“Ask a Priest: Could So Many Souls Really Be Lost?”

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Q: Christ’s deepest desire and intention of his Sacred Heart is for the salvation of souls. Certainly, as followers of Jesus, we are called to be prayer warriors and intercessors for lost souls, especially for those in our own families. I am troubled because it seems to me that the vast majority of people, even those who call themselves Christians, live as if they have no concern for their immortal souls or simply believe they are merely material beings. So many are apparently ignorant unbelievers, probably in many cases through their unfortunate home or cultural environment. Can we hope that in God’s mercy, Christ will save many of these who are at least of good will? Can we hope that, since assent is required, that maybe as they are suspended between time and eternity and in their last moments be given a blinding awareness of reality and of the understanding they were so lacking in and be given an opportunity to come to Jesus? It seems incredible to me that so many should be condemned to suffer horribly for eternity due to ignorance or blindness even of their own making. I have been praying for this. Am I wrong? – L.W.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Thanks for your concern about the many lost sheep out there.

You touch on a very serious question. The culture around us is a mess, and many people seem lost.

The Church doesn’t say what percentage of souls might be lost. We do have Jesus’ warnings about the narrow path (Matthew 7:13-14), which needs to be taken seriously.

The short answer to your question is: We can always hope for the salvation of souls. We can hope that they receive a special grace to repent before their death. (I’m not sure what you mean by people being “suspended between time and eternity.” Once a person dies, his time for decision is over.) In any case, we shouldn’t presume that everyone will be given the grace of a deathbed conversion.

God is all-loving, but he doesn’t force his love on anyone.

Maybe the best thing to do is to continue to pray for souls and offer up sacrifices for them.

You might look for ways to help with catechesis, especially with young people.

Moreover, you might think about ways to evangelize in the parish. That could include everything from Eucharistic adoration for vocations to door-to-door evangelization.

The key here is not to get discouraged. You want to burn your energy in a good way, by sharing the Gospel. For ideas, check out https://streetevangelization.com/.

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