“Ask a Priest: What If Fatima Makes Me Fear That I Will Be a Lost Soul?”

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 Q: I have been very depressed after learning that Our Beautiful Lady showed the three Fatima children hell. She said, “This is where the souls of poor sinners go.” The children saw demons and horrible things! If Jesus died for our sins and many believe this, why would our loving God send so many souls to hell? Furthermore, Jacinta was very affected by what she saw and prayed and suffered to save other souls from going to hell. Or is it possible Our Lady showed them purgatory? Are there demons in purgatory? This really has been bothering me because, frankly, it scares me very much. I am afraid even though I believe in Jesus and believe he died for my sins, that isn’t enough, and I too will be sent to hell. Not a good feeling! – P.F.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Although hell and the prospect of going there are very sobering realities, they shouldn’t overshadow the hope that we rightly have in Christ and in his power to help us overcome evil.

In regard to your questions: First, it is more accurate to say that souls choose hell by their disobedience to God’s ways.

It’s not so much that God “sends souls to hell,” like some vengeful strongman who relishes hurling the damned into the belly of a white-hot furnace. Rather, the Almighty respects the free will that he gives each one of us. And if a person freely rejects God, and dies in a state of mortal sin, then that soul will simply feel the consequences of its fateful decision.

Incredible as it sounds, God loves even the souls in hell. For it is outside his nature to hate anyone. The torment of lost souls is the fruit of their having freely rejected God’s love.

True, Jesus died for our redemption. He paid the price of our sins. But that doesn’t mean we are off the hook totally. We must do our part and live lives in accord with God’s commandments.

Let’s move to the next point. The Fatima children never said that Our Lady showed them purgatory; they were clear that they were given a vision of hell. In any case, there are no demons in purgatory. Purgatory is a place of purification, a place that prepares souls for their eventual entrance into heaven.

Our own striving for heaven can be a tough journey. But that is one reason why Jesus gives us the Church with its teachings to guide us and the sacraments to strengthen us.

Stay close to prayer, the sacraments, and works of charity, and you can be sure that you are on the right path. To help you go deeper in the spiritual life, consider some of the RC Spirituality resources, such as the retreat guides — there is even one that addresses the topics of hell and purgatory directly, “Fire of Mercy” — and the RC Daily Meditations.

Other helpful resources could include “The Better Part” and “A Guide to Christian Meditation.”

And as you stay on this path your sense of peace and your confidence in Our Lord will grow. Stay close to Mary, too. She was there to help the Fatima trio. She will be there to help you.

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