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69. The Place of Departed Souls

1. Souls that depart from their bodies at death areassigned to certain corporeal places. However, these souls are notpresent in a place by quantity or dimension, asbodies are, for the souls are spirits and have no quantity ordimensions of their own. But a spirit can be in a place in a mannerproper to itself. We rightly say that the souls of the departed arein heaven and purgatory and hell. And these terms mean places aswell as states.

2. The assignment of a departed soul to its place occursat the instant it is severed from its body. Souls fit for heaven,go there; souls in mortal sin are, by their own free choice anddecision, assigned to hell; souls in God's grace but unreadyfor heaven are detained in purgatory. For it may be, and doubtlessoften is, that a soul at the moment of death, even if free frommortal sin, is in venial sin, or has yet to pay some temporalpunishment due to forgiven sins, and perhaps has upon it theremains of sin. Now, the soul that labors under these burdens isnot fit for heaven (which is for those without spot or wrinkle, andis the place and state into which nothing defiled canenter),and still such a soul does not deserve the eternal pains of hell.Such a soul labors under an obstacle that must be first removedbefore it can enter heaven. As a body lighter than air tends to flyupward, but is prevented from reaching its true level by anoverhanging obstacle, so the soul in purgatory is blocked by itsburdens from ascending into heaven; it remains in purgatory untilthe preventing obstacle is removed by enduring the penalties of itsstate or by prayers and suffrages offered on its behalf.

3. Heaven, hell, and purgatory are places and states. Nosoul in heaven or in hell may ever leave its state, but itis possible by divine dispensation that a soul may leave itsplace and come in apparition before the eyes of people onearth.

4. Before the redemption, all the departed souls were saidto be in hell. This was a general term, like our own expression,"the hereafter." Or we may say that the hell of the oldertime had two departments: the limbo of the just, and the hell oflost souls.

5. The limbo of the just was known as "the limbo ofthe fathers," that is of holy men (such as the patriarchs, andJob, and St. Joseph) who died before our Lord's Resurrectionand Ascension. It is possible that the limbo of the fathers and thehell of eternal punishment were in the same place, butthey were not the same state. For the fathers sufferedonly their unfulfilled longing for heaven, and not a pain ofsense.

6. The limbo of children is the state and place ofunbaptized children who have original sin only. As toplace, this may be the same as the limbo of the fathers,but it is not the same state. In the limbo of childrenthere is no suffering whatever.

7. Thus we distinguish the abodes of departed souls:heaven, hell, purgatory, the limbo of children. The limbo of thefathers ceased to exist when our Lord ascended into heaven carryingwith him the souls of all the just who were awaiting that glad hourin the limbo of the fathers.

"A man should keep himself down, and not busy himself in mirabilibus super se."
St Philip Neri

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"To do God's will -- this was the goal upon which the saints constantly fixed their gaze. They were fully persuaded that in this consists the entire perfection of the soul. "
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Lord, here burn, here cut, and dry up in me all that hinders me from going to You, that You may spare me in eternity."
St Louis Bertrand

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