Before anything else, let it be said that, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Cor 10:13)
The greatest accomplishment of the Enemy of our souls is to deceive people that the Enemy doesn’t exist … that there is no Hell … that people can’t go to Hell … that no one is in Hell, blah blah blah.
Let’s be clear about this. Catholics are obliged to believe in the existence of the Devil and of Hell. These are de fide doctrines taught by the Church without the possibility of error.
The Devil exists. Fallen angels hate you with a malice no human can imagine. They have an intellect that surpasses our mere human faculties in a way that we can’t fathom. They never tire. They are relentless. They are real. If you don’t believe in the existence of malicious fallen angels, you are in serious risk of joining them in Hell. This is no joke.
Hell is real. In Hell, the damned suffer the pain of sense and the pain of loss (hint: unending pain is a key feature of your eternity in Hell). We can choose to separate ourselves from God and go to Hell by sinning, by resisting grace, by failing to repent, by failing to do what we ought, by presuming that we are automatically saved. If, when you die – and you will die – you are not in the state of grace, if, when you die – and it is going to happen to you – you are not living the friendship of God, you will go to Hell. Once you are there, that’s it. There is no hope of ever changing your lot. There is no changing your mind. There is no possibility of leaving even after a million billion years.
If you don’t believe in Hell, you will probably wind up there. And if you chose that fate, it would be better for you had you never been born (cf Matthew 26:24).
STOP. Spend a moment to examine your conscience.
NOW. Try to imagine what goes through the mind of the damned soul during his first 30 seconds in Hell.
I remind you of these harsh realities because I don’t want to go to Hell.
Priests and bishops who don’t teach about Hell will probably wind up there.
It is my job to keep as many of you as possible out of Hell.
I will therefore tell you about Hell and then echo St. Augustine, who told his flock “Nolo salvus esse sine vobis! … I don’t want to be saved without you!” (s. 17.2)
We must be clear about the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell. Sure, we must also talk about heaven and goodness and joy and kitties and sunshine and birthday cakes. Let’s get this Hell and Devil thing straightened out because it’s been neglected for far too long.
We must also work to revive the Sacrament of Penance, which was instituted by Christ as the ordinary way our sins would be forgiven.
Going to confession, making a sincere confession of all your mortal sins in kind and number, can keep you out of Hell. Got that?
GO TO CONFESSION.
What a victory for the demons of Hell it has been to run down the Sacrament of Penance until it is barely thought of in some parishes.
Fathers, if you are parish priests and have the obligation to hear confessions, hearing confessions can help to keep you out of Hell. If you are parish priests and you don’t hear confessions or you won’t teach about confession, you will probably go to Hell. Just try to deny it. Just. Try.
Absolutely. Ralph Martin’s “Will Many Be Saved?” (Eerdmans, 2012) is essential reading here.
Thank you Father. Please do not stop repeating this message! For some of us, it’s the only place we hear it.
God bless you for this, Father Z! My friend died suddenly two weeks ago. A different friend’s distant relative died suddenly in a bizarre accident just this week. We Must think about death. We Must understand about Hell. I will share your message everywhere I can. As Christine said, for some of us, this is the only place we hear it. And that means, many Catholics do not hear it. At. All.
My Jesus, mercy.
Thank you so much Father. The first message of Christ is repentance, and if we do not feel our sin and repent it, we cannot begin to follow Him. The most successful trick of the Evil One is to convince so many that he does not exist. When we see what we see in this world that is quite a feat.
Curiously, I just now got off the phone with a friend and spoke to her of this very issue! Specifically, mentioning Mt. 7:13 and Ralph Martin’s recent 5 min. interview with CNS where he quotes it and says this must be a part of the New Evangelization!
Good post Fr. Z!
“For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction and those who enter it are many.” Go to Confession . . . regularly.
Again. . . sorry. Not sure why the video is appearing when I just posted a link. [Perhaps because the link you are posting had “embedded” code.]
Dr. Peters, have you read that new book you mentioned by Ralph Martin, S.T.D.? What do you think of it?
Yesterday I was reading a book about a German priest who, at his second assignment as a parochial vicar, used to sit in the confessional for one hour every morning six days a week and four hours on Saturdays. His name? Joseph Ratzinger.
I challenge, no, I dare every parish priest who reads these words to adjust the parish schedule so that your parish offers at least as much Confession time each week as then-Father Ratzinger provided on his own. If you have ‘spare time’ in the Confessional, use it to write homilies to help people get to Confession! (Then, when your Confession times are overflowing, schedule more… rinse and repeat.)
Went to confession yesterday. I had a rough military upbringing, so I find the sacrament of confession difficult. Your post’s are a big factor in getting me to go. Thank you!
A desert monk died on the same day as St. Bernard of Clairvaux, says St. Vincent Ferrer. The monk appeared to a friend and stated that 33,000 people died on the same day. The monk and Bernard were the only ones who went directly to heaven, three people went to purgatory, and all the rest went to hell. And, may I add that I have met Irish who do not believe in hell. The heresy of universal salvation is alive and well here. How did this happen? Partly, parents do not want to face the apostasy of their children or the unbaptized state of their grandchildren.
Wow. That was a very powerful post.
I gotta go to confession.
This reminds me of a conversation I had with a coworker once (I work for the Church, and she was also Catholic, though perhaps in name only). I mentioned something about Hell, and she said, “Oh, I don’t believe in Hell. I think we all live out our ‘hell’ as suffering here on earth, and then we all go to Heaven. I can’t believe God would send anyone to Hell.” I tried to tell her that this was wrong, and that, even if you forget for a moment that we are obliged to believe in Hell, I actually want the possibility of Hell to exist. Not that I want anyone to end up there, mind you, but if the possibility doesn’t exist, then free will doesn’t exist, and our free will is such a precious gift. If the possibility to say, “No!” to God doesn’t exist, then the ability to say, “Yes!” doesn’t either, and then all of humanity would be rendered robots, and that’s so not what we are.
Thank you Fr. Z. I didn’t really know what terror was until I had children and pondered the possibility that some could end up in Hell. Perhaps it is the prayer of a coward, but I have often prayed that God would not even let me conceive a child that would not end up in Heaven. Something that St. Faustina did during her life was very interesting to me. She prayed the prayers for the dying for herself long before she died. It is a beautiful idea to me that we could say prayers for a holy death years before someone dies, especially since we do not know the day or hour, or the circumstances of the death.
Chantgirl: Do you have a link for St. Faustina and those prayers?
@chantgirl: I thought the same thing: when I had my son, I didn’t feel really calm until he was baptised. Now I know, that he will go to heaven if he dies before he is about seven y /o. Then I will start worrying big time!
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Thank you so much, Fr. Z. You are a big, big part of my reluctant return to the Sacrament of Penance. It was and is difficult. I am working on frequency, now.
Christine, you can read about it in St. Faustina’s diary. I don’t think the entire thing is online. But we must all pray for the grace of final perseverance. St. Alphonsus Liguori discusses at great length in his writings our need to persevere in prayer for final perseverance.
Christine, It’s been a few years since I read her diary, but I will try to find that section. I assume she would have said the customary prayers that her religious order would have said for the dying. Maybe a religious could chime in here? In the meantime, these are some traditional prayers for the dying:
I’m sure you could say prayers like the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Rosary, the St. Michael prayer, any number of litanies, the Memorare etc.
Dear @Cafea Fruor,
I think there are two points at stake here.
The first is that, according to the theologians, hell is a place not only of abandonment and despair but of actual physical pains also. [I thought sometimes that these are the only way left to God to show them some love: in treating them as worthy at least of punishment. God is not like the proud people who say that if someone hurts them they “are above such things”.]
The second is that most who say “God would not send anyone” etc. do not mean the “anyone” litterally. It is not so much Hell, it is the catalogue of actual and, even more, perceived mortal sins (such as the misfortune of not being baptized, etc.) they are disagreeing with. And, in their childlike innocence, they hold the decision for God and not against God a matter of course. Tell them that not only Adolf Hitler is not definitely condemned, but Arthur Seyß-Inquart and Rudolf Höß even received the Holy Sacraments, with apparent remorse, before their execution; and we will see how far their tolerance goes.
I often try to give a “what to do?” in comments I give, but not here because I do not know one.
It strikes me that not believing in hell, and not wanting to believe in hell, is one of those “#firstworldproblems” — like believing that it’s somehow possible for a man to marry a man. Pretty much everyone, everywhere has always believed either in Hell or in some non-comfortable afterlife for vast majority of people, or else (in Eastern religions) in a Hell-like LIFE which the lucky ones get to escape by being absorbed into everything and having nothing of them left at all. This whole idea that God would not want anyone to have anything but a comfortable life forever, no matter what they did or didn’t do on Earth, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, has no relation to the historical beliefs of Christians around the world, and smacks of laziness and a sort of undifferentiated goodwill that is based more on selfishness than on real care for others.
Imrahil, the “what to do” boils down to prayer in a lot of cases, I think. In the case of this coworker of mine who insisted on the non-existence of Hell, she had her heels dug in and just wasn’t open to thinking her opinion might be wrong, and all the apologetics and arguments in the world would be a waste of breath. When someone like my coworker is that obstinate, the only recourse appears to be praying that God break through the stubbornness and show her the truth.
Thank you, Father Z., for continuing to remind us of these matters of utmost importance.
Clergy may think that people do not want to hear hell preached about, and perhaps many don’t want to be confronted by the subject unexpectedly on Sunday morning. But I am reminded of an educational series at our parish a couple of summers ago when the posted topic for one of the sessions was hell. I have never before or since seen that parish hall so packed full of people.
I have just recently acted as a group facilitator for children making their first confession. i was horrified when I was informed that “We don’t ask the children to bring in a laundry list of sins, just a few things where they may be struggling.”
My reply was that by not naming in number and kind the sins committed was akin to being bitten by 10 venomous snakes and only reporting that you’d been bitten three times. The other nine bites will kill you regardless of the few you treated!
I was then informed that “We let the children decide when they’re older what they should confess.”
Are you confident that in today’s Culture of Death, our young people are going to ‘decide’ that the hedonistic world they’re surrounded by is ‘Sinful’ and they need to get things straight with their Redeemer?
Don’t hold your breath; I fear that most Catholics believe Vatican 2 closed the gates of Hell for good.
If there’s no Hell or Purgatory, Heaven will be wretched. Everyone will continue to have the same problems with each other, for eternity, and seriously wicked people will escape punishment while virtuous people will not be rewarded. My mother-in-law and I will still barely tolerate each other.
Did you ever hear of the book “Placebo”? It was written by a Baptist who died and came back. It will scare you into confession. He uses some unfamiliar terms such as first heaven, second heaven and third heaven…but you can get the idea. He describes Satan’s armies and demons prowling the earth…it gives one something to ponder….and ponder….
The whole point of the old pre-conciliar emphasis on death, judgment, hell, sin, etc. was to impress upon people our total dependence on God, and to induce us to pray for grace and protection. Now that we have for decades thought we could manage without God, and have not been praying for protection from evils, it should perhaps come as no surprise to us to be caught in the snare of utopian schemes, and showered with evils.
One of the many great things about making an annual retreat is that there is typically time given over for a homily or conference on the Four Last Things, plus ample opportunity for confession. And for those who already confess regularly, it provides a nice chance to dig a little deeper, trying to get down to root causes, since there aren’t the usual “thirty minutes on Saturday with five people still waiting” time constaints.
“We must be clear about the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell.”
While people can choose to “not believe” in Judgment, Heaven and Hell, there is no way around the fact that Death happens.
But these days, I think that fewer and fewer Catholics (and/or their children) are interested in what the Church has to offer regarding death (e.g., Order of Christian Funerals), because they do not believe what comes after (the other Three of the Four Last Things).
The children of the elderly are now the generation that grew up in the Church forty or fifty years ago, the first Catholic generation to grow up with a catechesis of “no heaven, no hell, no purgatory,” just one big party for eternity, so let’s celebrate life!
And it shows up, I think, in a difficulty in connecting (and practicing) traditional Christian funeral rites.
God bless you, Father. Thank you for this.
Went to Confession today :)…
In my very limited experience I would say the problem is that too many Catholics just don’t believe that Hell is a reality. I’m not sure if a greater emphasis on the fact of Hell is going to help that very much. That is why these liberal Catholics are so obsessively agitating for the women priests and the homosexuals and the abortionists. They simply don’t believe there is a Hell. They think Jesus loves everyone, and that He would never send anyone to such a horrid place.
I used to shudder at the word hell. I did not want to go there. Did that stop me from sinning? No.
But after 20 + years of frequenting the Sacrament of Penance on almost a weekly basis…let’s just say I am ‘thinking’ about virtue more. Yes, it has taken that long. God is good. And patient, besides being merciful.
Some random consoling thoughts to me about penance: After one has gone enough, one can almost feel the graces; I used to hate to go to confession, and to some extent still do, the reason my one confessor said is because I am being judged each time; So, now I imagine that if I have enough judgements in the confessional, the biggy should be no surprise. Consequence: I’m not so afraid of dying. A homeschool mom told me she told her children they needed confession because they would not know which sins to loose and which to bind; And now I just read recently, can’t remember where, the Holy Father spoke to a prisoner who said God could forgive his sins directly. The Holy Father agreed, but said (hope I have the gist of it) it takes the Sacrament of Penance to restore a soul to the community, because whether a sin is private or public it injures the community. Makes sense, since it takes a Sacrament to remove Original Sin, and it takes (ordinarily) a Sacrament to remove Mortal Sin.
Lastly. I love receiving our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion. But I ALMOST love the Sacrament of Penance, humbling as it is, more, because as someone mentioned earlier, when I just come out of the confessional I have Blessed Assurance. It is at that moment of Absolution that I receive the Blessed Assurance. It is Fr., in Persona Christi. It is God Himself who gives that gift. And then reality steps in, and I am again that weakling of a sinner. And I start over with my good intentions, only to blow it.
The Sacrament itself is like a soul insurance, maybe? And nobody, but nobody on the planet can give us that gift but a Roman Catholic priest. Thank you Fr. Z and all of the Fathers who hear our confessions.
This is what today’s homily was about at my parish: The Second Coming, Death, Hell, Judgment. The need to prepare ourselves for what will SURELY happen. It was done in a nice way–as in, not the pastor in Pollyanna Hellfire and Brimstone–but the point was clearly, clearly made.
Thanks Fr. Z. – thanks so much. What an excellent piece, excellent preaching! Clear, unambiguous, strong, …
(Well, and why could I not hear and have not heard such a sermon or exhortation for the last 30years of/from any of our cardinals – or say, by a Pope?!?!?!?!?! — [Should I tell you what for example Card. Meisner, an alleged conservative, says instead of this clear teaching? – Well, you can read here http://kath.net/detail.php?id=38037 ] – or read his interview book with Gloria von Thurn und Taxis!!)
Thank you for reminding us of these most important of issues, Fr. Z! I for one think and ponder these Last 4 Things quite often, especially after the first time my mother became very sick and nearly died. I decided I needed to join the true Church at that point in my life, after years of wandering.
My mother was not really prepared when she passed away, despite having several close calls over the years because of the Lupus she had. She even clinically died in the ICU once, and was revived. Yet she refused to accept that God would allow her to suffer with this disease. She became angry and bitter at God and everyone else too. I don’t think she expected to die at age 59, despite her poor health and refusal to take care of what health she had.
My father passed away only a few months later, yet he was prepared for it. I believe he had almost always been prepared for such an eventuality, at least once he became a Christian, when I was a kid.
We never know when our time comes. We may not have time for a deathbed confession or conversion. I certainly wouldn’t want to bet my soul on that. I worry and pray so much for my in-laws and husband’s extended family. So many of them are non-believers (spiritual – not religious) or downright atheists. Most of that family thinks I’m the “American weirdo” … If only they would listen…
Dear @Gail F,
well, you can count me among those who believe (to be exact, the precise theological term for this would rather be “hope”) in a Heaven for the vast majority of people.
I fully agree on both fact and importance that the traditions of heathens do not contain such thing. But this is because to them the Gospel has not been preached.
Note that the verse on the narrow path says something only too obvious about the amount of people on this path. It says nothing about rescue helicopters flying above it.
Dear @chantgirl, your problem is solved by the doctrine of Merit. The doctrine of Merit (and reward for merit) pretty much deals with the problem how virtue is not in vain even if bad people are saved still. Sadly, the doctrine of Merit is pretty much set aside for both unknown Protestant undertones in discussion and actual ecumenical compromises.
A Protestant needs to either put all bad people in hell, or say that the virtue of the good has been in vain. Thank God I am a Catholic; we have a more 1. realistic 2. hopeful 3. proportionate outlook.
In fact, if you allow me to say an obviously pious thing – sort of the things you don’t like to do so much, because it always have a look of making oneself seem good – I’d very much like all my enemies in heaven. Even with a merit of fortitude against things I fought for, if you get my drift.
For those who have never heard Fr. Isaac Mary Relyea’s Lenten mission on the 4 Last Things, I highly recommend it. The prelude may be found at http://youtu.be/ERsQjoJOf9Y For the remaining parts, Google [ Relyea mission “last things” ] (omit the brackets).
flying above… the wide path, of course. Those on the narrow path do not need a rescue helicopter in the sense I used.
Jerry, I’m a big fan of Fr. Isaac Relyea. He celebrates and preaches at often at the TLM/EF in Madison, WI. He is ON FIRE when preaching!! No who may be sleeping is sleeping for long. We need more priests and preachers like Fr. Isaac. Gotta wake up the sheep.
You can also find Fr. Reylea’s preaching here:
sorry… I somewhat oversaw the “or Purgatory” which you said… Still, Hell and Purgatory are, especially as concepts about specific people’s fates, so very much different that they in this respect should not be put together. Whoever has, as I do, some hope for a not so depressing final outcome, and wants to be intellectually honest and Catholic, must put this hope, thirdly after Redemption and God’s Mercy, on the path of Purgatory. Which is why the doctrine of Purgatory is so hopeful.
This even though Hell and Purgatory are both painful when for those in them, and according to St. Thomas “purgatory is a part of hell” (as a physical place, whatever that may be in fact).
Please forward this post to Fr. Barron, ASAP!!!!
acardynal: I like the idea of waking up the sheep. We have slumered for much too long.
This even though Hell and Purgatory are both painful when for those in them, and according to St. Thomas “purgatory is a part of hell” (as a physical place, whatever that may be in fact).
I like the idea of purgatory. It seems only fair that we should have to ‘do the time for the crimes’, the penance if we don’t do enough here. Franchesco (sp), age about 10, at Fatima asked the Blessed Mother if he would go to Heaven, she assured him he would, but only after he had prayed many rosaries. I can just imagine how many I would have to do to avoid purgatory.
Also, a Catholic, now a Protestant, family man I know mentioned something about Jesus descending into Hell and scooping up the just to take them to Heaven tells me that that could be evidence of Purgatory. I had never before heard nor read that St. Thomas taught “purgatory is a part of hell” . So thank you very much. He descended into hell…starts to make sense when someone as august as St. Thomas says “purgatory is a part of hell”.
I love our Catholic Faith. It has order and makes sense because of that order and the reasoning that is behind that order. And I get the heevy jeevies when I think that there are evil ones out there trying to upset my plan (should I say God’s plan?) for life everlasting.
Father, you will be pleased to learn that our Cathedral is expanding its schedule of confession times during Advent. Priests will be available both in the morning, and early evening every day.
Regarding Purgatory, I highly recommend St. Catherine of Genoa on the subject.
Thanks for the post, Father. I am blessed to live near the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC. Beaucoup hours of confession daily, preserved anonymity, and solid confessors. I have been especially impressed with some of the African priests studying at CUA. Old St. Mary’s in DC also is to be commended for making the sacrament readily available.
I also recommend Dr. Martin’s book. Accessible contemporary theology on an important topic relevant (vital!) to us all.
At our parish today (33rd Sunday OT), the visiting Norbertine priest gave a good sermon on Death and Judgment–living our lives so as to be always ready to hear that “irrevocable verdict” (as he put it). Not a very comfortable sermon, but one we all need to hear!
Thank you Father for caring for our souls. The thought of hell should be sufficient for anyone to remain in a state of grace. Sadly, like many have noted, the notion of hell has largely been removed from post Vatican 2 teaching. I have not heard the importance of confession at my parish. In fact, most of the time it is referred to going to the “reconciliation room”, where one has a conversation with the priest. Of course, my parish mostly consists of elderly ‘spirit of Vatican 2’ folks, so I guess any talk of hell, penance, purgatory and the like is verboten. After all, we don’t belong to the Church Militant, we belong to a “faith community”. Sigh.
onosurf, thanks for the memory…he and some other priests and laity I have heard do not believe anyone is in hell, despite Christ speaking of the son of perdition and hell itself. The God of Mercy is also the God of Justice, which most of us do not understand.
Justice is Love as well as Mercy, and as God is all Good, all Pure, all innocence and all Love, even the smallest sin of ours is horrible.
God help Fr. Barron. (And Mundelein has become “nannylein”, as now they are taking attendance at daily prayer and Mass-when will people treat men as men, so that they can be men and not boys?–But oddly, the denial of people in hell and the treatment of sems as kids has a common philosophical basis; we are not responsible for our own actions, apparently. Free will must be free, and if one sins, one has consequences. Otherwise, the way is the Old Law, rather than the New Law.)
Dear @joan ellen, tank you for your kind answer and as you were interested in my semi-quote from St. Thomas, it seems only fair for me to tell you where to look it up: it is in S. th., App II, art. 2.
@joan_elln: “Also, a Catholic, now a Protestant, family man I know mentioned something about Jesus descending into Hell and scooping up the just to take them to Heaven tells me that that could be evidence of Purgatory. I had never before heard nor read that St. Thomas taught “purgatory is a part of hell” . So thank you very much. He descended into hell…starts to make sense when someone as august as St. Thomas says “purgatory is a part of hell”.”
I was under the impression that when Jesus “descended to hell” after his entombment he actually descended to the “Limbo of the Fathers” i.e. that place where the saints of the old testament had gone after their death awaiting the coming of Christ.
I guess we’ll all know for sure one day.
On the subject of confession, there is one parish we sometimes go to Mass when we are up there, it is confession “by appointment”, no published times. Admittedly the priest has 4 churches to cover on Saturday evening / Sunday morning over a fairly wide geographical area, but still this is too important. My son tried to go one time we were there, before Mass and it was clear that this was not a common occurrence. I need to pray for that parish.
An observation based on my metro area with 350K population:
– one parish has daily Confession prior to Mass. There’s always been people there anytime I’ve gone any day of the week.
– two parishes have Saturday morning Confession. There are always people there.
– one Extraordinary Form Sunday Mass: Always people confessing.
– Every other parish with Saturday afternoon Confessions that I know of have very few participants. Sometimes I’ve been the only one.
My conclusion: if the pastor doesn’t think Confession is important then neither will the people.
We, too, have ample opportunity for Confession and the older among us never, ever take this for granted and are vocal in our appreciation for our priests.
@acardnal. Indeed I have; it’s excellent.
To what joan_ellen at 7:14 p.m. said…
Yes. The graces of the sacrament of penance are real and also sometimes tangible and we learn to love this sacrament over time.
Can we even imagine? Our Lord is truly there, leaned over a bit, focusing on every word and attitude of the heart of His child; the good angels no doubt are there; we are also surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses” of saints; some devils may be lurking about and in an uproar over the proceedings; satan is in an absolute fury…
The look on Our Lord’s face is amazing. Has anyone ever seen such compassion and love? At the absolution He takes some of His own blood and applies it to the soul. He doesn’t stop there. He has graces just for that penitent, whatever (s)he needs.
In a simple, quick, straightforward “good” Confession, I’m convinced it’s like this. The reality of our lives is not what our five senses tell us about reality.
JonPatrick says:I was under the impression that when Jesus “descended to hell” after his entombment he actually descended to the “Limbo of the Fathers” i.e. that place where the saints of the old testament had gone after their death awaiting the coming of Christ. I guess we’ll all know for sure one day.
We know for sure now. That Jesus descended into hell and liberated the souls of the just who died before Him is a creedal dogma. Aquinas treats it at length in the Summa.
Why then would a Cardinal instruct his Priests to withhold the Sacrament from penitents on the basis of the sin they had committed? According to Catholic World News, Cardinal Pell said that priests who suspect someone is involved in abuse should refuse to hear that person’s confession (http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=16256).
Am I overreacting to be horrified at such a suggestion?
@MichaelJ: I think there was more to that than made it into the story, but as reported, the claim was not sound. See: http://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/some-points-regarding-the-debate-over-seal-of-confession-in-australia/
I have a deep devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. I share the Fatima children’s visions with my own children often, so they know that there is a hell and more souls go there than heaven. If only priests would do the same, perhaps a few souls might be saved! In case you don’t know or have forgotten, here is what Sister Lucy told us that Our Most Beautiful Mother showed her and her cousins:
“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.”
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
Dr. Peters, I too suspect that there is more to the story than was reported, although the suspicion is based more on hope than any concrete evidence.
But “the claim was not sound” is a bit of an understatement, don’t you think? Not to be overly dramatic, this is about the eternal fate of someone’s soul.
It goes deeper than that, though.
Presuming that Cardinal Pell did, in fact, instruct Priests to refuse to hear the confession of anyone (not just Priests) suspected of abuse, where does that leave us?
I would think that a Priest should ignore that directive, but have we really reached that point?
Does every order coming from a superior no longer have the presumption of lawfulness? Should every Priest now consult with a Canon Lawyer (meaning no disrespect to your profession) prior to carrying out the directives of his superiors?
Dr. Peters said at his blog: “4. B) Now, I could imagine an ordinary like Pell announcing his practice of not hearing the confessions of his clergy and/or staff (to avoid the complications for diocesan governance that might arise for him under Canons 983 and 984), . . . .”
I seem to recall reading – I think in Canon Law – that the rector of a seminary and other’s in authority at a seminary should not hear the Confessions of the seminarians but that an outside priest not connected to the seminary should be involved. True? I think that approach is similar to what you are mentioning above.
Fr. Z, good reminder for all of us. Reading this post reminded me that we as parents also have duty here. I was reviewing the Apostle’s Creed with my oldest son, 4 years old (memorizing and explaining any words he doesn’t know yet.) He understood “Heaven” at least in a basic sense. But when we go to the word “Hell” he was lost. Suddenly I realized that my wife and I had never mentioned anything about Hell to him. Come to think of it, I don’t think he knows anything about the “Enemy” either. For us, it was a question of simply not thinking about it; the “nice” and “easy” thing to talk about with little kids is Heaven. We had no intentions of denying Hell or saying no one would go there. Just a laziness and bad habit.
As of yesterday, I started changing this. Today, on the walk to school, he was full of 1000 questions about this place. I only hope that I’m answering them all correctly. Shortly I’ll tell him about the Enemy as well.
As a father, I appreciate this reminder. Bishops and priests are obligated to teach about Hell and the Enemy. So are parents. I suspect our obligation within our own family is similar to that of shepherds of the Church, as are the consequences.
Dear Father, thank you for this post, important as ever. I have a plea to make here. My wife and our three children are not baptized. I found my way into the Lord’s flock only after I got married to the woman of my life and after we had the firsttwo kids, on the Easter Vigil of 2005. Your post actually reminded me, again, of this pain that I have not yet found a way to reconcile. I speak to my family about Christ at times, I take the kids with me to a Mass whenever I can. But I cannot force them, I cannot force my beloved wife to accept God. Sometimes I shiver with fear, I have bad dreams in which I see myself failing to save my dearest ones from the worst fate possible. I pray for them to find the narrow path to Salvation, I pray for myself to be able to bring them to the Lord. It really torments me to even think that these souls might be lost. Please, pray with me and if there is anybody at this fine blog who could help me with an advice, please do. Please.
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cornelius74- You might want to add your intention to Fr. Z’s prayer request post. God bless you for trying to fulfill the role of spiritual father to your family. If only more men would do the same! I would recommend offering your fear and internal anguish about this to Jesus for the salvation of your family, have Masses said for them, pray the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet, and ask the saints to intercede for you, especially saints that had a conversion like St. Augustine, or who prayed and suffered for the conversion of others like St. Monica, St. Faustina, and St. Padre Pio. You could also offer some penances for them like fasting from food or something you enjoy. Enlisting the prayers of a cloistered order of nuns would also help (you can usually offer a donation to have a loved one’s name enrolled in the prayers of a specific convent). Have hope!
Thanks for the reminder! I made it to Confession and feel much more at peace in my heart. By the way, if anyone works in downtown Chicago, the priests at St. Peter’s in the Loop hear Confession from 7:30 to 6:00 every weekday. Lovely church, too.
I finally went to confession. I finish telling him my sins. He says something about smoking being bad for your health and then starts into the absolution. I said “father, what about my penance” “Ah don’t worry about it.” *palmface* I didn’t kill anyone or anything, but I thought he still needed to give me a penance. Oh well, at least it is done!
Fr Z, back in July the first reading one Sunday was Jeremiah 23 1-2.
‘Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered – it is the Lord who speaks! This, therefore, is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the shepherds in charge of my people: You have let my flock be scattered and go wandering and have not taken care of them.
If that doesn’t put Priests and Bishops right, nothing will.
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