What is the “State of Grace?”

Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, Patrick received a Twitter question from listener Ashley that read:

What does “state of grace” mean? If someone is to die in the state of grace, do they bypass purgatory and go straight to heaven? If we have residual sin when we die, why go to confession?

Patrick broke it down into parts, first giving the definition of the state of grace. “The state of grace means that you have the grace of God in your soul.” From a status perspective, this is our goal, to always remain in the state of grace with a pure soul clean of serious sin. When you commit a grave or mortal sin, you are no longer in the state of grace. That “mortal” sin has essentially killed the life in your soul. If you are unbaptized, you can be baptized to return to the state of grace, but if you are already baptized and have committed serious sin, you must repent through the sacrament of reconciliation.

As for Ashley’s second question, it’s not so black and white. If you are in the state of grace when you die, yes, you will eventually end up in heaven. Will you go straight to heaven, bypassing purgatory? “Possibly, but not necessarily,” said Patrick. It is often likely that a person will need to spend some time in purgatory, expiating the residual stains of the sins that have been committed during their life. Archbishop Fulton Sheen once compared sin to nails being hammered into a board. When you go to confession, you are removing the nails from the board, but there are still marks and holes from where the sins entered. If you do not entirely purify yourself while on earth, those will need to be patched up in purgatory.

Patrick went on to differentiate the temporal effects due to sin between the natural and the supernatural. The temporal effects are consequences that we must sustain because of our actions, regardless of whether or not we have been forgiven. For example, if you were to attempt a bank robbery and end up getting arrested and convicted, you would be sentenced to time in prison. Even if you confess that sin of attempted robbery in confession, you must still suffer the effects of your actions on earth. And when you die, you may be required to spend time in purgatory, purifying yourself through supernatural temporal punishment as well.

St. Paul in Chapter 3 of 1 Corinthians compares the works of a person to the construction of a temple. When you enter your particular judgment before God, your bad works will consist of hay, wood, and straw. And your good works will consist of gold, silver, and precious stones. That temple will be built with your works upon the foundation of Jesus Christ and when it is set aflame and the bad works are burnt away through purgatory, will your temple still be standing?

On earth, we have the opportunity to wipe our sins away through confession and purify ourselves of temporal punishment through fasting, mortifications, sacrifice, and prayer. But once we die, we are no longer capable of doing anything for ourselves. Purification at that point will be something that is done to us. That is why we pray for the souls in purgatory in the rosary and why we offer things up for them. They are stranded for that set time of purification unless we help them.

Tune in to The Patrick Madrid Show weekdays from 8am – 11am CT

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.