On Salvation, Works, Purgatory, etc

  1. Do Catholics have an assurance of salvation? Like if you died tomorrow, do you know you would go to heaven?

  2. I know that good works without faith in Jesus Christ cannot get you into heaven, correct? What role does works play in the process of Christian life and the salvation process?

  3. I’m a little bit scared about the idea of purgatory. Being on fire, even for a small amount of time, doesn’t seem pleasant. Who goes to purgatory? All catholics? All Christians? Only non-christians? Some Catholics but not all?

Thank you for any response. Love you all. :):blessyou:

Peace.

Catholics are assured that, if we die in a state of Grace, we will go to heaven. We are placed into a state of Grace by Christian Baptism (or the desire for Baptism). We can willingly and deliberately forfeit our salvation through mortal sin, but restore it through Sacramental Confession.

Protestants (those who use the Trinitarian form) practice valid Christian Baptism, but do not normally have recourse to Confession. There is a centuries-old debate among theologians about whether it is “easy” or “hard” for a person of good will to fall into mortal sin. I have speculated it’s “hard” (but, of course, possible), but I seem to be in the minority on this Forum. For the sake of protestants, I hope I’m right. The Church has yet to settle the question (and I don’t think She ever will, because I don’t think it’s part of the Deposit of Faith).

  1. I know that good works without faith in Jesus Christ cannot get you into heaven, correct? What role does works play in the process of Christian life and the salvation process?

Only mortal sin can remove us from a state of Grace. Preforming good works is meritorious and will result in spiritual growth, but works are not necessary as a condition for maintaining our State of Grace. There is no “quota” of good works that we must maintain.

It is possible that the failure to perform an act of charity could rise to the level of mortal sin (this is called a sin of omission - something we should have done but did not do). I have speculated that such an occasion would be unusual in Western society, and nobody has come up with a plausible example of a hypothetical or actual situation one might commonly find in which a sin of omission could be reasonably considered mortal in nature (whereas examples abound for sins of commission).

  1. I’m a little bit scared about the idea of purgatory. Being on fire, even for a small amount of time, doesn’t seem pleasant. Who goes to purgatory? All catholics? All Christians? Only non-christians? Some Catholics but not all?

We don’t know what purgatory (or hell, or heaven, for that matter) is like. We know for sure it is nothing like earthly fire (because it’s nothing like anything on earth), but that’s the analogy that perhaps best represents it in terms we can relate to.

Anyone who dies in a state of Grace but still carries the “stain” of post-Baptismal venial (non-mortal) sin will go to purgatory to be purified, in order to become able to enter into the presence of God and the Saints.

The Church offers a wide variety of indulgences, which offset some or all of this process. This would be for sins which have already been committed (it is a false but common idea that indulgences allow you to commit future sins without consequences).

Anyone who finds himself in purgatory may rejoice, for his salvation is absolutely assured.

To add to what DavidFilmer said on Purgatory (and he said it all very well), indulgences aren’t ways of buying yourself into Heaven. An indulgence can’t restore you to a point of grace. They only affect temporal punishment and “time” spent in purgatory, but that’s only relevant if you are already saved.

Wow thank you for the extensive answer. I was baptized in the Episcopal Church also, which is a part of the Anglican communion – so we have that in common! My one question is just – how do you obtain an indulgence? Also, is it confession that gets rid of the stain of venial sin or is that permanent?

Thank you for the answer. So would you say the majority of Catholics have to go through purgatory? Or is it really a case-by-case basis?

On Purgatory let me try to explain it simply, if possible:rolleyes:. If you are in purgatory you are in heaven. Purgatory is suffering that we may experience in order to cleanse us of sins and any anxiety we have over our lives. Some may experience some of that suffering before they even die and so in doing good things for people so in a sense ‘paying back for past sins’ (Matthew 5::26) so they may not bring them into heaven where there are no tears or pain. To put it in perspective, something may be bothering a person that they have done long ago, and even though they have brought their burdens to Jesus and are forgiven of them they have never really forgotten what they’ve done… Then naturally because they have experienced Gods mercy they become on fire for the Lord and want to do more like what you would consider receiving the light, as in St. Paul when he had his conversion experience…The good works Paul did cancelling out the bad things hes done, weighted out when we finally meet Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:10) And whoever has been given much (as in the grace and knowledge of God) much is to be expected. It all really works out in the end and is nothing to fear for the mercy of God is good! Lets face it we all have burdens that we wish would be shed off our back, some more than others, and purgatory is a way of helping put burdens in the past where they belong so that ultimate peace and joy is finally reached in heaven. So purgatory is not to condemn us but to purify us so that we will be at last home and at peace with Our Heavenly Father. Peace…

Everyone goes through purgatory because we have to go through the process of being purified (glorified), from death into life, like Jesus did. Of course Jesus did not sin, but Jesus suffered for us and took our sins upon Him.

Romans 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I believe my Daily Roman Missal spells out what can be indulgences and you can always ask, but really anything that you do that is pleasing to the Lord can be an indulgence. Someone else may give a more technical explanation, but that’s how I understand it.

Which, of course, means you obtained valid Christian Baptism :slight_smile:

My one question is just – how do you obtain an indulgence?

An indulgence is tied to a particular activity which the Church has endorsed. But all indulgences require three preconditions: Sacramental Confession, reception of Eucharist, and prayers for the intentions of the Pope.

There are complete (plenary) and partial indulgences. Years ago, partial indulgences were compared by how many “days” they remitted from purgatory. This was intended so someone could compare a very simple indulgenced act (such as making the sign of the Cross) with an act requiring greater commitment (such as reverently reading Scripture for a half-hour).

This idea of “days” contributed more noise than signal (there aren’t really days in purgatory), and now the Church just classifies indulgences as partial or complete (plenary).

Here is a partial list of 70 indulgenced acts.

Also, is it confession that gets rid of the stain of venial sin or is that permanent?

Confession lifts the guilt for sin, but not the temporal consequences.

Suppose I stole money from you. I get caught and give the money back, and you forgive me for the offence. So I don’t owe you. But I can still expect to go to jail for my crimes. Purgatory is like jail. And, in fact, most Catholic theologians believe Our Lord was referring to purgatory when he said,

Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. [Matt 5:25]

Indulgences would be the equivalent of “settling up” before appearing in court (judgement).

So would you say the majority of Catholics have to go through purgatory? Or is it really a case-by-case basis?

That’s speculative, but I think few people die completely free from all sin. The Church recognizes that some people can achieve spiritual perfection, which is the complete aversion to all sins, both venial and mortal. But I think this is uncommon.

David,

I have some difficulties with some of your analysis.

No quota, but they need to be done nonetheless. They are indeed a condition.
Galatians 6:8
8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

If you don’t sow, that is do good works, you cannot reap eternal life. Or so says Paul. Or perhaps you think sowing to the spirit does not involve works? I would be eager to hear your analysis, if so.

For myself, sowing to the Spirit is giving assent to the Spirit that works within us to impel us to do the works of God.

Paul He also says we should work out our salvation in fear and trembling (probably because we cannot be sure of what works exactly are necessary to be done.)

Phl 2:12-13 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

The Spirit works in you to will and to do, thus the works you do are an allowing of the spirit to work within you, to sow Him within you.

Lastly,

Trent on Justification (Sixth Session)
CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, **that the said justified, by the good works which he performs **through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; ***let him be anathema. ***

Although the merit is a gift, it comes through works (not in return for the works, but the works act as a conduit for grace.)

It is possible that the failure to perform an act of charity could rise to the level of mortal sin (this is called a sin of omission - something we should have done but did not do). I have speculated that such an occasion would be unusual in Western society, and nobody has come up with a plausible example of a hypothetical or actual situation one might commonly find in which a sin of omission could be reasonably considered mortal in nature (whereas examples abound for sins of commission).

Failure to do is failure to sow. Many venial sins of omission can lead to death of one’s faith by moving one toward a state of mind that denies the Holy Spirit to work within one.

peace
steve

Pretty close. I think that the requirements of Sacramental Confession and reception of Eucharist are tied to plenary indulgences.

The “days” were equivalent days of penance done here on earth. They had nothing to do with “time” in purgatory, for we do not know if time exists in purgatory or how it is measured. Examples of ancient penances are

The “weepers,” people who had committed such grave sins as adultery or heresy were required to spend years outside the church every Sunday, literally in sack-cloth and ashes, forbidden by the porters to enter and begging the faithful to pray for them.

The “hearers,” people who had either committed lesser sins or who had already spent years as weepers, who were confined to the vestibule and forced to leave Mass with the catachumens after the Mass of the Catachumens (the Liturgy of the Word in the Novus Ordo) were over. People often spent years as hearers for a single grievous sin!

The “kneelers,” who also may have spent time as weepers and/or hearers. These were allowed in the nave but had to kneel throughout the Mass of the catachumens while the other faithful stood (that was the practice back then). Some had to prostrate themselves flat on the ground for the duration.

The “standers,” who stood with the faithful, and could remain throughout Mass, but could not receive the Blessed Sacrament.

So indulgences allowed you to reenter the church in a more timely manner. Of course at this time, you confessed in front of the congregation instead of in a private confessional.

Correction on the underlined part – it’s a common misconception.
“Days/years” refers to an equivalent number of days/years of ancient canonical penance. (The ancient penances for sin were far more stringent than the ones we receive today in Confession.)…To say that an indulgence of so many days or years is granted means that it cancels an amount of purgatorial punishment equivalent to that which would have been remitted, in the sight of God, by the performance of so many days or years of the ancient canonical penance. …
newadvent.org/cathen/07783a.htm (In section titled "Various Kinds of Indulgences)

Mortal sins of omission are common in society today: no longer practicing the Catholic Christian Faith, no longer going to Mass, no longer going to Confession, no longer praying, living a completely self-centered life, with no concern for people in need. I can’t judge how many of these persons are committing an actual mortal sin, but these sins of omission are objectively grave.

Confession lifts the guilt for sin, but not the temporal consequences.

The Council of Trent taught that a good Confession includes some satisfaction for the temporal punishment due, and that only some of the time is there more temporal punishment which needs to be expiated by penances. In other words, a good confession sometimes remits not only all sin, but all punishment due as well.

Well, that’s a quota. It is a requirement for salvation that is above and beyond the grace of Christian Baptism. Maybe there’s not a stipulated quantity, but it’s still a quota (and it’s the worst kind of quota, because we never know if we are short of the minimum criteria).

If you don’t sow, that is do good works, you cannot reap eternal life.

The only thing that can remove us from our state of Grace is mortal sin (just one mortal sin will do the trick). The only way that failure to perform a good work could remove us from a state of Grace is if it was a mortally sinful sin of omission. Just one.

The failure to perform a billion good works which are not mortally sinful does not, in itself, affect our salvation. A billion venial sins do not add up to a single mortal sin.

Failure to do is failure to sow. Many venial sins of omission can lead to death of one’s faith by moving one toward a state of mind that denies the Holy Spirit to work within one.

The operative word being “can.” Not “does.” As I said, works are meritorious, but they are not necessary as a condition of salvation. Only the grace of Baptism is required.

I was speaking of omissions of acts of charity (such as those enumerated by Our Lord - feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc).

Yes, failure to perform acts of duty (ie, the five precepts of the Church) is objectively sinful, and could be mortally sinful, given sufficient (meaning complete) knowledge and intent.

I could accuse myself of MANY mortal sins of commission, but I cannot think of a single mortal sin of omission (in my entire life) where I neglected an act of charity. I know that I have never confessed such a sin.

We can have good hope but not absolute assurance–God passes the final judgment, as Scripture says:

1 Cor. 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. 4* I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5* Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God. 6*

  1. I know that good works without faith in Jesus Christ cannot get you into heaven, correct? What role does works play in the process of Christian life and the salvation process?

Correct to the first part. Note, while the Church teaches faith in Christ is absolutely necessary (see CCC 161), we also acknowledge that God can lead a soul to that faith in extraordinary ways, even ways known only to himself (see CCC 848). In other words, just because someone appears to die without knowing Him, that person is not necessarily lost. Again, like above, God is the final judge.

The initial grace of conversion and justification cannot be merited, but the works we do by the power of grace continue our sanctification and strengthen our union with Christ, increase our faith and charity, and therefore lead us to eternal life. According to Scripture, not all who call out to the Lord will be saved, but those who do His will (Matt. 7:21). Thankfully, He is merciful and is always ready to forgive us and restore us to grace when we repent of not doing His will.

  1. I’m a little bit scared about the idea of purgatory. Being on fire, even for a small amount of time, doesn’t seem pleasant. Who goes to purgatory? All catholics? All Christians? Only non-christians? Some Catholics but not all?

Since nothing unclean can enter the Kingdom of God, the final purification is for anyone who dies in the grace of God, but who still has venial sins on their conscience (ie sins that do not separate one from God–the just man sins seven times a day according to Scripture (Prov. 24:16)–he wouldn’t be called “just” if those sins were mortal like the ones St. Paul says exclude one from the Kingdom; e.g. 1 Cor. 6:9-10). It is also for those who have repented, but have not brought forth sufficient fruits worthy of repentance (see Acts 26:20), the consequence of failing to do so being what we call “temporal punishment.”

As for the fire, it has been a common belief that the final purification involves fire, but it is not necessarily so according to the Church’s judgment. In any event, as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his encyclical Spe Salvi, the pain of Purgatory is a “blessed pain” because we know that we are suffering for the love of God in order to be closer to God–the more we are purified, the more we are united to God, and the more blissful it becomes. St. Catherine of Genoa wrote of this in more detail. Here’s an excerpt from her treatise on purgatory:

[quote=St. Catherine of Genoa]I believe no happiness can be found worthy to be compared with that of a
soul in Purgatory except that of the saints in Paradise; and day by day
this happiness grows as God flows into these souls, more and more as the
hindrance to His entrance is consumed. Sin’s rust is the hindrance, and the
fire burns the rust away so that more and more the soul opens itself up to
the divine inflowing. A thing which is covered cannot respond to the sun’s
rays, not because of any defect in the sun, which is shining all the time,
but because the cover is an obstacle; if the cover be burnt away, this
thing is open to the sun; more and more as the cover is consumed does it
respond to the rays of the sun

It is in this way that rust, which is sin, covers souls, and in Purgatory
is burnt away by fire; the more it is consumed, the more do the souls
respond to God, the true sun. As the rust lessens and the soul is opened up
to the divine ray, happiness grows; until the time be accomplished the one
wanes and the other waxes. Pain however does not lessen but only the time
for which pain is endured. As for will: never can the souls say these pains
are pains, so contented are they with God’s ordaining with which, in pure
charity, their will is united.
[/quote]

I hope that helps!

I think the articles in here very helpful with your questions:

chnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/salvation.pdf

Most persons in Western society are guilty of ignoring the hungry, the needy. They take up a cause célèbre if the media promotes it. But that type of “concern” is not based on love of neighbor.

Worse still are a type of modern day “charity” that is merely a promotion of, or cooperation with, grave sins: abortion rights, marriage equality, contraception, etc. They speak and act as if they were doing philanthropic work, but it is instead harmful. So it a sin of omission, in not helping the truly needy, and a sin of commission by cooperating with grave sin.

But how many persons confess a sin of omission? It is rare, I agree.

There is NO centuries old debate. Mortal sin only requires knowledge that a sin is mortal, and sufficient consent in committing the sin for it to be a personal choice. That’s all. No mystery. Mortal sin is a cinch to commit.

Good works aren’t necessary to achieve original justification, but required to remain in justification.

see link that follows

Are Good Works Necessary for Salvation?

Because most persons in Western society have never actually encountered hunger or need.

In Our Lord’s day, it was easy to tell who was hungry. Those people were emaciated.

I have seen pictures of emaciated people, but never any that have been identified as a citizen of ANY Western nation on earth. I have lived a half century in a Western nation and I have never seen an emaciated person with my own eyes. Have you?

They take up a cause célèbre if the media promotes it.

Are you saying that is a Good Thing, or a Bad Thing? I think it’s a good thing. It beats the alternative (that nobody does anything at all).

But that type of “concern” is not based on love of neighbor.

Why do you say that? It is certainly not based on an indifference of neighbor, or a dislike of neighbor. Maybe the plight of our neighbor is brought to our attention by the media (and is that a Bad Thing?) BECAUSE we are unlikely to encounter actual firsthand need in our workaday Western lives, but the response is surely out of love, and not any alternative.

Worse still are a type of modern day “charity” that is merely a promotion of, or cooperation with, grave sins: abortion rights, marriage equality, contraception, etc. They speak and act as if they were doing philanthropic work, but it is instead harmful.

On this point we are in complete agreement. There is no “charity” in helping someone sin.

This is the reason why Western people of good will are sometimes reluctant to “help” people asking for money. Are we feeding hunger (a Good Thing) or addiction (a Bad Thing)?

But how many persons confess a sin of omission? It is rare, I agree.

I went to lunch with a friend. My car was warmed (greenhouse effect), and I took off my jacket and tossed it in the back seat. When we got to the burrito place, my friend told me I ought to lock up my car, because someone might take my jacket. It was an ordinary jacket, not some “brand name” designer label. I told him that if someone needed my jacket badly enough to steal it, he was welcome to it.

When people only support a cause because the culture tells them to do so, then by definition they are not doing so to care about their neighbor. Good deeds without the love of God and neighbor are useless to the soul.

Most people spend most of their time and effort on themselves, striving to fulfill their own desires, needs, and goals. We live in a thoroughly narcissistic culture. And that is contrary to the positive precepts which require helping those in need. Sins of omission are so ubiquitous that we don’t even notice.

The “culture” cannot tell anyone to do anything. The media can make us aware of people in need. I feel this is a service, because I would not know about these people otherwise. I sometimes respond materially.

Most people spend most of their time and effort on themselves, striving to fulfill their own desires, needs, and goals. We live in a thoroughly narcissistic culture.

I agree, and that’s obviously a Bad Thing. But I question whether it rises to the criteria of mortal sin.

And that is contrary to the positive precepts which require helping those in need. Sins of omission are so ubiquitous that we don’t even notice.

Today’s Gospel reading puts this into perspective. The rich young man approaches Jesus, and asks what he must do to be saved. AFAIK, this is the only time anyone ever asked this question.

Our Lord replies (in summary), “obey the law.” And the man says he has kept the commandments from his youth.

And the Gospel says that Jesus “loved him.” But he asked one more thing: sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and follow me.

The man went away sad, unwilling to give up everything.

Are you saying that this man has no possibility of salvation?

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