to come!

Can I Make Heaven If I Am Not Baptized

Can I Make Heaven If I Am Not Baptized

Baptism and Salvation

Q. If someone who believes in God but is not baptized and passes away, do they go to hell?

A. This is an interesting question which requires some nuances to make the answer clear. The answer below comes from Chapter 3 of the My Catholic Worship! book. Click this link for a full reading of that chapter. Below is the section of that chapter that addresses your question.

Now what about those who are not baptized you ask? What happens to them? And what about children who are not baptized? Are they doomed?

These questions can only be understood if we understand the perfect love and wisdom of God in all things. God is not legalistic. He does not look at a child who dies and say, “well, sorry but I only take baptized children into Heaven.” This would be contrary to the infinite mercy and wisdom of God. At the same time, the Church teaches that Baptism is the only way we know of that leads to salvation. Therefore, it is necessary. So how do we reconcile these views that appear to be opposed? That is, how do we reconcile a loving God with the idea that Baptism is necessary for salvation?

This is done quite easily. We believe that Baptism is the only way we know of (the only way God revealed to us) to receive the grace of salvation. But God, in His infinite love and wisdom is not limited by the limited revelation He shared with us. God can do whatever He wants to do. Therefore, if a child dies before Baptism, the parents should rest assured that God loves that child far more than they do. And this perfectly loving God will act in a way that is perfectly loving toward that child. One speculation is that God offers that child the same choice He offered the angels.

They had a onetime opportunity to choose. So it is entirely possible that when this child dies and faces God, this child will be invited to choose to love God freely and, thus, spend eternity with God. But we must always remember that Heaven does require a free choice. Therefore, not even a child would be forced to be there against his or her will.

Another interesting scenario is the adult who is not baptized. What happens when that adult dies? Again, we must look at this from the point of view of a God who is infinitely wise and infinitely loving.

In this case there are a few possibilities. The first possibility is what is referred to as the “baptism by blood.” This would be the person who desires Baptism but, before actually receiving this sacrament, is martyred for their faith. We don’t see this that often today but it was a real situation in the early Church. We believe that this desire to be baptized, as well as the act of martyrdom, provides the grace of Baptism and thus the person is fully graced by God.

Similarly, we speak of the “baptism by desire.” This would include those who believe and desire Baptism but die before they are actually baptized. Again, the desire alone suffices for God to pour forth His grace. This would also apply to children who die before they are baptized when the parents desired Baptism. The desire on the part of the parents suffices for the grace to be poured forth.

Lastly, we need to look at the situation of those who did not choose to be baptized and, therefore, die without this sacrament. These cases will fall in one of two categories. First, there are those who through no fault of their own do not come to an explicit faith in Christ and, as a result, do not seek Baptism. In this case God will judge only the heart. There are many reasons why a person may not come to faith in Christ explicitly through no fault of their own. Say, for example, that a person lives in some culture where the Gospel has never been preached and they actually never heard of Jesus. Does God consider them to be guilty of eternal damnation because they never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus? Certainly not.

Another example would be the person who heard about Jesus but received only a message of hypocrisy. Let’s say that the way the message was continually preached was skewed and malicious. Perhaps the preacher was living a double life and the person hearing about Jesus rejected the explicit Gospel message because the only messenger of that Gospel was presenting it in a very disordered way. In that case, the rejection of the message may actually be nothing more than a rejection of the hypocrisy of the messenger. And that may be a good thing!

The bottom line is that God knows the heart and God sees the intention in that heart. So if someone fails to come to an explicit faith in Christ and, therefore, fails to receive the Sacrament of Baptism in an explicit way, God will still look only at the heart. And when He does look into that heart, if He sees goodness and faith, He will pour His grace anyway. So, this is the case where a person who is not baptized may actually be following the voice of God in their conscience without even realizing whose voice that is. In reality, this person has faith and God will see that!

The only case that may end with eternal damnation is the person who fails to receive Baptism through their own fault. They are given every opportunity to hear the Gospel, they have the good Christian witness of others, and they interiorly reject this of their own free will. Free will is the key here. And, again, only God knows the heart and only God can be the judge of one’s heart. So if God sees in the heart an obstinacy that is freely chosen, then this person is guilty and may lose that offer of eternal salvation. This is sad. ”

Do Aborted or Miscarriage (Unborn) Babies Go to Heaven?

Do Aborted or Miscarriage (Unborn) Babies Go to Heaven?

Q. Do aborted babies, those lost in miscarriage and those stillborn go to Heaven?

A. This question takes on deep personal significance for those parents who have lost a child in one of these ways. Therefore, the first thing to emphasize is that God is a God of perfect love. His mercy is beyond what we can comprehend. We should be at peace knowing that God is the one who meets these precious children as they depart this life even prior to having been born.

So what happens to this precious little ones? We do not ultimately know since the answer has never been revealed to us directly through the Scripture and the Church has never definitively spoken on this issue. However, we can offer various options based on the principles of our faith and the wisdom of the teachings of the saints. Here are various considerations:

First, we believe the grace of Baptism is necessary for salvation. These children are not baptized. But that should not lead us to conclude they are not in Heaven. Though our Church has taught that Baptism is necessary for salvation, it has also taught that God can offer the grace of Baptism directly and outside the act of physical baptism. Therefore, God can choose to offer the grace of Baptism to these children in a way that He chooses. God binds Himself to the sacraments, but He is not bound by them. Thus, we should not worry about the fact that these children die without the external act of Baptism. God can easily offer this grace to them directly if He so chooses.

Second, some suggest that God knows who among the aborted babies would have chosen Him or not. Though they never lived their lives in this world, some speculate that God’s perfect knowledge includes knowledge of how these children would have lived had they been given the opportunity. This is only speculation but is certainly a possibility. If this is true, then these children will be judged in accord with God’s moral law and His perfect knowledge of their free will.

Third, some suggest that God offers them salvation similarly to the way He offered it to the angels. They are given the opportunity to make a choice when they come into the presence of God and that one choice becomes their eternal choice. Just as the angels had to choose whether or not they would serve God in love and freedom, so it may be that these children are given the opportunity to choose or reject God at the moment of their death. If they choose to love and serve God, they are saved. If they choose to reject God (as a third of the angels did), they are freely choosing Hell.

Fourth, it’s not correct to simply say that all aborted, miscarried or stillborn babies automatically go to Heaven. This denies their free choice. We must trust that God will allow them to exercise their free choice like all of us.

Finally, we must believe with absolute certainty that God loves these most precious children far more than any one of us ever could. His mercy and justice are perfect and they will be treated in accord with that mercy and justice.