Stepping On The Serpent

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Father Thaddaeus Lancton, MIC, the spiritual director of Friends of Mercy, answers questions from club members:

Diana emailed: I am having a difficult time. In September of last year, my fiancé, and the father to my three children, died in a sudden car accident. We were in the process of entering the Church and going to get married in the Church. We were living chastely, went to Mass every Sunday, sent the children to CCD, and prayed together as a family. He was a good man but wasn't able to make a sacramental Confession before he died. I blame myself for not converting with him earlier in life. I'm scared for his soul. Will he make it to Heaven?

Diana, thank you for your question and for your honesty. First, I pray that the Lord might fulfill His promise to you, that He comforts those who mourn (see Mt 5:4).

Secondly, the Catholic Church does not teach that those who die without receiving the Sacraments do not enter Heaven. Saint Mark Ji was an opium addict who could not receive the Sacraments, yet he died a martyr and is now a canonized saint.

The Church teaches only this about those who go to Hell: They die in a state of unrepented mortal sin (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], paragraphs 1854-1864; see also paragraphs 1033-1037 on Hell). The point is this: Only those who have no contrition at all go to hell; anyone who shows a flicker of good will can, through the mercy of God, enter Heaven.

There is no reason to despair of your fiancé's salvation. The voice of blame and condemnation that you hear is not of the Lord, but rather of Satan, who wants you to distrust the mercy of God and despair. Simply go to Confession as you enter the Church, and do any appropriate penance for your sins and those of your loved one. Pray for his soul (particularly since there is a chance that he is in Purgatory), and trust in God. Let go, and know that our Heavenly Father doesn't want anyone to go to Hell.

I pray this helps; I will be praying for you and for your family.

Karl asked: Since we will not have our bodies in Heaven until the Final Judgment, in what way will we be present to each other? How do we see each other or communicate with each other?

The mystery of being alive in Heaven without our bodies is not fully revealed to us yet. We know that saints clearly are able to pray and worship God, as well as intercede for people upon earth (as we read in the Book of Revelation). We know also through the miracles needed for canonization that the saints are aware of our sufferings and hence obtain miracles from God for us. As to how they are aware of our needs, since they don't yet have glorified bodies, we don't fully know. The soul has its own faculties (intellect and will) that are not entirely dependent upon the body. In this life, we need the body, but we know that angels — who are pure spirit — are capable of being near us and helping us.

The key thing to remember is that what is spiritual is not less real than the physical, but more real. Sometimes, when we use the word "spiritual," we think it means "made up" or only existing in our minds. But God in Himself is pure spirit, and He is the most real thing in the universe. It is difficult, however, for us to understand in this life what is purely spiritual without much purification. (Saint John of the Cross teaches that we must pass through dark nights to have such contact with the purely spiritual, as do the angels.) Hence many of us need Purgatory to be able to become deeply alive in our spirits.

Furthermore, the angels communicate with each other, not through human languages, but through immediate contact. I imagine communication in Heaven between saints is similar. Ultimately, we do not know for certain. This is where I must say, with St. Paul, "No eye has seen, nor ear heard, what God has prepared for those who love Him!" (1 Cor 2:9). It will be beyond anything we could hope for or imagine!

Got questions for Fr. Thaddaeus? Email us at FriendsOfMercy@marian.org or write to Friends of Mercy, Marian Helpers Center, Stockbridge, MA 01263.

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