Q: In parochial school, I learned that there is a particular judgment when a person dies and that there will also be a general judgment at the end of the world. Why? A discussion arose recently after the death of a beloved family member. My children had never heard of the two judgments. This made me question whether I remembered this correctly. Where can I find the Catholic Church’s teaching about this?
A: You remembered this teaching correctly. The part about the particular judgment affirms that God judges each person when he or she dies. The part about the general judgment recognizes three things, especially: 1) some people will still be alive when the world ends; 2) for those people, the particular judgment and general judgment will happen at the same time; and 3) God’s compassion and justice will eventually be fully revealed and vindicated.
God’s values can seem to be in the minority, but that will not always be the case. Those who have died and are in heaven (Sts. Kateri Tekakwitha and Marianne Cope, for example) will be reunited with their glorified bodies after the general judgment. Jesus and his mother simply have a head start in that regard. We entrust all the deceased to God’s mercy.
Sections 668 through 682 and 1038 through 1041 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church describe the general judgment. Sections 1021 and 1022 describe the particular judgment.