She struggled in life. She committed suicide. But there’s still hope!
Every one of us has known someone who took his or her own life, or someone whose life was affected by the suicide of a loved one. It’s so difficult to face this reality, and often people despair. Many give up hope for those who have committed suicide and believe their souls are lost.
But now I never give up. Instead, I pray. Let me tell you why:
I’m an engineer by degree. I got my MBA from the University of Michigan and worked as an engineering manager in the tough auto industry of Detroit. I made great money, enjoyed the work, and loved the area. On paper, God had given me everything a young man could desire; yet, it seemed as if something was missing.
I decided to move to the Charlotte area of North Carolina and start my own business. It quickly became very successful. I had a house, a boat, and planned to marry a beautiful young lady from the local area. But something was still missing.
Being a “cradle Catholic,” but not one who was really practicing my faith, I decided to start going to Mass again. I discovered a church in North Carolina that I still call home: St. Mark’s in Huntersville. It used to jokingly be called “Our Lady of the Lanes,”
because it began with 12 families in a bowling alley. It grew to over 15,000 people in six short years. I started going to Adoration there and ended up doing something I would recommend to all of you: I made a general Confession.
In a general Confession, you mentally walk through your life, confessing your sins as you go.
My general Confession helped me tremendously as I recalled sins from grade school up through my professional career. I began to feel these burdens lifted off my shoulders.
So, while I was confessing my life’s sins in 2003, I got to the year 1993. I told the priest:
“What happened in 1993 still bothers me. It was my grandmother’s death.”
My grandmother’s suicide
My grandmother, Mary Alar, was a special lady. My father told many stories about her, including how her family removed her from school in the sixth grade so she could work as a maid to help support them. Then, two days before her wedding day, her fiancé was killed in an auto accident. Later, she met my grandfather, but her life was still quite difficult. By 1993, she was suffering greatly — emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It became unbearable for her. At the time, I was finishing college and didn’t even know how much pain my grandmother was enduring. In a shock to me, my grandmother committed suicide on Father’s Day.
I didn’t realize how much of a knuckle- head I was at the time. Ten years later, I told my confessor that I was not “there for her” — even at the funeral. I mean, I was there physically, but not emotionally or spiritually. I was so concerned about my degree, my job, my new home, and my girlfriend, that I don’t even remember praying for her.
I told him that this bothered me, because my grandmother had already been judged by God, and I missed my opportunity to pray for her and help her. What I really feared most arose from something I’d heard long ago about the Church teaching that if you commit suicide, you automatically go to hell.
Then the priest did something that changed my life. He said, “Go home tonight and pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for the salvation of your grandmother’s soul. This is an incredibly powerful prayer.” I had never heard of the Chaplet. I said, “Huh? Father, she’s already been judged, so it’s too late. She died 10 years ago! She’s in Heaven (I hope) or hell (I hope not). At best, my prayers might relieve some of her time in Purgatory, if she even made it that far, but her eternal fate has already been determined. There is nothing that can be done about that now.”
He said, “Look, God is outside of time. There is no past or future for God, but only one big eternal present moment. God sees everything at one instant. From the beginning of time to the end of the world, He sees it all instantaneously without compromising our free will. How do you think that the Virgin Mary was immaculately conceived?” I said, “By the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.” He said, “Yes, but how could Mary be immaculately conceived by these merits when Jesus hadn’t even been born yet? Because God is outside of time. Your prayers are eternal, and the graces given by God from those prayers, because He is not constrained by space or time, can go in any direction: past, present, or future. Christ’s sacrifice is eternally present before the Father, and so are our prayers if we unite them to the Cross of Christ.”
I sat there shaking my head, saying, “Wow, Father, this is amazing.” But I still wasn’t totally getting it. It sounded too good to be true. He continued, “Think of it this way, Chris. God knew back in 1993 that you would be here today, in 2003, and tonight you would pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for your grandmother’s soul. And since God is so merciful, so loving, He will put those prayers into the hands of Mary, the Mediatrix of All Graces, and He will allow those prayers from today to be carried back in Mary’s hands and showered over your grandmother’s soul back in 1993, at the moment of her judgment, to help her.”
He continued, “You see, suicide is a grave sin, and she will need all the help she can get. So with God’s grace, through your prayers, she may be better able to say ‘yes’ to God.” (That is why John Paul II called each of us “mini co-redeemers” — because we can share in Christ’s act of redemption).
The priest added, “In the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, she records that Jesus visited the despairing soul three times to save it from hell (Diary, 1486), so we can infer that the souls of our loved ones have the chance to repent, say ‘yes’ to Him, and be saved.”
I said, “Father, we’re good here then, because there’s no way my grandmother will not say ‘yes’ to Jesus when she sees Him. This is awesome! Thank you, Father. Have a great day.”
Blinded by sin
He stopped me: “Hold on — there’s a problem. You said she had fallen away from the Church. Do you know if she received the Sacraments?”
“I don’t know,” I replied.