The Mysterious Joy of Matthew Warren

Let us begin with prayer: Heavenly Father, bring healing to the parents, family, friends, and community of your son Matthew in this time of grief. May the light of your Divine Mercy banish the darkness with which he struggled, and may this same mercy see him into your kingdom. We ask all these things through the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine, et lux perpetuae luceat eis. Requiescant in pace. Amen.


I know very little about Pastor Rick Warren, and nothing at all about his son, Matthew. Since I learned of Matthew’s suicide last night, however, I have thought of little else.

When this kind of high-profile act of self-destruction happens, we pretend to search for answers for a time. Society imagines it’s having a “national dialog on mental illness.” People will talk of what to do, how to recognize the symptoms, how to help those you love. Perhaps some will become more sensitive to the warning signs in the process.

But in the end, things will return to where they were. People will go back to not understanding mental illness, because it is not something that can be understood from the outside. The mentally ill will forever remain an enigma to a population that can look at a person torn apart by a darkness that devours and say, “Everybody gets depressed” or “You’ve got a good life, so what you have to be down about?”

The issue will be further clouded by the vast number of people who are medicated–and in most cases mis-medicated and/or over-medicated–for “depression,” and thus think they understand something about real, clinical depression: not the boutique blues that doctors like to smother in Prozac, but the clammy parasite that attaches to your soul and sucks out your life day by agonizing day, until annihilation appears to be the only relief.

I come from a long line of mental patients, alcoholics, and suicides. My family tree is full of people who completed their short and tormented lives in a madhouse, at the bottom of a bottle, or at the end of a rope. Had I not met my wife at the point when I did, and made the ongoing effort to “heal” (you’re never healed) under the motivation of her selfless love, I would have been one of them.

What will probably disturb people the most about the death of Matthew Warren is that those around him seemed to do everything right. He had the love and support of a faith-filled family who understood that this was an actual illness that needed the best doctors, treatments, and medications available, and they had financial resources to get that help. Judging by his father’s statement, the Warren family “got it” as much as they possibly could.

When your child has cancer, the course of action is self-evident. Tests, doctors, treatment, nurturing, healing, fighting. When your child has a sick mind, it’s much harder for a family to come to grips with how–and in many cases if–to proceed. And, as with cancer, the treatment might not succeed. Mental illness is both biological and psychological. Both aspects need to be treated, and you need to deal with the brain chemistry before you can hope to work on the psychological elements. Finding the right combination of meds isn’t an exact science. It’s just trial and error, usually over a grueling period of time that can grind down the patient.

From the few facts that are out there, it’s likely Matthew has been pursuing these solutions since his teen years (a common time for mental illness to really manifest or worsen), meaning he’d had a decade of ups and downs, successes and failures. You can only ride that roller coaster so long. It wears on you. It weakens you. In the end, if you don’t hold on tight, it can destroy you.

There is one striking moment in Rick Warren’s statement: “Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.”

Did you catch that? Because I could read an entire novel into that statement. Depressives should recognize it right away. Matthew had a good night with his family. He was “high.” No, not on drugs. Depression is a like suffocating fog in the brain. Sometimes, seemingly for no reason, it lifts, and you feel like a human should feel again. You experience joy. You say, “Oh, that’s what it feels like.” And then the fog rolls back in, as it always does, and the final condition is worse than the first.

Perhaps this is what Rick Warren meant by a “momentary wave of despair,” except that it wasn’t momentary. It was perpetual. It returned as surely as the tides, year after year. Matthew had ridden that wave before. He was tired of it.

There is, of course, one other likelihood, which is something else people don’t understand about suicide. They often say, “I don’t get it. We had a great time just that night! He was so happy!”

Often, that happiness is because the decision was already made. The fight is over. The relief is coming. You can let yourself be happy. You can have one really beautiful moment with parents who you know love you, even though you want to tear yourself apart because that love–unconditional, overwhelming–will never be enough. You feel the joy of a person who comes in sight of the finish line after a long and brutal race.

No doubt Pastor Warren and I are separated by sharp denominational differences, but we both preach the Gospel of the risen Christ, and that makes him my brother. We certainly have different ideas about what happens to the soul after death.

For centuries there was a sense that self-murder was a grievous and unforgivable sin: so bad that suicides were denied Christian burial. I have a great aunt who committed suicide, and in the place where cause of death should have been listed are merely the words “body viewed.” The person who filled out the form knew the family, and didn’t want to impede her chances for a Catholic burial.

None of this was dogmatic, however, and the Church now emphasizes mercy for those who, in a diminished mental capacity, kill themselves. The Catechism says

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide. We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

Which brings us back to that mysterious joy; that final happiness some suicidal people feel just before the final act.

The grave sin at the heart of suicide is despair, which is the opposite of hope, one of the three theological virtues. Suicides were thought to have sinned against hope and thus, in a sense, denied God as well as committing the most horrible violation of the 5th commandment: throwing away God’s gift of life to you.

Despair is a great danger in the life of the mentally ill: perhaps the greatest. Hope is what keeps people going. When that hope is lost, all is lost. Thus suicide would seem to be the absence of hope and surrender to despair.

But I wonder, sometimes, in some cases, if the distortion of thought that accompanies mental illness gets it exactly backwards; if, at some point, hope and despair become crossed in the mind of the sufferer. Death mistakenly appears to be a hopeful act. There’s something else in Rick Warren’s statement that suggests this point of view:

I’ll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said “ Dad, I know I’m going to heaven. Why can’t I just die and end this pain?” but he kept going for another decade.

Putting aside the vast theological issues with that quote, you get a sense of the great burden carried by the mentally ill, which makes up seem like down. Few people can imagine a suffering so great that death would seem like a relief, and no reasonable person would embrace self-annihilation to gain it. Worse, the idea that you can kill yourself into Heaven is a terrible perversion of core Christian teachings. Certainly, the son of a minister knew this, which means–at the end–he’d lost his reason, and was no longer in control. He needed to just hold on until the wave passed, but he just couldn’t. Holding on is the key.

There are some taking to social networks to say Matthew Warren’s final act dooms him to Hell. I prefer the question of Hans Urs von Balthasar: Dare we hope that Hell is empty? Dare we hope that all are saved?

Yes. We dare. We’re Christians. We live a life of love with faith in God and hope for eternity. Hope is central to our being. Hope is a beautiful gift, and certainly the greatest of hopes is that the desire of Christ that none shall be lost is fulfilled. I don’t know if it will be or will not be, nor does anyone else. I do know that I hope it to be the case.

Today Catholics celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, in which we recognize the pure power of God’s infinite mercy. We trust the soul of a troubled young man to a merciful God: a God who breaks chains and frees captives, who lifts up the broken-hearted and wipes away every tear. May He wipe away the tears of the Warren family. And may He, in his mercy, comfort Matthew at the last, and show him the final, true, and lasting joy found in the heart of God.

UPDATE: Max Lindenman adds a powerful and lovely Prayer for Suicides.

Timothy Dalrymple: When a Loved One Takes His Life.

Why Obama’s Rhetoric About Christian Violence Was a Problem
How I Pray: Steven D. Greydanus
Embracing Mystery
Ophelia’s Funeral: Suicide and The Church
About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • Maggie Goff

    Tom, I can’t put into words the gratitude I feel for what you have written. I identify. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I wish everyone everywhere could read this.

  • Sarah K. Vanderveen

    Though I don’t know them personally either, I’ve been thinking a lot about Matthew Warren today, and the pain he struggled with, and the grief that the Warren family is walking through right now. Thanks for your powerful, comforting words. In spite of it all, and though it probably doesn’t make sense to a lot of people who might think me naive, I DO believe God will wipe away every tear. Thank you for sharing this and reminding me.

  • Pam

    Why serve God if he can’t be there to heal our depression?

  • SamraJB

    This was beautifully written and thought-provoking. Personally, I believe the only way we will de-stigmatize mental illness is when we stop calling it “mental” illness and refer to it as a brain disease. Yes, there are psychological issues, but most are driven by an imbalance in brain chemistry. Calling it “mental illness” implies some sort of choice or control by the sufferer. Nobody who has ever suffered from depression or any other brain diseases that affect behavior and thought would have chosen that disease.

  • Andrew O’Brien

    Because God actually came down from heaven, became human, and experienced what it was like to be sad (as well as many other forms of suffering). He binds himself to us in our shared experience of sadness so that we can share in the resurrection.

  • Kevin Branson

    Thank you Thomas. KB

  • John Mallon

    To equate depression to sadness is like equating the ocean to a glass of water.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Thank you all for your comments.

  • Gary Chapin

    Tom, I just want to expand on the “momentary” aspect of despair. I feel like — even though as you say, despair is persistent — the level of despair that leads to suicide does have a momentary quality. It’s a sudden scathing despair that encapsulates all of one’s thoughts and perceptions. It is the illusion that the moment is all: I am in despair. I was always in despair. I will always be in despair. This has been shown in the way that if a suicide attempt is delayed or interrupted, rarely is there an immediate attempt to try again. This is why suicide fences reduce suicides not just at the bridge that has them, but for the entire region. I offer this not to diminish the impact of despair, but to offer some avenue of hope. I have had to sit with my daughter and assure her that “this will pass.” It isn’t the solution to despair (or depression), but it can get one through that moment.

    Please don’t take this comment as argumentative in any way. Great great post.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    I’m really glad you added that, because it’s very true and brings an important dimension to the topic. I, too, have had to council that “it will pass.” It’s like the wave of despair that tips the boat. In the sudden plunge into the water, you only the feel the pull of the depths and the desire to surrender. You have to remember to just grab the damn boat and hold on for dear life.

  • Pingback: A Prayer for Suicides()

  • victor

    Reading this brought to mind Walker Percy’s “ex-suicide as a cure for depression” from his “self-help book”, Lost in the Cosmos (really it’s a treatise on philosophy, culture, and semiology). He also came from a long line of suicides: both his father and grandfather, if I’m remembering correctly — though I may be conflating his biography with that of one of his characters; he tended to write himself into every one of his protagonists.

    Anyway, yours was a very personal and beautiful blog post and I thank you for it.

  • Dave Pearson

    Superb piece, Tom. Graceful and grace-filled. God bless ye!

  • Gia

    I pray for God’s mercy for this poor young man’s tortured soul. But my first reaction when I read that comment from him that he was going to heaven anyway, so why endure the pain — apparently he was 17 at the time — was horrifying. It reminded me of how perilous it can be to emphasize Resurrection while setting aside the Crucifixion, to bask in God’s love and think that it will absolve you of anything, so why suffer? It may indeed, I wouldn’t presume to limit God’s benevolence, but how many people have been saved from suicide at the last moment because of a fear of hell? Of course, that may not make any difference to people suffering terrible mental illness — and the Church, and her Lord, recognize that — but I suspect it’s deterred many people less grievously afflicted from seeking a permanent solution for a temporary problem.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    It is a grave concern of mine as well, but this soon after the tragedy, I didn’t want to dwell on soteriology: just mercy and hope.

  • Jonathan Volzke

    It’s not whether God “can’t be there to heal …” anything. We all serve God’s plan, and sadly, our suffering is part of that. Why? We cannot understand it. Those of us with faith accept it. It does not mean we do not feel the shock of a loss, nor mourn those who are gone. It just means we recognize we — all of us — are part of a bigger plan that plays out over centuries.

  • Gia

    Wise choice.

  • John Janaro

    Thank you for putting it on the table the way it really is.

    I have suffered from depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder for forty years. There are a lot of ups and downs in “managing” complicated brain disorders and the traumas they generate. I was able to accomplish successful work for twenty years, but then an infection further complicated things and brought about a very premature retirement from my teaching career. I am married with five children, the youngest of whom is six years old. There is no denying that it is a difficult life, but we have been helped by continuing treatment and the support of friends and creative living and continual forgiveness and a sense of humor and grace from God that is beyond anything that I can imagine. Still, this is not an “approach” that we have come up with, or that anyone should compare themselves against. It is just a description of where we are as a family right now. I am grateful to God, and have much hope that His love reaches people in mysterious and miraculous ways. Grace goes deep into some very dark places and works within human suffering. I trust in Jesus.

    Men, in particular, experience tremendous shame in struggling with “mental illness,” and there are other ways besides suicide for inflicting devastating physical and emotional self-harm. It is good, for those of us who can, to tell our stories. Disability, whether of brain or body or both, does not exclude anyone from the human race, or make them unworthy of being loved and treated with dignity. Many silent sufferers read pages like this, and I certainly know that there are no simple cures or easy answers. There is always the unfathomable mercy of God, and the possibility of being merciful to one another.

    God bless you.

  • Chris

    The most serious depression, psychotic depression, is often accompanied by hallucinations (usually auditory, and often exhorting the victim to commit suicide) and delusions (fixed beliefs about one’s own vileness and worthlessness), which are produced by the disease itself. In situations like that, where one can’t trust ones own senses and perceptions, I suspect it is almost impossible to withstand the suicidal impulse. Just as bad as any other terminal illness, and worse than many.

  • Woodeene Koenig-Bricker

    Beautifully written…I linked to it on my own reflections at my blog. Only one who has been there could write so compassionately.

  • Woodeene Koenig-Bricker

    Beautifully written. Only one who has been there could articulate it so well. I linked to it on my own thoughts about anxiety, depression and suicide at my blog. May your words give encouragement to many.

  • Al Cruise

    Reading the all different comments on the blogs around the internet on this tragedy, its sure easy for some people to quickly become armchair theologians on this topic, especially when it isn’t their family.

  • Marie

    I, too, share something like Gia’s concern. Suicide-vulnerable people are just that, vulnerable. We have a responsibility to protect them. We do not protect them when we publicize stories of others who have succumbed. Studies show that such stories increase, not decrease suicide rates. It seems one would especially want to avoid publishing stories that paint such a positive picture of self-destruction being a “hopeful” decision, of it giving people one last happy evening because they have such great relief. That sort of writing seems very dangerous to me. Why would you want to play up the attractiveness of such a deadly choice?

  • Pingback: Call to Prayer and Solidarity: Pastor Rick Warrens' Son Has Died From Suicide - Christian Forums()

  • Pingback: Lovers of Self… | ~ living journey ~()

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    You really just did not understand it at all. “Attractiveness?” Are you kidding?

  • Yae

    Emotional pain…searing and dark, I remember it well and learned to live with it over time. I consider it my friend nowadays as it keeps me real. I remember living in a pit from which I thought I would not ever get out until the Lord Jesus came, extended his hand to me, and called me to himself. I still struggle, I still go off to be alone with it but I also know joy, have hope and faith that one day, it will be all gone.
    I am sorry that the Warren family has suffered such a loss. Their hope, like ours, lies in Christ. May our Lord remember the young man in his tender mercy. May he take into account all the pain and suffering the young man must have endured but no longer could. May he now rest in peace.

  • Marie

    First of all, it’s a fact that publishing suicide stories increases suicide rates. So even a merely factual news article can cost lives. This went beyond a news article factualness though to dwell in detail on all the various negative and positive motivations that lead a person down that path. Do you seriously think that’s going to increase or decrease the temptation for somebody vulnerable? If even just knowing that another person has committed suicide increases temptation, it seems that words like “You can finally let yourself be happy You can have one really beautiful moment” would make things even more dangerously alluring to a vulnerable person.

  • Jack Shifflett

    I’ve lived with chronic major depression my entire adult life (I’m 64 now). I describe my depression(s) as being like quicksand–struggle as I would to get out, and struggle as others would to help get me out, depression would repeatedly pull me back in. I’ve attempted suicide a number of times, and I can clearly remember on at least a couple of those occasions the relief and even joy I felt, thinking that I was finally free…only to be drawn back against my wishes into the difficult, painful world. After all that, and after all these years, I’m as grateful as I can be that I’m still here, and grateful to all who helped keep me here. I wish Matthew Warren were still here too. Thank you for writing about this subject with such insight and compassion. For any of your readers who want to learn more about depression and mental illness, I recommend they contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    You’re right, saying “You can finally let yourself be happy You can have one really beautiful moment” would be bad.

    So I’m glad I didn’t say that.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Let me just add this: the healthy mind simply cannot grasp the impulse of self-destruction. This is a good thing, but it also leaves the grieving shattered and blaming themselves. Trying to understand and explain the thought process is not the same thing as encouraging that process.

  • Daniel L.

    Thank you for this article. It brings the Incarnation into greater perspective. Pleas don’t ask me to explain how: I’m still unpacking it.

  • Brenda

    Those were beautiful, merciful thoughts … and we know that God is even more merciful than we. I too pray for mercy and comfort for the soul of Matthew Warren, and for the comfort and consolation of his family. A great article, and it should be posted in every Christian magazine.

  • Ryan M.

    Why not abandon hope in man’s solutions when they don’t work, either?

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Please be aware that the comment system is being migrated over to Disqus this week, and some comments may be lost.

  • Kathy J

    Thank you for your beautiful commentary. A few years ago, I came within a hair’s breath of committing suicide. I was so filled with panic and despair that I didn’t think I could go on. What saved me then was the fear of Hell. However, even that fear was diminishing when my AA sponsor told me to contact our local mental health organization and get admitted to the hospital. In the hospital, my psychiatrist explained why alone among my seven siblings I had this illness. It wasn’t weakness, it was brain chemistry. I believed him (surely one of the great graces in my life!) and stopped feeling like a failure because I didn’t want to live. (I still don’t have a great attachment to life, but at least I don’t fight a daily battle with the temptation to kill myself.) Another great grace were the medications that my doctor prescribed for me. Every few months I realize that some irrational belief or fear is no longer present. Now the very things that I feared so desperately have happened to me, and because of my medication and counseling I find myself living so comfortably. I am so grateful that God saved me from myself and from this illness. I also know that I could go back into the maelstrom anytime, so I really do practice gratitude for this time which is relatively despair and fear free.

  • Deacon Bernard Young

    “…the healthy mind simply cannot grasp the impulse of self-destruction.”
    These words ring very true. In the depths of despair there seems to be no other choice.


  • Pattie, RN

    Tom, may I add to the voices thanking you for this kind and thoughtful reflection on a tragic event? As a nurse, I have seen the pain that mental illness brings, to the sufferer and the family. I have a dear friend who was saved from a suicide that should have been irreversible……and the joy he has found since with medication, love, and two more children who would not be here if he had succeeded.

    And…..I have been depressed and overwhelmed to the point of suicide twice myself…..and the memory of that never leaves. Frankly, the fear of Hell was the only thing that stopped me. I remember telling a doctor “All I want to do is not wake up tomorrow, but dammit, I’m a CATHOLIC, so even THAT is off the table!”

    Bless you for your compassionate look at this subject.

  • Tina

    I have to agree! When I was barely twenty and six months pregnant, my husband was killed by a drunk driver. I was despondent for years but especially immediately after he died. I was suicidal and repeatedly had thoughts of killing myself, so that I could join my husband. Why I didn’t was due to the teachings of my youth; what I couldn’t get past was the thought ‘What if I go to hell? What will happen to our babya. Will he go to hell too?’ This was the ‘fence’ or barrier that saved me! Thanks to an understanding doctor that put me on some medication, I was able to overcome that feeling.

    I realize that mine was situational depression and not the long term depression suffered by Matthew but I do understand. When you are drowning, you can only tread water for so long…it is so encompassing that you are blind to seeing any other way out, other than to succumb. I pray that Matthew will now finally feel the Hands that can save and know the everlasting love that can heal all wounds.

  • Robert

    The hope for Matthew Warren (and most of the rest of us) is found in the Catholic teaching of purgatory, not the rejection of the simplest and probably the single most abundant teaching in the New Testament: that the unrepentant will go to hell, and that the righteous will receive everlasting life. Our hope in Christ depends on the basics facts of the the gospel as taught by 2,000 years of Church tradition. which can be relied upon and understood in broad strokes by the common man, without the 20th century theological machinations of Hans Urs von Balthasar.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Because few people who are actively seeking treatment options live in a state of constant despair. Despair so great is leads to a desire for suicide is rarely constant: it comes, as I said, in waves. Treatment options change, different doctors and methods become available, new routes are always opening. You don’t hope in man’s solutions. You hope in God, and seek solutions on earth.

  • Summer Frost

    Thank you, sir, for articulately shedding a glimmer of light upon the reality of daily life of those who suffer from mental illness. It is a disease of the brain that often manifests in the form of emotional difficulties. Other body chemistry issues may manifest as high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, kidney stones or thyroid issues. We don’t consider those to be issues of the Will, or a lack of Faith. The problem is, to date, very few lifestyle changes have been shown to help the chronic, long term, on going forms of mental illness and depression, while they may sometimes help other issues. In fact, patients with serious mental illness often self medicate with alcohol and or nicotine. Alas, sometimes our brothers and sisters in Christ are the harshest critics of the mentally ill. And how can we explain that the cross we bear has spikes and chains and weights to drag along with it? Charity in all things. Even if we don’t understand — and if you haven’t walked in those moccassins … We are called to Charity and not judgement. Rest in the Eternal Peace of Christ, Matthew.

  • Angel

    Why not go directly to our Lord for healing through Eucharistic Adoration. Isn’t He the Divine physician? I have heard of powerful testimonies of healings through Eucharistic Adoration.

  • Marie

    It’s in your article. Paragraph 13 if I am counting correctly.

  • Marie

    I agree. And for healthy people reading an account of a suicide in the newspaper does not move them to commit suicide. But there are studies that show that local suicide rates spike after a new story about a suicide. And they spike for that specific kind of suicide. So yes, it is dangerous to write about such things. It can cause death rates to go up. Surely not death rates for healthy minded people, but death rates for those who are vulnerable, the ones we lovingly want to protect. It seems reasonable to think that the response of a healthy mind reading this article and the response of a suicide vulnerable mind might similarly differ since this falls under both “news reporting a suicide” and even goes further with paragraphs like the one alluded to above. Have you not read of these studies?

    David Phillips from the University of California at San Diego did a study on this that spanned twenty years. This is discussed in the book The Tipping Point and I am certain that you can find the information elsewhere. It struck me as soon as I read it that it ought to be something every responsible journalist should be aware of and careful about. We can influence people in ways we never imagine or intend, but if forewarned is forearmed and those spikes in deaths can perhaps be prevented by removing trigger factors as far as possible.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    As the mistaken thoughts of someone struggling, not as ADVICE!

  • Marie

    Sorry for the typos. In the first paragraph, that should be “after a news story.” In the second paragraph the last sentence should read, “We can influence people in ways we never imagine or intend, but forewarned is forearmed and those spikes in deaths can perhaps be prevented by removing such trigger factors in published articles as far as possible.”

  • Marie

    Neither are the news articles that David Phillips looked at intended as advice. But they still caused deaths.

  • Kate Snyder

    “I prefer the question of Hans Urs von Balthasar: Dare we hope that Hell is empty? Dare we hope that all are saved? Yes. We dare. We’re Christians.”

    As Christians, shouldn’t we prefer the spirit and life words of Jesus? The utterances from His mouth are surer than the ground we walk on, Mark 13:31. He is God, after all. He said many will be on the broad way that leads to destruction, and few will find eternal life (Matthew 7:13, 14). Dare we doubt Him?

    If we are Christians, we don’t dare hope anything outside of what Jesus declared as eternal truth. Our entire lives are based on His Word. “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

    The incredibly sad tragedy of Matthew Warren is unbelief. Remember how they kicked Jesus out of the Gadarenes after he cast the demons out of the “mentally ill” man. They were freaked out and wanted nothing to do with Jesus and His power to deliver from demonic oppression.

    Jesus said, “And these signs shall follow them that believe: in my name shall they cast out devils…” (Mark 16:17).

    We need more believers who actually believe Jesus and act accordingly to set the captives free.

  • Luke

    Well said. “Daring” that hell is empty is a modernist invention, is illogical, and goes directly against what Jesus taught.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Fr. Barron:

    Shorter Fr. Barron: von Balthasar has it right.

    Fatima Prayer: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy.”

  • Susan Borden

    Well stated. Thank you.

  • Margaret

    I thought this was an insightful, helpful essay when it appeared a few days ago. A few hours ago, I learned of a suicide at my sons’ high school. The essay is still as excellent as it was, but I’m processing it on a new level now.

  • Dick Landkamer

    It’s a given that God leads all souls to heaven, but it not a given that all souls follow their leader. It is a certainty that hell is not empty, since Scripture speaks of the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:41). The fallen angels are certainly there. It is true that we cannot say with certainty that any human being is in hell. However, if it were not possible for any of us to go there, then it was quite illogical for Jesus to warn us of something that could never happen. And if the Son of God is illogical (i.e., acts/speaks contrary to reason), then He is not the Son of God. As for the rest of the article, I thought it was excellent.

  • AlphaOmega

    You should get to know Pastor Warren. I’m Catholic and I have read his books and watched his services on TV. He’s an a incredibly wise man, highly blessed and public enemy #1 to satan. You should NOT be “separated by sharp denominational differences” with Protestants. You would be finding ways to hold interfaith dialog and unite, not be content to be divided. Don’t you see ? SEPARATION is what the enemy desires ? Why are you resigned to it? Let us be humble and count every man better than us, no matter his “denomination”

  • AlphaOmega

    “Separated by sharp denominational differences ” is not compatible with the Catechism:

    “IV.       How Can We Speak about God?

    39      In defending the ability of human reason to know God, the Church is expressing her confidence in the possibility of speaking about him to all men and with all men, and therefore of dialogue with other religions, with philosophy and science, as well as with unbelievers and atheists. (851)”

    Excerpt From: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Catechism of the Catholic Church.” United States Catholic Conference, Inc., 2013-02-05T15:24-06:00. iBooks.
    This material may be protected by copyright.

    Check out this book on the iBookstore:

  • Pingback: Fear Not…Divine Mercy is Here | nunspeak()


    Your insights reflect the work you’ve done to understand who God made you to be and who God is to you. Praying for the Warrens. Thanks for sharing.

  • Summer Frost

    Angel, what do you do when the Lord’s answer is to let you continue in your illness? Not everyone who seeks help is cured, whether the physician is Divine or not. Your well intentioned comment only exemplifies the stigma that the ill struggle with. To one whose head is barely above water, your comment sounds like, “If you’d only pray at Adoration HARD enough, you’d be healed.” That was likely not your intention, but it is an interpretation.

    Please believe that those of us who struggle ARE storming the gates of Heaven with prayer for healing. Sometimes, God’s answer is, “not yet”, and the result is continued agony.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    St. Teresa said “God and chocolate is better than God alone.” (allegedly)

    I’d say, “God and SSRIs are better than God alone.”

  • Summer Frost

    @ Kate Synder –How do you know Matthew did not believe? Because he committed suicide? One is NOT a direct result of the other. According to this logic, the childlless coulple simply doesn’t want a child enough. The diabetic is too gluttonous for sweets. Patients with heart disease love fried chicken too much.

    He believed. He likely believed as much or more as you do. The difference is, your brain chemicals do not produce an anomaly that results in mood disturbance and disordered thoughts. That anomoly led to suffering of unimagineable (if you haven’t experienced it) proportions.

    His suffering overcame him long enough to take him. Would you blame him for the suffering? Not all mental illness is a matter of demons. Not all demon possession is a matter of mental illness. And they are not synonomous. Charity first.

  • Nicholas

    You’re inferring a condemned proposition when it is not being advocated. Yes, we may not categorically state that all men are saved, for the reasons you indicate; God is just. However, we dare hope that all men accept grace sufficient for salvation, even if it is offered in a way we cannot know; God is merciful.

  • Pingback: Reflecting on the Tragic Death of Matthew Warren()

  • RDB

    “There is one striking moment in Rick Warren’s statement: ‘Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.’”
    Comment: I was also struck by this statement and it suggests to me that Rick Warren was profoundly out of touch with his son’s state of mind I do not think that we can assume the people around Matthew did everything right or that they had any understanding at all of his mental health or illness. To the contrary, Matthew’s situation, stuck in the shadow of his father’s ministry and fame, unable to break away into his own life, may have contributed to his depression. These things may be unknowable — we should not assume anything, except that Matthew will rest in peace.

  • Dick Landkamer

    @Nicholas: I am not inferring a condemned proposition (apokatastasis). Rather, I’m addressing the concept of an empty hell. Genuine hope must be based on a reality, and the concept of an empty hell is inconsistent with the Gospels. “Hope” that is not based on a reality is merely a dream.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    I was very circumspect about this subject because I did not want a suicide to be an occasion for a debate about these issues, which are complex and tend to distract from the healing and mercy and hope required of us as Christians in times of tragedy. For those interested in a fair (in my opinion) assessment of the subject I’d recommend this: I don’t agree with everything in it, but it’s very thorough and balanced.

    I find von Balthasar’s position intriguing, although not his best work, and I believe the virtue of hope may indeed extend to hope that all may be saved without embracing apokatastasis. I would, however, rather not debate this in this post, which is attracting many people in pain and searching for mercy and hope. (The traffic for this post is huge.) I do hope to write at greater length on “Dare We Hope?” in the future, and we can kick around the theology there.

  • Pingback: Attention, please | Bareface()