Emily M. DeArdo

writer

Catholic 101: The Four Last Things

Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

So, since it's Halloween, we're gonna talk about the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. 

Because seriously, why not discuss this today? 

(If you need something to get you in the mood, try this....)

But really, what you need is this bit from Pollyanna, which is not embeddable, so go here. :) 

DEATH COMES UNEXPECTEDLY!!!

(Gosh, I loved that part as a kid....) 

Anyway, that's what the four last things are about. 

Everyone dies. You will. I will. It happens. So we should think about that on a pretty regular basis, and then ponder--what happens after? 

When I taught this, I didn't go all Death Comes Unexpectedly to the kids. I didn't want to induce trauma. But I did note that this world, great as it is, is not our home. Heaven is our home. That's our final goal. And to get there....we have to die. 

So, we die. That's the first thing. 

Second thing: judgment. The church believes there is a particular judgment, and then the Big, Final Judgment at the End of Time.

Particular Judgment is you--your soul is judged at the end of time. Based on what you did/believed/etc. on earth, that determines where you go: Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. 

Yes, we believe in Hell. We do not know who is in Hell, because that's "above our pay grade." But it DOES exit. People CAN and DO go there. Committing Mortal Sin, and then not confessing it, sends you right to Hell. Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200. 

Here's what the CCC says about Hell: 

IV. Hell

1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."610 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.611 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."

1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.612Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,"613 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"614

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."615 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."616

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."617

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;618 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance":619

Father, accept this offering

from your whole family.

Grant us your peace in this life,

save us from final damnation,

and count us among those you have chosen.620

 

Jesus talks about Hell, guys. It's in the Gospel. He came to save us all, but not everyone will accept that invitation. 

So, at your particular judgment, you go to Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. 

(We didn't really cover the Last Judgment with the Kids. If you want to read the CCC bit about it, go here.) 

Purgatory is what it sounds like--purgation for our sins. Jesus says that nothing imperfect will be in Heaven. So if we die with even a smidge of sin on our souls, we go to Purgatory. Souls in purgatory eventually get to Heaven. So they are assured they will see God and be happy with Him forever. But first--the bath. 

CS Lewis has a great bit on Purgatory: 

Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, “It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy”? Should we not reply, “With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.” “It may hurt, you know” — “Even so, sir.”
I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life has involved it. . . .
My favourite image on this matter comes from the dentist’s chair. I hope that when the tooth of life is drawn and I am “coming round,” a voice will say, “Rinse your mouth out with this.” This will be Purgatory. The rinsing may take longer than I can now imagine. The taste of this may be more fiery and astringent than my present sensibility could endure.

So yeah, purgatory isn't fun, but it's certainly better than Hell! 

The Church believes there are three "parts" of the Church: The Church Militant (us on Earth), the Church Triumphant (the people in Heaven) and the Church Suffering. That's the people in Purgatory. So we need to pray for them!

At the end of each rosary, I like to say the St. Gertrude Prayer: 

"Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen."

All Saints' Day--November 1--Is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Church. (That means we treat it like a Sunday, and we have to go to Mass.) This celebrates all the deceased who are in Heaven (remember, everyone in Heaven is a saint!)  All Souls' Day is November 2, when we pray for all those who have died. Many Catholic Churches offer special Masses and novenas for the deceased, so people can write the names of their beloved dead (I love that phrase) on cards or envelopes, and they will be prayed for throughout the entire month of November. 

So there you have it--the Four Last Things. Happy Halloween! :-D 

Botticelli, the 8th circle of Hell (based on Dante's Inferno) 

Botticelli, the 8th circle of Hell (based on Dante's Inferno)