St. Augustine Catholic
Restoring Hope to Grieving Youth
At the Hour of Our Death
Profile: Father Tom Willis

in this issue... 
editor's notes
saint of the month
bishop's message
from the archives
in the know with Fr. Joe
theology 101
your marriage matters
parenting journey
spiritual fitness
parish profile
around the diocese
work life
last word
calendar of events

last word

heaven, purgatory, hell
where are we going?

by Father Charles Irvin

Heaven is that ecstatic communion of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ. To be immeasurably loved by God and by others is to live in heaven. It’s not a place, it’s a state of being. Some live heavenly lives right here on earth.

Hell is also a state of being. Some live hellish lives here on earth. Hell is to live in a definitive rejection and self-exclusion from communion with God and all of those who live in blessed union with him. God did not create us for hell nor does he predestine anyone to live in that state of being. Those who live in hell have persistently and deliberately chosen to live apart from God’s love.

The Catholic Church has never declared that any one particular human being is living in hell. Only those who refuse to believe and who definitively refused God’s love are in hell. This means that God does not put them there, they put themselves there - and God must allow them the results of their choices.

“The church can do no more than trust in the mercy of God, who desires that all people be saved,” says the catechism. God “wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:5) It is not God who rejects us and throws us into hell - we reject God and forever live in that rejection. Decisions have consequences!

And purgatory - what’s that? There are some who quite obviously have lived and died without being perfectly incorporated into Christ. They need to purge away those elements within their hearts and souls that obscure his light and block his love. They are among God’s elect but are God’s “unfinished business.”

Could it be that many of us are in purgatory here on earth? I believe that to be the case. I know from my own experience the cleansing fire of God’s love. I know God loves me and I know I could better love God. I strive to purge away all within me that detracts from God’s presence, power and love.

Limbo? That is no longer a part of the church’s teachings on life after death. It was, at most, only a theological speculation that never became an official doctrine that Catholics were required to accept.

God always offers us his love; he will never withdraw his offer of love or turn his back on us. God offers - we respond. The thing to be concerned about is not what God will do, it’s what we choose to do. We may reject God; he will never reject us.