The Mercy of God: A truth for some uncomfortable, even offensive.

There is no sin so horrible that we little mortals can commit which our infinite and willing God will not forgive, provided we truly repent and seek forgiveness.

The ordinary means of God definitively extending His mercy to us in a way which we can depend on is the Sacrament of Penance.

I picked this up from the blog Good Jesuit Bad Jesuit:

Soon after his appointment, Archbishop Wojtyla approached Jesuit theologian Ignatius Rozycki and asked him to review Sister Faustina’s writings. Initially skeptical, Fr. Rozycki spent ten years in an exhaustive study of the Sister and her notebooks, which the Vatican had condemned in 1958. Father Rozycki’s findings were published and the prohibition lifted in 1978. Beatified in 1992, St. Faustina was canonized in the year 2000; on the latter occasion Pope John Paul II declared the first Sunday after Easter “Divine Mercy Sunday.”
A few weeks ago I came upon a thought-provoking homily by Father Matthew Kelty, O.C.S.O., which was given on Divine Mercy Sunday, 2006. It seems that during the former Commandant’s solitary confinement in Krakow, where he awaited execution for his war crimes, Rudolph Hoess heard the bells of the local Carmel and was reminded of the Faith he had observed as a child but had long since rejected. He called for a German-speaking priest.

The local Jesuit provincial, Fr. Ladislav Lohn, S.J., went to the convent of Sister Faustina and asked the Sisters to pray earnestly while he went to hear the prisoner’s confession. In the end Hoess was reconciled with the Church and received Holy Communion. Later Hoess wrote his wife and five children, expressed sorrow for his crimes, and begged forgiveness of the people of Poland. Hoess was executed April 16, 1947.

In his homily, Father Kelty contends that, though he may rightly spend an eternity in Purgatory, by the mercy of God even a man like Rudolph Hoess could be saved. This is an uncomfortable truth for some, even offensive to those whose sense of justice could be satisfied with nothing less than eternal damnation for such a “monster.”

Link (here)

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Moscatelli says:

    “spend an eternity in purgatory”?

  2. Nicole says:

    Perhaps it’s figurative, Moscatelli? Like hyperbole or something?

  3. TZ says:

    I suppose it might feel like an eternity.

    I’d be grateful nonetheless.

  4. At the Hour of Death
    When I entered my solitude, I heard these words: At the hour of their death, I defend as My own glory every soul that will say this chaplet; or when others say it for a dying person, the pardon is the same. When this chaplet is said by the bedside of a dying person, God’s anger is placated, unfathomable mercy envelops the soul, and the very depths of My tender mercy are moved for the sake of the sorrowful Passion of My Son (Diary, 811).
    The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is so powerful. I was at the bedside of my brother as he lay dying at the young age of 47. He’d suffered for several years and now it was his time. I had just finished praying the chaplet and uttering a prayer to St. Benedict when his labored breathing changed to three soft and short breaths through his nostrils and then, he was gone. What a beautiful and peaceful look he had on his face. I felt a rush of peace go through me; something I never felt the likes of before. I knew he’d hit the safety net because, first of all, Jesus promised, and he’d had not only the chaplet I’d prayed for him, which was sufficient, but those of my mother and many others, who were praying for him as well.

    We propagate the Divine Mercy in our forum. Mr. Joe Walker, whose daughter, Sarah Anne Walker, a realtor, was stabbed over 30 times, posts a short thought from St. Faustina’s Diary on a daily basis. One of the first things I do in the morning is go into that forum and get my dose of Divine Mercy for the day.

    Mr Joe Walker prays the chaplet for the man on death row that murdered his daughter. At the man’s trial, Mr. Joe asked the court not to give the murderer the death penalty but death is what the court ordered. We can all learn a lesson from Mr. Walker on the true devotion to Divine Mercy.

    You can read here about it. Joe’s message to us on the morning he went to court is quite inspiring.

  5. brotherfee says:

    We can hope that at the final judgement, God’s infinite mercy will leave hell unpopulated and all souls will join him in heaven. But then, how do we explain this monster Hoess? A man who caused such suffering during his life.

    I do not know, I can glimpse God’s divine mercy, but I am at a loss to totally understand this man Hoess in heaven. This world can indeed be a most horrible place. I can just trust in God, I cannot fully know the Master’s plan, but I trust in Him. I beg for mercy and I wish mercy to all.

  6. digdigby says:

    Hoess knew God as a child and obviously had a Catholic formation and the baptism and confirmation that eternally configure very soul. His evil was so appalling that it defies comprehension, but that he should turn, at death, to all that remained ‘clean’ in his life is no wonder. I, on the other hand, fear for those of us raised with – nothing. Who do not even have what Hoess had. The children of irony, malls, ‘sexual freedom’ and ‘tolerance’.

  7. Legisperitus says:

    “We can hope that at the final judgement, God’s infinite mercy will leave hell unpopulated and all souls will join him in heaven. “

    Um, no, not since the Council of Constantinople in 543, we can’t.

    Ei tis ten teratode apokatastasis presbeuei anathema esto.

  8. Sodalis says:

    Thank you for pointing out this blog, Father. I’ve never visited Good Jesuit, Bad Jesuit before but, I must say, this was quite a thought provoking post.

    “Later Hoess wrote his wife and five children, expressed sorrow for his crimes, and begged forgiveness of the people of Poland.”

    I’m getting a 404 on the link above.

  9. APX says:

    My confessor was explaining this to me the other night. I didn’t know where he was going with it, and that he might have misunderstood me. It would appear I misunderstood him. Now I get where he was going.

  10. Cathy says:

    What a glorious gift is God’s mercy! In these times I often hear asked, how long will God put up with us? It does seem to be a great paradox, that the Lord who sent a flood to destroy the unjust in the time of Noah, would provide for us the revelation of a great flood of grace and mercy upon us, that the unjust man could be restored in the flood of His mercy. As well, in the time of Abraham, the Lord who sent a great fire to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah whose crimes cried out to Heaven for vengeance, has revealed the great fire of Purgatory by which the great sinner who cries out for His mercy at the hour of death is offered reconciliation and restoration in the fire of His love.

    There are two statements the Lord makes in St. Faustina’s diary that really helped this weak-kneed sinner approach the Lord’s mercy.
    723 – “The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to my Mercy.”

    300 – “Oh, how much I am hurt by a soul’s distrust! Such a soul professes that I am Holy and Just, but does not believe that I am Mercy and does not trust in My Goodness. Even the devils glorify My Justice but do not believe in My Goodness.

    My Heart rejoices in this title of mercy.”

    These revelations, the Our Father, the Fatima prayer at the end of the Rosary, and the scriptural revelation that God wills not the death of any sinner, were great gifts in helping me with a great psychological and spiritual agony in dealing with a man, the step-father of a friend, who abused me when I was young. It’s hard to explain, but a trauma can be so deep that once remembered, and I remembered it daily, can capture you so completely that it is much like a prison and a constant torment. The only relief was in forgiving the man and offering a prayer of hope, not presumption, that this man, too, would be saved by the Lord’s mercy. What a grace and gift of mercy to be freed from this torment!

  11. ivan_the_mad says:

    Amazing! I will pray for Hoess’ salvation today.

  12. Maltese says:

    A great book about Purgatory is Hungary Souls; there are those who will remain there until the general resurrection, and there are degrees nearly as painful as hell. It is good to emphasize God’s mercy, but let us not forget that He is a just judge and an eternally perfect Being who judges not through the prism of man’s praxis. We should take Christ’s words seriously: …wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat.

  13. ContraMundum says:

    I’ll be so bold as to speculate that those who are “offended” at the idea of God showing mercy even to the likes of Hoess have never made a habit of an examination of conscience.

    But Jesus hearing it, said: They that are in health need not a physician, but they that are ill. Go then and learn what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. For I am not come to call the just, but sinners.

  14. Kathy C says:

    Like a lot of people, I’ve got my own idea of what purgatory is. I picture it not just as the process of truly understanding and repenting of every sin, but as reconciling personally with every other person you ever injured in any way. Can you see the beauty of the greatest sinner after receiving the forgiveness of every person he hurt, and after forgiving himself for doing those hurts? I really believe that in heaven I could embrace the joyous, forgiven and loving Adolf Hitler, and rejoice in his salvation. That’s what I think about the people who have hurt me the worst, those that I’ve hated. When we’ve reconciled with each other, God, and ourselves, what’s left but joy?

  15. lh says:

    God is so good to us. His mercy for repentant sinners is beyond what we can comprehend. Thank You Lord for being so merciful.

  16. The link above to doesn’t work but this PDF seems to contain the same text.

  17. rcg says:

    An eternity in purgatory: There Rudolph Hoess has the joy of knowing God and His mercy. There are not punishments that over power that happiness and he bears the weight of his punishment gladly and waits patiently for the forgiveness of those he injured and killed. Remembering the parable of the Prodigal Son I can only imagine the chorus as Hoess kneels in eternal confession.

  18. Chester says:

    This is certainly hard to explain to an unbeliever. Perhaps even harder to explain is the case for a life lived well in love and morals (George Orwell for example) without acknowledging God’s part and perhaps losing heaven.

  19. ContraMundum says:

    @Kathy C

    That’s a nice image, but it only works if either (a) no one goes to Hell or (b) the people who go to Hell have not been wronged by those who ultimately make it to Heaven. That’s because the last option, (c) the people in Hell forgive those in Heaven who have wronged them, makes the inhabitants of Hell holier than we have any reason to expect. But (a) is not consistent with either Scripture or Tradition, and (b) seems impossible, too.

  20. He must have been speaking with hyperbolic language, because I can’t imagine someone spending eternity in purgatory. Is that possible according to the teaching of the Church?

    I love your point in this article, Father. It is indeed something that I’ve noticed makes some uncomfortable, because it stretches the boundaries of what we think of as the just being rewarded and the unjust being punished, boundaries that appear rigid to us. But I like to think of it this way: suppose a life-long sinner, who was never a part of the Church, clings to the Jesus Christ in the Church at the end of his life and is Baptized on his deathbed? He would go directly and immediately to Heaven, nothing would further be accounted to his record, his sin is annihilated in the Passion of Jesus Christ. There is indeed sorrow over a wasted life, but let us never forget that the mercy of Jesus Christ is indeed unfathomably real, and it is absolutely efficacious through His Sacraments. I think people find it difficult sometimes to reconcile the ‘hard’ nature of the justice and Nature of Almighty God that is (rightly) cultivated in Holy Mother Church (over and against the Protestant idea of ‘easy-believism’) with the fact that the eternal consequences of sin can indeed be ‘blotted out in a day,’ as the Lord says in Zechariah 2. And that thought should move us to tears at the Love of Christ, as it does for me.

    I have a very real understanding of this because I’m going to be Baptized into the Church as an adult fairly soon, so this sense of the removal of all sin in a day being the Will and the Mercy of God, and right, moves me greatly. I think we all need to rediscover this sense of God’s mercy anew.

  21. AnnAsher says:

    Thank you, Fr Z, for this post as well as another recent reminder about how the Sacrament of Penance erases the sins sincerely confessed; like a renewed baptism.
    Last evening my 18 year old son was asking me about attatchment to sin, how one knows one is forgiven if they recommitted the same sins again. He had come to believe as a result of the very serious sermons we receive at TLM (mostly a good thing) that he may as well give up confessing until he was going to get it right. He had come to believe things were worse for his soul by having confessed and recommitted whatever sin than if he just hadn’t confessed at all. (on a side note this event highlights to me how necessary it is to be at home together sometimes doing nothing so that deeply held concerns can be raised). It was a new revelation to my son hear to me say that what was confessed was washed away, completely, as if it hadnt happened otherwise we would be saying that Christ’s sacrifice is not sufficient.
    Now it is hard to then reconcile that fact with the theology of temporal punishment due to forgiven sins. Maybe someone could help there ?

  22. ContraMundum says:

    Yeah, it was pretty obviously hyperbole. The closest thing to it I am aware of is the assertion that the Blessed Virgin showed the children at Fatima that certain people would be in Purgatory “until the end of the world”. Even that could surely be reduced by applying indulgences on their behalf.

    On the other hand, even in the world of physics time is stranger than we usually think. What “time” means to a disembodied spirit in Purgatory, unable, for his sins, to operate his digital watch, is hard to say.

  23. Supertradmum says:

    Praise God for this mercy. One small sin in our eyes is a horrible defection when we are faced with the Holy Purity of Love Who is God. I am grateful for the Sacrament of Confession. Sadly, I have not lived in an area which has the Mercy Sunday prayers. We must take advantage of this time of mercy.

  24. wilky says:

    In the Wiki article on Hoess there is this disturbing remark,
    Höss began turning against religion in his early teens, after an episode in which, he said, his own priest broke the Seal of the Confessional by telling his father about an event at school that Höss had described during confession.

  25. Pingback: Hell and Mercy « Mundabor's Blog

  26. poohbear says:

    300 – “Oh, how much I am hurt by a soul’s distrust! Such a soul professes that I am Holy and Just, but does not believe that I am Mercy and does not trust in My Goodness. Even the devils glorify My Justice but do not believe in My Goodness. My Heart rejoices in this title of mercy.”

    Thank you, Cathy. I really needed to see this today!

    On topic, this is like the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Didn’t the workers who worked all day balk at the wages given to the workers who only worked an hour? Should we balk when a sinner is forgiven? I think we should all rejoice in the fact that even the most hardened sinners can be forgiven, that should give all of us hope.

  27. No wonder the devil inspires certain people with a rabid hatred of church bells.

  28. digdigby says:

    “He had come to believe as a result of the very serious sermons we receive at TLM (mostly a good thing) that he may as well give up confessing until he was going to get it right. He had come to believe things were worse for his soul by having confessed and recommitted whatever sin than if he just hadn’t confessed at all. ”

    BAD idea. I fell into this trap – IT LEADS TO DESPAIR. Go. Confess. Number and kind. Go again, confess. It teaches humility. Fall tomorrow, confess again. In whatever way he has offended God he has honored God with his confession, acknowledging “I did this’ with my mind or body when God made my mind or my body to do ‘that’. “

  29. Bender says:

    About Hoess, I am less concerned with understanding how someone such as him could be in heaven, given all the evil he did, than I am concerned with me getting into heaven — after all, I pounded the nails into the hands of Our Lord and, before that, viciously scourged Him. And then, when He might have appreciated having a friend nearby, I ran away. If God can forgive that, He can forgive Hoess.

  30. Francois de Cal. says:

    This story reminded me of my favourite parable that Our Lord told: the Prodigal Son. It always melts my heart.

    It also melts my heart to know that our converts are some of the most dedicated and stark defenders of the Church. God truly knows how to destroy evil and pay it back a hundred fold; first Eve, and then our Saints. Deo Gratias!

  31. brjeromeleo says:

    “an eternity in purgatory”? Surely it must have been hyperbole: purgatory ends at the end of time, so no one spends eternity there, though some could be in purgatory until the end of time. I hope Hoess is in heaven, I want mercy for him and for everyone, because I want it for myself. And today, Mercy Sunday, I received it when I received Communion.

  32. Sodalis says:

    Eamonn Gaines says: The link above to doesn’t work but this PDF seems to contain the same text.

    Thank you for this link. It was a very interesting read.

    wilky says: In the Wiki article on Hoess there is this disturbing remark,
    Höss began turning against religion in his early teens, after an episode in which, he said, his own priest broke the Seal of the Confessional

    This was actually addressed in some detail in the .pdf that Eamonn linked. I’ll post the relevant excerpt. How tragic.

    Following the birth of the couple’s second daughter Rudolf’s father took a vow of celibacy, promising to live with his wife henceforth as brother and sister, and dedicated his son to God as a priest. To cultivate this vocation Hoess senior took his son on pilgrimage to numerous shrines, including that at Lourdes. Priests were frequent visitors in the Hoess family home. Rudolf listened, he wrote, “in radiant rapture” to the tales of bearded missionaries who had known his father during the latter’s service in Africa. He “believed deeply”, took his religious duties seriously, and “was zealous as an altar boy.”7

    The first break in this atmosphere of hothouse piety came when Rudolf was thirteen. As he hurried downstairs at school with his classmates on a Saturday morning he accidently pushed another boy, causing him to break his ankle. Rudolf was punished with two hours’ detention. Conscientious as always, he mentioned his transgression in his weekly confession the same day. He did not report the incident at home, however, not wishing “to spoil Sunday for my parents”, as he wrote, adding: “They would learn about it soon enough during the coming week.”

    The same evening his confessor, a good friend of his father, visited the family. The following morning Rudolf’s father scolded and punished him for not reporting the pushing incident right away. Since the family telephone was out of order, there had been no other visitors, and none of his classmates lived in their neighborhood, Rudolf concluded that the priest must have broken the seal of the confessional. “My faith in the holy profession of priesthood was smashed and doubts began to stir ithin me,” Hoess wrote. “After this incident I could no longer trust any priest.”8 He changed confessors and soon stoppe going to confession altogether.

  33. Trad Dad says:

    Read the diary of Saint Faustina , no scepticism of God`s Mercy can remain . One priest of my acquaintance offers Mass for the repose of the soul of Henry VIII .
    God`s Mercy is extended to sinners – don`t all of us fall into that category ?
    Pax et bonum .
    From Our Lady`s Land of the Southern Cross .

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  35. Ambrose Jnr says:

    Considering that universal salvation was condemned in a previous council (the Council of Constantinople in 543 according to a reader above [thanks for this tip, btw, since I had heard about this anathema, but didn’t know where it came from]), is not the right attitude of a Catholic/Orthodox believer to have eagerly hoped for Hitler etc. repenting during their lifetime, but not after it, bearing in mind that there is no account of any repentance on Hitler’s side and that he committed suicide, so that reasonably speaking we should not expect to see Hitler in purgatory or heaven, although we can’t be sure about it and trust God’s mercy in line with his justice having been done…

  36. ContraMundum says:

    @Ambrose Jnr

    I think we can hope for each soul (even, as an extremely long shot, Hitler’s — see CCC 2283) but not every soul. We can pray for everyone even though we know not everyone will be saved — because we do not know who will and who will not be saved.

  37. Legisperitus says:

    We do have public revelation to the effect that one specific person, Judas Iscariot, was not saved. Our Lord called him “the son of perdition” and said it would be better for him if he had never been born. Pretty clear indication that Judas won’t be enjoying the Beatific Vision in the end. But for anyone else, there’s always hope.

  38. joecct77 says:

    If St. Peter, who denied Christ 3 times even though he knew Him to be the Son of God, can be forgiven, anyone can.

    Judas only had to ask, but was afraid.

  39. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Obviously, the priest could have heard about the pushing incident from schoolteachers or kids, outside the confessional. Obviously the father could have heard from all sorts of sources also. But it goes to show that we have to be a bit discreet about this sort of thing, because an urge to be over-intimate can lead both to asking things we’ve got no right to ask (like parents demanding to know what their kids confessed or why they want to go to Confession), or to providing info that really isn’t our business to provide.

    Teenagers often are particularly quick to jump on a single explanation for something that an adult or child will figure that there are many different explanations. It’s very sad that the adults around him didn’t realize this and say more about how they heard, if they were indeed innocent; or that they would indeed break the seal, if that were so.

  40. Kathy C says:


    I guess I wasn’t clear. We really shouldn’t assume that Hitler’s in Hell. My scenario would presuppose that Hitler is in purgatory. He really could have made it to purgatory by repenting at the last minute and accepting Christ as his saviour. I know, he suicided, just work with me here. We’re fairly sure that didn’t happen, so I’m pretty sure there will be some souls in Hell. The notion that everyone will do that last second repentance thing is very hopeful at best. But that’s really beside the point. No, I’m talking about souls in purgatory. That’s why purgatory is such a great thing. Imagine old Adolf being confronted by every person he ever caused harm to. Not getting the beating we think he deserves, but learning real understanding of the suffering he caused, suffering real remorse, accepting their undeserved forgiveness, forgiving himself, recognizing God’s forgiveness. I really can’t decide what would be more painful, learning to forgive himself once he realized what he had done, or accepting God’s forgiveness. And then he moves on to the next person. Millions upon millions of them. But when he was purified, he would be beautiful.

  41. Ambrose Jnr says:

    @contramundum: This was great advice, thanks! I was struggling with this Hitler case, and the answer you found is indeed perfect.

  42. Worth noting here is that while the Church has declared many, many particular people to be in heaven (the saints), she has not declared anyone in particular to be in hell. That does not mean that no one is in hell, and for one to go through life believing in universal salvation is rather a dangerous belief, but the complete lack of declarations of specific people in hell is something to keep in mind when pondering the depths of God’s mercy.

    As I have grown older, I have become more conscious of my own sinfulness, and that is very humbling when I start to get upset that other sinful people might enjoy the Beatific Vision. The message that Jesus tried to impress upon the Pharisees is that no one, not even the most righteous man, was worthy of entering heaven before His death and resurrection. That is what reopened the gates of heaven, closed shut and locked tight after the fall of Adam and Eve. That is what Jesus meant when He said that no one born of woman was greater than John the Baptist, but the least born into the kingdom of heaven is greater than John. We do not earn our salvation, neither the most righteous among us nor the most sinful.

  43. plemmen says:

    …wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. Oh how true that statement is! I am a sinner, a former con-artist, invalid and illicitly ordained Orthodox Deacon, Priest and Bishop as well as having engaged in many other sinful and criminal acts and I have served time in Federal prison. I have taken the time to repent of my many grievous sins, reconciled with Mother Church through a very holy Priest that guided me through the necessary steps and received the proper faculties from his Bishop prior to an extensive and lengthy confession. I also was the happiest soul on earth after the confession was over and my penance completed. God’s Mercy through Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins was of such power, I felt years of sin fall away as if they were physical in nature. After reception of the Eucharist my joy at the in-dwelling of Christ was beyond words. Divine Mercy. It takes common ore and refines it to gold. Of course, I still encounter many people that, knowing my past, still reject me and believe I should be shunned or be further punished, but the power of Divine Mercy helps me accept their disgust and condemnation. I publicly confessed my crimes and discuss them on my blog at (I also write about Marxist influences and our Rights as endowed by God).

  44. @Legisperitus: I certainly don’t intend to defend Universalism / apokatastasis, in which I do not believe (Jesus warned us for a reason, and indeed St Faustina said something, IIRC, about most of those in Hell being those who did not believe in it … though tbh she could have meant those who didn’t believe in God, too), and I’m pretty sure there is an anathema that says that, but I’m pretty sure it’s not Constantinople in 543. I’m pretty sure ‘apokatastasis’ in that quote does not mean ‘universal salvation’, that anathema is against the Origenist belief that the eventual state of all souls will be bodiless, freed from the bodies which they acquired through sin. ‘Apokatastasis’ – ‘return to original state’, sort of: it *can* mean ‘universal salvation’, but not sure that it does in this case.

    Fifteen anathemas against Origen =

    Yes, I know the old Catholic Encyclopedia says “the doctrine was formally condemned in the first of the famous anathemas pronounced at the Council of Constantinople in 543: Ei tis ten teratode apokatastasis presbeuei anathema esto.” But I don’t think that’s correct…

    I’m pretty sure ‘Ei tis ten teratode apokatastasis presbeuei anathema esto’ is (part of?) the first anathema above; I don’t read Greek but ‘teratode apokatastasis’ is clearly ‘monstrous restoration’. There are others about denial of the resurrection of the body in there too.

    I think the one actually about universal salvation goes something like (in English translation) ‘If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema’.

    But, while I’ve seen this quoted, I’m not certain of the original (it doesn’t appear to be in the Fifteen linked above). It might be from Justinian ‘Liber adversus Origenem’, the other thing the CE article cites…. Any help, please?

  45. @brjeromeleo: “I want mercy for him and for everyone, because I want it for myself.” Amen!

    Also – here’s something that has bugged me for a while. Fatima had a vision of people in hell, but it is also the source of a prayer with “lead all souls to heaven”, which clearly given the context (of the vision) can’t mean *all* all. Does the “all” here just mean all living & future people? Or (per ContraMundum above) is the idea that we can pray for everybody since we don’t know anyone’s fate but Saints/beati; and didn’t St Padre Pio say something about the possibility of praying today for one’s great-grandfather’s happy death (presumably implying that God, being outside time, can from our perspective ‘back-apply’ our prayers)?

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