We know, from the teaching of Holy Mother Church, that there are a great multitude of citizens of Heaven : the Saints.
However, of that huge number – and with the possible exception of S. Peter, whom we may say we know of by implication – there is only one of whom we can say that we know he is in Heaven by the express statement of our Blessed Lord : and that is S. Dismas, the ‘Penitent Thief’, to whom Our Lord Himself, on the Cross, said ‘this day you shall be with Me in paradise’.
S. Dismas’ claim to paradise was his contrition, and his acceptance of the punishment he was suffering : and it was this example that S. Joseph Cafasso used to such great effect in his ministry to the condemned which earned him the title ‘the Priest of the Gallows’.
S. Joseph used to urge on the condemned the fact that, by their willing acceptance of their fate, and their offering it to God out of love, and in reparation for their sins, they too could find their way to the joys of Heaven; and his successes with the condemned in this way were legendary.
The fact is that accepting whatever God brings you willingly, out of love for Him, is a short-cut to Heaven : and it is a path which his open to far more of us than we may realize.
The drug addict or the alcoholic, for example, facing the horrors of withdrawal; the person suffering years of chronic lower back pain; the elderly lady crippled by arthritis; the dying patient in the agonies of terminal cancer : all of them can, perhaps, gain some comfort from recognizing that they are sharing in some little way in Christ’s suffering. More than that, though, if they can manage – even if only in prospect – to accept their sufferings out of love for God, and in reparation for their sins (as well as for whatever good Intentions they may choose), then – as S. Joseph made very clear to those he guided – Our Lord will treasure that acceptance, and use it to sanctify them so that He will in due course welcome His suffering servants into paradise.