View all Ask a Priest |
“Ask a Priest: What Can I Say to a Grieving Widow With No Faith?”
Q: When my brother-in-law died, it was sudden but not unexpected as he was in poor health. My sister called me as I’m her closest relative, just a few blocks away. She was and is devastated. She has been agnostic for most of her life. They were married in the Catholic Church, though he wasn’t Catholic. I’m at a loss on how to console her since she has no faith. Of course, I’m praying for them behind the scenes. Anyway, what happens to him? I’ve read somewhere that at moment of death God will give you the opportunity to finally say yes to him. I’m praying that this is true. Any words of wisdom? Thank you. – G.W.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: I’m sorry to hear about the death of your brother-in-law.
We can’t really guess the state of someone’s soul, including those who didn’t seem to have faith. God alone knows the heart and mind of each person.
Perhaps your brother-in-law was secretly searching for truth and trying to live the best way he knew how. God takes all of that into account and is as merciful as he can be at the particular judgment.
And at the moment of death the Almighty could give a person a special grace to say yes to him. We can always hope.
In the meantime, it would be good to pray for your sister and brother-in-law, and to let your sister know that you are praying for the both of them.
This sudden death might be an occasion for your sister to reconsider some of her own beliefs, or lack of them. At this moment she might even be more open to hearing about our hope in eternal life.
You might try mentioning to her and that the love she had for her husband is a taste of the love that God has for each of us.
Indeed, the love that couples have for each other can give them a sense of something higher than themselves that unites them. This, too, is a taste of the Almighty, for “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
You might try explaining at an opportune moment why you are praying for her husband. Our prayers for the dead are our sign of faith in a heaven, and they express our hope for the resurrection of all the deceased someday.
Above all, it would be good to just reassure your sister of your love for her. If helpful, you might pass on books that speak about the faith and/or the afterlife. Two suggestions would be Heaven, the Heart’s Deepest Longing and Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven.
I hope some of this helps.
Keep learning more with Ask a Priest
Got a question? Need an answer?
Today’s secular world throws curve balls at us all the time. AskACatholicPriest is a Q&A feature that anyone can use. Just type your question HERE and you will get a personal response back from one of our priests at RCSpirituality. You can ask about anything – liturgy, prayer, moral questions, current events… Our goal is simply to provide a trustworthy forum for dependable Catholic guidance and information. So go ahead and ask your question…