"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)
Monday, April 30, 2012
WHAT WILL HELL BE LIKE? St. Alphonsus Liguori
Where Is Hell Located?
The question as to the place where Hell is situated has been a matter
of conjecture among the Fathers of the Church and theologians. St.
John Chrysostom, for instance, was of the opinion that it is situated
outside the bounds of this universe. More commonly and with more
reason, other theologians think that Hell is situated within the
earth itself. Some have even gone so far as to declare that it is
near the furgace of the globe, basing their opinion, rather quaintly,
upon the existence of many volcanic mountains such as Vesuvius, the
Volcanic Isles, Mt. Etna and others.
Aside from these debatable opinions, a group of heretics known as the
Ubiquitists maintained that Hell is not restricted to any determined
place, but is to be found everywhere, since God has not destined any
special place for the damned. This opinion, however, is evidently
false, and contrary to the common belief of the Catholic Church which
teaches us that God has established a definite place for the demons
and the reprobate, as is evident from several texts of Sacred
Scripture. St. Jerome deduces this specifically from a passage in the
book of Numbers (Num. 16:31-33). Here is described the fate of Dathan
and Abiron who were precipitated into Hell, falling into a chasm
which opened under their very feet. At the same time a great flame
burst from the earth and killed two hundred and fifty men who were
accomplices in their sin. Moreover, in many passages of Sacred
Scripture, the word "descend" is used in reference to Hell,
indicating that Hell is situated in the bowels of the earth.
Hell Is a Definite Place
This assertion is confirmed by a passage of St. Luke (16:22): "But
the rich man also died and was buried in hell." The sacred text
employs the word "buried," because burials are made within the earth.
Moreover, the rich man himself describes Hell as a "place of torment"
(Lk. 16:28), confirming the opinion that Hell is a determined and
definite place. In another place it is called a "lake"; "Thou hast
saved me from those descending into the lake" (Ps. 29:3); and
elsewhere, a pool: "And the devil who deceived them was cast into the
pool of fire and brimstone." (Apoc. 20:9). It is evident, therefore,
that Hell is a determined place, and most probably situated within
the earth. But as to where, precisely, it is situated, whether at the
very center of the earth or nearer to the surface, cannot be
determined from any revealed document. St. Thomas also declared that
the dimensions of Hell, which will be the dwelling place of the
damned after the resurrection, cannot be determined.
Pains of Hell
Let us now treat of the pains of Hell, and first of all, of that of
sense. St. Thomas proves that the fire of Hell is a corporeal and
material fire, though for the most part he does not write of the fire
which torments the souls separated from their bodies, but of that
which the damned are to endure after their corporeal resurrection.
Many heretics have maintained that the fire of Hell is not material,
but only metaphorical or imaginary fire. There are numerous texts in
Sacred Scripture, however, which demonstrate that the fire of Hell is
a true, material and corporeal fire. We read, for instance, in the
book of Deuteronomy: "A fire is kindled in my wrath, and shall burn
even to the lowest hell." (Deut. 32:22). And in the book of Job: "A
fire that is not kindled shall devour him" (Job 20:26), revealing
that this fire of Hell needs not to be nourished, but, once enkindled
by God, burns eternally. There are a number of passages in the book of
Isaias referring to this fire of Hell: "Which of you can dwell with
devouring fire? which of you shall dwell with everlasting burnings?"
(33:14); "Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be
quenched, and they shall be a loathsome sight to all flesh." (66:24).
"He will give fire, and worms into their flesh, that they may burn,
and may feel forever." (Judith 16:21).
Fire of Hell
In the parable of the Gospel, the rich man buried in Hell cries out
to Lazarus, "I am tormented in this flame." (Lk. 16:24). He says, "in
this flame," to show that the fire of Hell is a fire of a particular
type, a fire prepared expressly to avenge the injuries which sin has
done to God by carnal pleasures. For, as the book of Ecclesiasticus
remarks, "the vengeance on the flesh of the ungodly is fire and
worms." (Eccl. 7:19). Hence, St. Thomas argues that this fire will be
the instrument of the avenging justice of Almighty God.
Punishment by Cold
In this same fire, St. Thomas remarks, the bodies of the damned, in
addition to the intense heat, will endure bitter cold, passing from
one to the other, without knowing a moment of relief. Thus do
Scripture scholars explain the passage of the book of Job: "Let him
pass from the snow water to excessive heat, and his sin even to
hell." (Job 24:19). Hence, St. Jerome says, the damned in Hell endure
all their torments in this one fire.
Remorse of Conscience
In addition to their sufferings from the heat and the cold of the
fire of Hell, Sacred Scripture enumerates a number of other torments
which will afflict the damned. One of these is the "worm," to which
the Scriptures refer frequently. Some commentators have explained
this "worm" as a material thing, which will feed upon, without
consuming, the flesh of the damned. But most theologians explain it
metaphorically as the remorse of conscience which will afflict the
damned in the fire and darkness of Hell. Forever will they have
imprinted on their memories the results of their sins; forever will
they repeat the words ascribed to them in the book of Wisdom: "We
have erred from the way of truth, we wearied ourselves in the way of
iniquity and destruction and have walked through hard ways. What hath
pride profited us? or what advantage hath the boasting of riches
brought us? . . . Such things as these the sinners said in hell."
Teaching of St. Thomas
St. Thomas describes for us perfectly in what will consist the
happiness of the elect and the torment of the reprobate. Insofar as
his intellect is concerned, the Saint remarks, man will find complete
joy in the vision of God; but, insofar as his affections are
concerned, he will find complete satisfaction in the permanent union
of his will with the infinite goodness of God. On the other hand, the
torment of the damned will consist in being deprived of all divine
light in his intellect, and in finding his affections obstinately
turned away from the Divine Goodness. Elsewhere the saintly Doctor
teaches that, though the punishment of the fire will be more
terrifying, this separation from God is, however, a greater torment
that that of the fire.
God Makes Heaven
In short, it is God who will be our paradise, for He embraces all
goods in Himself, as He Himself once declared to Moses: "I will show
thee all good." (Ex. 33:19). Such was also the promise which He made
to Abraham because of his merits: "Fear not, Abram, I am thy
protector, and thy reward exceedingly great." (Gen. 15:1). And what
greater reward can He promise than Himself, who is the one good
embracing all other goods?
God Makes Hell
It is also God who will make Hell, for, as St. Bernard remarks, He
Himself will be the chastisement of the damned. For just as the elect
will be supremely happy because God is for him, and he is for God, so
also will the reprobate be unhappy, because God is no longer for him,
and he is no longer for God. Let us listen to the threat which God
made against those who refused to belong to Him during this life:
"Call his name, Not my people'; for you are not my people, and I will
not be yours." (Osee 1:9). It is in this, then, that the torment of
the damned will consist; it consists in the first sentence which
Jesus Christ will pronounce over His enemies; "Depart from me into
everlasting fire." This eternal separation will constitute Hell for
Eternal Choice is Made During Life
For the present, sinners, blinded by the apparent goods of this
earth, choose to live far from God and to turn their backs upon Him.
And should God, who cannot dwell with sin, wish to enter into their
hearts by expelling sin from them, they are not ashamed to repel Him,
exclaiming: "Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways."
(Job 21:14). Depart from us, we do not wish to follow Your ways, but
our own, our passions, our pleasures. The great multitude of those,
says Sacred Scripture, "who sleep in the dust of the earth, shall
awake, some unto life everlasting, and others unto reproach, to see
it always?' (Dan. 12:2). Yes, these unfortunates now sleep in the
dust of their blindness; but, in the other life, unfortunately for
them, they will awaken and realize the immense good which they have
lost in voluntarily losing God.
Greatest Pain of Hell
The sword which shall pierce them with the greatest sorrow will be
the thought of having lost God, and of having lost Him through their
own fault. Unfortunates that they are! They now seek to lose sight of
God, but once fallen into Hell, they will no longer be able to cease
thinking of Him, and in this will their chastisement consist.
St. Augustine says that in Hell, the damned will be forced to think
of nothing but God, and that will cause them terrible torment. And
St. Bonaventure, expressing the same sentiments, says that no thought
will torment the damned more than the thought of God. The Lord will
grant to them such a vivid knowledge of their offended God, His
goodness so unworthily spurned, and consequently, of the chastisement
which their crimes have merited, that this knowledge will cause them a
suffering greater than that of all the other punishments of Hell.
We read in the book of Ezechiel: "Over the heads of the living
creatures was the likeness of the firmament, as the appearance of
crystal terrible to behold, and stretch out over their heads above."
(1:22). Explaining these words, one author says that the damned will
have continually before their eyes a terrible crystal or mirror: with
the assistance of some fatal light, they will behold, on one hand, the
immense good which they have lost in voluntarily losing divine grace,
and, on the other, they will view the justly wrathful face of God;
and this torment will surpass by a million times all the other
punishments of Hell.
On this same subject, the author Cajetan makes the following
reflection upon the works of David: "The wicked shall be turned into
hell, all the nations that forget God." (Ps. 9:18). The Prophet, says
this author, does not here speak of a change of heart, or conversion,
but of the spirit of sinners. For just as sinners do not wish to
think of God during this life, that they might not be forced --
despite themselves and by a just chastisement -- to think
continuously of God in Hell. They would wish to shut out all
remembrance of God from their minds, but they will be forced to think
always of Him, thus recalling all the benefits which they have
received from Him, as well as the offenses which they have committed
against Him and by which they have been separated from Him for all
The Damned Do Not Forget
Let us now consider briefly the condition of the intellect of the
damned in Hell. St. Thomas says that the damned will be able to
remember all the subjects of natural knowledge which they acquired
here on earth, for this acquired knowledge will remain in their souls
after death. This is evident from Sacred Scripture as well, from the
response of Abraham to the rich man buried in Hell: "Son, remember
that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime." (Lk. 16:25).
This, then, is the conclusion of the Angelic Doctor: Just as in the
elect there will be nothing that is not a subject of happiness to
them, so also in the damned there will be nothing which will not be a
subject of torment to them. Hence, the damned will preserve in their
memories the things which they knew here on earth, not, it is true,
for their consolation, but solely to increase their torment.
Moreover, during this life the soul is frequently prevented from
considering thoughts which would be disagreeable to it, because of
corporeal sufferings and anxieties; but in Hell the soul will no
longer be subject to this influence of the body. Hence, in Hell the
soul will no longer be prevented from considering those things which
can be a cause of torture to it. Likewise, in Hell the soul of a man
will have constantly in its memory of all the divine appeals made to
it during life, as well as the number of sins which he committed,
each of which will procure for him a new Hell.
The Damned Know Nothing About Us
Moreover, says Estius, just as God will procure the satisfaction of
the blessed by making them know what concerns us, and especially that
which concerns them in a special manner, such as our prayers addressed
to them, on the other hand the damned will remain ignorant of all that
concerns us, because they are complete strangers to the Church.
Do the Damned Have Faith?
It might be asked whether those Christians who possessed faith in
this life, and who have not lost it by apostasy or heresy, will
preserve it in Hell. St. Thomas responds in the negative, for in
order to believe with a supernatural and theological faith, one must
hold with a pious affection of the will to God the revealer. This
pious affection, however, is a gift of God, of which He deprives them
as well as the demons. They do, however, believe by a sort of natural
faith, to which they are forced by the evidence of external signs,
though this faith is not supernatural. It is in this sense that St.
James has written that "The devils also believe and tremble" (James
2:19), signifying that their faith is forced and fearful.
Will the damned ever see or behold the glory of the Blessed? St.
Thomas answers that at the Last Judgment the reprobate will see the
blessed in their glory, without being able to distinguish in what it
consists, solely realizing that they are enjoying an inexplicable
glory. This sight will afflict them with great sorrow, either because
of a feeling of envy, or because of regret at having lost that which
they themselves could have acquired. And for their eternal
chastisement, this shadow of the beatific vision which they have
beheld will remain imprinted in their memory forever.
The Will is Set on Evil
Let us now discuss the condition of the will of the damned. St.
Thomas remarks that the will of the damned, insofar as it is a
natural faculty, cannot but be good, since it does not proceed from
themselves but from God, who is the Author of nature; the damned
have, however, vitiated it by their malice. But when we consider the
will of the damned in its use, it cannot but be evil, for it is
completely opposed to the will of God and obstinate in evil.
But whence does this obstinacy in evil proceed? Sylvius, in a very
clear explanation, says that the obstinacy of the damned results from
the nature itself of their state. For, since the damned now find
themselves at the terminus of their existence and deprived of all
divine assistance, God, by a just judgment, abandons them to the evil
which they have voluntarily chosen and in which they have wished to
end their life. It is natural for everything, once it has reached its
terminus, to rest in it, unless it be moved by some external power.
Now, the damned have terminated their lives with the depraved will in
which they have died, and God has resolved to leave them to the evil
which they have chosen. Just as the blessed can never possess an evil
will, because they are always united to God, in like manner the damned
can never turn their will to good, and consequently will always be
unhappy, because they are obstinately and irrevocably opposed to the
Do the Damned Wish Evil to Others?
Because of this evil will of the damned, the question might be asked:
'Do the damned wish that all men be damned?' St. Thomas responds in
the affirmative, because of the hatred which the reprobate bear to
all men. But here a difficulty presents itself. As the number of the
damned increases, the punishment of each individual is aggravated:
how, then, can they desire an increase of torment for themselves? St.
Thomas says that such is their hatred and envy that they would prefer
to suffer more cruelly with many others than to suffer less alone.
And it matters little to them that among those whose loss they desire
are some whom they loved dearly during life. For the Holy Doctor
remarks that all affection which is not based upon love of God
vanishes easily; other wise, the order of justice and right would be
reversed in Hell.
Do the Damned Repent of Sin?
It might also be asked whether the damned repent of their sins. St.
Thomas answers that a man can repent of his faults in two ways:
directly or indirectly. He can repent directly insofar as he repents
by a sentiment of hatred for the sin committed; in this sense, the
damned cannot repent of his sin, for since he finds himself confirmed
in his perverse will, he loves the malice of his fault. But he can
repent indirectly, insofar as he detests his punishment, of which his
sin is the cause. Thus the damned will their sin, insofar as its
malice is concerned, but detest its punishment, which, nevertheless,
can never cease because their sin endures forever.
Hatred of God
Do the damned hate God? St. Thomas says that God, considered in
Himself, is the Supreme Good, and therefore cannot be an object of
hatred for any reasonable creature. But He can become such to the
damned in two ways: first, as the Author of their punishments, by
which He is bound to afflict them; second, because they are obstinate
in evil, while He is the infinite Good, they would hate God with their
whole heart, even though He punished them but little.
Do the Damned Desire to Be Destroyed
We ask, finally, whether the damned would prefer to be annihilated
and deprived of existence, than to submit to the punishments which
they endure. St. Thomas, considering the question in itself, answers
in the negative for, as he says, a state of non-being is never
desirable, for it implies a deprivation of all good. But if this
annihilation be considered as an end of all punishment, St. Thomas
says that, from this point of view, the state of non-existence
presents itself as a good. It is in this sense that Jesus Christ
spoke this sentence of Judas: "It were better for him, if that man
had not been born." (Mt. 26:24). St. John seems to say the same thing
when speaking of the damned in the Apocalypse: "In those days men
shall seek death and shall not find it: and they shall desire to die,
and death shall fly from them." (Rev. 9:6). This will of the damned,
however, is uncertain, for they wish to continue to exist, that they
might always hate God.
This Punishment Is Not Unjust
Nor can the eternity of the punishments of the damned ever be
qualified as unjust. For anyone who offends God by a mortal sin
merits an infinite punishment for an offense which is infinite.
Hence, however severe or long the punishment may be, it can never be
proportionate to the offense which has been committed. For the
majesty of God is infinite; hence, whoever sins mortally merits an
infinite punishment. It therefore appears just that mortal sin be
punished by an eternal punishment.
How Punishment Is Measured
It is useless to object that it does not seem just to inflict an
eternal punishment for a sin which endures but a moment. For St.
Augustine remarks that punishment is not measured by duration of a
fault, but by its gravity. Even at the tribunals of justice here on
earth, the penalty of death is imposed upon some crimes which are
committed in an instant.
The Angelic Doctor adds that it is but just that the punishment
should not cease as long as the fault does not cease. Now, a fault
which remains eternally can be remitted only by the grace of God,
which man cannot acquire after death. As we have seen above, the will
of the damned is obstinate in evil. Hence, he continues to love his
sin at the same time that he submits to its punishment. How, then,
can God deliver him from his chastisement, while he continues to love
his fault? How can God pardon his sin, while the damned is hardened in
his hatred for God, if at the same time the Lord offered him pardon
and friendship, the damned refused both the one and the other?
Nor can it be objected, as some heretics do, that it is contrary to
the goodness and mercy of God to behold one of His creatures suffer
eternally from such terrible punishments in Hell. For, as St. Thomas
remarks, God has given superabundant witness of His goodness and
mercy toward men. Beholding all men lost by the sin of Adam and their
own sins, what great goodness did He not manifest in descending from
Heaven to earth to become man, in the endurance of a poor, humble and
afflicted life, in pouring forth the very last drop of His Blood amid
such terrible torments upon an infamous gibbet? What greater proof of
His goodness could He have given to men than to leave to them His own
Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, that they might
there find nourishment for their souls, and that, through this means,
they might preserve and increase their spiritual forces until death,
after which, finding themselves more closely united to God, they
might enter into Heaven, there to enjoy eternally the life of the
The Patience of God
Ah! Most certainly, on the day of judgment, the Lord will make known
to the entire world how many mercies, how many lights, how much help
He has dispensed to each man during his life! And the numerous
ingrates, who, despite such favors, have merited such chastisements,
with what patience did He not pursue them, with what love has He not
begged them to repent? If, despite such favors, they still would not
renounce their passions and earthly pleasures, wished to live and die
separated from God, voluntarily abandoning themselves to their eternal
ruin, how can it be said that God has not manifested His mercy and
goodness towards them?
In lieu of declaring the punishments of Hell not to be eternal, some
heretics have invented another opinion, maintaining that the
punishments of Hell will be lessened after a time, or momentarily
interrupted. But this opinion is expressly contrary to the Sacred
Scriptures. Isaias, for instance speaking of the reprobate proclaims:
"Their worm will not die, and their fire will not be extinguished."
(Is. 66:24). And in the sentence pronounced against them at the Last
Judgment, Jesus Christ will say to them: "Depart from me, ye cursed,
into everlasting fire."
Jesus' Parable of Dives and Lazarus
"There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine
linen; and feasted sumptuously every day. And there was a certain
beggar, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, full of sores, desiring
to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table, and
no one did give him; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
"And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the
angels into Abraham's bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was
buried in hell. And lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he
saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom: And he cried, and
said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may
dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue: for I am
tormented in this flame. And Abraham said to him: Son, remember that
thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazarus
evil things, but now he is comforted; and thou art tormented. And
besides all this, between us and you, there is fixed a great chaos:
so that they who would pass from hence to you, cannot, nor from
thence come hither.
"And he said: The, father, I beseech thee, that thou wouldst send him
to my father's house, for I have five brethren, that he may testify
unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments. And
Abraham said to him: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear
them. But he said: No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from
the dead, they will do penance. And he said to him: If they hear not
Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe if one rise again
from the dead." (Lk. 16:19-31)
Fatima Children's Vision of Hell
(NOTE: In 1917 Our Blessed Mother appeared six times at Fatima,
Portugal to Lucia dos Santos and Jacinta and Francisco Marto, three
small children. During the course of these six world-famous
apparitions-now approved by the Church as worthy of our devotion and
propagation the Blessed Virgin Mary made several startling
statements and predictions, among them the outbreak of World War II
if people did not change their lives. During the July 13 apparition,
she allowed the children to see a vision of Hell. Following is
Lucia's description of what they saw.)
At this point, Lucia was heard to say aloud: "Yes, she wants people
to recite the Rosary. People must recite the Rosary." The Lady's face
then grew very grave and she said: "Sacrifice yourselves for sinners
and say often, especially when you make some sacrifice: 'O my Jesus,
this is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in
reparation for the offences committed against the Immaculate Heart of
Mary. -- At these words, she opened her hands on the three children
once again and the light streaming from them seemed to penetrate the
earth, and the children beheld a vision of Hell. Lucia cried out in
terror, calling upon Our Lady. "We could see a vast sea of fire," she
revealed many years later. "Plunged in the flames were demons and lost
souls, as if they were red-hot coals, transparent and black or
bronze-colored, in human form, which floated about in the
conflagration, borne by the flames which issued from them, with
clouds of smoke, falling on all sides as sparks fall in a great
conflagration without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans
of sorrow and despair that horrified us and caused us to tremble with
fear. The devils could be distinguished by horrible and loathsome
forms of animals, frightful and unknown, but transparent like black
coals that have turned red-hot." Full of fear, the children raised
their eyes beseechingly to the Lady, who said to them with
unspeakable sadness and tenderness: "You have seen Hell where the
souls of poor sinners go. In order to save them, God wishes to
establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If people do
what I ask, many souls will be saved and there will be peace."
Lucia later stated that although the vision lasted "but an instant,"
she felt they would have died of fear and terror if Our Lady had not
already promised to take them to Heaven.
The 24 page booklet "WHAT WILL HELL BE LIKE?", a selection from the
writings of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church, is available
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Meditation on the reality and sufferings and eternity of Hell are for
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Sincerely in Christ,
Our Lady of the Rosary Library
"Pray and work for souls"
Posted by Kitchener Waterloo Traditional Catholic at 9:51 AM