Q. Could you explain to me the meaning of the term “particular judgment”? What does this mean for our possible salvation?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
St. John of the Cross beautifully and succinctly summed up the Church’s belief on the particular judgment when he wrote, “At the evening of life we shall be judged on our love.” These words aptly reflect the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching: “Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament … repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith” (No. 1021).
This judgment is called “particular” because it describes the reward or punishment meted out to each individual. The souls of those who “die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love … remain separated from him” forever and will be condemned to hell (see No. 1033). Those dying in God’s grace will be welcomed into heaven, and those guilty of sin that is not mortal will undergo a purification in purgatory, which prepares their souls for heaven’s rewards.
The particular judgment differs from the final judgment, which will be when Jesus returns, and the bodies of the dead shall rise. Scripture tells us Jesus will separate the just from sinners and send the bodies of each to join their souls forever.