Our heavenly bodies

Q. 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? 

F.M., West Chester, Pa.

A. Here’s a reply from Msgr. Charles Pope:

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.