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Catholics/Death - Judgement and Resurrection


Hello Fr. Timothy,

I would love some clarification on when someone dies, can they automatically go to heaven or do they have to wait for the Resurrection that will come on the last day.  It seems confusing when I attended a funeral recently and it seems that the congregation had this person already set in heaven.  I thought Catholics were told they had to wait until the Resurrection.  Can you help me to understand when judgment occurs and what happens at the Resurrection?  
I am confused about when someone goes to heaven or purgatory or the fires of hell.

Hi, Ellen:

Thanks for the question...
The soul undergoes the "particular judgment" immediately after death, i.e. when the soul leaves the body.  At this point, the fate of the soul is determined by God Who is Savior and Just Judge.  The overwhelming majority of those who die in a state of grace must spend a time of purification in the place called Purgatory.  God knows what must be done and how to cleanse the soul to make it ready for the beatific vision of God in Heaven.
Those who do not die in a state of grace go to hell, a place where they choose to be separated from God for all eternity.
At the Resurrection of the Dead, the General Judgment takes place whereby each person receives their resurrected body united to their soul.  They will live out eternity according to what God determines, based upon whether or not they were in a state of grace, and what their individual merits were in Christ (or outside of Christ).
God bless you!

Fr. Johnson


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