Controversy over predestination led to wars and schisms during the Protestant Reformation. For Catholics today, it may feel like a daunting topic best avoided. It wasn’t something I understood well until a priest explained it in a simple way in a homily. The Church’s teaching on predestination boils down to three core principles.
(1) God desires that everyone be saved. To think otherwise is to think that God is not completely loving. But we know from the Bible that God is loving and merciful, and we know from the Passion of Jesus that there is no limit to God’s love, and no limit to what God would do to save us.
“Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind.” (Saint Catherine of Siena, as quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 313)
(2) God knows who will be saved. God is all-knowing and all-loving. Before you or I or anyone else was born, God knew if we would embrace Him or reject Him. For every soul on earth right now, God knows where that person will spend eternity.
“To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy.” (CCC, 600)
(3) God gives everyone the grace they need for their conversion and salvation. This follows from the first premise, that God is loving and desires for all to be saved. God makes His grace available to all. Some souls say yes to God’s grace and allow Him to gradually conform their hearts to His will. Others harden their hearts like Pharaoh – they say no to God’s grace and reject God’s offer of salvation from sin and evil.
“When therefore [God] establishes his eternal plan of ‘predestination,’ he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace.” (CCC, 600)
Saint Faustina wrote that “every single grace comes to a soul through prayer.” (Diary of Saint Faustina, 146) Not only do we receive graces through prayer, but others receive graces when we pray for them. Saint Faustina once had a dream where she spoke with Saint Therese of Lisieux. Faustina asked Therese if she would go to heaven, and Therese replied that she would. Faustina asked if her parents would go to heaven, and Therese replied that they would. Faustina asked if her siblings would go to heaven. “She told me to pray hard for them, but gave me no definite answer. I understood that they were in need of much prayer.” (Diary, 150)
Our prayers can help other souls be saved. God hears our pleas and bestows His graces so we can repent and be saved. The Divine Mercy Chaplet is an especially powerful prayer for salvation. The prayer of Saint Gertrude below is a short but powerful prayer for the conversion of sinners and for souls in purgatory.
Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.
Image: The Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Francesco Botticini (downloaded from Wikipedia Commons).