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Dear Father Angelo,

I am writing to you for a spiritual question about which I found few answers and many doubts!

First of all I will introduce myself. I’m Davide and I’m a catholic and practising christian.

I want to submit to you an interesting but little debated question: does the soul keep its rationality, its memories, its intellectual knowledge after the separation from the body? When I’ll die and leave my body, will I keep the memory of my identity, my memories, my good and bad worldly experiences, my language, my knowledge? Or will these faculties and qualities disappear in the moment of death, otherwise the soul will survive and ascend to heaven or go to hell or to purgatory?

Does God allow the cancellation of our past with death or the keeping of the soul’s rationality?

I read that Thomas of Aquinas wrote about this and said that intellectual faculties, memories and experiences keep alive also after the leaving of the soul. What is the position of the doctrine about this question? Do we leave our faculties? In the future life, after the resurrection, will the righteous people have the opportunity to learn new things, languages or get some faculties which we cannot have in the corruptible body?  

I anxiously wait for your answer and I cordially greet you and I hug you in Jesus Christ!

Thanks and I wish you a good life!

Answer of the priest


1. With death the soul survives because it is spiritual and so immortal.

The soul survives with its faculties, which are intellect and will.

2. The intellect and the will survive with the whole wealth of knowledge acquired during the previous life and with the whole virtuous luggage of will. Saint Jerome wrote in a letter to Paolino:”Let us learn on earth that kind of knowledge which will remain with us in heaven” (Ep. 53).  

And Saint Thomas wrote:”The habits of knowledge are placed in the intellect but they remain in the separated soul” (The Summa Theologica, I, 89, 5). 

3. Saint Thomas looked for an answer to this question: do acts of science which we acquire in this life remain in the separated soul? He answered positively, basing his answer on what Abraham says to the rich man placed in hell: ”Remember that you received what was good during your lifetime” (Luke 16,25). 

4. They don’t certainly remain with the sensible images because sensible images are lost due to the corruption of the body, but “ through the intelligible species acquired in this life the soul apart from the body can understand what it understood formerly, but in a different way; not by turning to phantasms, but by a mode suited to a soul existing apart from the body.

Thus the act of knowledge here acquired remains in the separated soul, but in a different way” (The Summa Theologica, I, 89, 6).

5. Nor does the separation of the body prevents us from seeing in the distance because in the Gospel is written that the rich man “where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off” (Lc 16,23).
“Therefore local distance does not impede knowledge in the separated soul” (The Summa Theologica, I, 89, 7 sed contra).

6. About the knowledge of what happens in this world Saint Gregory says that “saintly souls intimately see God’s plainness so nothing which they can ignore is out of their mind” (Moralia, 12,21).
In fact, Saint Gregory says “that the souls of the blessed who see God do know all that passes here. For they are equal to the angels, of whom Augustine says that they know what happens among those living on earth. But as the souls of the blessed are most perfectly united to Divine justice, they do not suffer from sorrow, nor do they interfere in worldly affairs, except in accordance with Divine justice (The Summa Theologica, I, 89, 8).

8. Finally they are able to know all that is knowable in God, all idioms, all science and technical secrets.
According to theologists this is a part of the accidental bliss which is not identified with divine essence. The participation to this bliss depends on the grade of charity accomplished on the earth.

I wish you that all this happens also to you, I accompany you with my prayer and I bless you.

Father Angelo