As Our Lady spoke, she opened her lovely hands, disclosing beneath a sea of fire; and plunged in this fire were the demons and the souls, as if they were red-hot coals, transparent and black or bronze colored; with human forms, which floated about in the conflagration, borne by the flames which issued from it with great clouds of smoke, falling on all sides as sparks fall in great conflagrations -- without weight or equilibrium, among shrieks and groans of sorrow and despair which horrify and cause to shudder with fear.
The devils were distinguished by horrible and loathsome forms of animals frightful and unknown, but transparent like black coals that have turned red-hot.
"Here you see Hell, where the souls of poor sinners go," she said at length. "To save them God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If they do what I will tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace.
For many years now, the Modernists have been busy suppressing the doctrine of Hell and eternal punishment. Despite Our Lady's warnings at Fatima, they have succeeded, for the most part, in convincing lax Catholics that they "mustn't frighten the children by talking about Hell". Now the Modernist notion that Hell is merely a bad state of soul is quite common.
Obviously the words and actions of the Mother of God do not fall in with the Modernist ideal, for she, who is the Seat of Wisdom, not only talked about Hell to the three young shepherds, but actually showed them its inhabitants the demons and the damned. True, the children were frightened, and greatly so, but it was with that healthy fear which produced salutary effects in their souls -- amendment of life, zeal for the conversion of sinners, and detachment from worldly pleasures. It is of the utmost importance for us to produce these effects in our souls, by frequent and serious meditation upon the teachings of the Church and her theologians concerning the eternal punishment of the damned.
St. Alphonsus tells us that the Last Things ought to be among the principal subjects of our meditations: "He who often meditates on the four last things -- namely, death, judgement, and the eternity of Hell and Paradise, will not fall into sin. But these truths are not seen with the eye of the body, the soul only perceives them. If they are not meditated on, they vanish from the mind; and then the pleasures of the senses present themselves, and those who do not keep before themselves the eternal truths are easily taken up by them; and this is the reason why so many abandon themselves to vice, and are damned."
Let us consider first the pain of sense. Theologians tell us that all the senses and powers of the damned shall have their appropriate torment; and the more a person has offended God in any particular sense, so much the more shall he be tormented in that sense: "By what things a man sinneth, by the same also he is tormented" (Wisd. 11:17). St. Basil explains that the sight will be tormented by darkness: "The Lord will divide the fire from the light, so that this fire will only perform the office of burning, and not of giving light." St. Thomas says that there will only be sufficient light allowed to to the damned to torment them the more: "Just sufficient to see those things which can torment them."
As for smell, St. Bonaventure says that if the body of one of the damned were driven from Hell, the stench would be enough to destroy all men. And yet some fools say: ''If I go to Hell, I shall not be alone." Miserable beings! the more there are in Hell, the more they suffer.
The hearing shall be tormented by the continual howling and wailing of those despairing wretches. The appetite shall be tormented by hunger: "They shall suffer hunger as dogs" (Ps. 58:15): but never shall they taste even a crumb of bread. So great will be their thirst, that the water of the ocean would not suffice to quench it. The glutton asked for one single drop; but never yet has he obtained it, and never, never shall he have it.
Sacred Scripture repeatedly makes mention of the fires of Hell, which shall be the greatest of the pains of sense: "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire" (Matt. 25:41). The fire of this world is created for our use; but the fire of Hell is created by God expressly to torment. St. Vincent Ferrer says that in comparison with it, our fire is cold. Moreover, the damned shall be sent into the fire; he will be in fire like a fish in water. His body will become all fire, so that the bowels within him will burn, his heart will burn in his bosom, his brain in his head, his blood in his veins, even the marrow in his bones: "Thou shalt make them as an oven of fire."
Abbot Marmion says, furthermore, that the lost soul is given over to the power of the demons. "In Hell, where the damned, abandoned by God, are given entirely into their power, into this exterior darkness, the devils have free play. They cast themselves upon their prey to plague them without respite, to inflict upon them indescribable evils."
But all these pains are as nothing in comparison with the pain of loss; the pain that makes Hell is the pain of having lost God. Abbot Marmion explains it: "The damned soul is torn by two forces: its nature tends, with irresistible passion, towards God, the last end for which it was created, and on the other side, its will, fixed in opposition, rejects God, blasphemes Him and finds its satisfaction in this aversion. Who can describe the torture of this despair?" And St. Thomas says: "The pain of the damned is infinite, because it is the loss of an infinite good."
On account of this eternal loss, the damned prey on themselves by remorse. Have we then, will they say, for such trifling, transitory, and poisonous gratifications, lost Heaven and God, and condemned ourselves to this prison of torments forever? St. Alphonsus tells us: "In many ways will conscience gnaw the heart of the reprobate; but the three most grievous things will be, to reflect upon the trifles for which they have lost their souls; the little they were required to do to be saved; and finally, the great good they have lost."
The eternity of Hell is of faith; it is not a simple opinion, but a truth attested to by God in so many places in Scripture: "And these shall go into everlasting punishment" (Matt. 25:46). "What madness would it be in a man", exclaims St. Alphonsus, "Who, in order to enjoy one day of amusement, should condemn himself to be shut up in a pit for twenty or thirty years! But it is not a question of thirty, of a hundred, of a thousand, nor of a hundred thousand years; it is a question of eternity, of suffering forever the same torments." A devil who dwelt in one obsessed, being asked how long he would have to remain in Hell, replied, in a rage, beating his hand against a chair, 'Forever, forever!'" So great was the terror thus inspired, that many youths of the Roman Seminary, who were there present, made a general confession, and changed their lives at this great sermon of two words -- "forever, forever!" Another devil was asked, since when had he been in Hell, and he replied, "Yesterday -- yesterday!" They exclaimed, 'Thou hast been damned for above five thousand years, and thou sayest yesterday!" Again he replied: "Oh, if you did but know what eternity means, you would well understand that five thousand years are, by comparison, not even a moment."
Blessed shall we be, if after these considerations we reap the fruits of zeal for souls, patience, contrition for our sins, amendment of life, and perseverance in the True Faith. St. Teresa tells us of her vision of Hell: "I am not afraid to repeat that this is one of the most exceptional graces that the Lord has granted to me. It has been of the utmost profit to me." We too, if we realize the terrors of Hell, shall profit and shall make use of the means of salvation.
St. Alphonsus exhorts us, "Pray, pray, never cease to pray; for if you pray, your salvation will be secure; but if you leave off praying, your damnation will be certain." And let it be far from us to ignore the plea of Our Blessed Mother Herself, at Fatima: "Pray -- pray very much. Make sacrifices for sinners. Many souls go to Hell because no one is willing to make sacrifices for them."
Considering the Number of the Lost
"Enter ye in by the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who enter therein. How narrow the gate and strait is the way that leads to life! And few there are that find it!" (Matt. 7:13-14)
Reflecting upon these words of the Son of God; my soul, take a glance into Hell and count the souls that were damned before the coming of Christ. There is Cain. Of two brothers, one is saved, the other is damned.
That multitude is the souls of those who lived at the time of the Deluge. With the exception of one family, almost every person was damned.
There are the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah; the idolaters of the ancient world: Assyrians, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans, Babylonians, Egyptians, etc......
And of the Hebrews, most of them were also damned.
You may also count those who were obstinate! How many souls are there who spoke with Jesus Christ, who were with Him, and saw His miracles with their own eyes! Among the vast numbers there are Pilate, Governor of Judea; and Caiphas, the high priest; and Herod, the king; and Judas, the disciple of Jesus Christ; and a thief who died at His side.
Finally, count the number of those who were damned after the coming of the Messiah. See how many souls rebelled against the Gospel, who were too blind to accept miracles, who persecuted the Church; see the philosophers and poets who were of great renown in the world. Look at those Catholics who were damned in spite of the Faith, good inspirations, sermons, and Sacraments. Look, how many princes, bishops, priests, and religious! And at this moment, while you meditate, how many souls are falling into Hell!
And I go about saying: "If all sinners were damned, no man would be left for Paradise!" But, look how many are damned! What is all this to God? What damage is done to Paradise for their absence? O my soul, live with the few if you wish to be saved with them.
CONSIDERATION: Avoid diligently that temptation of the Devil with which he tempted Judas, leading him into the pit of despair, where one no longer prays to the pure and powerful Mother of God, Conqueror of demons. Be convinced that she never abandons her true children, but she cannot aid those who, succumbing to diabolical despair, fail to call upon her in times of trial and temptation.
PRACTICE: Resolve what special devotion you will perform in honor of Mary all your life, and write a solemn promise to fulfill it in order to gain her all-powerful and never-ending assistance in avoiding the flames of Hell.
EJACULATION: Thanks be to thee, O Mother, that I am not now burning in Hell.
Cry of a Lost Soul...
This unusual narrative recounts the revelations of a lost soul to a former acquaintance. It is a powerful record of the steps which led a young woman to lose her soul in Hell for all eternity. In the July apparition at Fatima a vision of a Hell of fire was given to the three little children, and significantly, its existence was confirmed by the great public miracle on October 13th.
Yet Hell is little spoken of in the pulpits of modern times. And we have seen that many Catholic priests have "abolished" Hell as a place of physical pain.
Because of this, the special intervention of Heaven may, as at Fatima, be necessary to restore this sobering doctrine to its important place in Christian dogma.
It is well to remember that the Hell spoken of here is the Hell which has a significant place in Catholic doctrine, the Hell described vividly by Christ Himself, the Hell seen in all its livid horror by the children at Fatima on July 13th, 1917.
Clara and Annette, both single Catholics in their early twenties, worked adjacent to each other as employees of a commercial firm in Germany.
Although they were never very close friends, they shared a courteous mutual regard which lead to an exchange of ideas and, eventually, of confidences. Clara professed herself openly religious, and felt it her duty to instruct and admonish Annette when the latter appeared excessively casual or superficial in religious matters.
In due course, Annette married and left the firm. The year was 1937. Clara spent the autumn of that year on holiday at Lake Garda. About the middle of September she received a letter from her mother: "Annette is dead. She was the victim of an auto accident and was buried yesterday at Wald-Friedhof."
Clara was frightened since she knew her friend was not very religious. Was she prepared to appear before God? Dying suddenly, what had happened to her?
The next day she attended Mass, received Holy Communion, and prayed fervently for her friend. The following night, at ten minutes after midnight the vision took place.
"Clara, do not pray for me! I am in Hell. If I tell you this and speak at length about it, do not think it is because of our friendship. We here do not love anyone. I do this under constraint. In truth, I should like to see you too come to this state where I must remain forever.
"Perhaps that angers you, but here we all think that way. Our wills are hardened in evil -- in what you call 'evil'. Even when we do something 'good', as I do now, opening your eyes about Hell, it is not because of a good intention.
"Do you still remember our first meeting four years ago at the firm? You were then 23 and had been there already half a year. Because I was a beginner, you gave me some helpful advice. Then I praised your love of your neighbor. Ridiculous! Your help was mere coquetry. Here we do not acknowledge any good -- in anybody.
"Do you remember what I told you about my youth? Now I am painfully compelled to fill in same of the gaps. According to the plan of my parents, I should not have existed. A 'misfortune' brought about my conception. My two sisters were 14 and 15 when I was born.
"Would that I had never existed! Would that I could now annihilate myself and escape these tortures! No pleasure would equal that with which I would abandon my existence, as a garment of ashes which is lost in nothingness. But I must continue to exist as I chose to make myself -- as a ruined person.
"When father and mother, still young, left the country for the city, they had lost touch with the Church and were keeping company with irreligious people. They had met at a dance, and after a year and a half of companionship they had to get married.
"My mother attended Sunday Mass a couple of times a year. But she never taught me to pray. Instead, she was completely taken up with the daily cares of life, although our situation was not bad."
"I refer to prayer, Mass, religious instruction, holy water, church with a very strong repugnance. I hate all that, as I hate those who go to church, and in general every human being and everything.
"From a great many things do we receive torture. Every knowledge received at the hour of death, every remembrance of things lived or known is, for us, a piercing flame. In each remembrance, good and bad, we see the way in which grace was present - the grace we despised or ignored. What a torture this is!
"We do not eat, we do not sleep, we do not walk. Chained, with howling and gnashing of teeth, we look appalled at our ruined life, hating and suffering.
"Do you hear? We here drink hatred like water. Above all we hate God. With great reluctance do I force myself to make you understand.
"The blessed in Heaven must love God because they see Him without veil, in all His dazzling beauty. That makes their bliss indescribable. We know this and the knowledge makes us furious.
"Men on earth, who know God from nature and from revelation, can love Him, but they are not compelled to do so. The believer - I say this with gnashing of teeth - who contemplates Christ on the cross, with arms extended, will end by loving Him.
"But he whom God approaches only in the final storm, as punisher, as just avenger, because He was rejected by him, such a person cannot but hate Him with all the strength of his wicked will. We died with willful resolve to be separated from God.
"Do you now understand why Hell lasts forever? It is because our wills were fixed for eternity at the moment of death. We had made our final choice. Our obstinacy will never leave us.
"Under compulsion, I must add that God is merciful, even towards us. I affirm many things against my will and must choke back the torrent of abuses I should like to vomit out.
"God was merciful to us by not allowing our wicked wills to exhaust themselves on earth, as we should have been prepared to do. This would have increased our faults and our pains. He caused us to die before our time, as in my case, or had other mitigating circumstances intervene.
"Now He shows Himself merciful towards us by not compelling a closer approach than that afforded in this remote inferno. Every step bringing us closer to God would cause us a greater pain than that which a step closer to a burning furnace would cause you.
"You were scared when once, during a walk, I told you that my father, a few days before my first Communion, had told me: 'My little Annette, the main thing is your beautiful white dress, all the rest is just make-believe.' Because of your concern, I was almost ashamed. Now I sneer at it.
"Maria and you induced me to enter The Association of the Young Ladies. The games were amusing. As you know, I immediately took a directive part. I liked it. I also liked the picnics. I even let myself be induced to go to confession and Communion sometimes.
"Once you warned me, 'Anne, if you do not pray, you will go to perdition.' I used to pray very little indeed, and even this unwillingly. You were then only too right. All those who burn in Hell did not pray or did not pray enough.
"Prayer is the first step towards God. And it is the decisive step. Especially prayer to her who is the Mother of Christ, whose name we never pronounce. Devotion to her rescues from the devil numberless souls whom sin would infallibly give to him.
"I continue my story, consumed with rage and only because I have to. To pray is the easiest thing man can do on earth. And God has tied up the salvation of each one exactly to this very easy thing.
"To him who prays with perseverance, little by little God gives so much light, so much strength, that even the most debased sinner will at the end come back to salvation.
"During the last years of my life I did not pray any more, so I lacked those graces without which nobody can be saved. Here we no longer receive graces. Moreover, should we receive them, we would cynically refuse them. All the fluctuations of earthly existence have ceased in this other life.
"For years I was living far away from God. In the last call of Grace, I decided against God. I never believed in the influence of the devil. And now I affirm that he has strong influence on the persons who are in the condition in which I was then. Only many prayers, those of others and my own, united with sacrifices and penances, could have snatched me from his grip. And even this only little by little. If there are only few externally obsessed, there are very many internally possessed. The devil cannot steal the free will from those who give themselves to his influence. But in punishment of their, so to speak, methodical apostasy from God, He allows the devil to nest in them.
"I hate the devil, too. And yet I am pleased about him, because he tries to ruin all of you; he and his legions, the spirits fallen with him at the beginning of time. There are millions of them. They roam around the earth, as thick as a swarm of flies, and you do not even notice it. It is not reserved to us damned to tempt you; but to the multitude of fallen spirits. In truth, every time they drag down here to Hell a human soul, their own torture is increased. But what does one not do for hatred?
"Deep down I was rebelling against God. You did not understand it; you thought me still a Catholic. I wanted, in fact, to be called one. I even used to pay my ecclesiastical dues. Maybe your answers were right sometimes. On me they made no impression, since you must not be right. Because of these counterfeited relationships between the two of us, our separation on the occasion of my marriage was of no consequence to me. Before the wedding I went to confession and Communion once more. It was a precept. My husband and I thought alike on this point. Why not comply with this formality? So we complied with this, as with the other formalities.
"Our married life, in general, was spent in great harmony. We were of the same idea in everything. In this too -- that we did not want the burden of children. In truth, my husband would have liked to have one -- no more, of course. In the end I succeeded in dissuading him even from this desire. Dresses, luxurious furniture, places of entertainment, picnics and trips by car and similar things were more important for me. It was a year of pleasure on earth, the one that passed from my marriage to my sudden death. Internally, of course, I was never happy, although externally at ease. There was always something indeterminate inside that gnawed at me.
"Unexpectedly, I had an inheritance from my aunt, Lottie. My husband succeeded in increasing his wages to a considerable figure. And so I was able to furnish our new home in an attractive way. Religion did not show its light but from afar off, pale, feeble, and uncertain.
"I used to give free vent to my ill humor about some medieval representations of Hell in cemeteries, or elsewhere, in which the devil is roasting souls in red burning coals, while his companions with long tails, drag new victims to him. Clara! One can be mistaken in depicting Hell, but never can one exaggerate.
"I tell you; the fire of which the Bible speaks, does not mean the torment of the conscience. Fire is fire! What He said: 'Away from Me, you accursed ones, into eternal fire', is to be understood literally. Literally! 'How can the spirit be touched by material fire?' you will ask. How can your soul suffer on earth when you put your finger on the flame? In fact the soul does not burn, and yet what complete torture the whole individual feels!
"Our greatest torture consists in the certain knowledge that we shall never see God. How can this torture us so much, since on earth we are so indifferent? As long as the knife lies on the table, it leaves you cold. You see how keen it is, but you do not feel it. Plunge the knife into the flesh and you will start screaming for pain. Now we feel the loss of God; before we hardly thought of it. Not all the souls suffer to the same degree. With how much greater wickedness and how much more systematically one has sinned, the more weighs on him the loss of God and the greater the torment he suffers, which is increased even more by the number of souls with whom he sinned, who now curse him. The lost Catholics suffer more than those of other religions, because they, mostly, received and despised more graces and more light. He who knew more suffers more cruelly than he who knew less. He who sinned out of malice suffers more keenly than he who sinned out of weakness. But nobody suffers more than he deserves. Oh, if that were not true, I would have a motive for hate!
"My death happened this way: A week ago -- I am speaking according to your reckoning, because according to the pain, I could very well say that it is already ten years that I am burning in Hell -- a week ago, then, my husband, and I, on a Sunday, went on a picnic, the last one for me. The day was glorious. I felt very well. A sinister sense of pleasure, that was with me all the day long, invaded me. When lo, suddenly, during the return, my husband was dazzled by a car that was coming full speed. He lost control.
"The name of JESUS escaped from my lips with a shivering. Not as a prayer, but as a shout. A lacerating pain took hold of the whole of me. (In comparison with the present one only a trifle.) Then I lost consciousness. Strange! That morning this thought had come to me in an inexplicable way: 'You could go to Mass once more.' It seemed like the last call of Love.
"Clear and resolute, my 'NO' cut off that train of thought. You will know already what happened after my death. The lot of my husband and that of my mother, what happened to my corpse and the proceedings of my funeral are known to me through some natural knowledge we have here. What happens on earth we know only obscurely. But we know what touches us closely. So I see also where you are living.
"I myself awoke from the darkness suddenly, in the instant of my passing. I saw myself as flooded by a dazzling light. It was in the same place where my dead body was lying. It was like a theater, when suddenly the lights in the hall are put out, the curtains are rent aside and an unexpected scene, horribly illuminated, appears. The scene of my life.
"My soul showed herself to me as in a mirror; all the graces despised from my youth until my last 'NO' to God. I felt myself like an assassin, to whom his dead victim is shown during his trial at court. Should I repent? Never! Should I feel ashamed? Never!
"However, I could not even stand before the eyes of God, rejected by me. There was only one thing for me -- flight! As Cain fled from the dead body of Abel, so my soul rushed from that sight of horror.
"This was the particular judgment; the invisible Judge said: 'Away from Me.' Then my soul, as a yellow brimstone shadow, fell headlong into the place of eternal torture."
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