SO HIGH THE PRICE by P.J.. Kelly, S.T.L.
Too Much Silence About Hell
In the January 14, 1968 issue of LOsservatore della Domenica, Vatican City Weekly, a reader queried: Why is it that no one mentions hell any more, or purgatory, heaven, and the general judgement? Has the Church changed its views? What are we to think? Is some kind of de-mythologizing going on? Under the title, Too Much Silence About Hell, the Vatican paper replied:
Nothing has changed in the Churchs teaching on death, judgment, hell heaven and purgatory. Eschatology is no myth, even if at times our imagination presents it under mythical and symbolic forms, as in Dantes Divine Comedy, or in various works of art.
The following are doctrines of faith; in the present economy of salvation, death is the result of sin, since the gift of corporal immortality was lost through Adams fall; after death, every man will be judged by God in a particular judgment, the sentence of which is irrevocable; heaven, or everlasting life, is a fact and in it the just share forever in the blessedness of God; in the next life, there is a state of suffering in which evildoers, far from God, receive eternal punishment; purgatory exists, a state of purification in which souls not yet entirely pure are purified by sufferings and rendered worthy of heaven; Jesus Christ will return at the end of the world to bring to completion the kingdom He began; the resurrection of the dead will take place at the end of the world and will be followed by the general judgment. All this we know from Divine Revelation.
Both the justice and the mercy of God are infinite and we do not know at what point they meet or how they are applied. The modern preference for going to Jesus by way of love does not exclude fear, for even fear can lead to love. Blessed Angelico portrayed Christ the Judge with a sad expression; one hand is upraised with its wound bleeding, while the other has drawn open His tunic to reveal His pierced Heart before impenitent sinners; the latter have turned away from Him and are beating their breasts in self-accusation and remorse. It is man who condemns himself, bringing about his own damnation by rejecting divine truth and love.
What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul? The price is too high! What can a man give in exchange for his soul?
In these post-conciliar times of earnest seeking after spiritual renewal, reflections on hell, the consequence of Gods infinite justice, might grind a bit in our ears. And yet even to this bustling twentieth century, the words of St. Jerome ring out: Think about Hell now so as to avoid it hereafter.
So High the Price opens before our eyes the gates of hell, relying always on Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church. Vivid examples abound and the moral is ever an encouraging one for us. We who are living have the glorious opportunity of not only avoiding that very real place of torment, but of realizing that God has given us the free will to choose Him ourselves.
This compact volume does not leave one fearful and trembling. But it does lead each of its readers to a stronger resolution to choose God and His heaven.
1) Introduction: Too much silence about hell
2) Forgetting is not destroying
3) Some object
4) But many of the learned deny hell
5) The voice of the council
6) I only believe what I see
7) Youll find out
8) The legend of the two fish
9) Was hell invented by priests?
10) Hell exists!
11) Tradition tells us
12) Reason itself tells us
13) I dont have faith anymore! I dont believe in anything!
14) A proof
15) The separation from God
16) The optimists
18) Still other torments
19) Other optimists
20) Masters of our freedom
21) Just one sin suffices
22) Sins deserving of hell
23) Confession - the restorer
25) Let us hate sin!
26) Let us never reject Gods graces
27) Thomas More
28) Like sailors
29) Have courage!
30) Children, too, are in danger
31) Faith without works is dead
32) He who prays will be saved
33) The great promise of the Sacred Heart
34) The Mason
35) Mary, Gate of heaven
36) The great promise of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
37) What does it profit a man?
FORGETTING IS NOT DESTROYING
How often, challenges a contemporary theologian, do people purposely avoid mentioning hell? The practice of this hidden heresy has found its formal theory, namely the express recommendation to live heresy in secret.
Its true. The now almost universal experience of soft, vice ridden, pagan-like living is a proof of the fact.
is not the equivalent of destroying.
Thus, hell, though denied in theory and in practice by many, continues to exist.
Yes, it exists because God exists. He, the Creator and absolute Lord of creation - heaven, earth and all men - is also the supreme Remunerator. In His own good time, He rewards tha just with heaven and punishes the rebellious with hell.
Some say, Oh, there is no hell - thats all foolishness!
Some say, Theres no such thing as hell! Thats something priests made up!
Or: We have our hell in this life.
Or: Another hell besides the one we live in? As if this werent enough!
No one has ever come back to tell us that hell exists.
Even were we to admit that no one has ever returned, that fact would not prove that hell does not exist. Rather, it would serve to prove that they who go there, never leave it!
Its very easy and at the same time very dangerous to laugh at hell; wrote Julien Green. Even were there only one chance in a thousand that hell exists, this remote possibility would be enough to warrant my frequent consideration of it - daily consideration in fact. It would be too great a risk not to give it thought.
We shall mention, however, a few apparitions from the other side of the tomb, so that they may serve as the subject of serious thought.
Msgr. De Segur, a well-known French preacher and spiritual writer, records a few facts on the subject of hell:
The first, he writes, happened in my own family, at Moscow to be exact, shortly after the terrible Napoleonic campaign of 1812.
My Mothers father, Count Roctopchine, military governor of the city, was intimate with the celebrated general, Count Orloff, famed for his valor no less than for his scorn of religion.
Yet, Orloff would sometimes remark, suppose there is something on the other side of the grave?
On one occasion, another general, whom we shall call General V., replied, Well, if there should be something, the first of us to die will return to warn the other. Are we agreed?
Agreed, replied Count Orloff. And they gave each other their word of honor.
A few weeks later, fierce fighting broke out, one of those long-feared wars which Napoleon was so capable of starting. The Russian army moved to the front and General V., receiving orders to take over an important port, left immediately.
Early one morning two or three weeks after he left Moscow, my grandfather was dressing when the door of his room was suddenly thrown open and in rushed Count Orloff, his eyes wild, his hair uncombed and his face white.
Orloff! What are you doing here at this hour? And in such a fog? Whats the matter with you? What happened?
Friend, gasped Orloff, I think Im losing my mind. I saw General V.
General V.? Oh, is he back?
No! cried Orloff, throwing himself upon a couch and burying his head in his hands. No, he hasnt returned and thats why Im so shaken up.
My grandfather could understand nothing and he tried to calm the man.
Come, now, he said, tell me what happened and what all this means.
With an obvious effort to gain control of himself, Count Orloff told his story:
Not long has passed, Roctopchine, since General V. And I swore to each other that the first of us to die would return to tell the other, should there be something after death. This morning, while I was lying peacefully in bed, without thinking of him at all, I saw General V. Before me, just a few feet away. He was erect, and his face was deathly white. With his right hand over his heart, he said to me:There is a hell, and I am in it!
With that, he dissapeared.
I ran right over to you, almost out of my mind! Ah, what a ghastly experience! I dont know what to think of it.
My grandfather did his best to convince him that it had been an hallucination, a trick of his imagination; he attempted to make him believe that he had been dreaming, that such extraordinary, inexplicable things were to be put out of his mind. He did his utmost to convince him with arguments which in themselves were worthless, but which generally constitute the consolation of strong souls. At last, he took the Count back to his own house.
Ten or twelve days later, a war report brought to my grandfather, among other news, the account of General V.s death.
The very morning of that memorable day in which Count Orloff had seen and heard him, at that exact time in which he had appeared to him in Moscow, the wretched General had been shot and instantly killed....!
In the life of St. Bruno, founder of the Carthusians, we read if the momentary resurrection of a famous personage, which terrified the city of Paris and all France:SOME OBJECT
Raymond Diocres, a professor at the Sorbonne, and a man with a universal reputation for learning and apparent virtue, died in Paris. Three days later, his coffin, beautifully adorned with the symbols of his profession, was brought into the cathedral with solemnity, accompanied by his fellow professors, by a large group of students and many priests.
Hundreds attended the funeral service; innumerable candles were lit and prayers were offered for him by those who had admired the great knowledge and virtues of the illustrious deceased. But when the choir came to the passage in the Office of the Dead: What are my faults and my sins? My misdeeds and my sins make known to me! which Holy Job asks in Scripture, suddenly the corpse, which was lying exposed on its bier, moved before their eyes, sat up, and cried out in accents of desperation which matched the despair in his eyes: By the judgement of God, I have been accused, judged and condemned.
Having said this, he fell back, never to move again. Thus the world- renowned professor had hidden vice under the appearance of virtue. But God, who scrutinizes hearts, knew his sins and punished him for them.
Why doesnt God let us see some apparitions of the damned? We would believe in hell if we were to see a damned soul with our own eyes.
There was a certain rich man, we read in St. Lukes Gospel, who used to clothe himself in purple and fine linen, and who feasted everyday in splendid fashion. And there was a certain poor man, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich mans table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. And it came to pass that the poor man died and was borne away by the angels into Abrahams bosom; but the rich man also died and was buried in hell. And lifting up his eyes, being in torment, he saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said,father Abraham, have pity on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.
But Abraham said to him, Son, remember that you in your lifetime have received good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now here he is comforted whereas you are tormented. And besides all that, between us and you a great gulf is fixed, so that they who wish to pass over from this side to you cannot, and they cannot cross from your side to us.
And he said, Then, father, I beseech you to send him to my fathers house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they too come into this place of torments. And Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the Prophets: Let them hearken to them. But he answered, No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent. But he said to him, If they do not hearken to Moses and the Prophets, they will not believe even if someone rises from the dead. (Lk. 16:19-31)
So it is. People who believe in the Church and in Sacred Scripture do not need the testimony of the dead.
Contrariwise, even that testimony would be useless to all those who do not believe in the Church and in Sacred Scripture. Even were a damned soul to return from hell, they would not believe. Instead, they would cry: Hallucinations! Dreams!
Where there is no faith, no fact will suffice to convince; and when the will is perverse, reason obstinately rejects the truth.
In fact, who are they who deny hell?
They who find it inconvenient to admit its existence, such as obstinate sinners.
On the other hand, the believers are they who by their ability, learning, sublimity of sentiment and generosity of life have honored and are, at present, an honor to humanity.
BUT MANY OF THE LEARNED DENY HELL.
Some, uncertain of themselves (because they refuse to be taught) cling for strength to the assertions of a few who pass for being learned, and who, as they, deny hell.
They should note that these brilliant characters of whom they speak, admittedly may be learned in the secular sciences, but in matters of religion, they may just be beginners. Moreover, either they know very little, or else, their ideas on this subject are erroneous. If one were to become intimately acquainted with these pseudo-wise men, he would discover that in general their moral conduct leaves much to be desired - which is often the reason why they find it convenient to deny the existence of hell.
Augustine, Aquinas, Dante, Chesterton, Volta, OConnel, Ampere, Newman, Lamartine, Marconi, Locordaire, Pasteur, Copernicus and thousands of others believed
in the existence of hell! They believed - these truly great thinkers, these truly learned men, who were lights of their own age and ours.
Pure and genuine theology on hell is contained in the lines Dante describes as seen by him over the gates of hell:
Through me the way into the doleful city, through me the way into pain eternal,
through me the way to people lost to pity.
Justice did move Creator mine supernal: made me that power divine by evil hated: wisdom supreme and first love sempiternal.
Preceded me no thing that was created, save thing like me eternally endured: Leave hope behind who enter here beweighted.
(Canto III, 1-9)
Further on in Canto VIII, are the lines: Great kings how many there above remind them, who here shall lie like swine in mired sadness,
leaving reproches horrible behind them. (Canto VIII, 49-51)
THE VOICE OF THE COUNCIL
And even in our own time, The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, that magnificent decree issued by Vatican Council II, composed of our learned and holy Bishops, proposes for our contemplation the thought of the last judgment.
Joined with Christ in the Church and signed with the Holy Spirit "who is the pledge of our inheritance", truly we are called and we are sons of God but we have not yet appeared with Christ in glory, in which we shall be like to God, since we shall see Him as He is.
And therefore "while we are in the body, we are exiled from the Lord and having the first-fruits of the Spirit we groan within ourselves and we desire to be with Christ"'. By that same charity however, we are urged to live more for Him, who died for us and rose again. We strive therefore to please God in all things and we put on the armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil and resist in the evil day. Since however we know not the day nor the hour, on Our Lord's advice we must be constantly vigilant so that, having finished the course of our earthly life, we may merit to enter into the marriage feast with Him and to be numbered among the blessed and that we may not be ordered to go into eternal fire like the wicked and slothful servant, into the exterior darkness where "there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth".
For before we reign with Christ in glory, all of us will be made manifest "before the tribunal of Christ, so that each one may receive what he has won through the body, according to his works, whether good or evil" and at the end of the world "they who have done good shall come forth unto resurrection of life; but those who have done evil unto resurrection of judgment".
Reckoning therefore that "the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that will be revealed in us", strong in faith we look for the "blessed hope and the glorious coming of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ" "who will refashion the body of our lowliness, conforming it to the body of His glory. and who will come "to be glorified in His saints and to be marveled at in all those who have believed"
I ONLY BELIEVE IN WHAT I SEE.
I only believe in what I see, a soldier said one day, with an air of superiority. Thats why I dont believe in hell.
Fine! someone answered. And do you believe in the existence of Europe, Africa or Australia?
Of course, because although Ive never been to those places, travelers and geography books tell of them.
Oh, yet you dont believe in hell. I suppose its not enough for you that the existence of that place of torments is verified by Christ Himself, in the Gospel?
YOULL FIND OUT!
Msgr. DeSegur records a curious incident which took place at a certain military school, known as St. Cyrs.
The Abbot Rigolot, chaplain there, had a custom of giving a sermon to the students who assembled every night in the school chapel, before going up to their rooms.
One evening, the Abbot preached on hell. When Benediction was over, he was just about to retire to his own apartment when he heard his name called. His hand on the door knob of his room, he turned to see an elderly captain, a grey bearded, rudy- faced man, following him up the stairs.
Pardon me, Father, he said, with a mocking tone. Your Reverence gave a magnificent discourse on hell tonight: one thing you forgot to tell us wether well be cooked on a grate, broiled or fried. Would you mind answering that?
Realizing with whom he had to deal, the chaplain stared calmly at him a full moment and then said quietly, Youll find out, Captain.
With that, he walked into his room and closed the door.
THE LEGEND OF THE TWO FISH
Those who do not believe in the existence of hell will find out for themselves, but by then they will have no more time to escape it.
Theirs will be the sad experience of the little fish in the well known Oriental fable:
"Two fish," as the story goes, "were swiming in a river. One was old and the other newly hatched. A fisherman approached the stream and threw out his line.
"Watch out!" the wise old fish warned the little fellow. "Under that tasty food there is a hidden hook. Don't touch it or it will cost you your life. The little metal hook will get ahold of you and drag you up onto earth. On earth there is fire and fire cooks fish and then men eat them. If your life is dear to you, stay out of danger".
"Oh nonsense!" replied the little fish. "Imagine! Dry land where you cannot swim! Fire that cooks! Men who eat fish! Now I ask you, who ever came back to tell us of such absurdities?"
"So the imprudent fish was caught by the hook and the frying pan taught him too late that in spite of his unbelief, out of the stream of water there did exist the fire at which he had laughed so heartily."
WAS HELL INVENTED BY PRIESTS?
Well, for one thing, hell existed long before priests did. God created it for the rebel angels even before he created man.
Priests have the duty of reminding us of a terrifying reality, taught over and over again by God in the Bible.
One good Christian woman, the story goes, being importuned by two ministers of a certain sect to embrace their religion, replied, Gentlemen, you have really come up with a wonderful reformation. You have eliminated fasting, confession and purgatory. Unfortunately, however, you have retained hell. If you could eliminate that, too, Id join you!
and the eternal duration
of hell are truths of faith. The following are dogmas of faith regarding hell and the last things:
In the present order of salvation death is a punishment for sin.
All human beings subject to original sin are subject to the law of death.
The souls of the just which at the moment of death are free from all guilt of sin and punishment for sin, enter into heaven.
The bliss of heaven lasts for all eternity.
The degree of perfection of the beatific vision granted to the just is proportioned to each ones merits.
The souls who die in the condition of grievous personal sin enter hell.
The punishment of hell lasts for all eternity.
The souls of the just which, in the moment of death, are burdened with venial sin or temporal punishment due to sins, enter purgatory.
At the end of the world Christ will come again in glory to pronounce judgement.
All the dead will rise again on the last day with their bodies.
The dead will rise again with the same bodies as they had on earth.
Christ, on His second coming, will judge all men.
The prophet Isaia explicitly describes the lot of reprobates when he says: Their worm shall not die, not their fire be extinguished; and they shall be abhorrent to all mankind.(Isaia 66:24)
The prophet Daniel announces the resurrection of the dead with these words: Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake: Some shall live forever, other shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. (Dan. 12:2)
The Book of Wisdom vividly describes the lot of the wicked and their desperation:
" Then shall the just stand with great constancy against those that have afflicted them, and taken away their labours. These seeing it, shall be troubled with terrible fear, and shall be amazed at the suddenness of their unexpected salvation. Saying within themselves, repenting, and groaning for anguish of spirit: These are they, whom we had some time in derision, and for parable of reproach. We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honour. Behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints. Therefore we have erred from the way of truth, and the light of justice hath not shined unto us, and the sun of understanding hath not risen upon us. We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity and destruction, and have walked through hard ways, but the way of the Lord we have not known. What hath pride profited us? or what advantage hath the boasting of riches brought us? All those things are passed away like a shadow, and like a fleeting rumor. So we also being born, forthwith ceased to be: and have been able to shew no mark of virtue: but are consumed in our wickedness. (Wisdom 5:1-9, 13)
In the Gospel, Jesus Christ, Who is truly God just as the Father and the Holy Ghost, forseeing the attacks of enemies, spoke many times of hell. Sometimes He simply called it hell; at other times: fire of Gehenna, furnace of fire, unquenchable fire, the weeping and gnashing of teeth, or exterior darkness.
He asserts that:
Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Ghost never has forgiveness, but will be guilty of an everlasting sin. (Mk. 3:29)
that whoever commits adultery will be thrown into hell (Mt. 5:28-30)
that those who give scandal will go into hell, into the unquenchable fire (Mk. 9:41-42)
that the wicked will be cast into the furnace of fire (Mt. 13:49-50)
that the evil rich will be tormented in flames (Lk. 16:19-31)
that the unprofitable servant will be cast into the darkness outside (Mt. 25:30)
The Divine Master speaks even more clearly of hell when He describes the Final Judgement:
And when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty. And all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.
Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee? And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.
Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me. Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee? Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me. And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting." (Mt. 25:31-46)
TRADITION TELLS US
The Fathers and Doctors of the Church, faithful interpreters of Revelation, unanimously taught the existence and eternity of the pains of hell, asserted that the wicked will be tormented by horrible pains, by unceasing grief, by the worm that never dies, i.e., remorse, and by the unquenchable fire, from which no one will ever free them.
St. Ignatius of Antioch, for instance, says of those who corrupt the faith with perverse doctrines: They will go into the unquenchable fire.
St. Irenaeus teaches as Catholic Dogma, The impious, the unjust, the wicked and the blasphemer will be thrown into eternal fire.
To the testimony of the fathers may be added that of the martyrs, who often declared that while they did not fear temporary pain, they greatly feared the eternal fire of hell.
REASON ITSELF TELLS US
Our own reason admits that the existence of hell makes sense. It seems right to us that at least in the next life those who have escaped human punishment from human justice should be punished at last. Evil and good are substantially different, we know, and if good is to be rewarded, it follows that evil will necessarily be punished.
An impious man was boasting loudly that he did not believe in hell. Among his listeners was a man with enough common sense to find a way to silence the braggart. His was a most simple argument.
Sir, he said, governments and kings of this earth have prisons to punish rebels. How can you say, then, that God, King of the universe, does not have His prison for those who offend His Majesty?
Were it not so, God would be guilty of injustice - giving sinners the same reward He gives the good.
This, however, cannot be, because God is infinite Justice, as He will prove in His own good time.
I DONT HAVE FAITH ANYMORE! I DONT BELIEVE IN ANYTHING!
We do what is right and we suffer! If there were a God, He wouldnt make the good who do their duty suffer, while the evil enjoy life at the expense of others.
God tries those He loves. If He permits us to suffer, even though we do our duty, it means that He wants to purify us now from every stain of sin - and who among us has not sinned? - so that in the next life we will not have to be purified by suffering.
On the other hand, if the Lord allows sinners to enjoy themselves at present, it is a sign that He, the Just Judge, wants to reward them here for whatever good they, too, must have done, since He must punish them in the next life for their sins. It is far, far better to suffer here and now, because the pains of hell are incomparably worse than the sufferings of this life. And they last forever!
Moreover, the present life is a test of our fidelity to God and is therefore a period of suffering and exile - a fact we should never forget. It is given to us to prepare a better and immortal life for ourselves, in which, God Himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
Jesus set us the example with His life of suffering. If anyone wishes to come after me, He said, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Mt. 16:24)
St. Paul encourages us: We are sons of God. But if we are sons, we are heirs also: heirs indeed of God and joint heirs with Christ, provided, however, we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him. (Rom. 8:16-17) In another place, he says, Our present light affliction, which is for the moment, prepares for us an eternal weight of glory that is beyond all measure. (2 Cor. 4:17)
In the life of St. Francis of Jerome his biographer, Father Bach, narrates the tragic story of a woman who did not believe in hell.
There is nothing doubtful about the reality of this event. It was proved true during the canonization process of the saint, being supported by the testimony of many eye-witnesses.
In 1707, St. Francis of Jerome was spending his days preaching in various sections of the city of Napels. He often spoke about hell and the terrible punishments awaiting obstinate sinners.
One woman was disturbed and troubled by those sermons, Since they awoke a gnawing remorse in her soul, she tried to annoy the priest with jeers and catcalls, accompanied by loud notes on various musical instruments.
One day she was at her window making a lot of noise as usual, when the saint turned and exclaimed, I pity you, my daughter, if you resist grace! Eight days will not pass before God will punish you!
The woman, however, paid no attention to this warning, and continued to behave worse than ever.
Exactly eight days later, the saint stopped again in front of that house to preach, but this time all was silent and the shutters were closed.
The saints listeners informed him that Catherine (for that was the womans name) had died suddenly only a few hours before.
She is dead, repeated the servant of God. Then she shall now tell us what good it did her to laugh at hell. Let us go ask her.
He spoke these words as one speaking from inspiration and the people expected a miracle.
Accompanied by a large crowd, St. Francis went up to the room where the woman had been laid out. After saying a short prayer, he uncovered her face and cried out, Catherine, tell us where you are now!
In answer to his call, the dead woman raised her head and opened her eyes. Color flowed back into her face, but it was a face so distorted by despair that it was terrifying to behold. In a doleful tine, she answered, In hell. I am in hell! Then she fell back, a cold corpse once more.
I was present at the scene, one witness at the Official Inquiry said, but I cannot wholly express the impression that event made upon me and all the others in the room.
Nor can I yet fully express what yet passes through me when I go by that house and look up at here window. It is as though I were hearing again that cry of despair: I am in hell!
THE SEPARATION FROM GOD
Ah, hell! - the eternal pain of separation from God, of fire, of every evil without any good.
At present sinners do not know and cant fully conceive what suffering they will undergo in hell, forever separated from God.
Accustomed on this earth to content themselves with hundreds of small delights - which never really satisfy them - they get along without God, in a way.
But, oh, when death strikes, and they will have to leave behind their pleasures, then these unhappy souls will reason much differently. They will understand then the great good they have irreparably lost!
Yes, then, when the soul is freed from the body and deprived of even little pleasures, it will feel a strong, irresistible need to unite itself to God, the one true Good, Infinite Good and Source of full happiness, for the possession of whom it was created and redeemed. Ah, then, to be rejected by Him will fill them with despair, with agonizing pain, unequaled before.
Imagine the pain of a man who knows he will never see his wife again; of a woman who has no hope of embracing her husband once more; of a son forever deprived of his father; of a mother who has lost her child; of a man whose best friend is gone. Yet, the sufferings of these people, although heart- rending, are absolutely nothing in comparison to the agony of the damned forever deprived of the sight of the Heavenly Father, of Jesus company, of the Blessed Mothers and the saints and the never ending delights prepared for the elect.
Oh yes! Depart from me , accursed ones!(Mt. 25:41) the Divine Judge will say to the impenitent sinners at the Final Judgement, when He rejects them for having freely and stubbornly chosen to live far from Him.
The will of God, writes Cornelius a Lapide, will then be inflexible and the sinner will be hurled far from the light of all that is beautiful, true and holy - far from the infinite Love which was to have filled the great home land where he was meant to rest forever; far from the Father, from the Bridegroom of souls Who wanted to shower him with His graces in the eternal embrace of His love. In short, the soul will be far from God and all that which is the Supreme Good.
Thus, far from his highest Good, the sinner, plagued by unfulfilled desires and undying sadness, will carry within himself, in the midst of his suffering, a faith without hope; a faith he can no longer bury under pleasures or in the vain illusions of sinful nights.
Oh yes, then at last, the accursed will realize what a great good he has rejected for vile, fleeting satisfactions.
Great God, he will cry out, there is now nothing I can do; I have lost You, and by losing You, I have lost all! Beautiful Paradise, for which I was born, never, never shall I see you! O blessed life, O land of happiness, your gates are forever closed to me!
A throne of glory was prepared for me in heaven and I have lost it for good! My dear parents, my good friends, I shall never delight in the vision and presence of my God with you! I shall never know that torrent of joy in which you are immersed! I shall never share in your glory! The crown of immortal glory shines on your head and I have let the one destined for me fall from my head, nor shall I ever retrieve it. There is no second chance; I have lost everything and mine is an irreparable loss!
Yes, irreparable because hell is eternal
Though it is true that the sinful action lasts but a short time, yet the evil lies in the malice, in the disobedience of the sinners will.
Do we accuse our human laws of being unjust because they punish a criminal with long years in prison for the crime of a moment?
The sinner, says St. John Chrysostom, must give eternal satisfaction to God, because he willed to resist Him eternally.
In Scripture we read, Repay them for their deeds, for the evil of their doings....because they consider not the work of his hands , may he tear them down and not build them up. (Psalm 28:4-5)
Thats is the way it goes! Joking, laughing, for a momentary satisfaction, sinners prepare for themselves eternal suffering.
The optimists object: Can it be possible that God punishes a momentary sinful pleasure with an eternity of pain?
It is not only possible, but it is right and just. The offence given by the sinner to God when he transgresses His holy laws involves infinite malice, since it is an offence to infinite Majesty. Therefore, it deserves an infinite punishment. But since man, being finite, is incapable of undergoing punishment that is infinite in intensity, God punishes him with a chastisement infinite in duration. In acting thus, God acts justly.
Consider my son, that if you go to hell, you will never leave it. There, every pain is suffered and suffered forever.
Even when a hundred years have gone by since you went to hell, or a thousand, hell will be just beginning. After a hundred thousand, a hundred million years, after millions of centuries, hell will still be just beginning.
If an angel were to bring news to the damned that God had decided to free them from hell when as many million centuries had passed as there are drops of water in the ocean, leaves on the trees and grains of sand on the earth - if the damned were to hear that, they would be immensely consoled. "True", they would say, "many centuries must yet pass, but some day the time of our freedom will come." In reality, however, such vast stretches of time and more than we can possibly imagine, shall pass and find hell still only beginning.
Every soul damned in hell would be willing to make this agreement with God: "Lord, increase my suffering as much as You will; make me stay here in this place of torment as long as You will, but give me hope that someday You will free me."
But no, this hope, this end to suffering, shall never be.
At least if the poor soul of the damned could deceive himself and cheer himself up by thinking, "Who knows? Perhaps some day God will have pity on me and lift me out of this burning inferno."
No, not even that way is open to him, for he will forever see written before him the sentence of his wretched eternity.
"So", he will say, "all this terrible pain, this fire, will never end for me?"
"No," will come the answer. "No, never."
"Will they last forever?"
"Forever - for all eternity."
Oh, eternity! O bottomless pit! O sea without a shore! O endless tunnel! Who does not tremble at the thought of you!
Accursed sin! What tremendous agony you prepare for those who commit you!
Another torment that the damned suffer in hell is fire - that fire which the Lord and His Apostles clearly and expressly mentioned on many different occasions, using such terms as furnace of fire, fire of Gehenna, and pool of fire and sulphur. The word is not used metaphorically; it is a real fire, according to the almost unanimous teachings of the Fathers of the Church and theologians. In a sence, it can be said to be an intelligent fire torturing according to the guilt of each. Inextinguishable, burning but never destroying the damned, it rather preserves them as salt preserves food.
That it is an obscure and smokey fire we see from an expression used by our Divine Master: exterior darkness, and from the words of the Prophet: He shall join the circle of his forebearers who shall never more see light (Ps. 48:20)
Come and contemplate the horrible spectacle of victims of an internal fire exclaims Cornelius a Lapide: "In spirit enter that blazing prison, observe those slaves in flaming chains. They are not simply standing in the fire; they are buried in it. Look at the hungry flames leaping out of their eyes drunk with impurity, which so often gazed on obscene things! Look at the fire which washes in and out of those mouths in waves - those mouths which often vomited impure songs, indecent words, blasphemies and poisonous slander. Notice how the flames encompass their bodies, penetrate to the marrow of their bones, then race through their veins, reducing the reprobates to a burning piece of coal! How terrifying is the justice of God! Hopeless victims who see nothing but fire, touch nothing, breath nothing, hear nothing, are nothing but fire.
STILL OTHER TORMENTS
All the faculties of the reprobate's soul and all his sense will suffer their particular punishments.
The damned suffer a tormenting desire for heaven and the despair of ever possessing it, hatred for themselves and for God, remorse for being lost forever through their own fault.
In the next life, the evil rich man will have for his palace hell itself; for food, fire and sulpher; for perfume, the most nauseating and unbearable odors; for friends, the devils; for admirers, the friends who torment him with their symphony of screams, shrieks and horrid curses; instead of fine materials for cloths, fire, sulpher and pitch; for lights, eternal darkness; for company, demons.
The drunkard, Hugh of St. Victor writes, will be tormented by an insatiable thirst but have only gall to drink; the proud man will be covered with shame and ignominy; the glutton will devour fire; the miser will know absolute poverty; the slothful will be eternally prodded and jabbed without rest; beauty will be changed into the most repugnant ugliness; power into slavery; glory into disgrace.
In that horrible prison, writes Hugh of St. Victor, will be gathered together all the comrades of dissoluteness who formerly vied with one another to see who could be the most impure. There, friends will become deadly enemies; they will insult and abuse each other, heaping upon one another bitter reproofs. Their conversation will be bloody threats and horrible curses.
There the negligent and scandalous father will find himself next to his son who will scream at him hatefully:
Wicked father, it was you who set me on the road to perdition; you taught me to deceive the simple and ignorant; to cheat honest laborers; you sowed the first seeds of evil ambition in my heart; you taught me to profane the Lord's Day; to blaspheme; to get drunk; to despise the commandments of God. You caused my destruction. I curse you and shall curse you forever!
There the daughter will give vent to her fury, shrieking at her mother
Why did you bring me into this world if you wanted to prepare me for an eternity of suffering? Your example was a continual lesson in immodesty, flirtation, of wantonness, freedom; your sinful, 'easy-going' indifference to my conduct was my downfall. Be cursed forever! And all the echoes of hell will repeat, Be cursed forever!
Other optimists will object, Is it possible that God, infinitely good as He is, will send men whom He created to hell?
It is not God Who destines man for hell. He created him for heaven and gives him the means to attain it. It is the unhappy sinner himself who asks for such punishment by obstinately rebelling against the sacred law of his Creator and Father.
Just as a lazy, dissolute boy boy who is not promoted at the end of the school term must say: through my fault without blaming his father who did all he could to help him attain a position in life and even sent him to college, so must the sinner who falls into hell, beat his breast and moan through my fault, because God did all He could to save him.
The famous nineteenth century French Dominican, Lacordaire, reasons thus:
God is good and loves infinitely. But love has an essential need which must be satisfied. This need is to be loved in return. Love forgives every injury but one: lack of love in return.
Gods love is not a plaything. The love God showed for us by dying on the cross cannot remain without punishment if this love is not returned. If therefore, there is a justice without mercy, it is precisely that love of God. It is Gods love then, despised by the sinner even to the last hour of his life, which places the seal upon his rejection.
MASTERS OF OUR FREEDOM
Man is something very unique, writes Dominic Grasso. He springs from the hands of God who destines him to live in a determined way and to reach a determined goal. Yet, man can disobey God, making his own law, thus tending toward a purpose of his own which may even be opposite from the one traced for him by God. The law fixed by God for man is the natural law, manifested by his own conscience and the law of the church.
Eternal life, heaven, is the aim toward which we must move, seeking the intuitive vision of God.
Becoming aware of Gods plan for him, man can accept it and live accordingly. Yet, he can also reject it. In the first case, he obeys, follows his conscience and the laws of Gods church, thus reaching eternal life.
In the second case, he does not accept the plan of God; makes a law of his own, tending toward the end of his own choosing. Sin is the violation of Gods plan. Certainly, to such a man, God in His justice cannot grant eternal life, for the simple reason that the man himself REFUSED it. Thus, he will eternity separated from God. Hell is nothing less than the privation of the vision and possession of God.
Some may suggest that we turn out the way God makes us, just as a painting takes the form the artist gives it. Artists can paint pictures but they cannot make free beings. God creates each human being free - free to choose Him or reject Him.
Sin comes only from man who refuses to do Gods will, just as it happens in some families today. Parents give their child the best of formation, but the latter at a certain moment, employing his own freedom, can be disloyal to all the principles received even to the point of committing serious sin. In such cases it would be senseless to accuse the parents of te faults of their child. They fulfilled their obligations, but the success of their actions was not automatic. It depended on the freedom of their child, who failed to live as he was taught. It is inconceivable to punish the works of an artist. It is quite conceivable to punish a man who abused his freedom.
Each and every human being is the master of his own freedom.
Each man has the power to choose right or wrong. If we choose right we win an eternal reward. If we choose wrong, offending God, is it not logical that we be punished for it?
JUST ONE SIN SUFFICES
Just one mortal sin is enough to send one to hell, even if it be committed secretly or merely with a single thought. Just one mortal sin, that is, a disobedience to Gods laws, in grave matter, committed with full knowledge and full consent of the will - a transgression to which the will of the sinner stubbornly adheres, without repentance.
In the writings of St. Antoninus, Archbishop of Florence, is recorded an episode which struck a salutary fear into the hearts of many, towards the middle of the fifteenth century:
A young man from a good family, who had unfortunately hidden a mortal sin in confession at age sixteen, continued going to Communion, always putting off week by week, month by month, the confession seemingly so impossible. Tormented constantly and gulping down the remorse that ate his soul, he though to make up by doing great acts of penance. Still his conscience would not let him rest.
Ill join a monestary, he reasoned. There at last I will reveal all and will do penance for my sins.
But unfortunately he was welcomed as a youth of holy life and therefore the voice of conscience was overcome by shame. Once again, he put off making that sincere confession. One, two and three years passed by. Still his nerve failed and finally upon falling sick, the poor man said to himself, Now is my chance to reveal everything and make a general confession before dying. But even this time instead of manifesting his sins, he knowingly hid them, so engrained was he in pride. Tomorrow I will ask the priest and make a good confession, he told himself. But a high fever brought on delirium and he died in that wretched state without gaining consciousness.
His confreres, never guessing his unhappy end, were filled with veneration for the seemingly virtuous religious. With great reverence, they brought his coffin into the chapel.
Just minutes before the funeral, one of his confreres, about to ring the community bell summoning all to the funeral - stopped in alarm and fell on his knees at a terrible sight. In front of him stood a religious, clothed in red hot chains. I am in hell, the reprobate cried, do not pray for me. It was the deceased monk. Then he related the story of his cursed shame and litany of sacrileges. The vision faded away. Only a terrible stench remained filtered throughout the whole monastery.
SINS DESERVING OF HELL
Only mortal sins are deserving of hell. To commit a mortal sin, three things are necessary: the matter must be seriously wrong; the sinner must be mindful of the serious wrong; he must fully consent to it.
There is no sense fooling ourselves. Even if it wrings our hearts to admit it, we must acknowledge that many sins are committed, too many.
Some neglect their fundamental religious obligations; some blaspheme; some spread calumnies. There are those who rob and cheat to gain possession of the goods of others. Some corrupt others or let themselves be corrupted by impure habits. Still others burn with relentless hatred.
All these sins - in fact, each one of them - when committed with full knowledge and full consent of the will, is capable of sending the soul to hell forever. Whether we like it or not, whether we believe it or not, that is the way it is.
It is true that after Adams sin human nature is corrupted and tends toward evil, but a little effort, a little more trust in the help of God and the Blessed Mother is all we need to keep ourselves good. As for the rest, God gives sufficient grace for those who pray.
If, then, someone were so unfortunate as to have already merited hell on account of his sin, or on account of his innumerable sins, he is not to despair, for he can obtain Gods pardon. In Sacred Scripture, through the words of His prophet, God tells us: Is it my will that a sinner should die and not that he should be converted from his ways and live? (Ezechiel 18:23)
Infinitely merciful, Jesus Christ instituted the Sacrament of Penance to remit all the sins of those who are sincerely sorry for them. If we acknowledge our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all our iniquity. (1 John 1:9)
Through confession, adds St. Bede, God remits sins committed, helps the penitent keep from falling again and leads him to life everlasting, where it will be impossible to sin.
Should one have the misfortune to commit mortal sin, he can regain the state of grace before receiving the sacrament of Penance by making an act of perfect contrition with the sincere purpose of going to confession. However, he may not go to Holy Communion until he has made his confession.
Perfect contrition is the sorrow which arises from the love of God for His own sake, or because of His own goodness. It has the power to procure the forgiveness of all mortal sins that may be on the soul of the person who detests his sins from this motive. It was this perfect contrition that Our Lord spoke when He said to the repentant sinner, Mary Magdalen, Her sins, many as they arer, shall be forgiven her, because she has loved much. (Luke 7:47)
An act of perfect contrition could be made in this way: I detest all my sins most of all because they offend You, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love.
Friend, have you ever, in bed at night, stared into darkness and had thoughts like these:
I...I am going to die! Me....inside a coffin....underground....
I.....I myself.....shall live forever.....,i>in eternity.
Hell!....hell!....I can yet fall into it!....
God heavens! If one were to have a mortal sin on his soul that particular night, he would have to cut such thoughts short to keep from losing his mind!
Ah, yes! Such thoughts really terrify. But I beg you, try to reflect on these things because the resolutions which arise from them will make you truly wise.
Monsignor De Segur records the following story:
In 1837, a young French lieutenant was sent to Paris and finding himself near the Church of the Assumption, he went in and saw a priest kneeling in prayer next to a confessional.
Since religion was always the butt of his jokes, he decided to have a little fun in confession too. So, with this intention he approached the confessional.
Father, he said, Id like to confess myself.
Of course, my son, do so freely.
But first I must tell you that Im a rather unusual sinner.
That does not matter. The sacrament of Penance was instituted for all sinners, no matter who they may be, or what they may have done.
But you see, I do not believe much in the things of religion.
You believe more than you think you do.
Who? Me! Believe? Why, Ive always laughed at all that sort of thing.
The confessor realized with whom he had to deal and he smilingly replied:
Ah, so you laugh at it all, do you? Then youre playing games with me too?
The fake penitent continued to smile blandly.
Listen, the priest went on, You are not taking this at all serious. So lets leave confession aside and talk a bit, if you wish. Ive always liked soldiers and you seem a likeable fellow. What is your rank?
Will you remain a lieutenant for long?
Two, three, maybe four years.
Ill be promoted to Captain, I hope.
How old will you be by then?
About forty, forty five.
If Im promoted still more, Ill be a Brigadier General.
After that comes Major General.
After that theres nothing else but Marshall but I dont expect to reach that far.
You might. Now dont you count on getting married?
Yes, when Im a full fledged officer.
Good, so here you are married, an officer, a general, maybe Marshall of all France. And then?
Then? Why, I dont know what will happen.....
Isnt that strange! remarked the priest, in a more serious tone. You know everything up to that point, and you dont know what will happen after that. Well, I do know, and Ill tell you. After all that, youll die, be judged and if you continue to live as you are now, youll be damned and youll go to hell to burn.....Thats what will happen to you afterwards.
The lieutenant was obviously annoyed by the turn in the conversation and he made a move to leave. Seeing this, the priest added:
A moment sir. You are a man of your word, I know, and so am I. You must admit that you have been quite disrespectful to me and that you should make reparation for it. You may do this by simply carrying out this request of mine: For eight days before getting into bed at night, say to yourself: One day I shall die, but I dont care. After my death, I shall be judged, but that doesnt bother me. I shall be sent to hell to burn forever, but I dont care. Thats all. But you must give me your word that youll really do it. Agreed?
Tersely and only to get himself out of such an embarrassing situation, the young lieutenant promised.
Since he had given his word, that night, he carried out his penance: I shall die, he said. I shall be judged... but he lacked the courage to add, I dont care.
Eight days had not yet gone by when he went back to the Church of the Assumption, made a good confession and left the church with tears pouring down his cheeks and true joy in his heart!
LET US HATE SIN!
Let us hate sin as the worst of all evils, the only evil which banishes peace of hearts, God, His grace, the merit of our good works, and heaven.
Compared to sin, everyother misfortune or material disgrace is nothing.
Let us consider sin as our greatest enemy and if we should be so misfortunate as to commit it, let us immediately ask God for forgiveness, recalling the words of the holy Cure of Ars: God is more quick to pardon a repentant sinner than a mother to reach for her child fallen into a fire.
We read in the Gospel that one of the thieves crucified with Jesus after a life of sin turn to the Savior and begged Him, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. (Luke 23:42)
In return Jesus replied, This day you shall be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43)
Never should we go to sleep with sin on our soul.
Much less should we be so foolish as to think, I shall enjoy life now and wait until Im at the point of death to be converted to God.
LET US NEVER REJECT GODS GRACES
I do not will the death of the sinner, said the Lord through the mouth of the prophet Ezechiel, but I will that he live. (Ezechiel 33:11)
Many are they who resist the grace of God. God calls them to return to Him; He urges them tenderly; He invites them to go back to the right road - but they refuse to listen. They let Him knock at the door of their hard hearts, without remembering that He can punish and abandon them.
A man is to be pitied who laughs at God, because the day will come when His justice must punish him.
To Judas, who had planned the most horrible crime and had concluded in his infamous pact, Jesus offered a chance to realize his mistake and repent. At one time He reproved him sternly, at another time, sweetly, and always paternally, even to the last. Judas would not yield. He completed his sin and when he saw Jesus in the hands of His enemies, instead of repenting like Peter, he despaired and hung himself.
It were better for that man if he had not been born, (Mt. 26:24) Christ said of him.
All those who refuse to yield to the grace of God and abuse it may well suffer the same fate.
The colorful Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England, was put to death by King Henry VIII, upon refusal to take an oath forbidden in conscience to a Catholic.
Every means was used to make the courageous layman change his mind and when promises and pleas accounted to nothing, the kings party resorted to violence.
More was stripped of his honors and thrown into prison.
His friends visited him, trying to entice him to give in; his wife begged him to yield to the kings desire, so as to save his life for her sake and that of their children.
But More remained firm. Turning to his wife he asked her:
How many more years of life do you think I have?
More than twenty, she answered.
Foolish woman! he retorted. What a poor bargain it would be to trade my soul for such a trifle, to exchange eternity for twenty years!
St. Thomas More was condemned to death. As the martyr climbed slowly up to the executioners block, he recited the Miserere and then died with quiet courage. He left an example to all that we must save our souls at any cost, because if the soul is lost, all is lost.
An ambassador of a powerful ruler once presented himself to Pope Benedict XI and requested a favor for hislord. But the nature of the favor requested was such that the pope could not rightfully grant it.
Only God knows, Benedict replied, how much I would like to please the Emperor. So ardent is my desire that if I had two souls, I could perhaps be induced to sacrifice one to grant the favor you are asking. But tell your lord that I only have one soul, and I absolutely cannot: I will not lose it to please him.
Clear, brave words which every person of character should know how to repeat with courage at the proper moment!
St. John Bosco once told of an incident which happened to him:
On May6, 1860, I boarded the train for Turin, Italy, and sat down next to an obviously well-to-do gentleman.
He was a friendly man, but I soon discovered that he was strongly prejudiced against priests. He had just bought a notoriously anti-religious paper. Opening it, he handed it to me to read. Thanks, my friend, but I dont read such trash. Dont you see what a bad paper it is?
Oh! Everybody knows that its not necessary to be particular about what newspapers you read......Whats good is good and whats bad is bad!
Dont you realize that the whole nation reads this paper?
Dont say that, I said. many read it, but they do wrong, and further more, if we could open the gates of hell this moment, we would find many bitterly regretting the trash they read.
The man grew pensive and at last replied: What a terrifying thought! If thats how things stand, this paper can go to the devil, because I dont want to go!
Taking the paper, he tore it up and threw the pieces out the window.
afetr this wonderful action of his, I tried to win his confidence. Soon he opened his heart to me, and finally said: Id like to confess myself.
I didnt hesitate. I took him at his word and told him to prepare himself. He agreed and made his confession, leaving me with a strong conviction that he had really changed for good.
When sailors run into a storm at sea, and the only way to save the ship and their lives is to lighten the load, they throw their whole cargo into the raging waters, no matter how great its value.
Likewise, he who wishes to save himself from hell, must be disposed to make any sacrifice necessary, even for instance, to make restitution of ill-gotten wealth, or to leave someone very dear, or root out the most deeply imbedded vices.
St. Martinian had lived in solitude for twenty-five years when God permitted his fidelity to be put to a hard test.
A wicked woman, the courtesan Zoe, went to induce him to sin. She put on a beggars cloak over her own clothes and, taking advantage of a downpour, knocked on the door of his secludeed cell, asking refuge from the storm.
The holy hermit thought that in charity he could not refuse her admittance in those circumstances. Therefore he let the stranger in and lighting a fire, invited her to warm herself.
It was not long, however, before the evil woman threw aside her ragged cloak and before Martinians eyes, showed herself for what she really was, in all her seductive beauty.
Confronted with the danger of sinning, the servant og God remembered hell and going close to the fire, took off his shoes and put his feet on top of the burning coals. The awful pain forced him to cry aloud, but he said to himself:: O my soul, if you cannot stand this weak fire, how will you bear the eternal fire of hell?
The temptation was overcome and even Zoe converted and became a saint.
Let us follow St. John Chrysostoms advice to think often of hell now, while we are alive, so as not to go there forever after we die.
One day the holy and learned Pope Leo XIII said to the Foundress of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart: Let us work, Mother Cabrini, let us work, for afterwards, there is our beautiful heaven!
I like to work, Your Holiness, replied the Sister spritely, but will heaven really be ours after?
Certainly! said the Pontiff. Certainly! Heaven is for those who work as you do!
Yes, let us, too, work to the end of our lives without growing tired. We shall avoid hell and heaven will be ours.
On November 30, 1900, this same saintly Mother Cabrini embarked on the ship Alfonso XIII for Beunos Aires. In the diary she kept on this trip, we find:
Every night, at seven oclock, they ring a bell and all the passengers gather together to say the rosary. Our Lady of Mount Carmel is unveiled in the main room. The Captain is always the first to be there. He prays with such fervor that it is a pleasure just to watch him.
How good this Captain is! He seems the kind father of all. He always has a good word for everyone and no one goes to him in vain. He is a man of firm faith, observing Gods laws; for that reason he enjoys great peace of soul and communicates this peace to others, leading them by his example to obey the law imprinted on our souls by the hand of Almighty God.
CHILDREN, TOO, ARE IN DANGER
The fatherly Pope Pius XII in an address to school children on May 2, 1954, reminded them about the realities of the devil and sin and of the love of Jesus for them. We can all benefit from this simple exhortation, for hasnt the Master said: Unless you become as little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven? (Mt. 18:3)
We wish above all, cautioned the Holy Father, to express to you the fatherly concern that fills our hearts when we see reflected in your eyes the innocence that charms men, enraptures the angels, and even moves the heart of God. Who can tell, indeed, what may some day become of this easy, blithe gladness of yours? It might be possible - and our soul is saddened merely to think of it - that the sun of your childhood will be darkened by menacing clouds.
Do you remember how, when Jesus walked the streets of Judea, the little children ran to honor Him and their mothers presented them to Him, overcoming the opposition of those who feared that they would bother Jesus?
Today, alas, there is great danger that this will not continue to be the case, and that some children will no longer be, as before, the little friends of Jesus.
How many little ones today are in danger of being poisoned by the serpent of hell? Who would be able then, to recognize them? For these, Holy Church would weep, and it would not be easy in this case to comfort the sorrowing mother and dry her anguished tears. This venomous serpent encircles the world, disguised in many ways, and now seems to be trying to attack children in particular, to snatch them from Jesus and estrange them from the priesthood and the Church. Today there is cause for great fear that the children will be struck, wounded, and their souls killed.
Watch out, dear children. While you walk in the streets or play the games of childhood; when you watch shows that progress has brought even into your own homes, watch out! Often the serpent may be hidden there to strike you, to snatch you from Jesus. At the first sign of danger, cry out, run to your mother right away, and above all, to your heavenly Mother, to Mary, who has at Her command the power of God and is always near you. Call on your Guardian Angel to enlighten and sustain you.
FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD
The truth of St. Johns words: Faith without works is dead (John 2:26) is most evident. For salvation, baptism and faith are not enough. We must also obey God, keeping His laws.
Jesus warns us: Not those who say Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (Mt. 7:21)
A young man asked the Divine Master, Good Master, what good work shall I do to have eternal life? He said to him, Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good, and He is God. But if you will enter into life, keep the commandments. He said to Him, Which? And Jesus said, You shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness......(Mt. 19:16-19)
In the Bible it is written that Godeven promises temporal goods to those who obey His commandments.
Thus, then, shall it be: If you continue to heed the voice of the Lord your God, and are careful to observe all His commandments which I enjoin on you today, the Lord, your God, will rise you high above all the nations of the earth. When you hearken to the voice of the Lord, your God, all these blessings will come upon you and overwhelm you:
May you be blessed in the city and blessed in the country! Blessed be the fruit of your womb, the produce of your soil and the offspring of your livestock, the issue of your herds and the young of your flocks! Blessed be your grain bin and your kneading bowl! May you be blessed in your coming in, and blessed in your going out!
The Lord will affirm His blessing upon you, on your barns and on all your undertakings, blessing you in the land that the Lord, your God, gives you. (Deut. 28:16-6; 8)
Gods ways do not change.
The sociologist, La Play, in his research work, took a poll of over ten thousand families and then made this statement: The families in which we found the greatest peace and well being were those in which the laws of God were obeyed.
Oh, how good it is to please God in everything, exclaimed the holy Cure of Ars, St. John Vianney. How good it is to do everything for God! You work while He blesses your work; you walk while He blesses your footsteps; you suffer and struggle with Him. How consoling it is to think that god sees us in our every action! Let us say every morning, then: Today, I shall act in a way pleasing to God.
HE WHO PRAYS WILL BE SAVED
It is commonly held br theologians, as it was held by St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine and others, that for adults, prayer is necessary for salvation as a necessity of means. This means that a Christian, ordinarily, cannot be saved unless he turns to God to ask the graces necessary for salvation.
He who prays will be saved, warned St. Alphonsus de Liguori, and he who does not pray will be damned.
This holy doctor wrote a little book, The Great Means of Prayer, to prove this tremendous truth. If I could he said, I would like to print as many copies as there are people on earth, and then distribute them to everyone, so that all would understand the need we have of praying to save ourselves.
THE GREAT PROMISE OF THE SACRED HEART
The Sacred Heart of Jesus, Who left nothing undone to save us, came to our aid yet another time.
In an apparition to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1689, He said:
I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart, that My all powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Friday of every month for nine consecutive months, the grace of final perseverance and that they shall not die under my displeasure nor without receiving the sacraments, and My Heart shall be their secure refuge in that last hour.
The practice of this great promise is a guarantee for all those who want to be saved. ,br>For those who are obstinate in sin, it is a ray of light breaking the ice of their heart and if necessary, even rebellion and obstinacy.
For fearful souls too worried over their frailty and lack of strength, it is a protection against inconstancy and a support in the most difficult moments of their spiritual life.
Therefore, all those who apply themselves to satisfy the required conditions will be morally certain of their salvation.
The conditions are:
A. Receive Communion with the intention of making reparation to the Heart of Jesus, and of obtaining the benefits of the Great Promise.
B. On the First Friday of the month.
C. For nine consecutive months, without interruption.
D. With the necessary disposition, that is, in the state of grace.
God is faithful. Why not take advantage of such an easy means of insuring our eternal salvation?
John Baptist Ferrari was very devout when he was young and made the Nine First Fridays more than once. After high school with the Jesuits, he went to the University of San Remo, where he fell in with bad companions and in short, left the Church.
During those years, he became a Mason, suffocating the remorse that ate at his soul.
One day, however, he happened to meet and talk with a priest, his old prefect at the high school. He suddenly remembered the devotion to the Sacred Heart and the serenity and peace that had been his when he was in the state of grace. He lay aside his mask of feigned happiness and broke into sobs:
Oh, Father! he exclaimed, I am miserable, wretched - I have hell in my heart.
The priest took advantage of this spark of light to remind him of the Great Promise of the Sacred Heart and the Devotion of the Nine First Fridays which he had made. He tried to help him return to God. All was in vain. No, no, I cant! he cried. What would my friends say?: Thus he remained obstinate.
After graduating from law school, he continued to attack religious principles and to resist the invitations of the Sacred Heart, Who was calling him to repentance.
Grace triumphed in the end, however, and particularly struck by the thought of eternal punishment, John Ferrari reached his decision.
He made his confession to the Bishop and turned over to him the documents declaring him to be a Mason.
Three years later, after he had contracted tuberculosis, he was taken to a sanitorium. There he was a wonderful example of resignation and patience. He prayed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, accepted his pains in reparation for his sins and prepared himself for a good death.
In high school, he had received a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary which he kept with him always. Even during his wayward years, he had carefully hidden it and now during his illness, he kept it with him as a sign of his devotion.
He died at the early age of thirty-four, on April 14, 1909, with every sign of having been saved.
MARY, GATE OF HEAVEN
A message of supreme utility seems today to reach the faithful from her who is the Immaculate, the holy, the cooperator of the Son in the work of restoration of supernatural life in souls. In fact, in devoutly contemplating Mary they draw from her a stimulus for trusting prayer, a spur to the practice of penance and to the holy fear of God. Likewise, in is in this Marian elevation that they more often hear echoing the words with which Jesus Christ announced the advent of the Kingdom of heaven: Repent and believe in the Gospel; and His severe admonition: Unless you repent you will perish in the same manner.
Therefore, impelled by love and by the wish to placate God for the offences against His sanctity and His justice and, at the same time, moved by trust in His infinite mercy, we must bear the sufferings of the spirit and of the body that we may expiate our sins and those of our fellow beings and so avoid the twofold penalty of harm and of sense, that is to say, the loss of God - the supreme good - and eternal life.
THE GREAT PROMISE OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY
The Immaculate heart of Mary also showed compassion and tenderness for poor sinful mankind.
In her second apparition to the children of Fatima, Our Lady confided a great secret to them, with the admonition not to reveal it then.
Only after twenty-five years could Lucy for the good of souls partially manifest this secret, Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament having given her permission:
The secret, she writes, consists of three things; the first being the vision of hell;
Our Lady extended her hands as in the preceding months and powerful rays of light shot out from them, striking the children and also piercing the ground at her feet. At that moment, the shepards were allowed to look into the depths of the infernal regions, the eternal prison of torture to which thousands of unfortunate souls are daily condemned by their mortal sins.
The pits of hell we saw were like an immense sea of fire, reaching to the very core of the earth, continued Lucy. Both demons and souls in human form are immersed in this flaming gulf. The former are distinguishable by their horrible and repugnant likeness to animals - terrifying figures, transparent, but as black as coal. Resembling animated torches, they all float up and down in choking vapor and fumes, like sparks from a great conflagration filled with cries and lamentations of endless hate and despair. We trembled with fear. It was the sight of this abominable place which made me cry out with dismay.
The second part regards devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
We turned our eyes to Our Lady, almost as though asking for help. She said sadly and kindly:
You have just seen the eternal fires of hell, where the souls of impenitent sinners go. To save many from a similar fate, the Lord has willed to establish on earth the devotion to my Immaculate Heart.
Recite the Rosary every day, and after the Glory of each decade add this prayer: O my Jesus, pardon our sins, deliver us from the fire of hell. Bring to heaven all souls, especially those most in need of Your mercy.
Eight years later when the word Fatima was known throughout the world, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Lucy, who had become Sr. Mary of the Sorrowful Mother:
Behold, my child, my heart encircled with thorns that unfreatful persons, at every instant, press on it with their blasphemy and ingratitude. You, at least, seek to comfort me!
And let it be known to the whole world that I promise to help at the hour of death, with all the graces needed for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of the month, for five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite a third (five decades) of the rosary, and keep company with me by devoting fifteen minutes of their time to the meditation of the mysteries of the rosary, with the intention of offering me reparation for the sins committed against my Immaculate Heart.
That is the promise which touches our hearts with tenderness and hope - a truly great promise, because of the immeasurably great gift it assures us.
The necessary conditions to obtain the promise are:
A. Go to Confession and Communion.
B. Say the rosary.
C. Meditate on the mysteries of the rosary for fifteen minutes.
D. For five consecutive months without interruption.
E. Have the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The Confession may be made anytime during the eight days before or after the first Saturday, as long as Communion is received in the state of grace.
The meditation may be made on one or more mysteries of the rosary.
However, if anyone were to make the Nine First Fridays to the Sacred Heart of Jesus or the Five First Saturdays to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, with the secret intention of making sure of their salvation while continuing to sin grievously, he would manifest attachment to sin by this evil intention. Therefore, all his Confessions and Communions would be sacrilegious and instead of assuring him of gaining heaven would serve to bring him closer to the infernal pit.
The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and His Blessed Mother Mary promise the benefits of their Great Promises only to those who fulfill the requirements with the right dispositions.....
If a soul, after having made the Nine First Fridays to the Sacred Heart with the right dispositions, or the Five First Saturdays to Our Lady, were to fall into sin and lead his life far from God, we may believe, trusting in the promise of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that the Savior and the Merciful Virgin will give even such unhappy souls the graces necessary for salvation at the point of death.
On September 30, 1930, the vice-president of a school called Antonio Vievia in Brazil, wrote:
In October, 1928, an old gentleman, the grandfather of three of our students, was taken to the local hospital. It was Sunday and the novena to Our Lady of Fatima had just begun in our chapel.
The preacher spoke powerfully of the efficacy of Marys intercession in obtaining for obstinate sick people the grace of the last Sacraments. During the sermon, the oldest of these three boys came to me in the back pew and urgently requested the medal of Our Lady of Fatima to bring to his sick grandfather who, though seriously ill, vehemently refused the Sacraments.
His request complied with, the boy left immediately and when the sermon was over, I related the moving scene to the congregation and begged their prayers to the Queen of Fatima.
Wonderful result! Hardly more than an hour later, the boy was calling from the hospital to report an incredible event. A priest friend of his grandfather had picked just that afternoon to visit him and the old man, after a quiet conversation with him, spontaneously asked and received the Last sacraments. He died shortly after, in peace with God.
WHAT DOES IT PROFIT A MAN?
In a cable car ascending Mount Semmering, near Vienna, there was a well-to-do woman who asked the conductor:
What would happen now if the cable were to break?
We would set the breaks in action, replied the conductor.
The woman persisted:
And if that didnt work?
There are double breaks for safety.
But what if even those were to fail?
Well, quipped the old man, we would go to heaven or hell, depending on what we deserve.
The Holy Bible tells us: Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, wherever it falls, there shall it lie. (Ecclesiastes 11:3)
St. Augustine, who had often preached to the faithful of his diocese about heaven, spoke thus to them one day: Let us suppose that God promised you a hundred years of life, even a thousand years, amid an abundance of all the earths goods, on condition that you renounce your right to reign with Him...... A cry went up from the crowd: Let everything perish, but leave us God!
This is the way we must feel. Let us, then, turn to God with all our hearts, all our lives, ready to make any sacrifice rather than offend Him and run the risk of losing our souls.
What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul? (Mt. 16:26)