What a Week!

I returned last evening from a week spent at the feet of Fr. Benedict Groeschel at Trinity Retreat House in Larchmont, New York (just north of NYC). It was a great time of growth, prayer, and community as I got to know some wonderful priests from around the country. Fr. Benedict’s order is an inspiration to anyone in vocation work because they have grown so much over the twenty years since their foundation. (They now have over 100 members from their start of eight!) A synopsis of the retreat can be found in Father’s book, The Virtue Driven Life. It is as his other works, filled with insight and wisdom, balanced by the touch of pessimism of a native of Jersey City. (His words, not mine!)

I am glad to be home, though, and I am looking forward to a wonderful Advent and approach of Our Lord at Christmas.

Celebrations

Over the last two days, I have been part of two great celebrations. Last night, I had the privilege to officiate at the wedding of two friends of mine: Angela and Ryan. They are a young couple that I could see really love each other. The ceremony had some of the best music that I have heard at a wedding in a long time. It is uplifting as a priest to celebrate a wonderful event in their lives and to see their joy at coming together as one in Christ.

Today, as the Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King, Regnum Christi celebrates their Patronal Feast. I have many friends from my two parish assignments who are part of the movement and are really on fire with the Spirit and a love for the Lord. The celebration was held here at our Cathedral and had about 250 gathered. The movement is lay driven and is about the faithful living their faith in a strong and dynamic way. There have been many fruits from the movement that I have seen, including numerous vocations to the priesthood and religious life. (I only hope for more vocations to the Diocesan priesthood!)

As Vocation Director for priests in the Archdiocese, I could only wish for more such movements that help the faithful live their call as Baptized Christian, because when the faithful take their call to holiness seriously, all vocations flourish.

God Bless!

Heaven and Hell

Thought I would share a response to a question about Haven and Hell:

In either heaven or hell would an individual receive differing amounts of
reward/punishment depending on how that individual lived his/her life? For
example, someone who committed countless atrocities vs. someone who committed
the minimal amount of sins to go to hell – would one receive more punishment
than the other? Also, do you feel one hundred percent justified in knowing the
true nature of the good life (the life God wants you to live)? (I have a hunch
that you wouldn’t because that would be tantamount to knowing the mind of God).
Lastly, could you comment on the view of any other religious denominations
concerning these topics (even general accounts)?

In regard to receiving differing levels of punishment or reward in Hell or Heaven, respectively, that was certainly the vision of Dante in his Divine Comedy. He broke Heaven, Hell and Purgatory into nine levels each. Dante’s visions would most likely be the most developed, even today, of the vision of heaven and hell as you describe.

As far as official Church teaching, the best place to start a quest for answers would be in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, specifically paragraphs 1020-1060. (The Catechism is organized, like nearly all Church documents, by paragraph due to the multitudes of translations needed for worldwide distribution and use.)

The most pertinent of ideas for your questions are that each person goes through a particular judgment at the moment of their death. The question that must be answered is how that person has responded to the particular graces that God has offered to him or her during life. If the person had a complete response to these graces, they will be ushered in to the Kingdom of Heaven. (The Church’s teaching would say that this was only done by one person beside Christ, Mary.) If the person had a life of responding to the graces that God offered, but yet not in a perfect way, they would undergo a period of purification to be able to join in the wonderful Kingdom of Heaven, hence Purgatory. It can be summed up rather crudely by saying that you are on the way to heaven, but you have to be cleaned up a bit first.) Lastly, if the person did not respond whatsoever to the graces that God offered during life, their pattern of life would be such that they could not accept that grace after death, and then would be banished outside of the Kingdom of Heaven, hence Hell.

One last thing to keep in mind, Hell is not an absence of God. It is the realization that I have lived my life as if there were, and now I am forced to come to grips with that as a mistake in life.