A New Appreciation (& a Question)

My friend's funeral was on Friday and during her funeral, I found myself feeling a bit awkward because I felt like I should be sadder (read:  closer to tears or crying) than I was.  It wasn't until today during communion that I finally broke down (tears dripping down off my face kinda broke down).  What struck me as odd about this was that the communion song was 'The Canticle of the Turning", listed as a 'praise' song in our hymnal, and a favorite song of mine that typically leaves me feeling quite hopeful/upbeat.

As I pondered why these tears were coming today, my first thought was 'it's just finally starting to sink in', but then I remembered a thought I'd had during the funeral when I was trying to figure what was 'wrong' with me:  what happens when someone who is not Catholic dies?  I kept waiting for the 'into Your hands we commend her soul' part, but of course it never came.  And so, after some thought it made sense to me that though today's Mass was not a Funeral Mass for my friend, it was the tradition I am used to when someone dies; it is where I am most comfortable mourning.

Today, I gained a new appreciation for my Catholic Faith and it's tradition.  Yes, everyone mourns in their own time, but today, it was the tradition, the familiarity that allowed me to finally 'feel' the loss.  I wasn't wondering 'what's next?' or 'how does this work?', I knew and my mind and heart were free to feel.  While the tears caught me off guard, I am grateful for not only the tears themselves, but that they finally came.

But I still don't have an answer to my question:
What happens when someone who is not Catholic dies?  I would imagine this must be broken down into 2 parts 1) what happens when someone who is Christian, but not Catholic dies? and 2) what happens when someone who is not Christian and not Catholic dies?  I don't mean the details of funerals and such, but what happens to their soul, what is 'next'?


  1. 1) "Canticle of the Turning" is absolutely 100% my favorite hymn. love Love LOVE!

    2) As for your questions... No one can possibly know the answer. However, my oh-so-humble opinion is that the answer is roughly the same for a Catholic person as it is for a non-Catholic as it is for a non-Christian. The Catechism says: "God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end" (#1037, emph added). So, theoretically, that's what purgatory is for - one last chance to turn toward God. And, if you can SEE God (as I'm assuming one can when one is in purgatory) who would actually choose to turn AWAY from God?! Basically, I believe Hell is completely empty.

    Lastly, because I'm a nerd, I'll leave you with some Karl Rahner theology... I <3 Rahner. Here's a link from Wikipedia (I know, I know - not exactly scholarly, but it's pretty accurate!): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anonymous_Christian

    Ahem, so there's my $0.25. Sorry, were you expecting a couple of pennies?? ;)


  2. I love Katie's comment, and I wrote a little bit about my perspective on funerals as a child.

  3. Sorry, here is the link Permission to Live: Theology in a child's movie


  4. Same thing as happens for a Catholic. We are taught that we must be a part of the Church, that is to say that we must be baptized into the new life that Christ has gained for us. There is only one baptism, so ANYONE that is baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit falls into this category; doesn't matter which denomination it was.

    As for a non- Christian, there is great mercy there as well. We can be saved by the baptism of desire, which is to say that if we desire and ask for God's mercy, He will give it to us. Usually part of the official understanding of this is that had the person understood baptism and had the opportunity, they would have desired to receive it.

    I think Katie pretty much has the right idea, though I do think that there are those that choose to turn away from God. I do have to say that purgatory is not a "deciding place". We pray for the "holy souls" in purgatory because everyone in purgatory is going to heaven. Purgatory is the place for us to be perfected.

  5. I like all the comments so far. I don't think Hell is empty...for then, that would mean Lucifer (Satan) is not in hell. And we know that he and his minions turned away from God for all eternity. As we pray for St. Michael, "by the power of God" to "cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl about the Earth seeking the ruin of souls."

    I agree with Katie that God does not choose hell for anyone. We, with our free will, make our choices throughout our life, up until the end. If we use our free will to walk with God, and to avoid sin and to repent of our sins when we've committed them, we choose God, and therefore heaven. If we choose sinful ways and do not repent, we choose to be away from God.

    My understanding of purgatory is that the souls in purgatory already chose God/Heaven through their lives and where their hearts were up until their death. Whatever state a person's soul is in at their death...their choices were made and if they were in a state of grace (i.e., not persisting in their mortal sin) at the time of their death, they would go to purgatory for purification and once all worldly attachments are purged, they are allowed to enter in full union with God.


  6. Just to clarify, when I said "Hell is empty" I meant empty of human souls... Although if truth be told, I have a lot of trouble with the concept of hell. It's something I'd like to read more about; what is the Catholic theology of hell and what does it mean practically speaking? Likewise with purgatory. I'm just not sure what it really is.

    Secondly, CM, thanks for bringing up Baptism of Desire! Beautiful!

  7. CM has some good thoughts. The Catholic Church has definitely moved away from the former belief that if you're not Catholic, you're not going to heaven. On the flip side, I once had a Southern Baptist tell me that he believed "once saved, always saved". I asked him: So, if you're saved, but then you go out and kill someone without remorse, you believe you'll go to heaven? He said yes, but I just had to shake my head. I believe that we're striving everyday to be saved; it's not just a one-time occurrence. I've always had a problem with the belief that God says, "You believe in me, but you chose to be Baptist (or any other religion) instead of Catholic, so you don't get in."

  8. It's a great question. After the New Year, I was planning on taking up that very question on my blog. God bless you!!