Memorial of St. Gregory the Great, Pope
Scripture Readings: 1 Cor 4:9-15; Lk 6:1-5
In the Catholic Catechism we read that “Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell” (#1035). “Immediately!” That’s scary. In another place we read in the Catechism that the “soul at the very moment of death enters into the blessedness of heaven either immediately or through purification, or [else the soul goes to] immediate and everlasting damnation”(#1022).
The fear of hell has been a virtuous part of Christian life from the first proclamation of the Gospel. But it wasn’t until almost six hundred years later that Pope St. Gregory the Great in the fourth book of his Dialogues 1 began to teach about immediate entrance into heaven. I fear hell, but the desire for heaven is even more virtuous, and St Gregory the Great would have us strive for what is best of all, that love of God by which, at the moment of death, we can go immediately to heaven. It is a gift we cannot deserve, but we can receive it from God’s love and mercy. So, pray to St. Joseph every day for a happy death, especially the happiness of going straight to heaven.
1. New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, Vol. 6, Gregory I (The Great), Pope, St., McGraw-Hill, NY, 766.