Question: Does the Church teach that in heaven we will recognize and communicate with each other? If so, what will an infant or aborted baby have to say? Will they be a fetus or infant eternally?
— Fred Matt, West Chester, Pa.
Answer: In answering questions about what our state in heaven will be like, it is important to recall that we are dealing with mysteries beyond our experience. We cannot simply transpose earthly realities to heavenly ones. We must also recall that we are engaging in a great deal of speculative theology in these matters.
With these cautions in mind, we do well to use a basic rule employed in the final section of the Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas (or one of his students) in speculating on these matters. In pondering what our bodies and other aspects of our interrelatedness will be like, we can reason that most perfection has neither excess or defect.
Age is one of these aspects. In terms of physical life, we can speak of being young and immature physically, and thus we manifest sort of defect of age. We can also speak of being past our physical prime, and thus indicating an excess of physical age. St. Thomas thereby speculates that we will have resurrected bodies that will appear to be of about age 30, an age that manifests neither defect nor excess and also is the same approximate age at which Christ died and rose. It is his resurrected quality that models our own (see Phil 3:21).
Hence, it would seem that in heaven, when our bodies rise, we will all manifest the perfection of physical “age.”
Similar reasoning can be applied to other aspects of our physical bodies, such as disease or other defects. It seems that these defects will be remedied. However, one might speculate that some aspects of our physical sufferings might still be manifest, though not in a way that would cause us pain. For we see in Christ’s resurrected body the wounds of his passion. But now they are not signs of his pain, but rather of his glory. So, too, perhaps for our wounds.
Our interrelatedness, too, would be perfected. We will not only recognize and communicate with each other, but we will do this most perfectly as members of Christ, since our relationship to the head of the Body will be perfected.
Missing Mass on trip
Question: Next year I will make a nature trek in Nepal for 16 days and will be unable to attend Mass. Can I go even though I will miss at least two Sunday Masses?
— V. Silva, India
Answer: While Mass attendance is required of a Catholic each Sunday unless there is a serious reason to miss (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2181), when attendance is unreasonably difficult or impossible, one can be excused. Hence, things like inclement weather, health issues and travel, especially in remote locations, will often excuse one.
There are legitimate values in the journey you wish to make that may, in fact, help you to appreciate the glory of what God has created. Hence, it would be hard to argue that the trip would not be of sufficient value to permit a limited absence from Mass.
Catholics are obliged to secure permission from their proper pastor (Canon 1245), and thus you ought not fail to discuss the matter with him.
Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.