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HELL – THE DAMNED HAVE NO REST OR CONSOLATION

HELL – THE DAMNED HAVE NO REST OR CONSOLATION

For a man will be more grievously punished in the things in which he has sinned. The lazy will be driven with burning prongs, and the gluttons tormented with unspeakable hunger and thirst; the wanton and lust-loving will be bathed in burning pitch and foul brimstone; the envious will howl in their grief like mad dogs.

EVERY VICE WILL HAVE ITS OWN PROPER PUNISHMENT 

Every vice will have its own proper punishment. The proud will be faced with every confusion and the avaricious pinched with the most abject want. One hour of suffering there will be more bitter than a hundred years of the most severe penance here. In this life men sometimes rest from work and enjoy the comfort of friends, but the damned have no rest or consolation.

THE PROUD WILL BE STRUCK WITH FEAR

You must, therefore, take care and repent of your sins now so that on the day of judgement you may rest secure with the blessed. For on that day the just will stand firm against those who tortured and oppressed them, and he who now submits humbly to the judgment of men will arise to pass judgment upon them. The poor and humble will have great confidence, while the proud will be struck with fear. He who learned to be a fool in this world and to be scorned for Christ will then appear to have been wise.

– From: Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2019 in Words of Wisdom

 

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IN ALL THINGS CONSIDER YOUR END

IN ALL THINGS CONSIDER YOUR END

In all things consider the end; how you shall stand before the strict Judge from Whom nothing is hidden and Who will pronounce judgment in all justice, accepting neither bribes nor excuses. And you, miserable and wretched sinner, who fear even the countenance of an angry man, what answer will you make to the God Who knows all your sins? Why do you not provide for yourself against the day of judgment when no man can be excused or defended by another because each will have enough to do to answer for himself? In this life your work is profitable, your tears acceptable, your sighs audible, your sorrow satisfying and purifying.

PRIORITIES

The patient man goes through a great and salutary purgatory when he grieves more over the malice of one who harms him than for his own injury; when he prays readily for his enemies and forgives offences from his heart; when he does not hesitate to ask pardon of others; when he is more easily moved to pity than to anger; when he does frequent violence to himself and tries to bring the body into complete subjection to the spirit.

It is better to atone for sin now and to cut away vices than to keep them for purgation in the hereafter. In truth, we deceive ourselves by our ill-advised love of the flesh. What will that fire feed upon but our sins? The more we spare ourselves now and the more we satisfy the flesh, the harder will the reckoning be and the more we keep for the burning.

– From: Thomas a Kempis; The Imitation of Christ

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2019 in Words of Wisdom

 

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“GIVE ME CHASTITY, BUT NOT YET”

“GIVE ME CHASTITY, BUT NOT YET”

There is a famous instance of a holy man of old times, who, before his conversion, felt indeed the excellence of purity, but could not get himself to say more in prayer than ‘Give me chastity, but not yet.’

I will not be inconsiderate enough to make light of the power of temptation of any kind, nor will I presume to say that Almighty God will certainly shield a man from temptation for his wishing it; but whenever men complain, as they often do, of the arduousness of a high virtue, at least it were well that they should first ask themselves the question, whether they desire to have it. We hear much in this day of the impossibility of heavenly purity… are you sure that the impossibility which you insist upon does not lie, not in nature, but in the will? Let us but will, and our nature is changed ‘according to the power that worketh in us’… We dare not trust ourselves on the waters, though Christ bids us.

– Bl. John Henry Newman; What you are from not desiring a gift, this you make an excuse for not possessing it; P. S. V, 349-50

 

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“MY YOKE IS SWEET AND MY BURDEN LIGHT” – HAPPINESS AND PAIN

God meant us to enjoy happiness even in this world, though it could not be the happiness which excludes all pain and suffering. Such complete happiness is reserved for the next life, when we are participating in the infinite happiness of God in heaven. As long as we are living in this world pain and suffering are inevitable, because of the fall of man and the general corruption of human nature that followed upon it. Nothing that men can devise will ever change that fact or bring us to an earthly garden of Eden. This has been attested in every stage of the world’s history and never more clearly than in these latter days of widespread misery, chaos and unrest.

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily (Lk 9:23)

So it was that when Christ Our Lord came on this earth to redeem us and to show us by His own example how we must live if we wish to have happiness both now and hereafter, He said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily,” and St Luke (9:23) prefaced the words, “He said to all.” It was to help and encourage us that He Himself took up His own Cross, an infinitely heavier one than any of us will be called upon to bear, so that because of His bitter Passion and Death He is known as “The Man of Sorrows”. But it would be a mistake to lay an undue or exclusive meaning on that title. Our Blessed Lord was in truth the happiest man that has ever lived on this earth: His human soul was the recipient of the greatest natural joys in His association with His Blessed Mother, with St Joseph His foster-father, with His relations and close friends. He found delight, too, in the world in which He lived, the beauties of nature, the hills, the fields, the flowers, in running water. Nothing of beauty escaped His sensitive gaze. He could find joy in the humble work of a carpenter, in all the trivial happenings of a peaceful home, in the simplicity of village life. Though He knew well the sufferings that were to befall Him, that terrible vision did not darken His life and leave Him ever fearful and depressed. For He had within His human soul the root of happiness – a complete union with His Father in heaven. His every activity in living wholly for God and in giving over His entire human will to the will of God ensured His happiness, a happiness that was not disturbed even when He hung on His Cross and suffered a death of the utmost anguish and pain.

The root of happiness

He wants us, too, to be happy even in this world but He knows that such limited happiness as this affords can only be attained by bearing our own cross and in facing courageously, in patience and without complaint, the ever-recurring trials of life. It is not enough to look upon Him crucified for us, but if His merits are to be productive of good in us we must shoulder our own crosses and find our happiness here below in so following Him.

Are happiness and pain really incompatible?

To many people it seems impossible that there can be happiness where there is pain. But a little reflection will show them their mistake. A mother will find happiness in suffering pain for the safety or life of her child. A brave soldier will be happy even when he is enduring hardships, privations, and perils to help his country’s cause. Many a man will undertake arduous work that puts a strain on his courage and is a cause of much present comfort, while at the same time he enjoys an inner happiness in the consciousness that he is attaining some great purpose. Again, to one who has been converted from a life of sin there is happiness in the thought that by bearing his sufferings, whether mental or physical, he is making reparation for the past [see also: Col.1:24] and gaining ever added merit [see also: Mt6:20]. Innocent and more spiritual souls, in whom there has been no serious sin in their lives, such as was the childlike Saint of Lisieux, will have joy in the knowledge that they become co-victims with Christ in the redemption of the world and in bringing others to God.

Lives of undisturbed calm

Pain is not in itself a good and is not something for itself naturally desirable, but in the inherited corruption of our human nature it can be recognised as a means of correction that redresses evil; and when so recognised adds to, rather than detracts from, that happiness that God would have us enjoy in this world. This is the explanation of the consolation and joy that the saints experienced even when subjected to multiplied suffering. A marked feature of their lives was their undisturbed calm and equanimity under the most distressing and painful earthly conditions. They forgot themselves in their love for God, and in so forgetting themselves they found the truth of His words – paradoxical as they may sound – “My yoke is sweet and my burden light.”

How to make one’s own hell for oneself

On the other hand, they who separate themselves from God and seek their happiness exclusively in this world, either in intellectual pursuits or, as is most commonly the case, in ministering to their passions and the demands of their lower nature, are sooner or later disillusioned and disappointed. Suffering and pain for them assume undue and exaggerated proportions. Their love of self brings its own nemesis and fills their lives with afflictions of soul they need never have known. They make their own hell, for the final result of living for self, when persisted in to the end, is the eternal loss of the One Supreme Good who alone can give us true happiness here and complete happiness hereafter.

My meat is to do the will of my Father (Jn 4:34)

Let us not forget, what has already been said, that the secret of happiness is what Our Blessed Lord by His own life and teaching disclosed to us. We must give ourselves entirely to God without reserve, even as He in His human nature gave Himself to His Father. “My meat” (that is, the very nourishment of His soul) “is to do the will of my Father” were His words (Jn 4:34).

Is it possible to bargain with God?

Even some substantially good Catholics make the mistake of thinking that they can make a sort of Concordat with God, conceding to Him the fulfilment of certain essential religious duties, such as hearing Mass and frequenting the Sacraments, but God in return is to secure their salvation, while they keep certain reserves for themselves, some inordinate attachments to persons and things in which God does not enter, attachments which, though not necessarily sinful, create a barrier between their Maker and themselves. Their religion thus becomes a wretched compromise, and as such precludes that happiness which a whole-hearyed acceptance of God’s rights over them would ensure

Complete surrender, complete union

Such persons fail to see that religion must enter into every single part of their lives, that it must be a duty to God not at certain times only of the day or the week but one that is interwoven with everything they think, say, or do at all times and at every moment of their lives. If they would know joy and happiness under every variable condition, whether of pleasure or of pain, God must be realised as the One Supreme Good whom with all the intensity of their intelligence and with all the energy of their will they embrace as wholly lovable and desirable to the exclusion of everyone and everything that threaten their complete union with Him.

“Not only for canonised saints”

Let it not be thought that only those who reach to the heroism of canonised saints can fashion their lives to this pattern. It is within the power of every fervent Catholic to do so. What holds back most is their inordinate fear of pain, their unwillingness to accept the Cross, their constant but futile endeavour to escape suffering whenever it rears its head. But of this they may be assured, that by earnest prayer and by the right use of the Sacraments, the grace of God, once their hearts are fully given to Him, will so transform them that they will realise and understand in their own lives the truth of the words in the Imitation:

Love is a great thing, yea in all ways a great good; for it alone maketh light all that is heavy and beareth with even mind every uneven fortune; for it carryeth a burden while counting it no burden, and maketh sweet and of good savour every bitter thing.

It is this love of God which, entwined with the Cross, gives a true conception of what religion means, and will enable all of us of goodwill, in spite of so much that is distressing and difficult in the world to-day, to possess even now happiness in our lives, while, still exiles on this earth, we look forward to the lasting union with Him “who will give us life without end in our fatherland” in Heaven.

– From: Lift Up Your Hearts, Christopher J. Wilmot, S.J., The Catholic Book Club, London, 1949

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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HOW COME THAT BY CONSIDERING HELL WE CAN ARRIVE AT A MOST PERFECT LOVE OF GOD?

Hell and the love of God

Hell, one may think, is not a consoling or cheerful subject to talk or write about, though every good Catholic will acknowledge that it is most necessary at times to consider it, especially when temptation presses hard on him and no motive but a great fear of God’s punishments will deter him from mortal sin.

However, the purpose of this conference is not to dwell on the frightening aspect of hell and so to inspire fear, but rather to see how from the thought of that place of horrors we can arrive at a perfect love of God and to a state of the greatest consolation.

“Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire”

It is the considered opinion of the Fathers of the Church and of her great theologians that the damned suffer both the pain of sense and the pain of loss.

The pain of sense, by which the body and soul in some way unknown to us are subjected to a suffering with which not all the physical pains of this world can offer a true comparison, is a disturbing thought that no doubt has enabled many a soul to resist temptation to grievously sinful indulgence.

To be forever encompassed in that “inextinguishable fire”, to which there is no respite nor mitigation, may well strike terror in the hearts of all who have not lost their belief in Christ’s words that at the last day it will be said to the wicked: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.”

It matters little what the nature of that fire may be; nor does it help us to argue that the spiritual soul cannot be affected by material fire such as we understand the word “fire” in this world. The fact remains that fire of some sort will afflict both soul and body; and that, for eternity.

“For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members shall perish rather than thy whole body cast into hell” (Mt 5:29)

Our Blessed Lord, even if He were using the word in a metaphorical sense, most evidently wished us to regard it as the extreme of suffering and torture, which must be avoided even at the cost in this world of eye or hand or foot. His words are: “If thy right eye scandalise (i.e. be an occasion of sin) thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell” (Mt 5:29). Again, He said: “It is better for thee with one eye to enter the kingdom of God than having two eyes to be cast into the hell of fire, where their worm dieth not and the fire is not extinguished” (Mk 9:46,47). These words are surely sufficiently terrifying to give us a salutary fear of even the pain of sense which the damned souls suffer.

The permanent loss of God

But terrifying to us as such punishment may well be, Catholic theology teaches us that it is indefinitely less than the pain of loss, the loss of that one supreme and only absolute Good, the Infinite God, who alone can give us that all-satisfying happiness for which the soul of man was created and for which, consciously or unconsciously, it is for ever craving.

St John Chrysostom describes the pain of loss in contradistinction to the pain of sense as follows: “The fire of Hell is insupportable – who does not know it?- and its torments are awful. But if you were to heap a thousand hell-fires one on top of the other, it would be as nothing compared to the punishment (that consists in) being excluded from the beatific glory of Heaven.”

“The worm that dieth not”

The damned soul realises, as through its own fault and neglect of God and His commandments it has never realised before, that God is the one Being worth possessing, infinitely surpassing anything that can attract our love in this world: that in Him is the completest joy and happiness and compared with Him everything else is of no value or consideration in itself.

The realisation of all this and the certain knowledge that this Supreme Good is now lost to him for ever, brings to the unhappy soul a despair (the “worm that dieth not”) that nothing can ever remove and a torture and an agony that will never cease.

A better understanding of how infinitely desirable God is

Now if we ponder on these undoubted facts, confirmed as they are by the words of Our Blessed Lord Himself and by the teaching of His Church, we shall better understand how infinitely desirable and lovable God is.

And when our intelligence, enlightened by the Holy Spirit of God, the “Lumen cordium”, he has seen this the clearer by prayerfully meditating again and again on the marvellous attributes of God, His goodness, beauty, wisdom and all the rest, held in an infinite degree, then with the whole strength of our will, aided by His grace, we can embrace Him and make Him the supreme object of our love, loving no creatures, no one and no thing, on earth except in Him and for Him. And so we can come to a true and perfect love of God.

Loving no one and no thing on earth except in Him and for Him

There is no one of goodwill and endeavour who cannot elicit such an act, and he will be impelled the more to do so, when he considers the advantages of serving God in this spirit of love.

At once his every act, great or small, is invested with the highest merit, such as no lower motive could acquire. His sins, however many and grievous, are immediately forgiven and wiped out as if they had never been. The sinful allurements and attractions of this world lose their power to ensnare him: temptation, however urgent and pressing, cannot force him to yield. In love with God, in the truest sense and meaning of love, he has no desire but for God.

To him henceforth his life is wholly dedicated; and even in this world he dwells in spirit with God in heaven. Again and again he can repeat in all sincerity, “My God and my all”. Though tribulations and trials come to him, as come they must, he can offer them all in love to God, and know most surely that every earthly loss, as the world counts loss, is nothing but sheer gain.

Nothing but sheer gain

Living as we are doing to-day in a world that, as a consequence of devastating and terrible wars, has brought to many millions multiplied miseries of every kind, the soul that has learned to love God with all his intelligence and with all the energy of his will, no longer will brood over his misfortunes but will even gladly and cheerfully accept them, uniting them to the sufferings and death of his Redeemer; and realising, though perhaps it be only at long last, the truth of St Paul’s words:

“I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us” (Rm 8:18).

We may then thank God with ever grateful hearts that we have not died in the state of mortal sin and are not now sharing in the punishment of the damned, whose greatest pain is the eternal loss of the infinite, all-lovable God.

Not a depressing subject

The thought of hell, therefore, instead of being a depressing subject for our contemplation, can be used as a most powerful incentive to a true and perfect love of God, and can serve to keep us in that cheerful spirit of service which is the note of all true spiritual life.

– From: Lift Up Your Hearts, Christopher J. Wilmot S.J., The Catholic Book Club, London 1949

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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WHAT, ACTUALLY, IS THE SOUL? A SORT OF COLOURLESS BUBBLE?

What is the soul?

“Something inside you that should be clean and you make it dirty and God makes it clean again…? We outgrew that [limited] way of understanding it a little after our First Communion. But what is it now at the age of twenty or fifty or eighty? It loses its colour, for one thing – I mean black and white equally. And so it becomes a sort of colourless bubble (of uncertain whereabouts), till one day it goes ‘pop’ or, more likely, it gets a slow puncture and dies that way?

Of uncertain whereabouts?

In all good sense what is it? Or is it an ‘it’ at all? Many a thing that we refer to as ‘it’ is not an ‘it’ at all: for instance when we say ‘it is raining’. That ‘it’ does not refer to any ‘thing’. Likewise the word ‘soul’ does not refer to a thing. What does it refer to?

What does it refer to?

If you switch on the radio and listen to a foreign language (a really foreign one in which you cannot guess the meaning of even one word) you have the experience of hearing everything and yet nothing. You have to admit that you are hearing every sound: there is nothing wrong with your hearing, and speakers on radio are usually careful to speak clearly; yet it all counts for nothing. The person who understands that language hears the same sounds as you do, but those sounds are suffused with meaning. You touched the body of that language; the other person touched body and soul. In some such way the soul suffuses the body; it is the meaning of the body. It is not a ‘thing’ lurking inside it. It is its meaning, its radiance. It is its life – and how could the life of something be separate from the thing itself? In a word, your soul is the difference between you and your dead body.

When your soul ‘departs’ at death, it is not as if one part of you has left the other remains behind. You have disappeared completely; what is left behind is not you, nor part of you. We know this by instinct.

We know this by instinct

In a remote part of Ireland a simple man died. A neighbour, feeling as awkward as the family itself at being focus of attention, said to the priest at one point, ‘Excuse me, Father; the corpse’s brother would like a word with you.’ Why do we find this a very odd expression? Because we know that corpses don’t have brothers. Corpses don’t have anything.

A body without a soul

What is most striking about the appearance of a dead body is the total absence of involvement with us at every level. Our attentions, our tears, our feelings of desolation are unable to bring the person back. We tiptoe around the room as if he or she were only sick; we can’t believe just yet in the total absence; that is something we have to grow into gradually. The departure of a soul is the departure of the whole person.

Where? Is there any forwarding address?

Where? Where is that person now? Is there any forwarding address? The only forwarding address of a dead person is God; we cannot reach that person any more, except in God; we cannot touch them without touching God. As prayer is ‘addressing oneself to God,’ so now is God the dead person’s only address. Death is the realisation of God’s promise to be ‘all in all’.

‘All in all’

Along with the idea of the soul as a ‘thing’ we have the idea of heaven, hell and purgatory as ‘places’, and so the mystery of human destiny begins to look like sorting things in boxes.

In the way we sometimes talk about the next life, what is missing is any vital reference to God. (What’s left when you leave God out?) We know nothing about heaven except that ‘it’ is the presence of God; nor about hell than that it is God’s absence; nor about purgatory than that it is a process of purification for allowing God to be all in all. We find, I believe, that any improvement in the idea we have of the soul is also an improvement in the idea we have of heaven, hell and purgatory – and of God.”

– This article by Donagh O Shea OP was published in St Martin Magazine, issue July 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.stmartin.ie (external link).

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2015 in Words of Wisdom

 

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“GOD IS A GOOD GOD, HE WILL NOT LET ME LOSE HEAVEN FOR THIS SIN I AM COMMITTING”

No love, no heaven

“Early in childhood we learned that God is all-powerful. He can do anything. Later we came to understand that, although God can do anything, He cannot do a no-thing. For example, He cannot make a square circle. The words ‘square’ and ‘circle’ are contradictory words. They cancel each other out. A square circle is not a something; it is a nothing, and God does not do nothings.

This is a truth to be remembered if and when we may be tempted to commit a grave sin. No one who is in his right mind and who believes in heaven and hell, would want to jeopardise his eternal happiness for the sake of a present and very temporary pleasure or gain. Unfortunately, however, many persons have a mistaken and sentimental understanding of God. They may not put it into words, but in the act of sinning their unconscious reasoning is, ‘God is a good God. He will not let me lose heaven for this thing which I am doing.’

Sin is a denial to God of our love

What such persons fail to understand is that heaven, which is the possession of God in a union of love, and sin, which is a denial to God of our love, are contradictory concepts. They cancel each other out. Without love for God we are as incapable of possessing God in heaven as a man without eyes is incapable of seeing the colour of flowers.

But why cannot God make us love Him?

But why cannot God make us love Him? Why cannot He put love into us if we are lacking in love? Here again we encounter the same difficulty: a contradiction in terms. Love for another person cannot be forced upon us. If love is not freely given, it is not love at all. ‘Forced’ and ‘love’ cancel each other out. A forced love is not a something, it is a nothing.

God gives us a margin of freedom

Fortunately for us, God does His best, with countless graces, to instill and preserve in us a love for Himself. He wants our love. He wants to have us with Himself in heaven. Indeed, without His help, we would be incapable of making an act of love for Him. But, however powerful the graces He may give us, there remains to us a margin of freedom. We must make the choice. We must want to love Him, with a love expressed by our acceptance of His will. ‘What God wants, I want’; this, and not any sentimental imitation, is the real act of love. Our opportunity for making this act of love, this surrender of self to God, ends at death.

When a photographer is developing his films, there comes a point where he plunges the film into a chemical bath called a fixer. The fixer immediately stops the process of development. From that moment on, the film remains permanently unchanged. Whatever the contrasts of light and shadow, they are irrevocably set.

This earthly life is our time of development

For us, this life is the time of development. This is the period during which we generate in ourselves a love for God and, it is to be hoped, grow in that love. Death is the fixer. The moment that death intervenes, the direction of our will is permanently set – toward God or away from God, love or no love. Whichever it is, it will be that way forever.

Sin is the opposite of love

Once we possess God in heaven and are possessed by Him, we no longer can refuse Him our love. He is so infinitely lovable that, seeing Him, it would be impossible not to love Him. But, to achieve this happy destiny we must here and now kindle and nourish the feeble spark of love which, when it bursts into full flame in heaven, will all but tear us apart with ecstasy.

It would be a tragedy of the most horrible kind if a person were to choose self over God (which is sin) in the expectation that God, being good, would somehow set things right. God is infinitely good and all-powerful as well; but He cannot do a no-thing. He cannot equate heaven, which is love, with sin, which is love’s opposite.”

– Fr Leo J. Trese, “One Step Enough”, 1966

 

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