Dear Father Angelo
I am reaching out to you as I would like to have a clarification on a doubt that I’ve been having for some time on the conversion of others. I read that in Fatima the Virgin Mary said that “many people go to hell because there are none who pray for them”, but isn’t it a limit to God’s omnipotence somehow?
Let me clarify this:
Provided that Jesus died on the cross to save us all (therefore it is in his interest to save also the farthest), why does he need our prayers for their salvation?
If He is omnipotent and his first interest is to save everyone, then logically he should take care of it without needing to make their salvation dependent on our prayers. To some extent this is a limit to his omnipotence.
Thank you in advance for your reply and for your prayers which I reciprocate.
I remember you to the Lord and I bless you.
Answer from the priest
1. Salvation doesn’t consist in being transferred from one place to another, like when we transfer an object.
Salvation consists in loving the Lord, being connected to Him and possessing Him.
Nobody can love if he doesn’t open his heart to the loved one. And this implies freedom.
There is nothing freer that our love.
It is precisely because of freedom that we choose to open the door of the heart and let in the people with whom we want to share goods.
2. God is omnipotent, indeed, but he made us free and treats us respecting our freedom. He surely does everything he can to get into our love. He seeks to be conquered in a manner infinitely greater than that with which the people of this world seek to win each other’s hearts.
But actually, God cannot be loved if we don’t open our hearts to Him.
3. In the Apocalypse we read: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, (then) I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Ap 3, 20).
In one of his sermons St. Augustine says: “He made you without you, he doesn’t justify you without you. So he made you without your knowing it, he justifies you with your willing consent to it. (Sermo 169, 11, 13).
4. While this is understandable when we talk about ourselves, we may wonder how our prayer can help our neighbor open the door of their heart to God.
The answer comes from St. Thomas, who reminds us that we are not like islands unto ourselves or monads without doors or windows, as Leibniz said, but we are one through charity.
Now it is precisely charity that enables the Holy Spirit to make the merits of one person intercommunicate with another, so that when we pray we are one body and one soul.
And so we help our neighbor open the door of their heart to God.
5. It can happen that our neighbor resists the motions of grace.
St. Thomas says that it sometimes happens that the prayer made for others does not impart (grace), even if it is made with piety, perseverance, and for things related to (eternal) salvation, because of the impediment existing on the part of the person concerned. In fact, in Jeremiah we read: “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before me, my heart would not turn toward this people” (Jer, 15, 1).
However, prayer remains meritorious for those who pray moved by charity.
Indeed, as regards to the words in the Psalm: “I prayed with my head bowed upon my bosom” (Psalm 35, 13), the Gloss comments as such: “though it profit them not, I am not deprived of my reward” (Summa Theologiae, II-II, 83, 7, ad 2).
6. In this case, our pious, humble, and persevering prayer has the ability to heap “coals of fire” on people obstinate in sin, as said by St. Paul in Rm 12, 2’.
These coals of fire are a symbol of burning pain – as reported in the Bible of Jerusalem – that is, of the remorse that leads the sinner to conversion.
And they are also a symbol of “love of charity” – as interpreted by St. Thomas – whereby God leads the sinner to grace in mysterious ways.
7. Therefore, we should spend our time praying for the salvation of all, especially for those who, as was taught at Fatima, are most in need of divine mercy.
I wish you all the best, I remind you to the Lord and I bless you.