He was a fallen-away Catholic. Very fallen away, if the things my sister told me were true (and I do not doubt her word). I prayed for the salvation of his soul before he died, and I continue to do so. I try not to wonder whether he escaped hell.
My sister died quite a few years before her husband did, but at least I feel more of a sense of hope where she is concerned. She was not Catholic – we were all baptized in the Episcopal Church, though. She had returned to a semblance of Christian belief in the few years preceding her death, and on her death bed she did profess a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, and our Savior…though I wasn’t Catholic at the time, and both of us had a rather weak theological understanding of the issue, I think.
My brother-in-law, though…I don’t know. As a non-Catholic Christian, I once sent him a card asking him to think about Heaven and Hell, and to return to a Christian understanding of death and the afterlife. I don’t know whether that made any difference to him; we never discussed it.
I had had very little contact with him for several years before his death; in fact, I didn’t even know he had been ill (with cancer) when I received the news that he had died. I hold little hope for the notion that he repented and contacted a priest, though, because he didn’t have a Catholic funeral, and he had been in a position to request such if he had wanted to.
When I think about him, and other people I know who died with no faith, I feel an intense horror. I think about what it’s like to die and stand before God; I think about what it’s like in purgatory, and what pain and agony those souls are enduring – but with Heaven in sight. I can barely stand to think about the ones I know who might possibly be in hell. Eternity…hell…despair… The thought makes me tremble and feel sick.
But we must always hope, mustn’t we? We must always pray. I pray for my brother-in-law daily. I hope that my prayers over many years before his death resulted in some sort of encounter with Our Blessed Mother, perhaps, as in some stories of the Miraculous Medal.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.