QUAERITUR: Will I go to heaven if I die in the state of grace?

From a reader:

Would it be accurate to say that if one were in the state of grace at death, one can be assured of reaching heaven after being purified in purgatory?

If you die in the state of grace, that is, in God’s friendship, you will either immediately or after a time in the state of purification be admitted to the bliss of the Beatific Vision in heaven.

Your happiness in heaven cannot be surpassed. You will be in God’s presence for eternity with all the angels and saints and God will be all in all.  There will no sorrow or sense of loss or inadequacy.  There will be no remorse or lack of peace. None of us can imagine what God has prepared for those who love Him.

It can be done.  It isn’t so hard as all that. God gives all the graces we need and forgiveness when we ask.  God gave us Holy Church and the sacraments to help us get there.

Be good to people.  Say your prayers.  Go to confession.  Receive Communion well.  Believe what Holy Church teaches. Trust in Christ’s promises.  Try to be virtuous.

This life is short.  But the next life is forever.

You can do this.

Everyone of us can do this.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Imrahil says:

    Thank you very/i> much for this post.

  2. bookworm says:

    Since one has to be saved to make it to purgatory in the first place, perhaps it might be accurate to describe purgatory as a first stage of heaven? Kind of like an anteroom or “mud room” where you wipe off all the mud and gunk that you brought with you from earth, before stepping into the main part of the house? Or like a hospital where those souls who make it out of this world spiritually alive (those dying in mortal sin would be spiritually dead) but wounded or diseased by their sins, get treated so they can be strong and healthy enough to enjoy heaven to the fullest? (Having just had surgery recently I can really identify with the latter concept.)

  3. KAS says:

    That is a beautiful way to explain it.

  4. APX says:

    Funny, I was just thinking about this the other night before going to bed, except I was paranoid about dying without being 100% certain I was in a state of grace. Can a person who frequently goes to confession actually be in mortal sin and not know it?? I would think no, but considering I didn’t even know what “sanctifying grace” was until Lent this year, and in the Catholic school I went to, we were taught when we die we get to choose whether we want to reject God or join him in Heaven (I didn’t know what the “Last 4 Things” even was until recently), I’m not really certain about anything unless I heard it from my current priest, or on here.

  5. Dr. Eric says:

    Just being in Heaven with Bl. Teresa of Calcutta will be enough for me. I can’t imagine what being in the presence of Our Blessed Mother and even more so God Himself could ever be like. No wonder we have to be purified, I don’t think we could handle the joy.

  6. NoraLee9 says:

    APX, you’re in the right place. One of the beauties of the faith is that there is always more to learn. As for mortal sin, there are requirements to committing a mortal sin: You have to KNOW it’s a mortal sin. You have to commit it will your full will. And it has to be sufficiently grave to be a mortal sin. For example, I walked out of the ShopRite with hamburger in the cart. I didn’t see it so I didn’t pay for it. I didn’t have time to run back in. I DID pay for it next week when I shopped there again. Not a mortal sin. However if I decided that the hamburger was free because I got away with it, then it becomes a mortal sin.

  7. APX says:

    @Dr. Eric
    I can’t imagine what being in the presence of Our Blessed Mother and even more so God Himself could ever be like.

    I know! I can’t even look at my priest ’cause he’s so much more holier than I am. (Though, I don’t even think I qualify as remotely holy yet.) I can’t even imagine how I’d last in Heaven without Purgatory.

  8. jlmorrell says:

    “There will no sorrow or sense of loss or inadequacy.”

    For some time I have had trouble understanding how there could be no sorrow or sadness in Heaven. If I am able to persevere in this life, it is difficult to conceive how I will not be sad to have the knowledge that many I knew, perhaps even many relatives, are in Hell for all eternity. Perhaps some of the saints have written about this and I haven’t come across it, but I don’t understand it right now.

  9. Mary Pat says:

    Thank you, Fr Z, for this post. It brought me to tears.

  10. Mike says:

    I would think that hamburger would have weighed well over 100 pounds for it to be equal to a day’s wage, which puts stealing into the grave category. (Realizing also that this is relative to context–a day’s wage in Manhatten vs. a day’s wage in Calcutta!)

  11. Brad says:

    APX, please read Hungry Souls by G. Aardweg. It was very helpful to me in understanding the particular judgment; what happens when we are so ashamed and horrified by our sins of commission and omission (the latter is a heart breaker during that momentous moment); the mercy of Christ in convincing us to not immediately cast ourselves away from him; purgatory; how only the clean can enter heaven; etc.

    Then, go to Rome’s museum of purgatory next summer. See ya there! (At the museum…well, maybe purgatory…)

  12. mrsmontoya says:

    Thank you.

  13. Yes, I write about the Four Last Things often. And I often stress judgment. But we must keep our eyes on heaven!

  14. David2 says:

    NoraLee9, that’s one expensive hamburger; where theft is concerned, the value of the property stolen has a bearing on the gravity of the sin. Basically, petty theft is not mortal, but larger thefts are:

    Thus the theft of an amount equal to a day’s wages from an ordinary artisan would unquestionably be a mortal sin. The same thing must be said of the taking of an insignificant sum from a beggar. Theologians teach that this method of establishing the grievousness of theft cannot be employed indefinitely and exclusively. There is an absolute sum which it is always a mortal sin to take even from the wealthiest person or corporation.

    But traditionally, the “rule of thumb” has been that theft is suffiiently grave to be a mortal sin when the property is worth a day’s wages to the victim.

    Of course, it’s better to just not steal hamburgers.

  15. sparks1093 says:

    As a CCD teacher for Confirmation prep this topic comes up often. I particularly like the mudroom analogy for purgatory. I had not heard that the size/amount stolen had an impact on the graveness of the sin, and I’m sure that it will be discussed tonight as the topic is sin (and how to avoid it in today’s culture while having to live in today’s culture).

  16. Jack Regan says:

    Thanks Father… a beautiful reflection. On the feast of St. Pio last Friday, I was reminded of his famous “Pray, hope, and don’t worry…”

  17. pelerin says:

    Interesting points raised about theft. I well remember having it explained to me by a Priest how it was more serious to steal a small amount from someone who had very little than a large amount from someone who was wealthy. It seemed very logical to me. It was not the amount stolen which made for serious sin but the context.

    On a lighter note stilll on the subject of sin and hell: Notice outside a church ‘TALK NEXT WEEK – WHAT IS HELL LIKE – COME AND HEAR OUR CHOIR.’

  18. grn724 says:

    There can be confusion about eternal suffering vs eternal peace. What if only the very few go straight to heaven, this would include saints, not in our eyes, but saints in God’s eyes. The rest of us go to purgatory for our cleasning, but stay there until Judgement Day. On the other hand, what if the souls that have not repented, the souls who have evil in them when the pass from earth, do indeed go to hell, but stay there only until Judgement Day. Intense suffering to say the least, but in the end all are called home to our Creator. [No. This is not possible. The state of hell is not temporary.] God created all of us in His image and likeness, He created us in His Love for the world in which he created, and it was Good. God Loves us unconditionally, that is without conditions or strings attached. [Really? No conditions? We don’t even have to respect divine positive law, the Church’s laws or natural law? We don’t have to ask for forgiveness or be sorry for sins? Sweet!] So we suffer to the degree in which we sin here on earth, but then we are brought back into the bosom of our ever loving Creator for eternity. [I will refer you back to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.”[Cf. DS 76; 409; 411; 801; 858; 1002; 1351; 1575; Paul VI, CPG § 12.] The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.]
    God Bless

  19. “Be good to people.  Say your prayers.  Go to confession.  Receive Communion well.  Believe what Holy Church teaches. Trust in Christ’s promises.  Try to be virtuous.”

    Thank you Fr. Z. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by all that I try to read and learn and fix and rectify, etc. Sometimes I forget the beautiful simplicity of our Faith.

    Often I forget that I need not be a theologian or a perfect person or a perfect Catholic. The “rules” are straightforward and simple. Thank you for helping my weary unbelief that is sometimes cluttered up with how to believe.

  20. scotus says:

    NoreLee9 said:
    “As for mortal sin, there are requirements to committing a mortal sin: You have to KNOW it’s a mortal sin. You have to commit it will your full will. And it has to be sufficiently grave to be a mortal sin.”

    I have read that the sinner must know that the sin is seriously evil (rather than know that it is a mortal sin).

    Is there a complete list of what sins are considered to be sufficiently grave/evil to be mortal? I would doubt it. So sometimes we have to make a judgement about whether a particular sin is sufficiently grave/evil to be mortal. Pre-meditated murder is very grave and clearly a mortal sin. Telling someone she is beautiful when she is rather plain might be a sin but it must surely be a venial sin. But somewhere we come to the gray areas. Who can be sure in such cases whether a sin was mortal or not? Suppose that someone commits such a sin and decides that it was ‘only’ a venial sin (when in actual fact it was sufficiently grave/evil to be mortal). That come up against the condition that you have to know that it is seriously grave/evil. If this person thinks that the sin is only venial (and there is no obvious list he can check his sin against) does that mean that his sin is not mortal as he did not know that it was seriously grave/evil? And what if he is honestly not sure whether it was sufficiently grave to be mortal? Does that mean that he did not know it was seriously grave/evil and that therefore the sin is not mortal? I’m asking as this seems to be a difficult area but perhaps I am making things more complicated than they need to be.

    As to theft being a mortal sin when the amount stolen is equal to the victim’s daily wage, that sounds reasonable, but what kind of sin is it when we don’t know the victim’s daily wage? I mean, if you break into someone’s house and steal some jewellery you are not exactly going to wake up the victim to ask him/her their daily wage.

    Of course, the practical remedy for all these questions is to go to Confession and confess them. And not go to Communion till you have????

  21. bookworm says:

    “if you break into someone’s house and steal some jewellery you are not exactly going to wake up the victim to ask him/her their daily wage.”

    Well, given the fact that burglary or breaking and entering is a crime that can get you considerable prison time in just about any jurisdiction, I’d assume that would count as a mortal sin regardless of the amount you steal. I would guess that any violation of a JUST law that is serious enough to land one in jail if caught is also a mortal sin. (Unjust laws which put people in jail for doing good things like praying at abortion clinics are another matter, of course.)

  22. Brad says:

    Grn724’s claim that “all are called home to our Creator”, i.e. Creator where he resides in heaven, is destroyed with apologetic mastery by Fr. Arminjon in his End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life.

  23. Mpatrick says:

    Furthermore, it is the Holy Catholic Church that has the God Given (and I do mean God given) authority to make the statement, provide the teaching, extend the opportunity to all that if one dies in the State of Sanctifying Grace he will go to heaven. Period! End of story. So comforting is this truth, so sublime, so full of freedom in the truest since. We can know that all are family will make it to the Beatific Vision if they received the sacraments at the time of death or knew they were in a state of Sanctifying Grace. Wow! No sect of Protestantism or world religion has this genuine guarantee. Knowing this truth about our Catholic Church we must all grow a strong zeal for souls that supersedes every other facet of our lives.

  24. irishgirl says:

    Thank you for posting this, Father Z.

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