Founded in 1965, the Bellarmine Forum (Wanderer Forum Foundation) is a public charity dedicated to helping you find the true Catholic faith, enjoy it, and prosper in your life with God, His angels, and His saints.
THE FOUR LAST THINGS
“Death,” says St. John Chrysostom, “is a journey into eternity.” Hence it is wrong to believe with the ancient Egyptians that the soul is joined to other forms, whether human or animal; and those too are mistaken who think that the soul enters into a sort of sleep till the day of judgment.
“As soon as the soul leaves the body,” says St. Augustine, “it is judged.”
The joys of heaven are unspeakably great: the blessed are free from even the slightest pain; they enjoy the vision of God and the friendship of all the inhabitants of heaven. It is everlasting.
The unhappy rich man of the Gospel prayed Abraham to send one from the dead to his brothers “that they might not come to this place of torments” (Luke xvi. 28). In His discourse on the general judgment Christ speaks of hell as “everlasting punishment” (Matt. xxv. 46). Hell is both a place and a state.
On this day God will reveal to men with what wisdom He disposed the career of mankind and of each individual, so that all might attain their end and be happy even on earth. It will then be seen how various kinds of evil, the sufferings and even the sins of men have been turned by God to their advantage. Much which the world now esteems foolishness will then be seen to have been wisdom. This judgment will also demonstrate God’s justice; He will then bring forward what could not have been brought forward at the particular judgment. The deeds, words, writings, of many men have produced their results often only after their death; what blessings, for instance, apostles and missionaries have conferred on whole nations, and what harm has been done by heretics, not only to their contemporaries, but to those coming after them. Christ will be Judge, this office demanding wisdom in an especial degree, and Christ is the eternal wisdom. Moreover He will be Judge because the honor due to Him was refused by so many and by all irreligious and godless men ever since.
The holy souls cannot help themselves, since they can no longer do good works to satisfy for their sins. After death “the night cometh when no man can work” (John ix. 4). Hence they must pay off their debt by enduring the pains which God has laid upon them. Yet we on earth can help to diminish their pains by Masses, by prayer and almsgiving, and other works of piety (Council of Lyons, ii., 1274); the holy sacrifice is of all things the most helpful to them (Council of Trent, 25), and according to St. Bonaventure the offering of holy communion is of very great assistance. “Not by weeping,” says St. John Chrysostom, “but by prayer and almsgiving are the dead relieved.” No pompous funeral nor profusion of wreaths are of any avail without good works; it is far more to the purpose to give to the poor the money which is spent on idle show. As to the prayers, God does not regard so much their length as their fervor. Christ once said to St. Gertrude: “A single word from the heart has far more power to free a soul than the recital of many prayers and psalms without devotion; the hands are cleaned better by a little water and much rubbing than by merely pouring a large quantity of water over them.” We are not to conclude from this that in ordinary cases a short prayer, an Our Father, for instance, will at once set free a soul. “For,” says Maldonatus, “God would be very cruel if He kept a soul, for which He had shed His own blood, in such terrible suffering for the sake of an Our Father which had been omitted.” The Church uses holy water in the burial service because it has great efficacy for the holy souls. But the greatest help which we can give is the Heroic Act, that is, the resignation in their behalf of all the satisfaction made to God by our good works. Those who make this act gain, every time they approach the Holy Table, a plenary indulgence applicable to the holy souls; and priests, who make the Heroic Act, have, every day they say Mass, the personal privilege of a privileged altar (Pius IX., Sept. 10, 1852).
TO KNOW, LOVE, AND SERVE GOD
Founded in 1965 as The Wanderer Forum Foundation
P.O. Box 542
Hudson, WI 54016-0542
A Wisconsin Nonprofit Corporation
and Section 501(c)3 Public Charity
Copyright MMVIII Bellarmine Forum (Wanderer Forum Foundation, Inc.).