When a person dies the mortal remains are buried in a grave or the remains are cremated or donated. The person undergoes a “particular judgment” that refers to his/her life in Christ. He or she enters into the blessedness of heaven, after purification (Purgatory), if required or immediate and eternal damnation in Hell. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1022)
The Church’s teaching on what happens to those who have died is linked to what is called the “Communion of Saints”. In the communion of saints, a continuous and never ending link of grace and love exists between:
– the faithful who already have reached their heavenly home,
– those who are expiating their sins in purgatory
– and those who are still pilgrims on this earth.
These groups are referred to as the Church triumphant, the Church militant and the Church suffering. In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1475). All of us while on earth can offer the Eucharist or do a good deed like visiting the sick and offer this deed for a deceased relative or friend who might still be in need of purification.
The mainline protestant churches believe in the sole mediator-ship of Jesus Christ. They do not attach the same importance to Mary as Catholics do, they do not accept the intercession of the saints (no statues) and they do not believe in offering Masses for those who have died.
The Catholic belief corresponds to what we actually experience when there is a death in the family. When someone loses a dear one: a spouse, a son or daughter, a mother or father; the person feels a sense of bonding with the person who has died. Often they communicate with the departed person, across the barriers of space and time. They preserve their memory with videos and photographs and visit their graves from time to time. This feeling of being united to the loved one is precisely what corresponds to what Catholics call the Communion of Saints.
Fr. Caesar D’Mello
Question & Answer With The Parish Fathers
We have questions about our faith, but are afraid that we may sound idiotic or not satisfied with the in factual reply of a friend or relative. The parish priests are giving you an opportunity to ask any question on Catholicism, rituals of the church, or inter religious questions.
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and address it to the editor of the Andrean Notes.