December 12, 2003

From FirstThings (Fr. Benedict Groeschel Letter to Editor):
Avery Cardinal Dulles’ characteristically clear and comprehensive article “The Population of Hell” (May) brings home a concern that many of us share with even saintly people of the past. The question of the salvation of the apparent unbeliever or of the marginal—the publicans and the harlots who Christ says will enter the kingdom of heaven before us—is often a very personal one. Most of us have friends and relatives on or off the spiritual edge. Cardinal Dulles did not refer to one important aspect of this question, perhaps because he takes the approach of the theologian. There is something to be learned from the private revelations of the mystics, whose unusual experiences of the divine have been approved by the Church.

The source of information is, of course, uneven; it is also easily dismissed and therefore often overlooked. In our time one private revelation has received the highest possible ecclesiastical approval with the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska, a humble Polish nun who left an interesting record of her encounters with Christ as the embodiment of Divine Mercy. She recorded experiencing symbolic conversations of the Merciful Savior with a variety of types: the fervent soul, the suffering soul, and finally the despairing soul. In a remarkable account, which includes an important reference to prevenient grace and which leaves the soul free to accept or reject salvation, St. Faustina describes how an apparently lost soul is called by Christ himself at the hour of death. I included this remarkable passage from St. Faustina’s Diary in my book The Cross at Ground Zero, and it proved to be an immense consolation to many who lost dear ones on 9/11.

Is it in totally bad taste to suggest that we might consider, partly on the basis of St. Faustina’s revelation, that there may be a final divine call to conversion at the hour of death? Could this be the meaning of the promise of salvation given to the good thief on his cross? He did not walk in the straight way or enter by the narrow gate, but we have it on the highest authority that he is not to be counted among the population of hell.
More correspondence here.

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