Today is Holy Thursday, which I had hoped might be a little quiet, giving me some time in silence. It was not to be.
His Holiness Pope Francis inexplicably met once again with Eugenio Scalfari, the 90+ year old atheist Communist of the Italian daily La Repubblica. Unless Scalfari simply made it up (which I don’t rule out), Pope Francis said something confusing about the existence of Hell and that unrepentant souls go into nothingness, a kind of annihilation.
Citing Dorothy Parker, “What fresh hell is this?”, quoth I.
The papal spokesman put out a statement that doesn’t necessarily deny what Scarfari said the Pope said. However, the statement did say:
“Nessun virgolettato del succitato articolo deve essere considerato quindi come una fedele trascrizione delle parole del Santo Padre. … Not a single quoted word of the above-mentioned article should, therefore, be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father.” HERE
We have that to go on. It ain’t much, but it’s not nothing.
Because I am getting lots of email, and because my phone sounds like a pinball machine with texts coming in from every corner of the globe and from people of all Christian vocations (including some media people), I’ll say this:
First, try to keep in perspective some of the confusing things the Holy Father says and go immediately to your catechisms and review. We have multiple catechisms at our disposal. Chief among them are these.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent for Parish Priests.
US HERE – UK HERE (There are many editions. Look around.)
Also, the Baltimore Catechism, which has different volumes for different ages (US HERE – UK HERE). It’s so useful, in its Q&A format. And the Catechism of Pius X is also great. (US HERE – UK HERE). There are many good resources available.
Second, the Pope and the Church do not and cannot change the Church’s doctrine through unrecorded chats with Communist newspapermen.
Third, I think there is no person on Earth more beset by the Enemy of the Soul and the Enemy’s many earthly agents than the Vicar of Christ. Think about the timing of this… HOLY THURSDAY? Old Scratch and his bootlicking Communist journalist pawn chose well. Look at the confusion they caused. Hence, as a Catholic, understand that the Devil and Hell really exist, and that people really can go to Hell – which is eternal and not nothingness – we must – again, as believing Catholics – get down on our knees and pray for the Pope, especially with the time honored Pro Pontifice prayer.
Fourth, if news from Rome upsets you all the time, stop reading news from Rome all the time. Cui bono? Not everyone has the stomach for this trench warfare that we are in with the forces of evil and their journalist collaborators. So, pay attention to your vocations and dedicate yourselves to what is good, true and beautiful in them.
Fifth, keep the Devil at bay with all available means. Avail yourselves of (truly) blessed objects and sacramentals. Ask your angel guardian to help you. Also, say short exclamatory prayers all during the day as you work or when you read the confusing stuff. Perhaps the prayer of Job could be useful. When he was beset he cried out what we must cry out:
Then Job rose up, and rent his garments, and having shaven his head fell down upon the ground and worshipped, and said: Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: as it hath pleased the Lord so is it done: blessed be the name of the Lord. In all these things Job sinned not by his lips, nor spoke he any foolish thing against God.
You read the confusing headline. You peruse the article. You get mad. Shake it off and say “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” and then get back to the duties of your vocation.
Friends, here is the straight stuff.
Your soul, once created by God, as an image of God, is eternal. Once created, it cannot cease to be. Eh-vur. The Lord Himself opined about the Lord’s betrayer: “It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Why would He say that? His betrayer was indeed born and his soul is not ever going to be nothing. His fate will be eternal, and not just for a time.
At the end of your life (or if the Lord returns) you will face judgment.
Once your soul separates from your body, you will not be able to change your mind or repent in a salvific way. You will be “baked in” and “locked on” to your life choices without any appetites to pull you onto another choice vector. That’s it.
Then you will be assigned as you have chosen.
If you have died in God’s friendship, you will go to Heaven, either immediately or after a time of purification in Purgatory.
If you don’t die in God’s friendship, you will be immediately separated from God and all that is good, true and beautiful to spend the rest of eternity in Hell.
Hell will involve the horrific pain of loss of what you could have had. It will also, after the bodily resurrection, necessarily involve the pain of sense. Just as spiritual sins are worse than carnal sins, so too the pain of loss will be worse than the pain of sense. However, that doesn’t mean that the pain of sense will be painless. Carnal sins may be less serious than spiritual sins, but they are still enough to damn you. Sin is death and pain is bad.
Throughout the centuries the pains of Hell have been described as “fire”. The other day I took something out of a toaster oven and my finger tip contacted the metal rack. Not good. I’ve also experienced, as you have, loss and betrayal and abandonment in life. Those are worse than physical suffering and, in fact, they can cause physical suffering.
But these earthly pains and losses are nothing compared to the unending, hopeless agony of eternal Hell.
Heaven will be more amazing than Hell is hideous. We will see God. In seeing God we will eternally be drawn to the Trinity in a glorious spiral of joy that involves also learning more about ourselves as His images and seeking ever more His transforming glory, which He will share. It will never be anything less than ecstatic and filled with amazement and joy.
We can make choices in this life. We must practice dying, so that when we do die – and we will – we will be locked on to the right choice. Barring extraordinary graces and circumstances, people tend to die as they lived.
How are YOU living?
Hell is REAL.
Don’t give even 5 seconds of thought to the absurd notion that there is no Hell.
Instead, try to imagine the first 5 seconds of realization that strikes the soul just consigned to Hell.
It is not a bad thing to review this on such a day as Holy Thursday. After all, this day sacramentally makes the mystery of Christ’s Passion present to us and we to it. Christ underwent the Passion so that we could be saved from … WHAT? An eternity in HELL which our sins merit.
In instituting the priesthood and giving us the Eucharist in the context of His Passion, He saves us for Himself in Heaven.
In John 14 the Lord said:
Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you: because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be. And whither I go you know, and the way you know. Thomas saith to him: Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.