Reading this post on Father Z’s blog, I thought I would give my personal, imperfect, and possibly, wrong, but deeply felt perspective on the matter of those who will not be with us when (if) we get to Heaven.
I am getting fairly old. As such, very many of the generation before me, and everybody of the generation before them, have died. As I get older, the memory of old relatives and their friends become, in some way, more vivid. It’s difficult to explain it but yes, it is true what they say in Italy, that as it gets more difficult to remember what you had for breakfast, it gets easier to remember episodes many decades away.
It is, therefore, unavoidable to think that, realistically, if I make it to Heaven one day I will not find a number of people I have loved down here.
From an earthly point of view, this is something that can never be repaired, that can never be made whole. How can one be happy knowing that people he loved all his life are suffering, and will suffer for all eternity?
My answer to that is very simple and reverts around 1) the kind of happiness those in Heaven enjoy and 2) the way God organises things. Before I start, mind that I am not a theologian. As the man said, si sbalio mi corigerete.
Whilst on this earth, we are only able to think of happiness in a natural way. There is, in other words, only so much happiness we can imagine. Where the, so to speak, computing ability of our little brain stops, there ends our conception of happiness. This is, as I understand, the happiness of the souls in Limbo; who are, as it is commonly said, “happy as can be”, because they have natural happiness.
However, the happiness of the Saints it’s not a natural happiness, but a supernatural one. It is a kind of happiness that simply surpasses everything our little brains can even imagine, a happiness that is infinitely vaster than anything our our minds can even fathom.
I have read that the state of ecstasy has been described as a happiness without wishes; a state, that is, of such complete joy that nothing, absolutely nothing, could be desired by a person in such a state. The person who is experiencing a state of ecstasy is unable to harbour even the slightest desire, because his cup is already so full that there is no possibility of even another drop of happiness.
This state, my friends, is, unless I am mistaken, still a state of natural happiness, because the brain can experience it. Granted, there is a Divine “kick” that is, in fact, nothing more than the faintest hint at the immeasurable joy the saints experience in Paradise; but it is, still, something that our little “head computer” can still work with.
If, therefore, already on this earth, and be it in exceptional circumstances, a person can experience a happiness that is so absolute, so (humanly) perfect that it harbours no desire at all, how much more complete, how infinitely vaster will the joy of those in heaven be? And how can they, then, be “sad” (as in: in mental pain, suffering) for anything?
The other way I look at it is from a different angle. God loves us more than we can imagine. He orders all things so that they can be used for our profit, in one way or the other. But he “never disturbs the joy of his children, unless it is in order to prepare for them a more certain and bigger one”.
Providence works in everything God does, it is the in-built, Divine modus operandi. This does not apply solely to our little lives on earth, but to all of Creation, including heaven and hell. Why would Providence fail to operate in our little human events, but then make us eternally sad as we “miss” some of our loved ones? No. For a soul in heaven, Providence must be all-encompassing, and seen with a keenness and a depth that we could never have here on earth. As we are nearer to God, we will think more like him and understand more of Him. As we understand more of Him, we will immediately love His every judgment. We will see the Goodness (that is: the Mercy and the Justice) of everything God does, and this will be our supernatural fulfillment.
Providence means that everything is, and always will be, exactly as it has to be. Mind, I do not think that this means a kind of stupefied state, as if one were on drugs and unable to see the suffering of others. Of course, we will be aware of the suffering of those in hell, and we will be acutely conscious of all that they are missing. But there will be no sadness in this, as there can be no sadness where there is perfect, indescribable, supernatural joy. It will be, I think, the same as if you saw, whilst in a state as of ecstasy, but infinitely more powerful than that, the execution of Saddam Hussein. Yep, it’s not pleasant for him. Yep, you still know that if he had behaved differently, he would have ended differently. But in the end, this does not disturb your joy as you know, in an extremely intimate way, that everything is exactly the way it should be.
Whenever I exert my little brain with that kind of considerations – which, between you and me, happens more and more often as the years advance – I always end up with the same conclusion: that, ultimately, and when all is said and done, there is only one thing I have to achieve. If I achieve it, my life will have been an infinite success, vastly superior to all that Jeff Bezos or John D Rockefeller have achieved on earth. If I fail to achieve it, I will have been a total failure, no matter if, in life, I was another JP Morgan or John D Rockefeller.
That one thing I need to achieve is Salvation. If I do that, everything else will take care of itself.
Perhaps the best “Vortex” I have ever seen, this one deals with the “nice people” poisoning the Church.
At the beginning of the video there is a photo of a great man the one or other of you might find somewhat familiar, and the Fulton Sheen citation is stellar; but this short video reaches an explosion of politically incorrect truth at the end.
Don’t miss this beautiful video.
Following a very interesting intervention of Schmenz in reply to a former post, I spent some time looking for some credible description of how a Catholic is to react to a decree of canonisation or beatification. This particularly in view of the upcoming beatification (and one day, perhaps, canonisation) of the late Pope JP II, an event which will clearly excite both an oceanic wave of enthusiasm and a smaller, but noticeable one of dismay.
I have already made clear that in my eyes the worth as a Blessed of John Paul II is to be seen in his saintly character, not in his working as a Pope. This is nothing new or wrong as a beatification or canonisation isn’t, nor could it ever be, a seal of approval of political action.
Now let us see what the Catholic Encyclopedia says on the matter of canonisation.
1) There are two types of canonisation, formal and equivalent.
Formal canonization occurs when the cultus is prescribed as an explicit and definitive decision, after due judicial process and the ceremonies usual in such cases. Equivalent canonization occurs when the pope, omitting the judicial process and the ceremonies, orders some servant of God to be venerated in the Universal Church; this happens when such a saint has been from a remote period the object of veneration, when his heroic virtues (or martyrdom) and miracles are related by reliable historians, and the fame of his miraculous intercession is uninterrupted
2) It is evident that modern canonisations are all formal ones; that they are the object of a prescription; that the decision is explicit and definitive. That they, as such, bind every Catholic. In matters of canonisation, “ours is not to reason why“. This is only logical, as the nature itself of the canonisation is to give the faithful certainty, not hope, that the canonised person is in Heaven.
3) Whether the decree of canonisation is an expression of Papal Infallibility (as, says the Catholic encyclopedia, most theologians think) or not, the result of the canonisation is evidently not less binding, and this is what interests us here. When the Church formally decrees that Titius or Caius are Saint Titius and Saint Caius, every Catholic is bound to accept this as part and parcel of his Catholic belief. Still, this mandatory belief does not stretch to the man in question having done everything right and not even to his having had heroic virtue; what every catholic is bound to believe is merely that the canonised person is in heaven.
Very different is the case of Beatification. The Catholic Encyclopedia again:
This general agreement of theologians as to papal infallibility in canonization must not be extended to beatification, not withstanding the contrary teaching of the canonical commentary known as “Glossa” […] Canonists and theologians generally deny the infallible character of decrees of beatification, whether formal or equivalent, since it is always a permission, not a command;
Clearly, here the Church is not saying “you have to believe”, but “you are allowed to believe”. You can therefore – as long as no canonisation intervenes – refuse to believe that the one or other person declared Blessed is in heaven in the same way as you can, say, not believe in the Fatima apparitions.There can be no question of infallibility, because there is no question of prescription in the first place.
In practical terms, this means that a Catholic is allowed to question the prevalent opinion that, say, John Paul II is in heaven but is not allowed to question the prescriptive decree that, say, Padre Pio is.
I am rather sure that it has happened to you too at some point: some friend or colleague or acquaintance of yours not only believes in reincarnation (perfectly possible, if he’s not a Christian), but sometimes even considers this compatible with Christianity; perhaps he even calls himself a Christian with utter conviction and in perfect good faith and will still say that he believes in reincarnation.
In such errors we must see another result of the disgraceful catechesis of these last decades; when such things happen I would invite you to be gracefully firm with the person in question and simply point out to the incompatibility of reincarnation with Christianity, and explain why. Sadly, though, we live in such times that new age infiltrations (or Buddhistic ones, or such like) are allowed to dilute the message of Christianity because no effort whatsoever is made by the Clergy to maintain the integrity of the Teaching. When the Archbishop of Westminster bows in front of an Hindu altar himself, how can you blame the generic (often lapsed; not always!) Christian for being confused themselves and for trying to reconcile apparent contradictions in a way that seems rational to them? When gatherings in Assisi-style take place and Buddhas are placed on Catholic altars, how can you blame laypeople for thinking they can “improve” on the received religious wisdom? This is when we, the orthodox and informed, come to the rescue.
First of all, let us agree some terms (which are used in various ways, and engender confusion) about what is meant with reincarnation. I have, up to now, met two families of thought that I will call: 1) metempsychosis and 2) reincarnation proper.
Metempsicosis is the idea that there is no individual soul, only a life energy. This life energy continuously reforms itself into new forms of actual life; but there is no continuity, no A dying and becoming B, then C and then D. You must imagine life force as a huge water reservoir, from which some water is taken when a human (or a dog, or an insect, or a tree) is born. When this form of life dies, the relevant life force comes back into the reservoir, mixing itself with the rest of the water; from this reservoir, some water will be taken away to create new trees, new insects, new humans etc. As there is no continuity of water (it is not the same molecules being used to create a new man after the death of the first, as the water mixes in the reservoir) there is no re-incarnation in the proper sense. No one is re-born, but rather a huge living force continuously takes new forms. This would explain why no one remembers former lives (there aren’t any, individually speaking) and why the same life energy of a man, once he is dead, comes into the great circle of life as, say, an insect. It is not that the man was re-born as an insect. Rather, the “water” of his life has been put into the big reservoir again, out of which further plants and insects and human beings are going to be born.
There can be no place for a biblical God in all this. There is a huge life force, whose occupation is to live through all living things and continuously mixing this living energies into new forms. This has been explained to me in extremely clear terms from a buddhist acquaintance who also was, as you can imagine, as atheist as Stalin. “Ice-cold!”, I said to him. “Wonderful!”, he answered. No merciful God, no hope of salvation in whatever form, no expectation of living as an individual. Instead, the participation in a huge machine continuously re-making itself, life as the vision of a huge living energy that lives in me, and will take other forms when I die; forms that are still expression of the same life, but not I in any recognisable form anymore.
Reincarnation proper is the idea that one starts life as a lowly life, say, an insect or an arachnids or even lower. Slowly, he evolves into higher forms of intelligence (say: cat, dog, horse) until he will finally be reincarnated as a human. The individual is always the same, taking new bodies. The higher he goes in the scala of intelligence, the more is he able to sin. When he becomes a human, he’ll start at the lower end of the scala (as a pariah, say) and then, in principle, gradually evolve. Unless he is a great sinner, in which case he’ll be punished with re-birth in a lower forms of human being: of a lower rank than his later reincarnation, or plagued by various troubles (say: sick; ugly; stupid; poor). The desire of God to see him evolve and come to Him fights with the creature’s inherent sinful tendencies a fight which goes on for possibly an immense number of incarnations, marked by “promotions” and “demotions”, until liberation is achieved and the soul is allowed to enter Heaven. In this conception, once one is born as a human he’ll always be born as a human (because when he is able to sin seriously, he must be able to pay serious consequences of his sin), but every life will bear the mark of the sins (or virtues) of preceding lives. Some will be born oh high caste, beautiful, witty and rich; other of low caste, ugly, dumb and poor, etc.
This conception is much more similar to the Christian one than metempsychosis and one understands why poor formed Christians (led to believe that Jesus just didn’t want to go into the matter, but this will be the subject of another entry) may find it credible. In this conception, a compassionate God works on our salvation but punishes us for our sins; his infinite justice lets us pay everything, but his infinite love leads, in the end, everyone to his heavenly destination. In this conception, not only purgatory but also hell take place here on Earth and even the most atrocious life conditions and individual destinies are but the reflection of God’s justice, working in him at the same time as God’s mercy assures to him, as to everyone else, eventual salvation. At the same time, the apparent inequalities are resolved in a cosmic justice, where everyone has at any one time what (good or bad) he has himself worked for.
This hindu and new age belief is much nearer to Western thinking than metempsychosis and it has, one must admit, the appeal of trying to explain some aspects of the human condition allegedly not explained by Christianity: eg, why some people are born with apparently cruel disadvantages compared to others; why life is a bunch of inequalities; how one can reconcile infinite mercy and infinite justice, etc. If you hear someone saying “if there is a God, why the earthquake in Haiti?” (rather fashionable among Christians, nowadays), it is rather probable that at some point he’ll subscribe to some new age tenet.
Of this two theories (I do not doubt that there are a lot of variations, I’d say these two represent the situation rather well, though) the first bears no resemblance whatever to Christianity and can be discarded as not dangerous. The second, though, is the most dangerous to Christian orthodoxy, as the superficial Christian may easily be led into finding here “answers” to apparent contradictions of life and thinking this, in the new Assisi-world, perfectly OK.
Below you will find another excellent product of the religious fervor of Michael Voris: “Teach First”, the “Vortex” message of the 20th July. In my eyes, some points are worth of special mention:
1) More than one hundred years ago, St.Pope X was complaining about the superficiality of catechesis. If I think of Italy, in those times the Catechism was customarily learned by heart and taught to every child, whilst Catholic devotions were so spread and so omnipresent (think of the processions! When have you last seen a proper procession?!) that everyone still able to breathe was exposed, volens nolens, to a massive amount of Catholic teaching. Still, it appears that at times (or in regions outside of the traditionally very devoted Italy) not enough was done.
One wonders what St. Pius X would say if he were among us today. I think he’d feel like kicking some backsides (not few of them purple, or red).
2) Faith itself is, to an extent, dependent from proper catechesis. Faith is like a plant that needs to be watered, not like a painting you hang on the wall and more or less forget there. This an another concept almost completely forgotten today and about which only the best among the priests will continue to insist: Faith is something you work at. If you listen to some atheists, it is as if they would have any right to be angry with an hypothetically existing God because He has not delivered the Faith to them.
3) The reason why the Catechism is at times neglected is, with the words of St. Pius X,
“…because[…] it does not lend itself to the winning of public praise”
It is not popular, the Catechism. It will never make of the priest the darling of the community. It will expose him to accusations of being “insensitive”, “intolerant”, “chauvinist”, “homophobic”, “uncharitable” (yes! Uncharitable!) and possibly altogether bad whilst the friendly Vicar down the road – with his suave smile and his easygoing, easy-to-accept theology of complacent tolerance for almost everything – will possibly not get many sheep, but will be considered by most a frightfully nice chap.
4) This vanity (says St. Pius X) is an obstacle to the salvation of souls (says Benedict XIV), which means that if a priest neglects proper catechesis, souls will be lost. I’d like to know when you have last heard a priest (or a Bishop) publicly speaking of salvation and damnation not in generic, easy to accept term (eg saying that those “destroying the environment” may commit a mortal sin: this is very easy as it is always someone else who “destroys the environment”), but in the same brutal terms used by Benedict XIV: that individual catechesis impacts individual salvation.
The reality of today is that even the most fundamental, most dramatic alternative of our life (in the end it will be Heaven or Hell, simple as that) is constantly pushed away from us from the very same people who should constantly remind us of it, whilst Hell is very often presented as something reserved for the Hitlers of the world, but very far from the reality of the sheep in the pews.
This is dangerous. Dangerous for the soul of the common parishioner, more dangerous for his priest, most dangerous for his bishop.
Enjoy the video