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The Saints Believed In Hell

April 11, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

(Editor’s Note: Given that Hell has become a burning issue in the media of late, we thought we would present a few quotations from the saints on the reality of its existence. As St. Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians: “. . . the Lord Jesus from heaven with his mighty angels, in blazing fire, inflicting punishment on those who do not acknowledge God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal ruin, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power.”
(The quotations below are from various sources, and they represent only a few of the many testimonies from the saints about Hell.)

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The Children Of Fatima

Sr. Lucy in her Memoirs described the vision of Hell that our Lady showed the children at Fatima. The Blessed Mother also told the three children that many souls are sent to Hell because they have no one to pray or make sacrifices for them (from www.fatima.org):
“She opened Her hands once more, as She had done the two previous months. The rays [of light] appeared to penetrate the earth, and we saw, as it were, a vast sea of fire. Plunged in this fire, we saw the demons and the souls [of the damned]. The latter were like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, having human forms. They were floating about in that conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames which issued from within themselves, together with great clouds of smoke.
“Now they fell back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fright (it must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me).
“The demons were distinguished [from the souls of the damned] by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals.
“That vision only lasted for a moment, thanks to our good Heavenly Mother, Who at the first apparition had promised to take us to Heaven. Without that, I think that we would have died of terror and fear.”

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St. Ignatius Of Loyola

This is from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits:
“Fifth Exercise:
“It is a Mediation on Hell:
“It contains in it, after the Preparatory Prayer and two Preludes, five Points and one Colloquy:
“Prayer. Let the Preparatory Prayer be the usual one.
“First Prelude. The first Prelude is the composition, which is here to see with the sight of the imagination the length, breadth and depth of Hell.
“Second Prelude. The second, to ask for what I want: it will be here to ask for interior sense of the pain which the damned suffer, in order that, if, through my faults, I should forget the love of the Eternal Lord, at least the fear of the pains may help me not to come into sin.
“First Point. The first Point will be to see with the sight of the imagination the great fires, and the souls as in bodies of fire.
“Second Point. The second, to hear with the ears wailings, howlings, cries, blasphemies against Christ our Lord and against all His Saints.
“Third Point. The third, to smell with the smell smoke, sulphur, dregs and putrid things.
“Fourth Point. The fourth, to taste with the taste bitter things, like tears, sadness and the worm of conscience.
“Fifth Point. The fifth, to touch with the touch; that is to say, how the fires touch and burn the souls.
“Colloquy. Making a Colloquy to Christ our Lord, I will bring to memory the souls that are in Hell, some because they did not believe the Coming, others because, believing, they did not act according to His Commandments; making three divisions:
“First, Second, and Third Divisions. The first, before the Coming; the second, during His life; the third, after His life in this world; and with this I will give Him thanks that He has not let me fall into any of these divisions, ending my life.
“Likewise, I will consider how up to now He has always had so great pity and mercy on me. I will end with an OUR FATHER.”

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St. Catherine Of Siena

St. Catherine of Siena was a fourteenth-century Dominican mystic. This account comes from www.catholicism.org:
“One day from her window Catherine saw two notorious robbers being led to their executions. So horrible were their crimes that their sentence prescribed torture first before death. Each of the men was chained to a stake and driven through the town in wagons, while the executioners pricked them with red-hot forks and plucked flesh from their limbs with burning tongs. The poor wretches shouted curses in defiance and blasphemed God.
“Catherine was torn with pity for the two, and begged her Bridegroom to help them as He had done for the Good Thief on the Cross, who also had at first blasphemed.
“Boldly she demanded it: ‘Save these two miserable men who were created in Your image and redeemed by Your Precious Blood — or will You permit that they shall first suffer these cruel tortures before they die, and then go to eternal agony in hell?’
“Catherine followed the two men in spirit, as their wagons drew them to the place of execution. She could see in the air about them the demons swarming, confident of their prey, and urging them on to greater and more hateful blasphemies.
“Suddenly, the criminals saw Christ before them. He was crowned with thorns and bleeding from His scourging. Full of sorrow, Jesus looked into the eyes of the poor sinners. Their defiance broke; they called for a priest and confessed. The crowd was astonished at their change of heart. They now were weeping for their sins, singing hymns, and thanking God for their just punishment.”
And from The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, as the Lord said to her:
“. . . So I say to you, that in Hell, the souls have four principal torments, out of which proceed all the other torments. The first is, that they see themselves deprived of the vision of Me, which is such pain to them, that, were it possible, they would rather choose the fire, and the tortures and torments, and to see Me, than to be without the torments and not to see Me.
“This first pain revives in them, then, the second, the worm of Conscience, which gnaws unceasingly, seeing that the soul is deprived of Me, and of the conversation of the angels, through her sin, made worthy of the conversation and sight of the devils, which vision of the Devil is the third pain and redoubles to them their every toil.
“As the saints exult in the sight of Me, refreshing themselves with joyousness in the fruit of their toils borne for Me with such abundance of love, and displeasure of themselves, so does the sight of the Devil revive these wretched ones to torments, because in seeing him they know themselves more, that is to say, they know that, by their own sin, they have made themselves worthy of him. And so the worm of Conscience gnaws more and more, and the fire of this Conscience never ceases to burn. And the sight is more painful to them, because they see him in his own form, which is so horrible that the heart of man could not imagine it.
“And if you remember well, you know that I showed him to you in his own form for a little space of time, hardly a moment, and you chose (after you had returned to yourself) rather to walk on a road of fire, even until the Day of Judgment, than to see him again. With all this that you have seen, even you do not know well how horrible he is, because, by Divine justice, he appears more horrible to the soul that is deprived of Me, and more or less according to the gravity of her sin.
“The fourth torment that they have is the fire. This fire burns and does not consume, for the being of the soul cannot be consumed, because it is not a material thing that fire can consume. But I, by Divine justice, have permitted the fire to burn them with torments, so that it torments them, without consuming them, with the greatest pains in diverse ways according to the diversity of their sins, to some more, and to some less, according to the gravity of their fault….”

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St. Francis De Sales

St. Francis de Sales, 1567-1622, a French bishop and writer, is the patron saint of journalists and is best known for his Introduction to the Devout Life, which includes this meditation on Hell, the Seventh Meditation in the book:
“Of Hell.
“Preparation.
“PLACE yourself in God’s Presence. Humble yourself, and ask His Aid. Picture to yourself a dark city, reeking with the flames of sulphur and brimstone, inhabited by citizens who cannot get forth.
“Considerations. Even so the lost are plunged in their infernal abyss; — suffering indescribable torture in every sense and every member; and that because having used their members and senses for sin, it is just that through them they should suffer now. Those eyes which delighted in impure vicious sights, now behold devils; the ears which took pleasure in unholy words, now are deafened with yells of despair; — and so on with the other senses. Beyond all these sufferings, there is one greater still, the privation and pain of loss of God’s Glory, which is forever denied to their vision. If Absalom cared not to be released from exile, if he might not see his father’s face, how much sorer will it be to be deprived forever of the blessed vision of God.
“Consider how insupportable the pains of Hell will be by reason of their eternal duration. If the irritating bite of an insect, or the restlessness of fever, makes an ordinary night seem so long and tedious, how terrible will the endless night of eternity be, where nought will be found save despair, blasphemy and fury!
“Affections and Resolutions. Read the Prophet’s descriptions of the terrors of the Lord, and ask your soul whether it can face them — whether you can bear to lose your God forever? Confess that you have repeatedly deserved to do so. Resolve henceforth to act differently, and to rescue yourself from this abyss. Resolve on distinct definite acts by which you may avoid sin, and thereby eternal death. Give thanks, offer yourself, pray.”

Heaven

But the kindly St. Francis de Sales also offers a meditation on Heaven immediately after the meditation on Hell:
“On Paradise.
“Preparation.
“PLACE yourself in the Presence of God. Invoke His Aid.
“Considerations. Represent to yourself a lovely calm night, when the heavens are bright with innumerable stars: add to the beauty of such a night the utmost beauty of a glorious summer’s day, — the sun’s brightness not hindering the clear shining of moon or stars, and then be sure that it all falls immeasurably short of the glory of Paradise. O bright and blessed country, O sweet and precious place!
“Consider the beauty and perfection of the countless inhabitants of that blessed country; — the millions and millions of angels, Cherubim and Seraphim; the glorious company of Apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and saints. O blessed company, any one single member of which surpasses all the glory of this world, what will it be to behold them all, to sing with them the sweet Song of the Lamb? They rejoice with a perpetual joy, they share a bliss unspeakable, and unchangeable delights.
“Consider how they enjoy the Presence of God, Who fills them with the richness of His Vision, which is a perfect ocean of delight; the joy of being forever united to their Head. They are like happy birds, hovering and singing forever within the atmosphere of divinity, which fills them with inconceivable pleasures. There each one vies without jealousy in singing the praises of the Creator. ‘Blessed art Thou forever, O Dear and Precious Lord and Redeemer, Who dost so freely give us of Thine Own Glory,’ they cry; and He in His turn pours out His ceaseless Blessing on His Saints.
“ ‘Blessed are ye, — Mine own forever, who have served Me faithfully, and with a good courage.’
“Affections and Resolutions. Admire and rejoice in the Heavenly Country; the glorious and blessed New Jerusalem. Reprove the coldness of your own heart for having hitherto so little sought after that glorious abode.
“Why have I so long lingered indifferent to the eternal happiness set before me? Woe is me that, for the sake of poor savourless earthly things, I have so often forgotten those heavenly delights. How could I neglect such real treasures for mere vain and contemptible earthly matters? Aspire earnestly after that blessed abode. Forasmuch, O Dear Lord, as Thou hast been pleased to turn my feet into Thy ways, never will I again look back. Go forth, my soul, towards thy promised rest, journey unweariedly to that hoped-for land; wherefore shouldest thou tarry in Egypt?
“Resolve to give up such and such things, which hinder you on the way, and to do such others as will help you thitherwards. Give thanks, offer, pray.”

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Fr. James Schall passed away today. A Jesuit priest & Georgetown professor, he served as mentor & model to a numberless many (including me). With penetrating insight & wit, he pointed us to Christ & those great Catholic minds we mustn't forget.

Fr. Schall, requiescat in pace.

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