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Ask A Catholic: Sacraments and Heaven

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By Mitch Finley

Does a Catholic go to heaven if [he or she] does not take the sacrament?

Your question seems to presume that “going to heaven” is what religion should be all about.  Personally, as a Catholic I think that religion should be as much about this life, and this world, as it is about our ultimate destiny.  Also, we should clarify what you mean by “the sacrament.”  Presuming you mean holy Communion (the Eucharist or Mass), it’s good to keep in mind that there are six other sacraments in the Catholic tradition: Baptism, Confirmation, Confession/Reconciliation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick.

Back to your question, however.  Catholics don’t attend Mass and receive Communion primarily to “get to heaven.”  We believe there is a continuity between this life and the next.  All seven of the sacraments are meant to nourish and support loving intimacy with the holy Trinity—the usual metaphors being “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit”—and with the other folks with whom we live in this world—our “neighbors,” to use a common scriptural term.  Another word for  this loving intimacy is “faith.”  The sacraments nourish a life of faith in this world that, ultimately, leads to “heaven”–another metaphor, this one meaning final loving union with God, who is love.

So does a Catholic who does not “take the sacrament” (Communion) “go to heaven.”  I believe the answer is, “Yes,” or “Probably.”  But he or she most likely does not care much about living a life of faith here and now.  The Catholic ideal is not to “take the sacrament” because it’s necessary if one wants to “go to heaven.”  Rather, we do so because it’s part of a complete life of faith (intimacy with God and neighbor) here and now that, ultimately, leads to final union with the God who is love.

Mitch Finley

About Mitch Finley

Mitch Finley is the author of 30+ books on Roman Catholic theological topics and spirituality, all written to appeal to both non-academic and academic readers. Mitch holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University and an M.A. in Theology from Marquette University. He and Kathy Finley have been married since 1974 and are the parents of three grown sons. To learn more visit mitchandkathyfinley.com.

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