The Catholic Church presents to us in November the themes of death, judgment, heaven and hell. This is done to both encourage and challenge us in our faith journey.
From Scripture and the Catholic Catechism, we can get an idea of what happens after death. The staff from Catholic Answers wrote the following article in the book The Essential Catholic Survival Guide (by Catholic Answers Inc., 2005, page 250).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) defines purgatory as a “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven”, which is experienced by those “who die in God’s grace and friendship but still imperfectly purified” (CCC. 1030). It notes that “this final purification of the elect… is entirely different from the punishment of the damned (CCC. 1031).
The purification is necessary because, as Scripture teaches, nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (cf. Rev. 21, 27) and, while we may die with our mortal sins forgiven, there can still be many impurities in us, specifically venial sins and the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.
When we die, we undergo what is called the particular, or individual, judgment. Scripture says that” it is appointed for men to die once and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9, 27). We are judged instantly, and receive our reward, for good or bad. We know at once what our final destiny will be. At the end of time, when Jesus returns, there will be the general judgment to which the Bible refers, for example, in Matthew 25, 31 -32: “when the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” In this general judgment, all our sins will be publicly revealed (cf. Luke 12, 2 -5).
(May the reality of accountability for our sins motivate us to humbly turn to God each day with prayer. penance and sacramental life in order to access God’s loving mercy for ourselves and others.)
Rector of the Cathedral
N.B. A reminder that this year the Holy See has decided to extend the time one can receive a full indulgence to the whole month of November. The indulgence traditionally offered Nov. 2 for those who visit a church or an oratory and recite the Our Father and the Creed can now be gained any day in November. Those who cannot leave their house a serious reason during the pandemic can receive a plenary indulgence after reciting specific prayers for the deceased.