We do not actually know that any one human soul is in hell. And we can make that statements despite that fact that the Church teaches that mortal sin is possible and, more or less, probable.
This is a curious thing.
People are in mortal sin in this life. Yet we know not if they die that way.
Indeed, I understand full well the appeals that we ought to convert our hearts at any time, because we could die at any time.
But what becomes immediately more curious is that, if I tried to pass from the statement there are souls in mortal sin to the statement there are souls in hell, I would have to pass by death. Yet… I haven’t passed by death. I haven’t gone that way yet. In fact, it’s the last enemy to be destroyed. And it certainly hasn’t been destroyed in me.
Two things are certain about any attempt to go from the statement there are souls in mortal sin to the statement there are souls in hell:
- It’s a claim about death.
- It’s a claim about divine providence, which is actually great enough to order the world.
God is providence. If we have digested this by practically and truly throwing our entire lives into his hands, it becomes increasingly easier to believe that God has some sort of game plan. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. That’s the plan. Does the devil only get to run the world for time, whereas for all eternity death is destroyed and all providence guides us through this world, even at the last seconds of life? Is there a game plan to apply the sufferings of the Church to grab souls in some process of death, in things that happen in their final hours, in many hidden ways? I do not know. But I can hope. I can desire and be firm to obtain something arduous. (That’s the same as saying I can hope.) Jesus, use all my will, all my sufferings, for this end. You came to save us. Nothing matters more for the application of any merits I and your Church may have: just save us, somehow, every one of us at whatever time it becomes possible and by whatever ordering of physical, spiritual, and social events by divine providence. Give us the strength to get it done, the will to will it, the hope to hope it, and the love to crown and enliven it all.