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October 28, 2005

Suffrages for Hitler

Or, the downside of the hope for universalism.

If it is possible that God saves every person, if we may hope for this, then it seems to me that the downside of this, the difficult part, is that there is an obligation on our part to see to it that these very unlikeable people are eventually prayed out of purgatory.

I know that I get slight queasy at the thought of praying Hitler out of purgatory. That's because I lack charity. I can apply suffrages to my mother, my grandmother, a friend's mother or other relative, even to people who I don't know well who served humanity in a neutral-to-good fashion. But, oh how hard it is to think about my prayers going to help Hitler, before say a lesser Mother Teresa. You see my point--there are so many who seem so much more desrving.

Well, what I amply demonstrate in this post is the type of judgment I am supposed to avoid. I have determined who is worthy and who is unworthy of the prayers for release from purgatory. I decide, I judge.

Lord, spare me from my own judgment. God alone knows who is "worthy" or who requires anything whatsoever, and it is He who decides how the trinkets we call prayers and suffrages are used in the economy of salvation. I am not allowed that liberty.

And so, it is best not to examine the matter too closely. It is best to pray our prayers and let God let them go where they go (except as they are especially needed for one of our own acquaintance.) When we pray for the poor souls in purgatory, it is better to cast a blanket of anonymity over the proceedings so that we are not inclined to judgment or to withholding the good we can do.

I know that no one ever gives this serious consideration. I haven't up until recently, and after this post, it will sink back down into the background. But I think the Lord raised the issue so I could be intellectually honest. My reaction to this thought shows me that I am not so inclined to hope for Universal Salvation if I must do something about it for those who I think probably don't deserve it. Or probably better said, for those who fall low on my list of people I would like to serve in any way.

Posted by Steven Riddle at October 28, 2005 9:03 AM

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I have a soft spot in my heart for the former apostle Judas. Is it bad that I pray for his soul? :)

Posted by: Tony Miller at October 28, 2005 11:18 AM

I always thought that was why when the apostles asked how many were going to heaven, Jesus told them to "never you mind; just worry about your ownselves" (or words to that effect). Words I try to remember when getting into this sort of thinking.

Posted by: Julie D. at October 28, 2005 12:14 PM

Dear Tony,

In answer, no, I don't think it's bad to pray for Judas or Hitler or anyone else. It's just that sometimes it strikes you that maybe those prayers for Hitler are better spent for the Canonization of the Blessed Mother Teresa or for my grandmother or . . .

That's what I am fighting against--no prayer is ever wasted or ever worthless and we cannot allow ourselves to think about the potential recipients, we simply pray.



Posted by: Steven Riddle at October 28, 2005 12:43 PM

Tony, I also have grieved for Judas, but never thought about praying him out of purgatory. Perhaps I will do that. Hopefully, he is at the Banquet table dining with our Lord.

Steven, it's laudable that you would feel the necessity of praying for Hitler. However, if God doesn't know Hitler, someone not nice might know him that you wouldn't want to make spiritual contact with. Rather appropriate for Halloween, isn't it?

Posted by: psalm 41 at October 28, 2005 12:50 PM

Dear Psalm 41,

Perhaps I am naive, but it would seem that Prayers addressed to God get to Him without undue interference. If God does not know Hitler (an exigency I cannot imagine as God is omniscient) the worst that will happen is that the charity accorded one in a state not to receive it will be somehow reallocated. So I'm not much in fear of asking for anything from our Father.

You bring up an interesting and completely irresolvable point about the state of those who might not have made it to heaven. I honestly don't think much about this, maintaining instead my hope that all will make it, some will just take a good deal longer than others. It could be wrong, a gross misunderstanding, but I don't think it is wrong to hope it--merely wrong to assert that it is, in fact, true. Seems to me that the way one reads the overall message of scripture in the New Testament would affect how one came down on the question of salvation.



Posted by: Steven Riddle at October 28, 2005 3:11 PM

This could be why St. Louis de Montfort recommends that we offer at least some of our prayers through Mary. She doubtless finds it less difficult to pray for certain people than we. Until I read it here, I'd never even conceived of praying for either Hitler or Judas.

Posted by: jack perry at October 28, 2005 4:00 PM

If I were to subconsciously or consciously pray for Hitler's soul, my mind wouldn't be savoring those aspects of his soul that were excellent, gracious, worthy of praise, pure, lovely, admirable, but would be dwelling on the skies blackened from the smoke of burning bodies. I'm sure Satan is delighted when my mind travels to those places. It boggles my mind that all six million souls that were exterminated would have to forgive Hitler for them all to dine at the same Banquet Table.

Posted by: psalm 41 at October 28, 2005 4:12 PM

Dear Psalm 41--

Yes, that is the true miracle of grace--because in Hitler it looms large, but the same is true for each of us who hurts countless others in our daily pursuits.

But because we cannot conceive of it does not mean it cannot be done. And when we offer prayers for those in purgatory IF Hitler is there, those prayers go for him as well as all the rest. That's kind of my point. Unless I know of a specific need, it is better for me to focus on the suffering souls in purgatory than to imagine the individual cases. And Jack's suggestion about offering them through Mary, mediatrix of Graces is also salutary. But every prayer for the poor souls help all of them (one assumes, or at least whomever God in the economy of salvation intends them to help--so it's good to focus merely on those suffering rather than contemplating the specific case.)


As to Judas, I have a special affinity for him and pray for and ultimately through him to Jesus. I don't see how Jesus would allow one of His own to be lost, especially at that remove. I don't know His fate, but I know that I participate in his sin regularly. So if he is with Jesus, he would be a good one to pray for me. If he is not, I do not know that he is beyond the realm of grace. It's a curious world when you look at the subtleties.



Posted by: Steven Riddle at October 28, 2005 5:22 PM

Regarding your comments on Judas, me too, Steven, I betray Jesus every day. Thank you for your comments -- I always leave your site well fed!

Posted by: psalm 41 at October 28, 2005 5:38 PM

I know how you feel Steven, in regards to praying for Hitler.I experienced such discomfort when it was put upon my heart to pray for John Gacy.
In doing so, I came to understand that the hour of the Holy Spirit comes for everyone even the Hitlers, the Gacys and the Bundys of the world.

Posted by: Moibear at October 28, 2005 6:41 PM

I knew a very pious old priest who said Mass once a year for the soul of Judas Iscariot.

Posted by: Fr Jim Tucker at October 29, 2005 12:26 AM

In the vein of Jack's post; I offer all my prayers through the Blessed Virgin and leave it up to her how to dispense any graces. Mother knows who needs the prayer most and when; I trust her to take care of me and mine in the long run.

Another thing I practice sometimes (wehn the thought occurs to me) is to pray for the repose of saints. Nothing said that they didn't have to do time in Purgatory, and since we are dealing with the eternal, my prayers may have helped get them out; if so, they OWE me! ;)

Posted by: Rick Lugari at October 29, 2005 2:18 PM

Dear Moibear,

Thanks for sharing that. I can't even begin to imagine. But then, I was led and still am to pray for Saddam Hussein's sons--Uday and Qusay. I don't even want to look at their record--too hideous to imagine. And yet, are they not also children of the Lord? That's what's so incredibly difficult.



Posted by: Steven Riddle at October 29, 2005 7:26 PM

I think I read somewhere that Judas was considered a Saint in an Eastern Church ... maybe the Copts?

Posted by: Steve at October 30, 2005 7:58 AM

I gather that it used to be a big thing for Catholic kids to play around with the system for praying for the poor souls in purgatory -- one time praying for the folks who were closest to getting out, another time for the folks who were least close -- and debating which souls would be more useful and grateful in their prayer in return. And so forth.

This kind of prayer is all in good fun, but when you personalize it to Hitler, Stalin, etc, the whole thing takes on new meaning.

Posted by: Maureen at November 2, 2005 11:21 AM

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