Tag: hell

Hell Is Real – As Related From Visions Of Our Lady And The Saints

Hell Is Real – As Related From Visions Of Our Lady And The Saints

Over a hundred years ago today, on 13 July 1917, Our Lady is said to have revealed a vision of hell to three little Portuguese shepherds. According to the eldest, Lucia dos Santos’ later reminiscence, “The vision lasted but an instant. […] Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror.”

Mary, it appears, doesn’t really go in for doctrinal soft-peddling, even when dealing with primary school-age children. And to be fair to her, she has a good track record raising kids.

Nevertheless, hell isn’t as popular as it used to be. Surveys consistently show that while lots of people still believe in Heaven, rather fewer believe in “the other place”. And that trend is as true of Catholics as it is for everybody else.

In such a climate, the message of Fátima does not necessarily sit easily. But then, neither – and this really ought to give us pause – does the message of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus talks about hell, gehenna in New Testament Greek, an awful lot. True enough, it is not a subject he ever dwells on in detail: there is no suite of parables which intimate various aspects of hell, as there are for the Kingdom (see Mark 4; Matthew 13). But Jesus refers to it in all main strands of the gospel tradition. And what he does say, though brief, is often graphically to-the-point. “Fires of hell”, the phrase used in the Fátima decade prayer – which was also, I might add, revealed one hundred years ago – Is a thoroughly Jesuanic image (Mark 9.43; Matthew 13.42, 50; 25.41).


From the visions of two of the churches saints, they give us, just a tip of what Hell looks and feels like. 

The Hell seen by Santa Teresa d’Avila

In the vision of the Saint there are several important factors concerning hell:

a) The place where the hell would be, whose entrance consists of a long tunnel, is narrow, like a low, dark and cramped oven. A pestilential place where there is neither hope of comfort nor space to sit or relax. The ground, all smelly mud, is full of disgusting reptiles. There is no light, but very dense darkness and in the meantime everything that can be painful to the sight can be seen anyway.

b) The penalties suffered by the damned. The soul is invested by a fire that Teresa can not describe; the body (the Saint is there with the soul and the body) is tortured horribly by intolerable pains. But all this is still nothing in front of the agony of the soul that suffers an oppression, an anguish, a sadness and a living and desperate pain “that I do not know – says the Saint – how to express myself”. “To say that you suffer continuous agonies of death is not enough, because at least in death it seems that life is torn off from others, while here it is the same soul that makes itself into pieces by itself. The most atrocious suffering is the thought that these penalties have neither end nor any mitigation”. The worst torments are the fire and inner despair. The pains and afflictions are felt in spirit but are truly suffering, as if one were suffering in the body.

c) Such punishments are such as to overcome every human imagination: compared to them, the most atrocious sufferings of this earth are nothing. What is said about hell and its tortures has nothing to do with reality, because it is totally different.

It is certain that “how much is meditated on the torments of hell, on what the demons are suffering, or that is read in the books, has nothing to do with reality, because it is totally different, like a portrait compared to the object retracted. Almost not even our fire can be compared with that of down there”.

d) In addition to the chastisements we say so common for all the damned, there are also terrifying punishments for every particular vice.

e) It is the same damned soul that is torn apart, which is done in pieces by itself. “I did not see – says the Saint – who made me suffer them (called torments), but I felt burning and dilating, although the worst torment was the fire and inner despair”.

The hell seen by Santa Veronica Giuliani

And now, in short, the most remarkable is found in the visions of Santa Veronica:

a) Hell is a “very dark” place but it gives fire like a great furnace. In all other visions the landscape, so to speak, is essentially always that, even if some details change. Even when he finds himself in a deserted, dark and solitary place, he hears nothing but screams, cries, whistles of snakes, noises of chains, wheels, irons, barrels so large that, at every stroke, the whole world seemed to sink. Like when he finds himself “in a low, black and fetid region, full of bulls’ bellowing, of lions screams, of snake whistles … A great mountain rose up in front of me and was covered with asps and basilisks tied together … The living mountain was a clamor of horrible curses”. It is always hell as Jesus tells her: “Aim and look carefully at this place that will never end. So the torment, my justice and my strict disdain.”  Torment for the damned is precisely the justice of God and his strict indignation.

b) The damned are those who have rejected God and his law, and have chosen to serve their ego. The demons keep them as tied beasts of different species. Beasts which, in an instant, become in the eyes of the Saint, creatures (men), but so terrifying and ugly, that they gave her more terror than the demons themselves. The Saint sees them fall, damned forever, in that abyss like a rain. Hell, according to the Saint, deserves it above all for the sin of ingratitude. The souls, that is, despite being in the abundance of so many goods, almost never know how to recognize their origins and almost never remember those who have done everything and gave them.

c) Even in hell there is an order: those who sin more and more seriously responsible, suffer more frighteningly than others who have sinned less and with less responsibility. For S. Veronica there is a higher hell, that is, benign hell, and a maximum hell. There are therefore various departments, perhaps depicted in those mountains, one different from the other from which the damned rush into the abyss. In fact, the mountain opens wide and in its open flanks the Saint sees a multitude of souls and demons intertwined with chains of fire. Demons, extremely furious, harass the souls who cry out in despair. To this mountain, follow other more horrible mountains, whose bowels are the scene of atrocious and indescribable tortures.

The souls of the new inhabitants are rushing down with the fury of dense hail. “And at this arrival, punishments are renewed on the damned”. In an even more profound place thousands of souls are piled up (they are those of the murderers), over which looms a press with an immense wheel. The wheel turns and makes all hell tremble. Suddenly the press swoops upon the souls, reducing them almost to one; so that each participates in the penalty of the other. Then they come back as before.There are several souls with a book in their hands. The demons beat them with fire rods in their mouths, with iron maces on their heads, and with sharp spikes they pierce their ears. They are the souls of those religious bastards, who adapted the rule to their own use and consumption. Other souls are locked up in bags and impaled by the devils in the mouth of a horrible dragon forever. They are the souls of the misers. Others bubbled into a lake of rubbish. Suddenly they strike lightning. The souls remain incinerated, but then regain the primeval state. “The sins they have committed are the most serious that any living can imagine”.

d) At the bottom of the abyss are the hierarchys of hell. Here, in fact, the Saint sees a monstrous throne, made of terrifying demons. In the center a chair formed by the heads of the abyss. The Saint notes that the mute pillow of the chair was Judas and other desperate souls like him. When asked the angels who those souls were, she received this terrible answer: “They were dignitaries of the Church and religious prelates”. Satan sat on it in his indescribable horror and from there he watched all the damned.

e) The vision of Satan forms the torment of hell, as the vision of God forms the delight of Paradise. Here, the blessed are happy in the vision of God which is the source and root of all their goods; in hell, the damned, as well as being incredibly tormented by demons who dispense pain and suffering unheard of in their hatred, is the vision of Satan above all, their greatest enemy and creator in part of their damnation, which makes them suffer unspeakably.

f) In hell there is also the sorrow of the senses: the Saint speaks of flames and fire, of cries and noises, of stench and horrendous smoke. that can not be compared to any penalty on earth. Great mystery, hell and terrible reality. “Many – as Our Lady said to Sr. Veronica – do not believe that there is hell, and I tell you that you who have been there, have not understood anything of what it is”.

Pope Francis To Mafia: ‘Convert…So That You Don’t End Up In Hell, That Is What Awaits You If You Continue On This Path’! 

Pope Francis To Mafia: ‘Convert…So That You Don’t End Up In Hell, That Is What Awaits You If You Continue On This Path’! 

Pope Francis Says: ‘Convert, So You Don’t End Up in Hell’

“Hell’s principal punishment consists of eternal separation from God in whom alone man can have the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.” (CCC 1057)

The press and bloggers went Agog last week that Pope Francis, in an interview with Eugenio Scalfari of La Repubblica, said that, “Hell does not exist.”

The Vatican quickly responded, in effect, that this “quotation” should not “be considered as a faithful transcription of the Holy Father’s words.” In fact, the Vatican clarified that Mr. Scalfari had not even officially conducted an interview with Pope Francis, though the two had met and had a conversation at the pope’s residence. Nevertheless, the story took on a life of its own, and the internet was ablaze with comments. So many emails and text messages from both Catholic and non-Catholic friends were received from various Catholic blogs asking if Pope Francis had actually said that. 

Though the Vatican’s pity response was prompt, one might speculate as to whether it was sufficient. One might further speculate as to whether the time was ripe for a “teachable moment,” as the kids say today. I guess the Thomist in me would have been happier if the Vatican’s response had included the actual teaching on Hell; after all, neither Scripture nor magisterial pronouncements are exactly lacking on the topic. Moreover, it would have given me something meatier to forward to my friends to answer their fundamental question about Hell’s existence.

In that spirit, here is the following reference.

In his Catholic Dictionary, Father John Hardon explains that de fide (“of faith”) teachings of the Catholic Church are “infallibly true” and that their “infallible certitude derives ultimately from divine revelation.”

Does the church have any de fide teachings regarding Hell? The answer is yes. Ludwig Ott, in his famous and oft-cited Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, lists two specific de fide teachings that apply to our present conversation. First: “The souls of those who die in the condition of personal grievous sin enter Hell.” Second: “The punishment of Hell lasts for all eternity.”

That these are divinely revealed teachings can only be missed with gross negligence or outright refusal. In rejecting God, man risks eternal punishment in Hell—this is a consistent thread running throughout Scripture. Dire warnings about Hell appear in the Old Testament, and Ott references several such passages, including Daniel 12:2, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” There is also Judith 16:17, “Woe to the nations that rise up against my people! The Lord Almighty will take vengeance on them in the day of judgment; fire and worms he will give to their flesh; they shall weep in pain for ever.” The New Testament contains many passages as well. Saint Paul’s letters frequently reference Hell, as in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, “They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might….” Of course, the weightiest warnings come from the very lips of Christ, such as Matthew 25: 41 & 46, “Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’…And they will go away into eternal punishment…” In case one didn’t get the point in the first six dozen books of Scripture, Revelation 20:10 reads, “…the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”

That Hell is a place of eternal punishment was reiterated by the Athanasian Creed itself as well as a number of Church councils. The Council of Constantinople in 543, for instance, clarified the fact. Seven centuries later, in 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council defined: “And all these will rise with their own bodies which they now have so that they may receive according to their works, whether good or bad; the wicked, a perpetual punishment with the devil; the good, eternal glory with Christ.” Six centuries later, the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) stated: 

“Therefore, all who die in actual mortal sin are excluded from the kingdom of God and will suffer forever the torments of hell where there is no redemption.” Moreover, Vatican I anathematized (condemned in the strongest possible ecclesiastical terminology) the contrary position: “If anyone says that a man can be justified even after death; or if he says that the punishments of the damned in hell will not last forever, let him be anathema.” Creeds, catechisms, and councils all attest to the same unchangeable teaching.

All this said, prelates in recent decades have often been reluctant to speak about Hell—so much so, in fact, that a generation of poorly catechized Catholics may have begun to wonder whether Hell is a real place after all.

Despite all of this confusion, one should note for the record that Pope Francis has hardly been shy about discussing Hell. In a morning meditation Nov. 22, 2017, for instance, when confronted with the idea that the talk of Hell might frighten people, Pope Francis said: “It is the truth. Because if you… always live far away from the Lord, perhaps there is the danger, the danger of continuing in this way, far away from the Lord for eternity.” Beyond that, he has specifically warned members of the mafia, “Convert, there is still time, so that you don’t end up in hell. That is what awaits you if you continue on this path.” Of course, these are actual quotes, which are weightier than, say, made-up stuff.

And on that last point, Mr. Scalfari’s “interview” testifies to the fact that this is not the golden age of journalism. Actually, that comment is not fair to journalists, because Scalfari is a journalist. 

Incredibly, we are living at a time in which journalists have re-invented the meaning of the quotation mark. But authentic journalism is less an art than it is a science, it is prose rather than poetry, it is fact rather than fiction. Either it is precise or it is wrong. Something to consider the next time we read an “interview.”

Pope Francis And Hell

Pope Francis And Hell

For close to a week now, Social media has been going crazy with reports that Pope Francis has denied the existence of hell. Even some mainstream media have picked up the story supposedly based on an interview by an Italian journalist.  

Anyone who has followed the pope’s talks and sermons would immediately know that something does not smell right here. The pope has in fact spoken of hell in the past in a way that clearly indicates that he believes in it.

In 2014, the pope mentioned hell when calling the Mafia to conversion. In 2016, he said that people who do not open their hearts to Christ will end up condemning themselves to hell. The same year, he referred to hell as “the truth” and described it as being “far away from the Lord for eternity.”

The most extensive papal explanation of hell came in response to a 2015 question from a female scout who asked, “If God forgives everyone, why does hell exist?” Francis acknowledged that this was a “good and difficult question.”

The pope spoke of a very proud angel who was envious of God, reports Catholic News Service.

“He wanted God’s place,” said Francis. “And God wanted to forgive him, but he said, ‘I don’t need your forgiveness. I am good enough!'”

“This is hell,” explained the pope. “It is telling God, ‘You take care of yourself because I’ll take care of myself.’ They don’t send you to hell, you go there because you choose to be there. Hell is wanting to be distant from God because I do not want God’s love. This is hell.”

Most contemporary theologians would agree with the pope. Hell is not about fire and brimstone; it is about our freedom to say no to God, our freedom to reject love and choose loneliness. If you believe in freedom, you have to believe in hell.

When we close our hearts and tell the world to go to hell, we are in fact choosing hell for ourselves. Hell is the absence of love, companionship, communion. We are not sent there; we choose it.

God did not create hell; we did.

On the other hand, some theologians think that hell is empty because once we meet God, we will choose him.

So why the confusion about Francis and hell?

The confusion came from Eugenio Scalfari, the 93-year-old co-founder and former editor of La Repubblica, an Italian daily, who in a March 28 story claims the pope told him “Hell does not exist.”

This is not the first time Scalfari has caused a sensation by reporting his conversations with the pope. Scalfari is an atheist friend with whom the pope enjoys talking. Scalfari presents detailed quotations of the pope despite the fact he does not record their conversations or even take notes. Every reporter in Rome knows that you cannot take Scalfari’s reports seriously, but his stories are just too sensational to be ignored.

The Vatican press office has issued a mild statement indicating no quotation in the article can “be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father.” What it should have said is that the article was absolute nonsense. It could then have given reporters the pope’s 2015 explanation of hell. That would have saved everyone a lot of confusion.


[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a columnist for Religion News Service and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church.]

Do The Saints In Heaven Suffer Emotionally If Their Loved Ones Are In Hell? 

Do The Saints In Heaven Suffer Emotionally If Their Loved Ones Are In Hell? 

A theologian responds: Our relationship with God prevails over bonds of affection.

In Christian theology, the beatific vision (Latin: visio beatifica) is the ultimate direct self communication of God to the individual person. A person possessing the beatific vision reaches, as a member of redeemed humanity in the communion of saints, perfect salvation in its entirety, i.e. heaven.

Now, While enjoying the beatific vision, will the blessed in Heaven suffer, if they have loved ones in Hell?

For an answer to this question, we turn to Giacomo Canobbio, a professor of systematic theology at the Theology School of Northern Italy. “The question,” Canobbio told Aleteia, “presupposes that relationships after death are like those in our present life. It’s inevitable that we think that way: it’s the only way we know, because we have no experience at all of life after death, and the accounts of those who claim to have arrived at the threshold of Heaven and to have returned then to this world are totally unfounded. Affective relationships are pillars of human existence and bring with them joy or suffering, according to how the people we love rejoice or suffer.”

Full or empty?

The question, Canobbio continues, “also presupposes that there are people in Hell. In past years, some people have disseminated the idea that Hell is empty because God, who loves His children, could not bear to see them suffer forever. We need to clarify that no one can say if Hell is empty or full. It’s worth remembering that the Church can proclaim someone to be a saint, but cannot declare whether anyone is damned. Therefore, we cannot state with certainty that Hell is purely imaginary. What is in play is the seriousness of our relationship with God, which entails responsibility, the twin sister of freedom.”

Like when a sick person isn’t at a wedding.

Therefore, that being said, supposing that someone I love were in Hell and I were in Heaven, how could I be happy, knowing that the person is in a situation of terrible suffering? “The question brings another along with it: How can God be in the fullness of beatitude if some of His children, for whom Jesus Christ gave His life, do not come to participate in the beatitude for which He destined them? To use an example: Could we imagine a wedding banquet made joyless because someone connected to the spouses by ties of affection is sick in the hospital? This is just an example that helps us to understand that, as important as affective relationships are, they are not the source of beatitude; rather, our relationship with God is.”

The damned

Moreover, the theologian continues, “any description of Hell must specify that those who are damned are cut off from any and every affective relationship: their decision to build their life without accepting a loving relationship with God deprives them of every other relationship, and therefore also of that with their loved ones who are in heaven.”

In fact, if such relationships were to remain, “they would not be deprived of all consolation, and therefore, they would not be in Hell.”

Relationship with God

“What I have said,” Canobbio warns, “are merely a few hesitant words regarding hypothetical situations. What it would seem could be said with fair plausibility is that the source of beatitude in Heaven does not depend on the relationships we had during our earthly life; rather, it arises from our relationship with God.”

Just one, all-satisfying emotion.

Consequently, are the souls that are in Heaven able to perceive and to experience emotions in response to what happens to them? Here, the theologian is clear: “In the description of beatitude, we must include all aspects of human existence. Regarding emotions, we most certainly cannot deny their existence. Still, a clarification is needed: there is only one emotion in Heaven, namely that of fullness and satisfaction, because [people in Heaven] have reached the goal for which human persons are destined.”

“We will see and we will love”

Lastly, in the scholastic tradition, Canobbio concludes, “the accent was placed on ‘vision’ and therefore the satisfaction of the intellect. However, there was also a line of thought—of Augustinian origin—that placed the accent on the affective aspect, joining it to the intellectual dimension: we will see, and we will love. And, there is no satisfaction that does not include emotion, even if that emotion isn’t conceived of as an alternation of moods.”



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