Monday, March 3, 2014

St. Faustina Sees Hell

St. Faustina is best known for her teaching on God's love of and mercy for mankind. She is mostly known by Catholics for the Divine Mercy Chaplet which is a great reflection on these themes (which is why I pray it each Saturday). However, St. Faustina had more to say about God than your typical CCD teacher in the eighties might have lead you to believe. God's mercy and love are not the entire story of what was reveled to Faustina. Christ also told her that
Souls perish in spite of My bitter passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity. (Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul)
Indeed, dispelling all doubts that God's mercy and Christ's death leads to the salvation of all, St. Faustina is given a fearsome tour of Hell which God commands her to write down for our benefit.
Today, I was led by and Angel to the chasms of hell. It is a place of great torture; how awesomely large and extensive it is! (Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul)
 She then goes on to relate eight distinct tortures that are suffered by the damned.
  1.  The loss of God for all eternity. This is the most terrible suffering the damned face as we explored HERE.
  2. "Perpetual remorse of conscience", the damned, while not ever being truly sorry for their sins will still be tormented by their consciences, something they probably ignored in this life.
  3. Knowledge of the permanence of Hell. Knowing that there is no escape, ever, from the suffering.
  4. " A purely spiritual fire, lit by God's anger." Faustina, pace to some modern theologians, sees the flames of Hell, showing that Christ's imagery might be more literal than we might imagine (of course, the meaning of "spiritual fire" can be ambiguous, there is no need to necessarily conclude there is a physical fire as well.)
  5. Continual darkness and a "terrible suffocating smell." Despite the darkness Faustina tells us the damned and the demons can see one another, which adds to the torment.
  6. Being in the constant presence of Satan. The saints behold God eternally (the beatific vision), the damned behold the devil eternally.
  7. Eternal hatred of God. The damned curse God and hurl blasphemies at Him. They do not long for Heaven, even though they hate Hell.
  8. Each individual sinner is punished in a way and to a degree that accords with their sins in life. Dante Alighieri shows us what this might look like in Inferno.
 St. Faustina, again pace to some modern theologians, goes on to tell us why we need to know this (emphasis added):
I am writing this at the command of God, so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there.... most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell. (Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul)
Our response, however, to this news need not be despair or terror, for no one needs to go to Hell so long as they continue to live. Christ's Death and Resurrection has given everyone the means to obtain God's mercy and to avoid the terrible fate of those St. Faustina saw in Hell. That is the gospel (the "good news") that Catholics are called to announce to the world (see more HERE)!

No one demonstrates the mercy of God (and the justice of God) more than the great poet, Dante Alighieri. In Purgatorio we meet Manfred who's life mirrored that of his father, Frederick II, but who (unlike dad) is among the saved. How? He tells us,
Horrible were my sins,
but infinite Goodness with wide-open arms
received whoever turns to it. (3.121-123)
Developing this same theme, Buonconte (who's life also mirrored his damned father), tells us that though he lived a life of sin, at the last moment before his death, as he bleeds out on the battlefield, he found salvation. How?
I ended on the name of Mary and there I fell,
and only my flesh remained. (5.101-102)

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