"God speaks to us without ceasing by his good inspirations."

The Cure D'Ars

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"Happy is the youth, because he has time before him to do good. "

St Philip Neri

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"The Lord has always revealed to mortals the treasures of his wisdom and his spirit, but now that the face of evil bares itself more and more, so does the Lord bare his treasures more."

St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.  (1877 - 1964)  taught at the Angelicum in Rome from 1909 to 1960, and served for many years as a consulter to the Holy Office and other Roman Congregations.


By Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange,OP





The existence of the particular judgment, affirmed by the ordinary teaching of the Church, is founded on Scripture and tradition. Theological reasoning confirms this truth. It is appropriate that there be a definitive sanction as soon as the soul is capable of being judged on all its merits and demerits, that is, at the moment when the time of merit is finished, and this moment arrives at once after death. Were the case otherwise, the soul would remain in uncertainty about the general judgment, and this uncertainty would be contrary to the wisdom of God, as well as to His mercy and His Justice. [129]

The Nature of This Particular Judgment

The analogy between divine judgment and that of human justice brings with it resemblances, but also differences. Judgment before a human tribunal involves three steps: examination of the case, pronouncement of the sentence, and the execution of that sentence.

In the divine judgment the examination of the case is instantaneous, because it needs neither the testimony of witnesses, for or against, nor the least discussion. God knows by immediate intuition, and at the moment of separation the soul knows itself without medium. It is enlightened, decisively and inevitably, on all its merits and demerits. It sees its state without possibility of error, sees all that it has thought, desired, said, and done, both in good and in evil. It sees all the good it has omitted. Memory and conscience penetrate its entire moral and spiritual life, even to the minutest details. Only then can it see clearly all that was involved in its particular vocation, for instance, that of a mother, of a father, of an apostle.

Secondly, the pronouncement of the sentence is also instantaneous. It does not come by a voice to be heard by the ear, but in a manner entirely spiritual. Intellectual illumination awakes all acquired ideas, gives additional infused ideas, whereby the soul sees its entire past in a glance. The soul sees how God judges, and conscience makes this judgment definitive. All this takes place at the first instant of separation. When it is true to say of a person that he is dead, it is also true to say that he is judged.

Thirdly, the execution of the sentence is also immediate. There is nothing to retard it. On the part of God, omnipotence accomplishes at once the order of divine justice, and on the part of the soul merit and demerit are, as St. Thomas says like lightness and heaviness in bodies. Where there are no obstacles, heavy bodies fall, light bodies rise. Thus separated souls go without delay, either to the recompense due to their merit (unless perhaps they have to undergo a temporary punishment in purgatory), or to the eternal punishment due to their demerits. Charity, like a living flame, ascends on high, whereas hate always descends.

Particular judgment, then, takes place at that first instant when it is true to say that the soul is separated.

Thus terminates the time of merit and demerit. Otherwise a soul in purgatory could still be lost, and a soul condemned could still be saved. But the souls in purgatory have arrived at the goal of their merit, though not yet at eternal beatitude. These souls are still free, but this freedom is not sufficient for merit, because one of the conditions for merit is that the person meriting be still in via, be still a viator, traveler.

At the moment of the particular judgment the soul does not see God intuitively, otherwise it would already be beatified. Neither does it, except in occasional cases, see the humanity of Christ. Rather, by an infused light, it knows God as sovereign judge, knows the Redeemer as judge of the living and the dead. Preachers, following the example of the Fathers, illustrate this doctrine by image and example. But the doctrine itself is reduced to the points we have mentioned.

Blessed are those who take their purgatory on earth, by generous acceptance of daily trials. The multiple sacrifices of daily life purify and perfect their love, and by this love they will be judged.

Love itself has many degrees. St. Peter seemed to make an act of perfect love when he protested to Jesus his readiness to die. But mingled with his act was presumption. To purify him from this presumption, Providence permitted the threefold denial, whence he came forth more humble, less trustful in himself, more trustful in God, until pure love led him to martyrdom and answered his prayer to be crucified head downward.

How do we attain pure love? Saudreau answers: "Love is not an effect of headwork, not a pushing forward of will to give to it greater force. It is the result of accepting generously all sacrifices, in accepting with
a loving heart all trials." [130]

The Lord augments the infused virtue of charity, the accepting soul prepares itself for the particular judgment, where it will find in Jesus rather a friend than a judge.

While the particular judgment, then, settles for each soul its place in eternity, the general judgment still remains necessary. Man is not a mere individual person, but also a member of human society, on which he has had an influence, good or bad, of longer or shorter duration. Let us see what revelation teaches us on this matter.


129. Cf. St. Thomas, IIIa, q. 59, a.4 ad 1; a. 5; Supplementum, a. 69, a. 2; q. 88, a. l ad 1; Contra Gentes, Bk. IV, chaps. 9l, 95.
130. 'Monsignor Auguste Saudreau, L'ldeal de l'ame fervente, 1920, chap. 3 The Particular Judgment of the Perfect Soul, pp. 49-52.