Another suggestion is that our memories will fail us in eternity and that those who are lost will simply vanish from our minds.
Q. I am a "cradle Catholic" of 75 years, now homebound. We are taught that if one follows the teachings of the Church, is a good person and dies in the state of grace, then that person will go to heaven. But suppose some close loved ones don't make it there? How can we be happy in heaven without them?
I asked an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, and the reply was, "Let's hope God in his mercy forgives them, too." But to me this seems to negate the existence of hell. Please help this confused Catholic. (Atlanta)
A. The question you pose has, I would suppose, challenged every reflective Christian for centuries. Various theories have been suggested. One is that hell exists only as a concept, not in reality, and that God will find a way to forgive everyone and bring them finally to heaven.
But to me that seems to conflict with Matthew 25, where Jesus pictures himself at the final judgment separating the faithful from the unfaithful, casting some into "the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
Another suggestion is that our memories will fail us in eternity and that those who are lost will simply vanish from our minds. I'm not enthused about that theory either since it seems unlikely that, once our bodies are perfected in heaven, we will simply lose our minds. What I do feel certain about is that heaven will be better than we can ever imagine it.
In Revelation (21:4), we're told that God "will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away." I also believe, along with St. Paul in 1 Corinthians (2:9), that "eye has not seen, and ear has not heard ... what God has prepared for those who love him."
So I guess that my answer to your question is that I simply don't know -- but that I'm not worried about it. It's one of those (many) things that I'll just have to let God figure out.
Q. My wife realized that my Bible is not Catholic when I could not locate the Book of Sirach in it. What is a good Catholic Bible, with a contemporary translation from Greek? (My ultimate preference would be a Catholic Bible with the Old Testament translated from Hebrew and the New Testament from the Greek -- if such a thing exists.) (Albany, Oregon)
A. There are several translations of the sacred Scriptures that have been approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for devotional use and study by Catholics; any translation that bears an imprimatur may be used for those purposes.
But your best bet, I would think, is the 1986 edition of the New American Bible; that is the only translation approved for liturgical use at Masses in the United States, and so the wording would be familiar to you.
In his 1943 encyclical on Scripture study, "Divino Afflante Spiritu," Pope Pius XII wrote: "Ought we to explain the original text which, having been written by the inspired author himself, has more authority and greater weight than any even the very best translation, whether ancient or modern."
The New American Bible follows that prescript: Composed over a period of 25 years by some 50 biblical scholars, it uses the original and oldest available texts of the sacred books -- Hebrew for the Old Testament, Greek for the New Testament.
- Father Kenneth Doyle is a columnist for Catholic News Service