In the writings of St. Faustina, she talks about the flames of purgatory burning great crowds of suffering people. Is it true that in purgatory you burn?
While many saints have given us visions of what heaven, hell and purgatory may be like, it is important to make a distinction between public and private revelation in the Church. The writings of St. Faustina, although beautiful and praiseworthy, are a private revelation of one particular individual and therefore Catholics are not bound to understand or follow it. Our belief and understanding in the existence of Purgatory is rooted in Sacred Scripture which are an important part of public revelation. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 may well be the most straightforward text in all of Sacred Scripture when it comes to Purgatory: “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble--each man’s work will become manifest’ for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved but only as through fire.” The references to burning and fire does not harm the soul, in fact, it will help it. It is a burning love of God that purifies the soul, enabling it to enter the fullness of the presence of God in Heaven. The truth is: both the works of the individual and the individual’s soul will go through the cleansing “fire” described by St. Paul in order that “he” might finally be saved and enter into the joy of the Lord. Purgatory is not something to be afraid of or run from but rather embraced! In Purgatory the love of God cleanses our souls, making them ready to enter into our heavenly inheritance. Everyone in Purgatory is on their way to heaven and our prayers help them get there.
Why does the Apostles Creed mention Jesus descended into hell and the Nicene Creed says Jesus descends to the dead? Why is Jesus going to hell and the dead?
When we hear the word hell we immediately think of the place of eternal damnation for those who have rejected God in this life and have committed mortal sins without repentance. However, the word hell in the Old Testament referred to the “place of the dead.” This Hell was for both the good and the bad, the just and the unjust. Hell is a nether world, a place of darkness and a clear distinction is made in the Bible between where the good resided in hell (Hades) versus where the bad were (Gehenna), the two being separated by an impassable chasm. Recall the parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19. Remember also that Jesus spoke of the coming last judgment and the separating of the righteous from the evil in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31). Given this understanding we believe that the sin of Adam and Eve had closed the Gates of Heaven and the holy souls who died in a state of grace awaited the redeemer in the land of the dead, or hell. These “good residing in hell” are the ones whom Jesus descends to after his death on the cross.
When our Lord offered his life for us on the cross, that redemptive act touches all people of every time past, present and future. Jesus is dead and buried. During this time, beginning on Good Friday, and leading up to Easter Sunday, Jesus descended among the dead: His soul joined the holy souls awaiting the Savior in the land of the dead. Jesus’ descent among the dead brought to completion the proclamation of the Gospel and liberated the holy souls who had long awaited the coming of the Messiah. The Gates of Heaven were now open and these holy souls entered into everlasting happiness in the beatific vision. Note carefully that Jesus did not deliver those souls damned to eternal punishment in hell (Gehenna) nor did He destroy hell as such; they remained in that state and place of damnation at the time of their particular judgment.
When a public servant who is Catholic makes a statement or policy supporting same-sex marriage or abortion, does that person’s pastor or bishop have a moral obligation to admonish them and even deny them Holy Communion?
A public servant’s pastor or bishop has the moral obligation to make sure they understand the truths of the faith so that they may make a well informed decision when it comes to enacting policy. Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law instructs that those “persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” When a public servant is fully aware of the Church’s teaching opposing same-sex marriage and abortion legislation, this person is committing grave sin and therefore should not present themselves for Holy Communion until they confess their sins in the sacrament of penance and make a firm amendment to change their ways. The act of denying someone Holy Communion should never be taken lightly. It is a strong public declaration that a public servant is deliberately “persevering” and choosing grave sin without contrition and therefore this person is no longer in communion with Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. In order to justify their positions many Catholic public servants make a distinction that they are “personally opposed” to same-sex marriage or abortion while remaining “publically in favor” of a woman’s right to choose and “marriage equality.” This line of thinking is a blatant justification of evil actions and should be avoided at all costs. Any Catholic public servant who ascribes to this line of thinking should not present himself or herself for Holy Communion without having first gone to the Sacrament of Penance and made a firm amendment to change their behavior.
Every bishop and pastor has a sacred duty to reach out to public leaders to explain Catholic principles and encourage them to protect human life and the sanctity of marriage in all decisions they make. We always pray for our Catholic leaders that they make the right choice, act in their best judgment and in good conscience, knowing the values and teachings of the Catholic Church. It is the duty of all Catholics, no matter their profession, to decide through an upright and informed conscience as to their worthiness to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
Is it OK for Catholics to believe in ghosts? Is there an official Catholic position on the existence of ghosts or talking with spirits?
First, the Church forbids us to conjure up the dead. “All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone (CCC2116).”
It is OK for Catholics to believe in the existence of ghosts as long as it is in the proper context. First of all, there is no such thing as “lost souls,” in the sense that there are not souls that are caught between death and eternity unable to “cross over” to “the other side.” After death, a soul is judged and is either saved or damned. A damned soul is in hell; a saved soul is either in heaven or in purgatory.
That said, it may be that purgatory might in some way involve the life one lived here on earth. It is not incompatible with a belief in purgatory to believe that our purgation might include “revisiting” places that were significant during our earthly lives. It may be that occasionally God allows people to see such souls in order to inspire prayers for them or in some way to teach a lesson to the people who see them. Although Church teaching does not rule out the possibility of ghosts, and although it also does not rule out the possibility that God might allow us to see ghosts on occasion, the Church does forbid us from attempting to initiate occult contact with departed souls.
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