E.L., Denver, CO
Your question concerns the number of the elect, that is, those who will be in heaven. Will the majority of people be saved? Or, will there be only a small number that are saved? Although no precise mathematical number is known to us, religious realism dictates that there most certainly must be a definite, fixed number of the elect. By the same token, common sense urges that if there is a fixed number of the elect, then there must also be a fixed number of the damned, that is, those who will reject God's graces and thus be damned.
Just because neither you nor I know the exact number nor the proportions, this does not mean that there is no number nor proportion. There is. With the passage of time, the number of the elect is surely being filled. A time must then come when that number, growing smaller each day, will reach the last soul.
Those who would have us believe that the majority of people will be saved appeal to sentimentalism and confuse mercy with justice. Then, too, such theologians `talk around the subject' without really addressing it directly.
The first step in gaining an objective answer to the question is to assure oneself of a genuine desire for the truth. Our desire ought to be: What does the Holy Ghost tell us in Holy Scripture on this subject?
It seems a falsification of the Scriptures to take our Lord's words out of context. To state only a part of our Lord's words, while keeping silent on others of equal importance cannot lead to objective truth. It can only deceive; it can only falsify. Deception and falsehood are as far from truth as hell is from heaven.
As an example, I would quote from My Prayer Book by the famed Father Lasance. This prayer book was copyrighted in 1908.
In this book of prayers, there is a short chapter entitled The Saved and the Lost. The chapter begins with the observation that a certain man asked our Lord: "Lord, are only a few to be saved?" This quotation is from St. Luke 13, 23. Now, observe the comment of Father Lasance: "Jesus simply replied: `Strive to enter by the narrow gate.'" But this is not true. Jesus did not `simply reply' "Strive to enter by the narrow gate."
It is a legitimate question to inquire why Father Lasance omitted the second part of verse 23, namely: "..for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able."
Therefore, the correct response to the man's question "Lord, are only a few to be saved?" must be: "Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able."
Then, the Jesuit, Father Walsh, is quoted from what Fr. Lasance claims is "his admirable and consoling study, The Comparative Number of the Saved and Lost: "It is a question about which there is no authoritative decision of the Church, nor unanimous opinion of her Fathers or theologians."
Another Jesuit, Fr. Joseph Rickaby is quoted as follows: "As to what proportion of men die in sanctifying grace, and what proportion in mortal sin, nothing is revealed, nothing is of faith, and nothing is really known to theologians. If ever you find a theologian confidently consigning the mass of human souls to eternal flames, be sure he is venturing beyond the bounds of Christian faith and of theological science. You are quite free to disbelieve his word. I do not believe it myself."
Does the Church have to declare the Holy Scriptures inspired every time they are used? The Church does not have to declare the meaning of words when they are clear in themselves. Are we free to doubt the genealogy of the Apostles because the Church never made a `declaration' to that effect?
If we read the Scriptures at Holy Mass and preach them to the people, are we preaching what is not in the Scriptures? Are we preaching contrary to Scriptures which the Church defined as the inspired word of God?
Pope Pius XII rebuked theologians likeFr. Walsh, S.J. in 1950 when he said: "Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church to gain eternal salvation." (Humani Generis, 1950).
We have the beginnings of this in Fr. Walsh's statement: "Many, notably Suarez, hold - as Father Faber does - that the great majority of adult Catholics will be saved. Some, amongst whom we are glad to count the illustrious Dominican, Father Lacordaire, hold or incline to the opinion that the majority of mankind, including heathens and heretics, will be saved." It is important to challenge those who would follow the ideas of this Fr. Walsh, S.J. for the sake of the uninformed who might take his words seriously.
Fr. Walsh, S.J. names Suarez, Lacordaire, O.P., and a few other Dominicans and Jesuits as holding his views or `leaning' towards them. He also would recruit Cardinal Bellarmine, who is now a canonized saint, to bolster his errors by lifting some text of Cardinal Bellarmine's that has nothing to do with the question to begin with.
On the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, the Roman Catholic Church of the Latin Rite reads a portion of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. "Many are called, but few are chosen" is the warning of Jesus Christ.
A believing Catholic would consider the Gospel and the words of Jesus Christ as sufficiently authoritative on any point. Fr. Walsh, S.J. does not seem to agree with the Catholic Church.
The parable of the Gospel shows us a king who invites not only rich and respectable people, but also the poor, good and bad, to the marriage feast of his son.
This king is God, the king of heaven and earth. He calls the erring Talmudists who claim their roots in the Old Testament much as the Muslims do. He invites all the others: the tribes of Israel that have wandered from the true faith and even the infidels. In a word, this king calls all men. To what does he call them? Does he call them to remain in whatever religion they are associated with? Does he tell them that whatever they wish to believe is perfectly correct because he does not wish to interfere with anyone's `happiness?' No.
The king calls all these people to the Church established by Christ his Son. In this Church are offered to everyone the graces necessary for salvation.
From all this it evidently follows that he wills all men without exception to be saved, for why should he call them to his Church, for what purpose would he give them so many graces, if he wished to condemn them?
"God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance" says St. Peter (II Peter 3,9). But, the question is this: Are all men saved? Are the majority of men saved?
Contrary to Fr. Walsh's opinion for which he has no sound basis, the answer must be in the negative. Our Lord says at the conclusion of the Gospel for this day: "Many are called, but few are chosen." Well, with all due respect for Fr. Walsh and all those who think they are in the right pew, let us thoughtfully consider these words of our Lord. Our purpose for this is to block any careless conduct that might keep us from serving God with a holy and wholesome fear. Consequently, it is necessary to say: Only a few are saved.
What is the proof for this? Close examination shows that Fr. Walsh, S.J. provides no proof whatsoever. How could he when all of Scripture is against him?
Therefore, our first witness will be the infallible word of God.
It is a doctrine of the faith that Jews and Gentiles, unbelievers and heretics will be lost if they remain in error through their own fault, for Christ says: "He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned." (Mark 16,16).
At this point, we are not considering anyone but Catholics - adult Catholics. Only a few of them will be saved. This assertion is proven by the word of God.
Where is the proof? Here it is:
There are several similitudes from which the following conclusions are drawn based on the holy Fathers of the Church. From these similitudes, we conclude that only a few adult Catholics will be saved.
In the days of Noe the deluge spread over the earth, and the whole human race perished; only Noe and his own family, eight souls in all, were saved. The holy Fathers, and among them St. Augustine especially, see herein a figure. For, as at the time of deluge only a few were saved, so on the Day of Judgment only a few will escape eternal perdition: "And as it was in the days of Noe, even so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in the days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day when Noe entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and swept them all away; even so will be the coming of the Son of Man."
"And as it came to pass in the days of Noe, even so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the flood came and destroyed them all." (Luke 17,26-27).
Our Lord gives another example: "Or as it came to pass in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, they were buying and selling, they were planting and building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. In the same wise will it be on the day that the Son of Man is revealed."(Ibid. 17,28-30).
Another example from Scripture is when the six hundred thousand men left Egypt under the leadership of Moses. They were all destined to enter the land of Chanaan and to dwell there permanently. But, how many reached their destination? Only two: Josue and Caleb. All the rest were buried in the desert. "Here in the desert shall your dead bodies fall. Of all your men of twenty years or more, registered in the census, who grumbled against me not one shall enter the land where I solemnly swore to settle you, except Caleb, son of Jephonne, and Josue, son of Nun." (Numbers 1429-30).
St. Paul the Apostle says of this: "Now these things were done in a figure of us: that we should not covet evil things, as they also coveted." (I Cor. 10,6). Christ has indeed redeemed us from the slavery of sin; we are all called to enter heaven, the spiritual Chanaan. But as the great majority of the Israelites perished on their journey and were not allowed to enter into the land of promise, so most Catholic's will for ever remain excluded from heaven.
In the Prophet Isaias (17, 5-6; 24, 13) the number of the rescued Israelites is compared to the number of ears of corn that are picked up by the gleaners; to the olives which after the olive tree has been shaken remain hanging here and there on the branches. Many interpreters of the Sacred Scriptures see herein the small number of Christians who will be saved. That, even as regards Catholics, only a few will be saved, seems evident from the express words of Scripture.
On two occasions, our Lord Himself stated this. His words may be applied to the whole human race, so that the meaning would be : All the people who live upon earth are called to the true faith and salvation. But few obtain these blessings. However, since our Lord uses these words in the Gospel of today in connection with the parable of the marriage feast they can be understood to refer only to Catholics.
By the marriage feast at which one guest had appeared without the wedding garment, we must understand the Church of Christ. And, by the man without the wedding garment, those members of the Church who have the true faith but not the love of God, and who on that account are rejected. "Faith without works is dead," says St. Paul.
Since our Lord ends the parable with the words "Many are called, but few are chosen" we have every reason to admit with St. Gregory the Great, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine and many other Fathers, that among Catholics more will be damned than will be saved.
The man who once put the question to our Lord: Lord, are they few that are saved?" received the following answer: "Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able." (Luke 13, 23-24).
To whom did Christ address these words? He addressed them to those who surrounded him; they were all believers; and from this the Fathers again infer that even of the orthodox only the minority will be saved.
St. Paul writes: "Know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but only one receiveth the prize? So run that you may obtain." (I Cor. 9,24). St. Thomas Aquinas comments on this passage: He speaks of three things. First, the running, of our sojourn, our pilgrimage on earth. Secondly, of the great number of those who run, that is, who are in the Church, and consequently on the way to their destination, on the way to salvation. Thirdly, of the small number of those who receive the prize. That is, the small number of those who are saved. The Apostle seems to indicate that even among Catholics, only comparatively few will be saved.
Thus far we have only considered Sacred Scripture. We have not even touched tradition.
St. Chrysostom said in a sermon to the people of Antioch: "How many are there, do you think, in our city who will be saved? What I must say is terrible indeed, but I will say it. Among so many thousands not one hundred can be found who will be saved." This truly great Father of the Church here estimates that scarcely one in a hundred will be saved.
St. Gregory the Great says in the same sense: "We fill the Church with people, but who knows how few there are who will be numbered with the elect?" Again he says: "Many come to the faith, but few arrive at the kingdom of heaven."
St. Augustine says: "It is certain that in comparison with the great multitude who will be lost only a few will be saved."
To the names of these great Fathers of the Church who most certainly knew what they were talking about must be added the names of many great theologians: two Cardinals - Cajetan and Bellarmine (Whose name Fr. Walsh, S.J. attempts to use to promote his own errors!), Alphonsus Tosta, Bishop of Avila who, on account of his great wisdom was called the Solomon of his time. Also another great theologian whom the careless Fr. Walsh, S.J. sought to use in support of his own view: Fr. Suarez who is believed to have been favored with special divine illumination.
All these and still others unanimously pronounce the universally prevailing opinion, that among the orthodox believers the number of the damned will exceed that of the elect. Thus Scripture and tradition suffice to prove that even among Catholics, only few will be saved. And this will become more clear when we consider the conduct of people.
We who have the advantage of living in the present and know at least the basic teachings of the Church, how can we ignore the reality of the Great Apostasy that is world-wide? Must the heavens really fall in on us before we wake up? But, then, it will be too late!
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