"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned."
That sentence right there is one of the most overused yet WRONG sentences in Catholicism. The proper opening to Confession is "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned." The priest blesses. We don't forgive. Well, we do but we don't do the heavy-lifting, salvation dispensing forgiving. That's what God, and only God, can do.
It's right here in the Catechism:
Only God forgives sin
1441 Only God forgives sins.Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, "The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" and exercises this divine power: "Your sins are forgiven." Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.
When there is a tragedy, such as the bombing of the Boston Marathon, one may ask, "Are those who died going to Heaven?" Catholics ask the question, anyway.
First, we believe that who goes to Heaven and who does not is a judgement left to God. Again the Catechism:
1022: Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately, -- or immediate and everlasting damnation.
- At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.
The Church offers the WAY to sanctification and redemption. That is, the Church, the Bride of Christ, enables the Christian to follow the course to their own soul's salvation.
However, we do not believe that we are the JUDGE of who's going to Heaven or Hell. It is probably not the best course of action to not participate fully in the Church and it may even reflect an act against charity to refuse to participate, but all said and done, all the Church can say is that "we did the best we could for you".
And the next question is: Did you do the best you could have for yourself and your soul?
To help with that, consider these side questions:
When you thought you could do more for the needy, did you attempt to do something?
When you felt your soul hungry, did you do what you could to feed it? ie: Did you feel that you weren't challenging yourself enough spiritually, and put up challenges? Did you add more time for prayer to your morning? Did you abstain from a bad or sinful habit to the point it hurt? Did you practice patience? Did you make yourself available to be of service?
How you answer is personal. I think the questions should be asked. Often.
But that's literally between you and God..
Personally, there is a "too late" so I'd get on that sooner than later.
In relationship to Boston and this race we call life, I'd like to join St. Paul in saying:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.