Is it "lucky" to die in a state of grace


I believe at the moment that what we will experience for eternity comes down to just what we were doing/thinking on the last day of our lives. Many of the readings in Mass at this time of the year are about being well prepared for the particular and final judgements, now of course being fallible creatures we are often not well prepared. Most of us aim to live a life free from mortal sin but fail to live every day free from it which is why we have Confession. Take 2 people Ian and Sarah, they both sin mortally sometimes and go to confession as often as they can, Sarah commits a mortal sin at work and before she has the chance for going to Confession or having perfect contrition she is killed suddenly because of an earthquake. Ian also works with Sarah in the same building but went to Confession the day before and so while Sarah is damned Ian is saved, was Ian lucky?


Assuming that what the Church teaches about sin, the consequences of sin, and the consequences of not going to Confession are all true…then yep. Ian dodged a bullet. Dude got lucky. Sarah…not so much.


It’s not “luck” at all. Mortally sinning is a deliberate act and if you die immediately after committing a mortal sin you have freely chosen to go to Hell because you know what the consequences of committing and dying in that state means.


Salvation has absolutely nothing to do with luck. That’s an unfortunately common misunderstanding of Catholic teaching. And, ironically, it sort of borders on similarities with Calvinism, where the lucky elect are those who are saved, predestined as it were as if God is whimsical. Here’s the most succinct Church teaching on our judgment, the catechism quoting St John of the Cross:

"At the evening of life we shall be judged on our love."


Ian and Sarah both “freely chose Hell” in their lives. The fact is that Ian happened to die after going to confession and as a result chose Heaven while Sarah died before going to Confession and having the chance to make an act of perfect contrition and as a result chose Hell.


Committing a mortal sin is deliberately rejecting God’s love. Everyone knows that dying in that state means you go immediately to Hell and you know that you could die suddenly.
Jesus clearly stated everyone should be ready.


It is true that committing a mortal is rejecting Gods love, what i am trying to say is that Ian and Sarah were both sinners mortally but one of them happened to die before she went to confession while the other was lucky enough to die after he went to confession, most of us commit mortal sins but go to confession as well, are most of us going to Hell?


Still has nothing to do with luck.

See the Catholic Answers response:

Are there such things as coincidences?


The answer to this question is both yes and no, but in different respects. Relative to our human perspective, things do happen by chance. St. Thomas Aquinas noted, “In this world some things seem to happen by luck or chance” ( Summa Theologiae, I:116:1).

But he goes on to explain that something is lucky or chance-like only when “compared to inferior causes.” When compared to some higher cause, the event is seen as directly intended.

For example, suppose I ask my daughter to stop by the grocery story on her way home to buy a carton of milk. But since it’s pretty late at night, and I don’t want my daughter to be in the store alone, I send my son to the store to buy some eggs without him knowing my daughter will be there. Relative to them their meeting will appear to be by chance. But relative to me who sent them, the meeting is directly intended.

The same is true if I were to command a hired hand to dig in a field knowing that there’s treasure where I tell him to dig. Finding the treasure will appear to be by chance for the hired hand, but relative to me it is directly intended.

The same is true for events in our lives. Relative to us they often appear to be by chance. But relative to God, who directs everything according to his divine plan, nothing occurs by chance.


Nothing happens by mere chance it is true, it was not by chance that Christ was crucified or that St Paul preached to the Romans. What i was saying was that the two people i mentioned, Ian and Sarah both lived sinful lives but one ended up being saved because they happened to go to confession at “the right time” while the other could not make it to confession even if they desired it because they were killed quickly.


I wouldn’t call it luck at all. Perfect contrition isn’t one of those things that just pops up over time. It is ultimately something that is chosen. If Sarah didn’t have perfect contrition, it is because she chose to love the things of the world over God. In other words, if Sarah went to Hell, it was because she chose to put off returning to God. Going to Hell was ultimately her choice. Don’t ever think you should just wait until later to return to God. Return to God immediately after sinning. That is a choice, and Sarah’s choice was to put it off. (This is not necessarily speaking of confession. With perfect contrition and the firm intention to go to confession ASAP, one can go to heaven.)


Maybe she had committed a sin and before she could feel perfect contrition she was killed instantly or perhaps her contrition was merely imperfect, how would you explain that? many of us sin, why does God condemn when we want to be saved after sinning?


My answer is that contrition (perfect or imperfect) isn’t a feeling. Emotions can certainly play a role in contrition, but they are not the cause. Ultimately, contrition is a choice. Compare Peter and Judas Iscariot in the Bible. Both definitely had the feeling of regret for their sins (Peter rejected Jesus 3 times and Judas betrayed Jesus). Peter repented and returned to Jesus, but Judas killed himself in despair. I cannot say that Judas is in Hell, because it is not within our authority to declare who is in Hell, but it is clear from their actions that one can have the feeling of regret and still not act appropriately.

Wanting to be saved is not the same thing as actually acting for salvation.


In Sarahs case as mentioned above i could add that she never despaired before she was killed, she had contrition but it was only imperfect though desired perfect contrition as she knew it is holier. Ian also like Sarah had imperfect contrition but because he was able to go to confession he was saved. Are you saying that perfect contrition is an easy choice? Because from what i have heard most people only have imperfect contrition at best.


No, I am definitely not saying that perfect contrition is an easy choice. But it is still a choice.


Why could God not make it easier so that more could be saved?


I don’t think it’s helpful to look at salvation in terms of how easy or hard it is. It’s a matter of choosing God over all else. This can be easy in that it’s almost a no-brainer choice, but hard in that temptation can be very strong at times.

In response to your question, in what way could God make it easier? To make it any easier would mean to allow people into Heaven who did not choose God. There is a reason we are told to be ready at all times. I don’t think it’s unfair.


They would still be choosing God, in the case of Sarah why could God not enable her to confess her sins to Himself before he separates the soul from her body? lets say she is killed in the earthquake but before God separates her soul he allows her to confess her sins to him because she could not make it to confession. Remember she is not dead yet so she could still confess right?


This kind of question seems to forget that God is our loving Father. He’s not there waiting for a ‘Gotcha!’ kind of moment, so I can throw you into hell. He’s the one who opened Heaven for us! I think there are many times that we experience a moment in our lives where we say ‘Wow! that was close!’ He wants us to come closer to him in this life and be with him in the next. When he sees a son or daughter sin and go to confession and have contrition of heart, why would he wait until they sin again (because they will) to grab them right then. No. When we are looking for mercy, he is there to extend mercy. He even tells us to be ready because he doesn’t want to surprise you when you are unprepared.


My personal belief is that God would allow Sarah survive the earthquake or something like what you’ve written there. After all we know God desires all to be saved and as long as a person is cooperating (i.e. has contrition - even if imperfect) I think he would save them.


My favorite variation on this question is “if so-and-so missed Mass and got hit by a bus (for some reason it’s always a bus) and it’s not fair because they missed Mass because of all the charity work they were doing instead of Mass and now they went to Hell and it’s not fair and that’s how come I’m not a Catholic anymore “

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