Lesson #20 – On the Incarnation, First Contemplation

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Lesson #20 – The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – SECOND WEEK – FIRST DAY AND FIRST CONTEMPLATION – THE INCARNATION

Now at this point of the Spiritual Exercises St. Ignatius changes the method in which he sets up his meditations because he wants us to do our meditations in a slightly different manner.  Because St. Ignatius wants to encourage us to imitate Our Lord, he sets forth a series of meditations which will be an in-depth study of Our Lord’s Life and virtues.  He will take us through the key mysteries of the life of Christ and have us spend some time in pondering each of them.  However, in these meditations he wants us to paint a scene with our imagination and focus on what we see, hear, and observe actions in the given particular scene.  He has us do this so we can draw lessons for our souls which will bring with them many fruits.  One of these fruits is a greater dedication to Our Lord in our service of Him.

First, we will give the text of what St. Ignatius calls the First Contemplation of the Second Week which is on the Incarnation.  Then we will give some further ideas for the present considerations we are making.  Here we are going to study the circumstances surrounding this very important aspect of Our Catholic Faith, the Incarnation— Our Lord becoming Man through the Hypostatic Union, namely, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity uniting to human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual, I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE: is to recall to mind the history of the subject I am about to contemplate.  Here it is how the Three Divine Persons were looking upon the whole extent and space of the earth, filled with human beings.  They see that all were going down into hell, and They decreed, in Their eternity, that the Second Person should become man to save the human race.  When the fullness of time had come, They sent the Angel Gabriel to Our Lady.

The SECOND PRELUDE: is a mental representation of the place.  I will see, in imagination the great extent and space of the world, where dwell so many different nations and peoples.  I will then see particularly the city of Nazareth in the province of Galilee, and the house and room where Our Lady dwells.

The THIRD PRELUDE: is to ask for what I desire.  Here I will ask for an intimate knowledge of Our Lord, Who has become man for me, that I may love and follow Him better.

The FIRST POINT: First, I will SEE all the different people on the face of the earth, so varied in dress and in behavior.  Some are white and others black; some at peace and others at war; some weeping and others laughing; some well and others sick; some being born and others dying, etc.

Second, I will SEE and CONSIDER the Three Divine Persons seated on the royal throne of the Divine Majesty.  They behold the entire face and extent of the earth and They behold all nations in such great blindness, dying, and going down into hell.

Third, I will SEE Our Lady and the angel who greets her.  I will reflect that I may draw profit from this scene.

The SECOND POINT: I will HEAR what the people throughout the world are saying, how they converse with one another, how they swear and blaspheme, etc.  I will also listen to what the Three Divine Persons are saying, that is, “Let us work the redemption of mankind,” etc.  I shall then listen to what the angel and Our Lady are saying.  I will then reflect upon what I hear to draw profit from these words.

The THIRD POINT: I will CONSIDER what the people throughout the world ARE DOING; how they are wounding, killing, and going to hell, etc.  I will also consider what the Three Divine Persons are doing, namely, accomplishing the most Holy Incarnation, etc., also what the angel and Our Lady are doing, as the angel fulfills his office of ambassador, and Our Lady humbles herself and gives thanks to the Divine Majesty.  I will then reflect to derive some profit from each of these things. 

The COLLOQUY: I will now think of what I should say to the Three Divine Persons, or the eternal Word Incarnate, or to His Mother, Our Lady.   I will ask help according to the need that I feel within myself, so that I may more closely follow and imitate Our Lord Who has just become Incarnate.  Close with the “Our Father”.

Considerations for the

·         SEE the world before and at the time of the Incarnation;

Let us bring to our minds, dear reader, what the world was like before the Incarnation.  Paganism was everywhere.  The Israelites were sorely tempted by idolatry and often fell into the worship of false gods.  Very few of the Israelites were faithful to the Commandments of God and the belief in the Redeemer to come, both of which were required for salvation in the Old Testament.  We can think about the few just people waiting in anticipation for the promised Redeemer.   Mary and St. Joseph were among them.

The Roman Empire had conquered most of the known world at that time.  The Romans occupied all of the land around the Mediterranean Sea including the entire coastline of northern Africa.  They owned all of Spain, France, the Netherlands and all along the English Channel in the north.  In fact, they owned most of the island we now know as Britain.  Also, in the northeast, they owned up to the Black Sea and of course they occupied the Holy Land in the east.  In this we can see God’s Providence because when Our Redeemer would set up the one true Church, He could establish His Church on the foundation of the Roman civil order.  Yet, consider how the majority of people were living in the darkness of Paganism.  On the other continents of the world where people migrated, there was the even greater emptiness of ignorance and sin.  Worldwide unhappiness prevailed.

·          SEE the Trinity overseeing the world before the Incarnation;

Behold in your mind’s eye, dear reader, how God, in His infinite mercy pitied mankind.  Try to picture the great Council of the Trinity looking down on the entire world.  Remember, Jesus is called the Angel of the Great Council.[1]

·         SEE the scene of the Annunciation:

Picture Our Lady praying in her small home in Nazareth.  The Angel Gabriel appeared to her.  Scripture tells us that she was troubled by his voice and his message.  Does this mean that she was not looking at the vision of the angel?  She, no doubt, had perfect custody of her eyes, so we can imagine that she wasn’t looking at the angel.  Or was it that she already had such a life of contemplation that the visitation of angels was a common occurrence and that it was not the vision of an angel which troubled her soul?


·         HEAR the world in the period before Christ.

Picture the pagan and confused world as St. Ignatius speaks of it in his words given above; let us hear the tumult of the world.  Let us listen to the crowds of the entire world.  The people are going through life completely ignorant regarding the purpose for which they were created. 

As St. Ignatius describes for us in his text above, we can imagine the people as they scream and shout.  They laugh at all types of crude and banal things.  They chatter unceasingly about worthless things.  What a mass of confusing babble!

·         HEAR the Trinity conversing about working out the Incarnation;

As in Genesis God promised to send a Redeemer saying, “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel” [Gen. 3:15].   God is about to fulfill His promise.  The Trinity, in our imagination, is setting out that now is the time to work the crushing of the head of Satan.  Imagine God the Father saying, “Now let us work the redemption of mankind.  Thou, My Only Begotten Son, Oh Word, shalt take flesh.   Behold Thy Mother, Our Masterpiece, will be told of Our Divine Plan.  We know that she will humbly accept the Plan and will be the Cause of Joy to Our adopted sons and daughters.”

·          HEAR what is occurring between Gabriel and Mary.

The actual Scriptural text is given here: St. Luke 1: 26-56

And in the sixth month, [of St. Elizabeth’s expectancy] the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David: and the virgin’s name was Mary.  And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Who having heard, was troubled at his saying and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be.

 And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.  Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus.  He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father: and He shall reign in the house of Jacob forever.  And of his kingdom there shall be no end.

 And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?

And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee.  And therefore, also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.  And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren.  Because no word shall be impossible with God.

And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

 And Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. 

And she entered into the house of Zachary and saluted Elizabeth.  And it came to pass that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost.  And she cried out with a loud voice and said: Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.

And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord.  And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.  Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid: for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed, because He that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is His name.  And His mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear Him. He hath shewed might in his arm: He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.  He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble.  He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.  He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy.  As He spoke to our fathers: to Abraham and to his seed forever.  

And Mary abode with her about three months. And she returned to her own house.

Considerations for the THIRD POINT: to consider actions

CONSIDER THE ACTIONS of the people in the world before and at the time of the Incarnation:

In the above sections, we have brought out the sights and sounds of the pagan world before Christ and at the time of the Incarnation; we need now to consider the actions of the people more.

They are living a banal existence.  They do not have any eternal perspective and therefore have no goal or purpose for living.  The people war against each other and the victor enslaves the defeated.  What poor people!  Think of the overall fear that the majority of people are feeling!  They have to fight for survival every day.  Not only do they have to provide for themselves from day to day, but they live in constant fear of being invaded by thieves or some foreign army.  What a terrifying existence for those who do not know God!  The people of most of the nations have no Mosaic Law for guidance and likewise they have no God-given orders about the sacrifices that God wants.  These peoples live for sensual pleasures, riches, pursuit of power.  What an empty existence they must have!  Most of them were working out their damnation and live without any hope of happiness!

They try to tell themselves that they are happy; yet, they know in their hearts that they are not convinced of this.  They commit murders and steal.  They cheat each other and gossip.  They do not trust one another. The Roman soldiers are patrolling the towns and villages.  These soldiers are watching to keep some kind of order. 

CONSIDER THE ACTIONS of the Holy Trinity– the loving providence and compassion that God has for mankind:

As we heard the Council of the Trinity above, we now consider the fulfillment of God’s promise.  Even though the human race was living unmindful of God, He is ever mindful of the human race.   As He said in Jeremiah, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love”.  [Jeremias, 31:3]  God shows that He wants the redemption of the world. “God so loved the world that He sent His Only Begotten Son.” [St. John’s Gospel, 3:16]

From all eternity God knew that He would work the Redemption by sending His Son.  He also knew when He would accomplish this task.  God now sends St. Gabriel with the joyful task of conveying to Our Lady the special mission God has for her, namely, to be the Mother of God.

Let us consider how we have not appreciated His loving care of us as we ought.  We could never be thankful enough for the gifts that God has given us.  The Incarnation alone is a wonderful gift to mankind and we must not forget that the purpose of the Incarnation was in order to atone for the sins of man and to open the gates of heaven which had been closed to man ever since the fall of Adam.  Indeed, where would we be without this Great Act of Love? 

The beautiful reality of the Hypostatic Union of God the Son to human flesh is awe-inspiring in Itself.  God the Son became man and will remain so for all eternity.  What condescension!  What a humiliation!  He wanted to give us a chance to save our souls and He wants to be our friend.    He also wanted to be a model for us to follow.

CONSIDER THE ACTIONS: of St. Gabriel and Our Lady

Let us now take some time to consider this beautiful scene of the messenger of God announcing to the Blessed Virgin, God’s Plan for her, and asking for her consent.

The entire text of this scene is given above as well as the wondrous scene of the Visitation and the Sanctification of St. John the Baptist in his mother’s womb.  We include the entire interchange between Mary and St. Elizabeth because we want to get an intimate understanding of Mary, as well as Our Lord.  Mary’s response to St. Elizabeth, which is known as her Magnifcat, shows her very profound humility.

So, the Angel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her she is found special in the Eyes of God.  Why is she special?  It is precisely because she is full of grace.  She was full of grace ever since the moment she was conceived because the merits of the Redemption were applied to her long before Our Lord suffered His Passion and Death.  God can make an exception to His decree that all humans contract original sin.  Since He is not limited by the bounds of time, He chose to prevent original sin from ever sullying the soul of the Virgin Mary.

Thus, Mary is a pure vessel of honor and God willed her to be the place where the Hypostatic Union would occur.  Mary has ever been God’s willing handmaid.  Her parents presented her in the Temple when she was three years old.  She was taught in the Temple.  Therefore, she knew the Scriptures very well. 

What did she think when Gabriel announced that she would conceive a son and He would be called Jesus and He would be the Son of the Most High?  And of His kingdom there would be no end?  Her humility was being tested.  She would have known the passage from Isaiah, “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign.  Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel.”

She wondered if Isaiah’s prophesy applied to her.  She was cautious lest the Angel Gabriel’s words were a trap of the devil in order to tempt her to pride.  Her response shows that she did not trust the praise she had been given.  She tests the apparition to see if it is indeed from God.  She knows that she made a vow of perpetual virginity and this vow was done purely out of love for God.  God had showed her that He accepted her vow.   So now, how can this be that she could conceive since she is a virgin and not at all interested in breaking that vow?   So, she inquires of the angel how this conception can take place and indicates to him that she is a consecrated virgin. 

The angel tells her that the Holy Ghost will cause the Conception and therefore the Child so conceived will be called the Son of God.  He also reveals to her the remarkable news that her elderly cousin Elizabeth had conceived a son even though she had been considered barren.  The angel tells her this as his way of proving to her that nothing is impossible with God.

When Mary hears of this extraordinary expectancy of her aged cousin, she is convinced that this apparition is from God.  Therefore, she readily submits her will to God saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.”  She only wants to do the Will of God.  For her His Will is the only thing that matters.  Then, at that moment, the “Word became Flesh.”  Wisdom became incarnate; hence Wisdom became man.

We must remember that Mary was well-schooled in the Scriptures.  She knew that the Messiah was to be the Savior and Redeemer.   She knew that He would suffer a miserable death and be the “Man of Sorrows and the outcast of His people.”

As a mother she would suffer from this future suffering of her Son, and yet, she does not worry about her own future suffering, she only is concerned about doing what God wants.  Again, for her, His Will is the only thing that matters.

She humbles herself and immediately goes to be of assistance to her cousin Elizabeth who must be in need being so old and with child.  Mary’s generosity is “with haste.”

Then we see and hear Mary’s humility again when she sees her cousin and her cousin praises her.  She recites her beautiful canticle giving God all the glory of making her the Mother of God.

We have few words of Mary in the Gospels.  The Magnificat is a masterpiece of eloquent praise of God and giving Him all the credit for the glory and fame which is and will be associated with her.  “He that is mighty hath done great things to me.” 

Concluding thoughts:

Let us be astonished about how God is so loving and merciful to men as to become like unto them.  Ponder the humiliation of the Son of God at His Incarnation.  As St. Paul says, “Who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal to God; emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man.  He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.” [Phil. 2:6-8]

Think about how Our Lord wanted to become our model so we could imitate His virtues and His love.  “No greater love hath a man than to lay down his life for his friend.”  What priceless love to not only become man, but to die for the sake of the salvation of men!  When Adam rejected the goodness of God in favor of Eve, Our Lord, the new Adam, reverses this dastardly act by embracing a life of suffering and the most shameful death on the Cross.  He wants us to learn humility, for His whole life was one continuous act of humility.

Think also with wonder about how Mary, the new Eve, rejected anything to do with the serpent – the evil one.  Instead, she exclaims that she owes everything to God.   She proclaims that she wants only to serve God and not act like Eve who wanted to become as a god.

COLLOQUY: How do I begin to thank Thee, O my Supreme Good for Thy mercies in becoming man to save us from hell fire?  O Holy Trinity, how sweet and how loving of Thee to give us an opportunity to share Thy divinity with us!  O, God the Father, how Thou dost provide in the extreme for us by sending Thy beloved Son to be butchered for us wretched sinners!  O, Thou Incarnate Wisdom, our words cannot praise Thee enough for Thine example of a most holy life!  Thou didst become man to be our Model, our Hope, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Friend, and our Beloved Spouse.  What more could we ask for?  Thou hast given all!  O, Holy Ghost, can our lips utter sufficient words to thank Thee for overshadowing Our dear precious Mother Mary and making her the true singular vessel of honor?  Help us, O most Holy Trinity, to love Thee with an ardent love and serve Thee ever more faithfully.  We do not deserve all Thy tender mercies shown towards us.  Help us to humble ourselves ever more and more in Thy Presence and pour forth our hearts in tearful gratitude of love. 

O dear tender Mother Mary, guide us in our homage and love of God.  Help us to imitate Thy virtues, o sweet Virgin Mary.  We, like thee, want to be generous to God and give ourselves completely in His service.  Teach us, O Mary, the countless ways we can sacrifice ourselves for God.

The possibilities for our colloquy are numerous.  The above is only a sample of what could be said.

Now that we have begun our intimate study of Our Lord, we hunger to increase our knowledge of Our Beloved Lord and Redeemer.  We have laid a foundation of desire to imitate the virtues and love of Our Lord.  Hence, in our next lesson we will continue our study of Christ by doing what St. Ignatius refers to as the Contemplation on the Nativity. 

[1]           Taken from the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition


The great value and advantage of suffering chastisements


St. Alphonsus de Liguori gives us these consoling words to encourage us to appreciate the Crosses we receive from the loving Hand of God:


“God”, say St. Augustine, “is angry when He does not scourge the sinner.”  (In Ps., LXXXIX).  When we see a sinner in tribulation in this life, we may infer that God wishes to have mercy on him in the next, and that He exchanges eternal for temporal chastisement.  But miserable is the sinner whom the Lord does not punish in this life!  For those whom He does not chastise here, He treasures up His wrath and for them He reserves eternal chastisement.


Quoted from St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Sermon #2, for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, first point, §10.



Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition


We must not follow the crowd, or acquiesce in

What Our Lord’s enemies decide is “politically correct”


A Commandment of God in the Book of Exodus:


Thou shalt not follow the multitude to do evil: neither shalt thou yield in judgment to the opinion of the most part, to stray from the truth.


Exodus, Ch. 23, v.2.


Lesson #19 The Call of Christ the King

Catholic Candle note:  Lesson 19 (below) is the latest lesson in this series.  Prior articles in this series can be found here: https://catholiccandle.org/category/resources-for-faith-and-practice/on-working-for-holiness/marys-school-of-sanctity/


                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Lesson #19  The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – ON THE CALL OF CHRIST THE KING [also called The Kingdom of Christ]

At this time, we bring our attention back to the content of the actual Spiritual Exercises.  As we mentioned in the introduction to the structure of the Spiritual Exercises in Lesson#5, St. Ignatius sets out his exercises to be done over a month’s time.  We now enter into the Second Week of St. Ignatius’s plan. We are going to be undertaking the meditation entitled The Call of Christ the King, one of the most famous meditations of St. Ignatius.  As we stated earlier in these lessons, under normal circumstances, we would have at this point of the retreat made a general confession.[1]

Thus, by this means, we have girded our loins and taken the breastplate of justice.[2]  St. Ignatius, having been a soldier once himself, has us consider Our Lord as on His throne inviting us to join the ranks of soldiers in His Divine army.  He is the head of the Catholic army of souls in the Church Militant.  Also, we can consider this meditation as a way to bring The Principle and Foundation back to our minds giving us greater zeal in our service of God.[3]  With this meditation to strengthen us, we can intensify our resolve to follow Christ in whatever He wills for us.

First, we will give the text of St. Ignatius’s meditation The Call of Christ the King and then expound on the various points one can use for his consideration in doing this present exercise.

St. Ignatius says:

The call of the earthly king helps us to contemplate the life of the Eternal King.

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual, I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE: St. Ignatius calls this prelude “a mental picture of the place”.  Here we will see in our imagination the synagogues, villages, and towns where Jesus preached.

The SECOND PRELUDE: I will ask for the grace that I desire.  Here it will be to ask of Our Lord the grace that I may not be deaf to His call, but prompt and diligent to accomplish His most holy will.


The FIRST POINT: I will see in my mind a human king, chosen by God Our Lord Himself, to whom all princes and all Christians pay reverence and obedience.

The SECOND POINT: I will consider how this king speaks to all his subjects, saying, “It is my will to conquer all infidel lands.  Therefore, whoever wishes to come with me must be content to eat as I eat, drink as I drink, dress as I dress, etc.  He must also be willing to work with me by day, and watch with me by night.  He will then share with me in victory as he has shared in the toils.”

The THIRD POINT: I will consider what the answer of good subjects ought to be to such a generous and noble king, and consequently, if anyone would refuse the request of such a king, how he would deserve to be despised by everyone, and considered an unworthy knight.  


The second part of this Exercise consists in applying the example of this earthly king to Christ Our Lord, in these three points:

The FIRST POINT: If we heed such a call of an earthly king to his subjects, how much more worthy of consideration is it to see Christ Our Lord, the Eternal King, and before Him, all of mankind, to whom, and to each man in particular, He calls and says: “It is My will to conquer the whole world and all My enemies, and thus to enter into the glory of My Father.  Whoever wishes to come with Me must labor with Me, following Me in suffering, he also will follow Me in glory.”

The SECOND POINT: I will consider that all persons who have judgment and reason will offer themselves completely for this work.

The THIRD POINT: Those who wish to show the greatest affection and to distinguish themselves in every service of their Eternal King and Universal Lord, will not only offer themselves entirely for the work, but by working against their own sensuality and carnal and worldly love, will make offerings of greater value and importance saying:

Eternal Lord of all things, I make this offering with Thy grace and help, in the presence of Thy infinite goodness and in the presence of Thy glorious Mother and of all the Saints  of Thy heavenly court, that it is my wish and desire, and my deliberate choice, provided only that it be for Thy greater service and praise, to imitate Thee in bearing all injuries, all evils, and all poverty both physical and spiritual, if Thy most Sacred Majesty should will to choose me for such a life and state.

The COLLOQUY: St. Ignatius does not specify any particular colloquy for this meditation.  However, the above offering could be made and it is desirable to make it or something similar to it.  We should certainly speak to Our Lord and give ourselves completely to Him. 


Considerations for the FIRST POINT: a model earthly king.

St. Ignatius wants us to imagine what it would be like if an earthly king who was very noble and virtuous called everyone to help him conquer the Muslims.  If this king proposed to conquer the world for Christ and convert the entire world to Christianity, how wonderful it would be if the world truly acknowledged Christ as King!

This type of king is very much like King St. Ferdinand III who lived from 1199 A.D. to 1252 A.D.  He was a very pious king who was devoted to Our Lady and was a Third Order Franciscan.  He devoted his life to purging Castile and Leon of the Moors.  According to Butler’s Lives of the Saints, St. Ferdinand’s body is incorrupt, which is a great reminder to us that God is pleased with those who spend their lives extending the reign of Christ.

Considerations for the SECOND POINT: how the earthly king leads.

In this point, St. Ignatius has us continue to imagine our earthly king who leads us in battle against the enemy.  Here again, King St. Ferdinand fits the description that St. Ignatius sets forth above.  Here is how Alban Butler describes King St. Ferdinand in the Lives of the Saints:

His whole conduct bore testimony to the truth of his solemn protestation, “Thou, O Lord, Who searchest the secrets of hearts, knowest that I desire Thy glory, not mine; and the increase of Thy faith, and holy religion, not of transitory kingdoms.”  He set his soldiers the most perfect example of devotion.  He fasted rigorously, prayed much, and wore a rough hair-shirt made in the shape of the cross; often spent whole nights in tears and prayers, especially before battles, and gave to God the glory of all his victories. In his army he caused an image of the Blessed Virgin to be carried, and wore another small one on his breast, or sometimes when on horseback placed it on the pommel of his saddle before him.[4]

King St. Ferdinand III led his knights into battle.  He fought fearlessly at the head of his army.  His men felt drawn on by zeal and were willing to follow him into the direst circumstances.  He won victory after victory, even when he was greatly outnumbered by the Moors. There was an occasion in which it was testified by his men that St. James the Apostle, appeared at the head of the troops in the armor of a knight.  In this particular battle only eleven lost their lives—one a knight who had refused to forgive an injury, and ten additional soldiers.

King St. Ferdinand won back lands which had been in the hands of the Moors for five hundred and twenty years.

He gave the spoils of war to the Church.  For example, he rebuilt the cathedral of Toledo.  He purified the churches and places which had been desecrated by the Moors and established bishoprics in many places.

What is clear from the account of King St. Ferdinand III was that he fought valiantly with his whole heart for God, and God was with him. This king never once was wounded in battle.  God gave him victory upon victory.[5]   

Considerations for the THIRD POINT: who would not follow such a leader?

With a heart throbbing for the conversion of the heathen and the restoration of the Church’s properties, who would not burn inside to attach himself to such a noble king?  This earthly king, by his example of dedicated love of the Faith and Holy Mother Church, would and should spur us on to die for Christ and His Church.  His zeal would almost seem contagious and irresistible in its intensity.  Would we not long to follow him with confidence in his strength and power?  When we saw his tremendous victories, we would not doubt that he was a man to follow. What remarkable leadership!  What remarkable virtue!  And oh how ashamed we would feel if we did not take up arms and follow such a man!  We would have the deep guilt of having shirked our duty and our life-long vocation of the salvation of our souls.  Who could bear such shame and ignominy of deserting such an upright king and mission?

Now let us turn to the second part of this meditation where St. Ignatius wants us to apply what we considered about the worthy earthly king to the Divine King of kings, Our Lord Himself.


Part II

Considerations for the FIRST POINT: Our Lord Himself calls us to His service.

In this meditation, St. Ignatius is telling us that we must follow Christ for He is truly calling all of us into His ranks.  This meditation may be seen as a call to the religious life, but, in fact, it is a call to be entirely in God’s service.  It harkens back to the Principle and Foundation because this meditation reminds us that we were created to be in God’s service and use this wonderful service to save our immortal souls.

So, in this first point, we consider how, indeed, Our Lord Himself calls us to follow Him.  He says plainly to us in St. Matthew’s Gospel, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” [Matt. 16:24]

See in the following quotes how He beckons us to follow Him lovingly!

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them; he it is that loveth Me. [John 14:21]

Come to Me, all you that labor, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is sweet and My burden light.  [Matt 11: 28-30]

He truly wants us to follow Him in everything.  He wills to be Our Shepherd and to lay down His Life for us.  He not only wants to show us how He willed to honor His Heavenly Father by His death, but He also wants us to realize that He is setting us an example of sacrificing Himself completely for love of God. 

Thus, He wants us to know that we must be willing to follow Him in this way too, namely, unto death.  Listen to what He tells us in the following quotes:

If the world hates you, know ye, that it hath hated Me before you.  [John 15:18]

Remember My word that I said to you: the servant is not greater than his master.  If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept My word, they will keep yours also.  But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake: because they know not Him that sent Me.  [John 15: 20-21]

They will put you out of the synagogues: yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth a service to God.  [John 16:2]  

By these weighty words Our Lord is telling us that we must be willing to follow Him in every aspect of our lives.  He will take care of us and we must not feel overwhelmed because the Paraclete will be with us to guide us.

He wants us to be apostles of the truth and spread His Kingdom.  We must be able and willing to teach Catholic Faith and Morals.  We must teach this primarily by our examples – to truly live a Catholic life during the neo-pagan times in which we live.

Are we the Catholics He desires us to be?  Are we willing to undertake the work of being true apostles of Christ?  Do we have apostolic zeal for the spread of His Kingdom and the salvation of souls?  Are we willing to be an outcast for love of Him?  Are we willing to stand up for Him and Truth?

This brings us to the consideration in the next point— who exactly is called? Is this point for those with a religious vocation only?

Considerations for the SECOND POINT: Every Catholic is expected to heed Christ’s call.

Since the Principle and Foundation applies to us all, it makes sense that Our Lord is indeed calling all of us into His service.  He is Our Creator, Our Father and Provider, Our Redeemer, Our Beloved, and Our Judge.  We owe Him everything.  Our Lord says, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.  No man cometh to the Father, but by Me.” [John 14:6]   

However, we must keep in mind that He lovingly invites us.  Here is how Fr. Hurter, S.J. in his Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat explains this invitation:

What is the form of the invitation? Our Divine Redeemer does not stand on His well-grounded rights, He does not force, He does not threaten with thunder and lightning those who hang back.  He appeals to the heart: He appeals to our generosity; He invites us. To what does He invite us?  To the grandest undertaking we can think of: To spread the kingdom of God upon earth; to glorify His Holy Name, to build up the Church of God, which shall stand invincible against all the attacks of hell: “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her”[6]   

Both religious and laity are called to be apostles of Christ and His Church.  Fr. Hurter brings forth another noteworthy point for our apostolate. We give his point as follows:

And what are the conditions which He lays down?  He asks of us no more than He Himself has done; no greater privations than those He took up Himself; no obedience more difficult, no humility more profound, no cross more painful than He Himself submitted to.  He was the Son of God, the Lord of the world, the Innocent, and all that He did was for us.  When we come down to reality, He is satisfied with much less, with the tenth part of what He Himself has done, even with a mere shadow of it.  For such humility, such poverty, such obedience as He practiced, He does not ask us for.[7]

We cannot be indifferent to His Kingdom and the spread of the Kingship of Christ. If we are truly the friends of Christ, we must love to bring souls to Him.  However, if we hunger to bring souls to Him, we sense the real need of beginning with the perfection of our own souls.  So St. Ignatius impels us to dig deeper and to work harder on the perfecting of ourselves.  In his third point, he raises the bar of what we should expect from ourselves.  We must desire our own sanctification.  Let us consider this higher calling alluded to in the third point.

Considerations for the THIRD POINT: Our Lord wants everyone to follow Him, if not in actual poverty in the religious life, then in at least spiritual poverty.

In this third point, St. Ignatius seems to be tying the first two points together for the sole purpose of urging us to strive for high perfection.  We know that the religious life is the best means to achieve the highest perfection; however, St. Ignatius wants us to realize that the laymen are also called to perfection.  He is encouraging the laity to live a life of mortification because this is necessary even for laymen in order to come to the perfection which Christ wants for each of us.   In order to have the deepest friendship and mystical marriage with Christ, which is Our Lord’s plan for every member of the Elect, we must not put any obstacle in His way.

“I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one cometh to the Father but by Me.”  [John 14:6].  By these words, Our Lord shows us that we must wage an interior battle with our own flesh in order to master our lower nature and to be His devoted friend and fellow laborer in the field, winning souls for Heaven.

This is why St. Ignatius tells us that we must be willing to distinguish ourselves in a special service of Our Lord.  We must be willing to literally give everything up for Him and be detached from everything in order to give ourselves interiorly and exteriorly to Him.  Thus, we must fight the battle against ourselves and bring our passions into subjection.  Bearing this complete detachment in mind, we then lovingly root out our disorderly self-love which so often manifests itself in our passions.

Because we cannot help others to come to the Faith if we are not properly disposed ourselves, St. Ignatius reminds us to work hard on our own perfection.

Fr. Hurter explains this concept of properly disposing ourselves when he says:

In saving souls, we are but instruments in the hands of God.  But the force of the master enters sooner and more perfectly into the instrument, the better it is adapted to the artist and, as it were, coalesces with him.  We shall be more useful, docile, and pliable as instruments in the hands of Our Divine Savior if there be less in us that resists Him.  That is, we must mortify and deaden within us all that is opposed to God, viz., our evil passions and disorderly self-love.[8]

Concluding thoughts:

In the light of all these considerations of how Our Lord is inviting our souls to Him in true friendship, we should be very willing to repeat the prayer that St. Ignatius gives us above (in his third point, in the introduction of this meditation).  We should give Our Lord our entire selves to use as He sees fit.  If He wants us to have actual poverty, then we embrace His will.  If He is not causing us actual poverty, then we tell Him that we will heartily embrace the spirit of poverty.  With this resolution we can imitate Him as He desires us to do.  

COLLOQUY:  Oh, dear Lord how can I thank Thee for such a loving invitation to follow Thee in all things, yes, even to death for love of Thee?  Oh, allow me to have the strength to conquer my inordinate self-love so I can give myself entirely to Thee without reserving anything for myself!!  I repeat the words that St. Ignatius gave above.  Indeed, it is my desire to give myself to Thee, to embrace actual poverty if Thou dost wish, and to have a true spirit of poverty so as to imitate Thee my Lord and Master.  I want no extravagant life, nothing that would distract me from abandoning myself completely to Thy holy service.  Please give me strength to die to myself and not to fear to stand up for Thee and Thy Truth.  Be Thou the King of my soul, and this means I will try to show my neighbor that he, too, must have Thee reign in him and in society.

We are now resolved to begin a more earnest and in-depth study of Our Lord and His virtues.  Hence, in our next lesson, we will begin our study by doing what St. Ignatius refers to as the Contemplation on the Incarnation

[1]           Since we are living in the time of the Great Apostasy, there are no uncompromising priests, at least in most places.  Thus, a general confession is not possible.  But we should go through the steps which would have led up to making a general confession, if we had been able to make one. 


We should make a very thorough examination and preparation for a general confession which would include making a sin list and telling God that if/when an uncompromising priest should become available, we are most willing to go to confession.  We should take these steps with sincere and humble hearts. 


We should humbly trust in God and beg His Mercy by trying to make a perfect act of contrition after having performed that thorough examination of conscience for confession.


We must trust in God and practice the virtue of hope.  We should be striving with all our hearts to make many acts of contrition as often as we can and make these acts as perfect as we can.


We must have a repentant disposition of mind.  We need heartfelt contrition for our sins.  The Council of Trent (session 14, chapters 1 and 4) explains that heartfelt sorrow for sins has at all times been necessary to obtain forgiveness of sins. 


There are two kinds of contrition: perfect and imperfect.  We should always endeavor to make perfect acts of contrition and get in the habit of making them.  We have always known that no one is guaranteed the chance to go to confession, but especially now in these times of apostasy; most of us do not have the opportunity.


Perfect contrition consists in being sorry because we have offended God the Supreme Being and Our dear loving Father, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Who is most worthy of our love. We have been so ungrateful to Him, and we must be determined never to commit sin again.  We want our love to be as perfect as possible.  Of course, we must beg God and our heavenly helpers to help us have a pure motive in our contrition.  Our contrition cannot simply be because we are afraid of punishment, for then, our contrition would be imperfect.  Perfect contrition involves filial fear and filial love, whereas, imperfect contrition involves servile fear which is simply the fear of punishment.


The effect of perfect contrition is wonderful because it blots out all of the guilt (but not necessarily all of the punishment) due to sins.


[2]           Reference to St. Paul, “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth and

having on the breastplate of justice: And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.  In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be

able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one.”  Ephesians, 6:14-16.

[4]            This quote is taken from Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints under May 30th.

[5]           The information about King St. Ferdinand III is taken from Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints under May 30th. and Saint Fernando III, James Fitzhenry, Arz, ©2009.

[6]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 111.


[7]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918, third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 112. 


Of course, we must realize that Our Lord, being a perfect human being suffered more than we could ever suffer.  Nevertheless, He wants us to give Him our absolute best and be as perfect as we can be.  One further point we must realize is that the primary reason Our Lord suffered was for the greater honor and glory of His Father. 

[8]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918, third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 118.


A Short History of the Via Crucis Devotion

Plus: a method of Constructing your own Stations

A Truly Marian Devotion

Throughout Lent, we must make a truly Marian meditation to fully receive the spiritual fruits of this holy season. Tradition holds that Mary, the Mother of God, would daily retrace the route of her Son’s Passion in prayerful recollection.[1]  Thus, the Via Crucis devotion originates in Mary’s very reflections during her earthly sojourn.

A Tradition With Deep Roots

Early Catholics also began imitating the way Jesus walked in Jerusalem during His Passion, which came to be known as the Via Dolorosa in the 1500s.  St. Jerome spoke of great crowds of pilgrims from all countries coming to reflect on the Passion in the Holy Land.[2]  Interestingly, early Catholic pilgrims actually walked a reverse route from that of Our Lord, commencing the prayerful walk at Calvary and concluding downhill at Pilate’s house. However, seeing it to be more suitable, the direction was changed in the 16th Century to go from Pilate’s house uphill to Calvary.[3] 

Franciscan and Dominican Influence

Motivated by the spirit of Crusades, Catholics began making more frequent pilgrimages to Jerusalem in the twelfth century.  Pilgrims of the time mention walking a Via Sacra during these visits.  In the mid-13th Century, the stable presence of Franciscan Friars as custodians in the Holy Land, one being Bl. Bernardo Caimi, facilitated external devotion to The Passion.  In 1491, a set of Stations was built at Varallo, Italy by Franciscans.[4]  The Via Crucis devotion, with the identical fourteen stations in the same order as today, became widespread in Spain in the seventeenth century, mainly among Franciscans.  Early Dominicans also took an interest in promoting devotion to Our Lord’s Passion in stations including Blessed Alvarez (d. 1420), who, upon returning from the Holy Land, erected small chapels adorned with paintings dedicated to the primary scenes of the Passion.[5] 

Universal Recognition of The Stations

The first use of the term Stations to describe the route frequented in Jerusalem is seen in the account of English pilgrim William Wey, who visited the Holy Land in 1458 and again in 1462.[6]  To formalize a Stations devotion, Pope Innocent XI permitted Franciscans to erect stations within their communities in 1686.  Pope Clement XII further gave all churches the right to construct stations, provided that a Franciscan father oversaw the erection of the stations, and the local bishop consented.  While the number of stations has fluctuated over time, the number was fixed at 14 by Clement XII in the same year.  English bishops were subsequently allowed to erect the stations by themselves in the 19th Century, without a Franciscan priest, and in 1862 this decree was extended to all bishops of the universal Church.[7]

Stabat Mater

While many have laid claim to the development of the Stabat Mater hymn, sung as a poignant reminder to conclude each station with Marian fervor, Pope Benedict XIV “gives it without question” to Innocent III (d. 1216).[8]  Found in several fifteenth-century European missals, the Stabat Mater was formally accepted into the Roman Breviary and Missal in 1727 for the Feast of the Seven Dolors of the B.V.M.[9]  This hymn evokes the emotion of Mary grieving over the sufferings of her Son, a most fitting way to meditate on such a sorrowful, yet necessary, event with the help of Our Lady.

Our Via Crucis Devotional Project

Since wild bamboo grows in our North Georgia backyard, our family decided to make use of the natural environment to commemorate the Via Crucis this Lent. After cutting the stalks to 6-ft tall, we drove them into the ground with a stake-driver, arranging them in a circle on a woodsy hillside. We selected images for each of the 14 stations and brought them to a local print shop, which made them into weather-resistant, polycarbonate placards with holes drilled for the insertion of  screws.  Finally, we affixed the images near the top of the stakes.  Now, we are ready every Friday of Lent to meditate on the Stations at-home using the methods of St. Alphonsus Liguori and St. Francis Assisi.  

Either inside or outside, consider making your own Via Crucis for a fruitful Lent. Thanks be to God for such a beautiful tradition!  Let us enter into Our Lord’s Passion with Marian devotedness throughout this blessed and solemn Liturgical season. 



[1]           1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol XV, article: Way Of The Cross, Cyprian Alston, paragraph 4.

[2]           1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol XV, article: Way Of The Cross, Cyprian Alston, paragraph 4.

[3]           1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol XV, article: Way Of The Cross, Cyprian Alston, paragraph 4.

[4]           1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol XV, article: Way Of The Cross, Cyprian Alston, paragraph 4.

[5]           1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol XV, article: Way Of The Cross, Cyprian Alston, paragraph 4.

[6]           1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol XV, article: Way Of The Cross, Cyprian Alston, paragraph 4.

[7]           1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol XV, article: Way Of The Cross, Cyprian Alston, paragraph 4.

[8]           1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol XV, Stabat Mater, by Hugh Thomas Henry, paragraph 3, The Encyclopedia Press.

[9]           1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol XV, Stabat Mater, by Hugh Thomas Henry, paragraph 2, The Encyclopedia Press.

Lesson #18 The Mercy of God

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Lesson #18  The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – ON THE MERCY OF GOD

The meditations we have done on hell, with both its moral and physical suffering; death; and the judgments were intended to sober us and to foster sorrow for our sins.  Yet to prevent ourselves from falling for the temptation of discouragement, which is a lack of trust in God, we now add a specific meditation on the Mercy of Our Lord.  Our Lord does not want us to ever forget His Providential care for us.  He wants us to truly appreciate His kindness and His mercy.  This meditation was not included in St. Ignatius’s original Spiritual Exercises.  Still, because appreciation of Our Lord’s Mercy brings great gratitude, humility, and filial love for God, we include this meditation here.

This meditation will be set out in the style of St. Ignatius.

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual, I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE is the mental representation of the place.  Here it will be to see with my imagination Our Lord as the Good Shepherd or Our Lord on the Cross suffering greatly for my soul.  

The SECOND PRELUDE is to ask for the grace:

To weep tears of gratitude for the many countless blessings and mercies that the Lord has poured out on my soul.  Also, I will beg Our Lord to have continued mercy on me.

The FIRST POINT is to consider what God has done for me.  He has taken such tender care of me.  He had me baptized and has given me innumerable blessings.

The SECOND POINT is to consider how Our Lord died for my sins.  He became Man for the purpose of dying on the Cross for me, a sinner.  He truly wants my salvation and has promised His constant forgiveness if I am truly sorry for my sins.

The THIRD POINT is to consider that Our Lord has not allowed me to die and be condemned to everlasting death in the tomb of hell.  He wants my salvation more than I do.  I must be grateful for His tender mercies that He has shown to me.

The COLLOQUY: I will pour out my heart to Our Lord, the Sacred Heart, and the Good Shepherd of my soul.  I will thank Him for ever seeking my soul, I who am so unworthy of His love.  I will beg Him to keep me ever close to His Heart and to never let me forget what I owe to Him.  I will beg Him to ever increase my love Him..

Considerations for the FIRST POINT: the blessings God has bestowed on me.

We tend to rely on ourselves[1] and do not think about the fact that we need God.  Yet when we reflect honestly within ourselves and look back on our life so far, we find countless things that God has done for us.

We can consider them in chronological order: He created me, He had me baptized as a Catholic etc.  Not only these, but He also gave me (and each of us) insights and knowledge that He did not give to others.  He drew me to the traditions of the Church.  He has given me the means to stay informed about the truth I need in order to maintain my Faith and Morals.  Indeed, He continues to instruct me every day if I truly am docile to what He wants to teach me.

Yes, He even has given me blessings in the form of crosses and I have not been grateful for this fact.  Here is what St. Alphonsus de Ligouri says of how valuable crosses are to us:

The saints have done but little to acquire Heaven. So many kings, who have abdicated their thrones and shut themselves up in a cloister; so many holy anchorites, who have confined themselves in a cave; so many martyrs, who have cheerfully submitted to torments, to the rack, and to red-hot plates have done but little.  “The sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared to the glory to come." (Rom. 8:18.) To gain heaven, it would be but little to endure all the pains of this life. Let us, then, brethren, courageously resolve to bear patiently with all the sufferings which shall come upon us during the remaining days of our lives: to secure heaven they are all little and nothing.  Rejoice then; for all these pains, sorrows, and persecutions shall, if we are saved, be to us a source of never-ending joys and delights. “Your sorrows shall be turned into joy.” (John 16: 20.)  When, then, the crosses of this life afflict us, let us raise our eyes to heaven, and console ourselves with the hope of Paradise.  At the end of her life, St. Mary of Egypt was asked, by the Abbot St. Zozimus, how she had been able to live for forty-seven years in the desert where he found her dying.  She answered: “With the hope of Paradise.”  If we be animated with the same hope, we shall not feel the tribulations of this life. Have courage! Let us love God and labor for heaven. There, the saints expects us, Mary expects us, Jesus Christ expects us; He holds in His Hand a crown to make each of us a king in that eternal kingdom.[2]

With these consoling words to encourage us, let us resolve to forge ahead accepting everything that God deigns to send us.

Let us pass on to the next consideration of how to appreciate God’s mercy that He has shown us.

Considerations for the SECOND POINT: Christ’s sufferings for the salvation of souls.

In St. John’s Gospel, we see Our Lord has such tender love for souls, for He says, “I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd giveth His Life for His sheep.” [John 10:11] 

St. Alphonsus tells us in his beautiful sermon on the Mercy of God how Our Lord truly wants our salvation.  Listen to his consoling words:

Oh! With what tenderness does God embrace a sinner that returns to Him! This tenderness Jesus Christ wished to declare to us when He said that He is the good pastor, who, as soon as He finds the lost sheep, embraces it and places it on His own shoulders.  “And when He hath found it, doth He not lay it upon His shoulders rejoicing?" (Luke 15:5.)  This tenderness also appears in the parable of the prodigal son, in which Jesus Christ tells us that He is the good Father, Who, when His lost son returns, goes to meet him, embraces and kisses him, and, as it were, swoons away through joy in receiving him. ”And running to him, he fell upon his neck and kissed him."  (Luke 15: 20.) God protests that when sinners repent of their iniquities, He will forget all their sins, as if they had never offended Him. “But, if the wicked do penance for all the sins which he hath committed. … living, he shall live, and shall not die.  I will not remember all his iniquities that he hath done.” (Ezech. 18: 21, 22.) By the Prophet Isaias, the Lord goes so far as to say: “Come and accuse Me, saith the Lord. If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow.” (Isa. 1:18.)[3]

We can see the tender care Our Lord takes of us and how in the Gospels there are countless examples of His mercies that He shows to us, His poor sheep. He searches for us and the angels rejoice over the repentant sinner, “There shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than ninety-nine just, who need not penance.” (Luke15:7)

He wants us to lean on Him and trust in Him. By doing so, we foster humility.

In our last consideration, we must ponder on how we must be completely committed to showing our gratitude to God by being willing to see our nothingness and our unworthiness of His mercy.  We must also have sorrow for all our sins.

Considerations for the THIRD POINT: I am still alive and I can dedicate the remainder of my life to more fervent service of Our Lord.

Let us see yet another instructive quote from the preaching of St. Alphonsus de Ligouri.

But no!  God cannot despise a humble and contrite heart. “A contrite and humble heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Ps. l: 19.)  To show mercy and grant pardon to sinners, God regards as redounding to His own glory. And therefore shall He be exalted sparing you.” (Isa. 30:18.) The holy Church says that God displays His omnipotence in granting pardon and mercy to sinners. O God, Who manifested Thy omnipotence in sparing and showing mercy.”  Do not imagine, dearly beloved sinners, that God requires of you to labor for a long time before He grants you pardon: as soon as you wish for forgiveness, He is ready to give it.  Behold what the Scripture says: Weeping, thou shalt not weep, He will surely have pity on thee.” (Isa. 30: 19.) You shall not have to weep for a long time: as soon as you shall have shed the first tear through sorrow for your sins, God will have mercy on you. At the voice of thy cry, as soon as He shall hear, He will answer thee." (Ibid.) The moment He shall hear you say: Forgive me, my God, forgive me, He will instantly answer and grant your pardon.[4]

These words show us again how God will only listen to those who are striving with all their might to be truly His friend.  Those who are indifferent to God do not take the time or make the effort to be concerned about how they live and act.  In the following passage of St. Alphonsus, he shows us the extreme patience God has for souls.

The same Prophet [Isaiah] answers: “The Lord waiteth that He may have mercy on you.” (Isa. 30:18.) God waits for sinners that they may one day repent, and that after their repentance, He may pardon and save them.  “As I live, saith the Lord, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” (Ezech. 33: 11.) St. Augustine goes so far as to say that the Lord, if He were not God, should be unjust on account of His excessive patience towards sinners.  By waiting for those who abuse His patience to multiply their sins, God appears to do an injustice to the Divine honor.  “We,” continues the saint,sin; we adhere to sin (some of us become familiar and intimate with sin, and sleep for months and years in this miserable state); we rejoice at sin (some of us go so far as to boast of our wickedness); and thou art appeased!  “We provoke Thee to anger; Thou dost invite us to mercy.”  We and God appear to be, as it were, engaged in a contest, in which we labor to provoke Him to chastise our guilt, and He invites us to pardon.  Lord, exclaimed holy Job, what is man, that thou dost entertain so great an esteem for him? Why dost thou love him so tenderly?  “What is man that thou shouldst magnify him?  Or why dost Thou set Thy Heart upon him?” (Job. 7: 7.)  St. Denis the Areopagite says, that God seeks after sinners like a despised lover, entreating them not to destroy themselves.  ‘Why, ungrateful souls, do you fly from Me?  I love you and desire nothing but your welfare.’  “Ah, sinners!” says St. Teresa, “remember that He Who now calls and seeks after you, is that God Who shall one day be your Judge.  If you are lost, the great mercies which He now shows you shall be the greatest torments which, you shall suffer in hell.”[5]

Indeed, these words are both consoling and sobering!  Yes, we must want to show Christ that we belong entirely to Him.  How could we not love Him for His constant display of mercy and kindness to us, unworthy sinners!  So overwhelmed should we be from these powerful inspirations and admonitions, that we should not want to take God’s mercy for granted.

COLLOQUY: How can I thank God for the edifying instructions from the doctors of the Church?  I see more than ever before how I must not take God’s mercy for granted.  He does not owe me anything.  I will thank Our Lord, for giving me many insights.  I will beg Him under the titles of the Good Shepherd, my Redeemer, etc., reminding myself that even though God gives His blessings for free, I must be serious and sober about how I use them.  I will pour out my heart to thank Him devoutly and beg His continued mercy for my soul and for my loved ones.     

In our next lesson, we will consider St. Ignatius’s famous meditation on The Call of Christ the King.  This next meditation begins St. Ignatius’s Second Week which has been referred to as the ‘true’ beginning of the retreat because we are now ready to launch out into the depths of learning about how to imitate Our Lord.

[1]           “What hast thou that thou hast not received?  And if thou hast received, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” 1 Corinthians 4:7.


[2]           Sermon On the Mercy of God, preached on the Third Sunday after Pentecost, taken from Sermons for All the Sundays in the Year, by St. Alphonsus M. Liguori. Translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus M. Liguori by the late very rev. Nicholas Callan, D.D., Roman Catholic College, Maynooth, Eighth edition, Dublin, James Duffy & Sons, 15 Wellington Quay, and London, 1 Paternoster Row, 1882.


[3]           Sermon On the Mercy of God, preached on the Third Sunday after Pentecost, taken from Sermons for All the Sundays in the Year, by St. Alphonsus M. Liguori. Translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus M. Liguori by the late very rev. Nicholas Callan, D.D., Roman Catholic College, Maynooth, Eighth edition, Dublin, James Duffy & Sons, 15 Wellington Quay, and London, 1 Paternoster Row, 1882.


[4]           Sermon On the Mercy of God, preached on the Third Sunday after Pentecost, taken from Sermons for All the Sundays in the Year, by St. Alphonsus M. Liguori. Translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus M. Liguori by the late very rev. Nicholas Callan, D.D., Roman Catholic College, Maynooth, Eighth edition, Dublin, James Duffy & Sons, 15 Wellington Quay, and London, 1 Paternoster Row, 1882.


[5]           Sermon On the Mercy of God, preached on the Third Sunday after Pentecost, taken from Sermons for All the Sundays in the Year, by St. Alphonsus M. Liguori. Translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus M. Liguori by the late very rev. Nicholas Callan, D.D., Roman Catholic College, Maynooth, Eighth edition, Dublin, James Duffy & Sons, 15 Wellington Quay, and London, 1 Paternoster Row, 1882.


Lesson #17 The Judgment

Mary’s School of Sanctity

Lesson #17  The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius –—ON THE PARTICULAR AND THE GENERAL JUDGMENT [In the state of grace VS In the state of mortal sin]

Now after the sobering meditations that we have done on the pains of hell both of the senses and pain of the loss of God, and on death, we now consider how we can  increase our sobriety by meditating on our particular judgment and the general judgment at the end of time.  This meditation was also not included in St. Ignatius’s original Spiritual Exercises; however, since we know that we are poor creatures and cannot be too serious about our salvation, we must endeavor to take more means to help us be as sober as we can.

For the same reason, we should do meditations on hell, on death, and on judgment often in order to keep the seriousness of the goal of our life ever before our eyes.

This meditation will be set out in the style of St. Ignatius.

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual, I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE is the mental representation of the place.  Here it will be to see with my imagination my particular judgment before God.  My body and soul have been separated and I am aware of my past and know exactly how I have been.  

The SECOND PRELUDE is to ask for the grace:

To weep for my sins while I still have time and to put my life in order before it is too late for me, knowing that my eternity will be determined by the way I live my life now.

The FIRST POINT is to consider what the particular judgment of my immortal soul is.  What is involved in the particular judgment?   Our Lord Jesus Christ will be my Judge.  He will repay me for all I have done and all I have neglected to do.  I will also consider what my particular judgment will be like if I am in the state of grace.  I will contrast this with what my particular judgment will be like if I am in the state of mortal sin.

Furthermore, I will consider that the sentence from the Divine Judge will be final.  I will resolve to live my life now at present the way I will want to be found at my particular judgment— which will occur as soon as my soul leaves my body.

The SECOND POINT is to consider the general judgment.  What will this scene be like?  I will try to form an image in my mind of the valley of Josaphat where the Church teaches that the general judgment will occur.

I will consider Our Lord judging the just and the damned.  On which side will I be?

The COLLOQUY: the possibilities for the colloquy are numerous. I will ask Our Lady and St. Joseph to help me live now the way I would have wanted to have lived when I am called to stand before the tribunal of the Incarnate Wisdom, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

I will now humbly beg Our Lord, Our Lady, St. Joseph or all three to help me live with the thought of pleasing God ever before my eyes.  I want to fear my Judge, Our Lord Jesus Christ with a filial fear, that is, a loving fear of displeasing my dear Lord and the Spouse of my soul.  Because I know that I will die the way I lived, I will beg for the grace of perseverance in my daily struggles and the gift of final perseverance.

Considerations for the FIRST POINT: the particular judgment

I have just drawn my last breath.  My body is motionless and those attending me have already assumed that my soul is gone, but no, my soul’s departure will happen in God’s mysterious way and in His timing.  No one can guess the exact moment.  Some time has passed.  But oh!  It is now, and the pain is like no other pain that I have ever felt before!!!  My will says, “Oh, my Lord, be merciful to me, help me!” [If I am in grace, I do hope I prayed that last prayer well.] [If I am in wretched sin, I did not think to say it but instead I have cursed that awful pain!] This last pain of my life, this tremendous pain, is only lasting one moment, but to be torn asunder in such a manner!!  WOW!! Unspeakable pain!!  Alas, my soul is now severed from my body.  How did I fair?  Lo, the Judge is already here to ask me the ONE TERRIBLE QUESTION—WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE TALENTS I GAVE YOU?  RENDER AN ACCOUNT OF YOUR STEWARDSHIP BECAUSE YOU CAN BE STEWARD NO LONGER!!!

He sees everything I have ever thought, imagined, said, done or left undone.  Nothing is hidden from Him.  I am alone and I must answer.  I know how I stand in that instant of judgment after that ultimate moment of pain, that is, my death.  Now the next instant – THE SENTENCE.  What will it be?

St. Alphonsus De Liguori preached these words:

BELOVED Christians, of all the goods of nature, of fortune, and of grace, which we have received from God, we are not the masters, neither can we dispose of them as we please; we are but the administrators of them; and therefore, we should employ them according to the will of God, who is our Lord. Hence, at the hour of death, we must render a strict account of them to Jesus Christ, our Judge. “You are not," says St. Bonaventure, in his comment on these words, “a master, but a steward over the things committed to you; and therefore, you are to render an account of them."[1]

St. Alphonsus de Liguori goes on to comment on Our Lord’s words, “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it on the day of judgment” [Matt 12:36] by saying:

But if every glance, every idle word, and even good works, shall be judged, with what rigor shall immodest expressions, blasphemies, grievous detractions, thefts, and sacrileges be judged? Alas! On that day every soul shall, as St. Jerome says, see, to her own confusion, all the evils which she has done.[2]

St. Augustine says referring to Our Lord in regard to the particular judgment of each soul that, “He will come in love to the good, in terror to the wicked.”[3]

Keeping these wise words in mind, let us investigate the death of a member of the Elect versus the death of a reprobate.

The Particular Judgment for those in the state of grace:                               

 We must remember, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” Ps. 115:15; and the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them.”  Wisdom 3:1

 St. Alphonsus De Liguori tells us that, “the just man is not afflicted at the thought of being obliged to take leave of the goods of the earth, for he has always kept his heart detached from them.”[4]

Here is another encouraging quote from St. Alphonsus:

He who dies loving God, is not disturbed by the pains of death; but, seeing that he is now at the end of life, and that he has no more to suffer for God, or to offer Him other proofs of his love, he accepts these pains with joy.  With affection and peace he offers to God these last moments of life, and feels consoled in uniting the sacrifice of his death to the sacrifice which Jesus Christ offered for him on the Cross to His eternal Father. Oh! How great the peace of the Christian who dies abandoned and reposing in the arms of Jesus Christ, Who has loved us to death, and has condescended to suffer so cruel a death in order to obtain for us a death full of sweetness and consolation.[5]

Death of the Just

Thus, the soul that dies in the state of grace is a friend of Christ and loves Christ above all things.  What a consolation for this just soul to hear the sweet words, “Come ye blessed of My Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!” [Matt. 25:34] Or to hear the following: “Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord!” [Matt. 25:21]

These are very consoling and peaceful words, indeed!  Our Lord says these words to the straight-to-heaven saints.  Yet to most souls who die in the state of grace the words are modified to convey to the soul the need to expatiate in the horrible fires of Purgatory.  Tradition tells us that these fires are the same as hell, except, of course, the fires in Purgatory will have an end, therefore the souls in Purgatory are not in despair but in holy hope.  Also, it must be remembered that the souls retained in Purgatory suffer with love and longing for Heaven. What consolation for the Holy Souls to know that they will eventually be going to Heaven!

Of course, the souls of the best friends of Our Lord bypass purgatory and enter into the joy of their Lord immediately. They enter upon the reward for their heroic efforts—the Beatific Vision!

One can also think about how the devil will accuse the just man at his particular judgment, however, Our Lady, St. Joseph and the man’s patron Saint will be there to defend him.  From this peaceful pondering of the saved, let us pass on to the terrifying punishment of those who were not friends of Christ.

The Particular Judgment for those in the state of mortal sin:

What happens to the one who is so unfortunate as to die in the state of deadly sin [that is, mortal sin]?  

St. Augustine says, “Above shall be an enraged Judge; below, a frightful chaos; on the right, sins accusing him; on the left, the devils dragging him to punishments; within, a burning conscience:  beset in this manner, whither will the sinner fly![6]

St. Alphonsus De Liguori tells us,

In the first place, the Judge shall demand of sinners an account of all the blessings and graces which He bestowed on them in order to bring them to salvation, and which they have rendered fruitless. He will demand an account of the years granted to them that they might serve God, and which they have spent in offending Him.[7]

Thus, the reprobate will face his Judge with nothing good to say for himself.  Listen to St. Bernard’s words referring to the sins of the reprobate which will accuse her [meaning the soul of the reprobate]:

Her very sins shall accuse her [the soul] and they shall say: “You have made us; we are your work; we shall not desert you.  We are your offspring; we shall not leave you: we shall be your companions in hell for all eternity.”[8]

In addition to the fitting punishment just described, St. Alphonsus quotes some very striking words of St. Augustine as follows:

The devil will be at hand, and will recite the words of your profession [whether religious vows or other vows made].  He will charge us before our face with what we have done, he will state the day and the hour in which we have sinned.”[9]

St. Alphonsus gives the following impressive quote St. Cyprian describing what the devil will say to Our Judge, “I have suffered neither stripes nor scourges for this man."  Then St. Alphonsus explains the deeper meaning of St. Cyprian’s words.  Basically, the devil is saying here, “Lord, I have suffered nothing for this ungrateful sinner, and to make himself my slave he has turned his back on thee who has endured so much for his salvation. He, therefore, justly belongs to me.”[10]

The reprobate will be overcome by his shame.

St. Basil says, “That she [meaning the soul] shall be tortured more by her shame and confusion than by the very fire of hell.” [11]

Imagine the terror that seizes the reprobate, because he, of course, knows his own guilt for having rejected Our Lord during his life, as he now hears the sentence to DEPART FROM ME into EVERLASTING FIRE!!

God wants no part with this sinner who has hated Him.  This sinner has wanted his own version of so-called happiness without God in the picture and so now this unrepentant sinner will be condemned to unhappiness for all eternity.  He is getting what he deserves.  He really wanted no part with God in his lifetime while on earth, so he can possess no part with God in his eternal death in hell.

By the following strong words, St. Alphonsus exhorts us who are still alive to beware:

"Before judgment, prepare thee justice." [Eccl. 18: 19] Let us adjust our accounts before the day of accounts. Let us seek God, now that we can find him; for the time shall come when we will wish, but shall not be able to find him. “You shall seek me, and shall not find me." [John 7: 36] “Before judgment," says St. Augustine, “the Judge can be appeased, but not in judgment." By a change of life, we can now appease the anger of Jesus Christ, and recover his grace; but when he shall judge, and find us in sin, he must execute justice, and we shall be lost.[12]

Now let us turn our attention to the second point of this meditation, the General Judgment.

Considerations for the SECOND POINT: the general judgment

The general judgment, an article of our Catholic Faith, is a reality which we must drill into ourselves, deeply, and establish this reality into the very marrow of our bones.

If we keep this terrifying day in our minds, then how many evils and sins would be avoided by us?  Yes, we know we must not displease Our Dear Lord, but when we feel frail and sorely tempted or influenced by the world around us, we have to pull out the scene of the General Judgment and fear the whole world knowing the sin publicly that we are being tempted to commit right now.  If we really think about this particular single sin we could commit right now as being viewed by every human being that ever existed, exists right now, and will exists in the future, would we commit this sin?  Would to God that this scene of the terrifying Wrath of God would convince us of the evil of sin, every sin, great or small!

Apocalypse paints the scene of the General Judgment very vividly. First, we know that the present world will be destroyed by the final conflagration.  Nothing will escape this purifying fire. This fire will kill all the rest of mankind.  Every soul will have a particular judgment.  So much for worldly amusements!  So much for seeing the world!  The earth has been defaced by sin so it is fitting that God renew it and make a new heaven and a new earth.  “Heaven and earth shall pass away but My word shall not pass away.” [St Mark 13:31]

Yes, St. Alphonsus puts this fact aptly when he says, “all shall become one heap of ashes.”[13]

Indeed, do we not pray, “Thou shalt renew the face of the earth” in the prayer to the Holy Ghost?  Yes, we want our hearts to be renewed in the dew of the Comforter.

After the final conflagration, the angels will gather the Elect from the four corners of the world.  The trumpet will sound and all will rise again for the great assembly of mankind for the final judgment.  Then the angels shall come and separate the reprobate from the elect, placing the latter on the right, and the former on the left.

St. Jerome used to say: “As often as I consider the Day of Judgment, I tremble. Whether I eat or drink, or whatever else I do, that terrible trumpet appears to sound in my ears, arise ye dead, and come to judgment”[14] and St. Augustine declared, that nothing banished from him earthly thoughts so effectually as the fear of judgment.[15]

We wonder what the bodies of the just and damned look like and how the Elect and the damned will feel.

St. Alphonsus answers our questions in these awe-inspiring words:

At the sound of that trumpet the souls of the blessed shall descend from Heaven to be united to the bodies with which they served God on Earth; and the unhappy souls of the damned shall come up from Hell to take possession again of those bodies with which they have offended God. Oh! How different the appearance of the former, compared with that of the latter! The damned shall appear deformed and black, like so many firebrands of Hell; but the just shall shine as the sun (Matt xiii 43) Oh! How great shall then be the happiness of those who have fortified their bodies by works of penance![16]

But the reprobate, like goats destined for the slaughter, shall be placed on the left, to await their last condemnation.  St. Chrysostom says, “On the day of judgment there is no hope of mercy for poor sinners.” Furthermore, St. Augustine says, “The greatest punishment of sin in those who live in enmity with God, is to lose the fear and remembrance of the divine judgment.”

Continue, continue, says the Apostle, to live obstinately in sin; but in proportion to your obstinacy, you shall have accumulated for the day of judgment a treasure of the wrath of God “But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart , thou treasurest up to thyself wrath against the day of wrath” [Rom 2:5]

 Then sinners will not be able to hide themselves but, with insufferable pain, they shall be compelled to appear in judgment. "To lie hid” says St. Anselm, “will be impossible, to appear will be intolerable."[17]

Fr. Cochem tells us that the bodies of the elect will be beautiful to behold and fragrant, whereas the bodies of the damned will be utterly disgusting and hideous to see emitting such a horrific and vile stench.  The damned will howl and shriek as they are forced by the angels to assemble for judgment in the Valley of Josaphat.[18]

Then the Sign of the Cross and the instruments of Our Lord’s Passion will be brought to be visible by all.  Then Our Lord Himself, the Just Judge will appear.

According to St. Jerome, the presence of Jesus Christ will give the reprobate more pain than Hell itself. “It would,” he says, “be easier for the damned to bear the torments of Hell than the presence of the Lord.”[19]  Hence, on that day, the wicked shall, according to St. John, call on the mountains to fall on them and to hide them from the sight of the judge. “And they shall say to the mountains and the rocks: Fall upon us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” [Apoc. 6:16.]

With what kindness will Our Lord speak to the sheep, the Elect!!

Let us listen to the beautiful and consoling text of St. Alphonsus:

But now comes the sentence.  Jesus Christ will first turn to the elect, and address them these consoling words: Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…How great will be the joy of the elect in hearing the Judge say to him: Come, blessed children, come to a kingdom; for you there are no more pains, no more fears; you are and shall be saved forever. I bless the blood which I have shed for you and I bless the tears which you have shed for your sins.  Let us ascend into Paradise, where we shall remain together for all eternity! The most holy Mary will also bless her servants, and will invite them with her to heaven.  And thus, singing Allelujas, the elect will enter heaven in triumph, to possess, to praise, and to love God forever.[20]

Let us contrast the above beautiful words St. Alphonsus gives us to ponder with the terrifying words that come from the Lamb of God showing God’s just Anger and Wrath as He speaks to the damned.

But on the other hand, the reprobates, turning to Jesus Christ, will say to Him: What will become of us?  The Judge will say, since you have renounced and despised my grace, Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire. Depart; begone from Me; I wish neither to see nor to hear you ever more.  You cursed, go, and since you have despised by blessing, go accursed.  And where, O Lord, will they go?  Into fire, into hell, to burn both in soul and in body.  And for how many years, or how many ages?  Into everlasting fire; for all eternity; as long as God shall be God.  After this sentence, says St. Ephrem, the reprobate will take leave of the angels, of the saints, of relatives, and the divine Mother. “Farewell, ye just! Farewell, O Cross! Farewell, O Paradise! Farewell, fathers and children, for we shall never see any of you again! Farewell O Mary, Mother of God![21]

St. Alphonsus tells us that the punishment of being separated from the sheep is a huge loss for the damned.  Here he cites St. John Chrysostom, “This punishment alone would be sufficient to constitute a hell for the wicked”.[22]

Then considering the finality of the sentence St. Alphonsus has this to say:

What excuses can save the wicked on that day? Ah! they can offer no excuses. “The just shall see, and shall rejoice, and all iniquity shall stop her mouth.” [Ps. 106: 42.) Their very sins shall close the mouth of the reprobate, so that they will not have courage to excuse themselves. They shall pronounce their own condemnation.[23]

St. Bernard says, that, “the sentence of the elect, and their destiny to eternal glory, shall be first declared, that the pains of the reprobate may be increased by the sight of what they lost.”[24]

Concluding thoughts:

On which side will I be?  I must consider with fear and trembling that I could easily be on the side with the goats.  I must examine my life and amend all defects I detect.  I must ask others for their advice about defects they find in me.  And I must do penance and not neglect my soul.  Indeed I must never forget that I will die the way I have lived and my eternity depends on how I live and how I die.

COLLOQUY: How can I thank God for the instruction I have received from all of these considerations!  What a healthy fear they have stirred up in my soul!  What a desire they have burnt into me to truly want to serve God as I ought and love Him with my whole heart and soul! 

I can beg Our Lord to help me always remember that I will have to render an account of myself to Him.  Likewise, I will beg my Mother Mary to guide and protect me in this life so I can be rendered safe for all eternity.  Also, I will fly to St. Joseph, the Patron of the dying to help me live virtuously, so I can die virtuously and be safe both at my particular judgment and at the General Judgment.  I will close with an Our Father, Hail Mary, and a Glory Be.

In our next lesson, we will consider the great Mercy of God, not only in His Redemption of Mankind, but in His having preserved us in life and having given us the Faith and insights to follow Him well.


[1]           This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Sermons for Sunday, sermon xxxvii. Eighth Sunday after Pentecost. – On the particular judgment.

[2]           This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Sermons for Sunday, sermon xxxvii. Eighth Sunday after Pentecost. – On the particular judgment.  

[3]           This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Preparation for Death, in his consideration fifteen, The Particular Judgment, First Point.

[4]           This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Preparation for Death,  in his consideration eight, The Death of the Just, First Point.

[5]           This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Preparation for Death, in his consideration eight, The Death of the Just, First Point.

[6]           This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Preparation for Death,  in his consideration fifteen, The Particular Judgment, First Point.

[7]           This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Sermons for Sunday, sermon xxxvii. Eighth Sunday after Pentecost. – On the particular judgment.  

[8]           This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Sermons for Sunday, sermon xxxvii. Eighth Sunday after Pentecost. – On the particular judgment.

[9]           This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Sermons for Sunday, sermon xxxvii. Eighth Sunday after Pentecost. – On the particular judgment.

[10]         This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Preparation for Death, in his consideration fifteen, The Particular Judgment, Second Point.

[11]         This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Sermons for Sunday, sermon xxxvii. Eighth Sunday after Pentecost. – On the particular judgment.

[12]         This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Sermons for Sunday, sermon xxxvii. Eighth Sunday after Pentecost. – On the particular judgment.

[13]         This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Sermons for Sunday, sermon 1, the First Sunday in Advent, on the General Judgment.

[14]         This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Sermons for Sunday, sermon 1, the First Sunday in Advent, on the General Judgment.

[15]         This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Sermons for Sunday, sermon 1, the First Sunday in Advent, on the General Judgment.

[16]         This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Sermons for Sunday, sermon 1, the First Sunday in Advent, on the General Judgment.      

[17]         This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Sermons for Sunday, sermon 1, the First Sunday in Advent, on the General Judgment.

[18]         This information is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, on the chapter about the Resurrection of the Dead.

[19]         This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Preparation for Death, Consideration 25, Point 2.

[20]         This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Preparation for Death, in his consideration twenty-five, The General Judgment, Third Point.        

[21]         This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Preparation for Death, in his consideration twenty-five, The General Judgment, Third Point.

[22]         This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Sermons for Sunday, sermon 1, the First Sunday in Advent, on the General Judgment.

[23]         This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Sermons for Sunday, sermon 1, the First Sunday in Advent, on the General Judgment.

[24]         This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Sermons for Sunday, sermon 1, the First Sunday in Advent, on the General Judgment.

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition


St. Gertrude’s Example of Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence


One day when St. Gertrude was climbing a hill, she slipped and fell down to the bottom.  She was unhurt and began to climb up again, saying: “What great happiness it would have been for me, O Lord, if this fall had been the means of bringing me sooner to Thee!”  Her companions asked her if she was not afraid of dying without receiving the Last Sacraments.  “I would certainly wish with all my heart to receive them in my last moments”, she answered, “but I much prefer the will of God, for I am sure the best disposition for a good death is submission to His will.”


Quoted from Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, the Secret of Peace and Happiness, Father Jean Baptiste Saint Jure, S.J. and Saint Claude De La Colombiere, S.J., Tan Books, 1983.


Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition


On the importance of continually advancing in the spiritual life


Here is the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, greatest Doctor of the Catholic Church:


On the Road to God, not to advance is to fall back.


Lectures on St. John’s Gospel, ch.4, #690.




Lesson #16 On Death

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Lesson #16  The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius — ON DEATH [In the state of grace vs. In the state of mortal sin]

In addition to the meditation on both the pains of the senses and the horrific pain of the loss of God, we now include a meditation on death.  This also was not included in St. Ignatius’s original Spiritual Exercises; however, it is so valuable for fostering man’s proper desire for God and to work for God’s glory and praise.  Furthermore, if we are to acquire the holy indifference[1] that St. Ignatius wants us to have and keep, we must meditate on death, not only within the framework of the Spiritual Exercises, but also on a regular basis. In other words, he who meditates often on death will be able to prepare for death and die well. 

This meditation will be set out in the style of St. Ignatius.

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual, I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE is the mental representation of the place.  Here it will be to see with my imagination my death bed or the scene of my death.

The SECOND PRELUDE is to ask for the grace:

1) to understand the gravity of sin now while there is still time for me; 2) to truly see that my life here on the earth is a test in which I am merely an exile; 3) to see that I must be detached from this world in order to have an intense desire for God in heaven, and 4) to be convinced that by understanding these truths, I will be preparing to die well.

The FIRST POINT is to consider what death is in itself. First, I will consider the following attributes of death.

1) Death is certain—all humans have to die.

2) Death takes everything—our possessions, our time, our body.

3) Death is painful— [the separation of the soul from the body] an instantaneous change.  A person may linger and be ‘dying’ for a long period of time but the actual substantial change which occurs when the soul departs the body is one intensely painful moment.

4) Death’s circumstances are unknown. — No one knows the actual time and place in which he will die. God could reveal this to someone, but for most people He does not reveal these facts.

The SECOND POINT is to consider what will happen to me spiritually at my death, e.g., what spiritual battles will I encounter at my death?

I will also consider what my death would be like if I am in the state of grace.  I will contrast this with what my death would be like if I am in the state of mortal sin.

Furthermore, I will consider what the spiritual struggle and combat at death will involve for both of these states of soul.

The COLLOQUY: the possibilities for the colloquy are numerous. I will let the Holy Ghost guide me for my colloquy. I will draw on the considerations which struck my heart the most and address myself to Our Lord, Our Lady, St. Joseph or all three.  I will pour out my heart to them, now thanking them for their mercy, now petitioning for their help at my death so I can die well, etc.

Considerations for the FIRST POINT:

One can surely take many different aspects about death into consideration, but we will limit them to the following four attributes of death.

1) Death is certain—all humans have to die. 

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment.”  Hebrews, 9:27.

In the book of Genesis, it is revealed to us that man has to die. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.”  Genesis, 3:19.

Death came into the world as a consequence of Adam’s sin. Therefore, no one can escape the hand of death.  There is absolutely nothing we can do to avoid death. Tradition teaches that Our Lady died even though she was conceived without original sin.  Yet, death for her was a fitting imitation of her Divine Son.  Enoch walked with God and was seen no more [Gen.5:24].  Elias was taken up in a fiery chariot with fiery horses into heaven in front of the prophet Eliseus [4 Kings, ch. 2]. Yet we know from the book of the Apocalypse that these two prophets will be martyred by the Antichrist. Hence, they will have to die like everybody else.

2) Death takes everything—our possessions, our time, our body. “For we brought nothing into this world: and, certainly, we can carry nothing out.”  [1Timothy 6:7]  Our Lord reminds us of this fact in His parable about the rich man who had plenty and thought within himself, saying, “What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said: This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and will build greater; and into them will I gather all things that are grown to me, and my goods.  And I will say to my soul: thou hast much goods laid up for many years take thy rest; eat, drink, make good cheer.”

Our Lord continues, “But God said to him: Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee: and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?”  St. Luke’s Gospel, 12:16-20.

At death, we will have no more time.  No more time to praise, revere, and serve God.  The time for merit will be over and the time to increase in our love for God will be over.  Likewise, the time to offend God is over and we can do no more damage to our souls then.  All is ended.  All is final.  No one will go with us for we go alone. Our bodies must be left behind.

Simply stated, our souls will be summoned to the tribunal.  Our souls will be “naked” and we, along with our works, will undergo the scrutinizing inspection of God.  

3) Death is painful— [Death is the separation of the soul from the body] an instantaneous change.  This is the separation of a person’s two parts which are more intimately connected together than a person is connected with his own arm or leg – which separation is painful indeed! 

A person may linger and be ‘dying’ for a long period of time, but the actual substantial change which occurs when the soul departs from the body is one intensely painful moment.  We often hear people say such things as, “At least so-and-so didn’t suffer, or he/she died so peacefully and didn’t suffer much”, or “He or she passed quietly in his/her sleep”.  No, we must not be fooled into thinking that because someone was non-responsive at death, that his/her death wasn’t painful. Death is THE MOST PAINFUL MOMENT OF LIFE!!  No other suffering in life is as painful as death. This is because death involves acute physical suffering coupled with mental suffering.  No one is exempt from this suffering, not even infants.

People talk about giving the dying person morphine so he/she will not suffer too much.  We must remember that death is supposed to be painful and the pains of death are for our benefit and purification.  They are meant to be offered up to God as reparation for our sins. We are intended to imitate Christ in His suffering and death. We are intended to unite our death to Christ’s Passion and death. Life is a trial to see if we will be faithful to Christ, and death is our final exam.       

4) Death’s circumstances are unknown.—No one knows the actual time and place in which he will die. God could reveal this to someone but for most people He does not reveal this.  In fact, St Gregory tells us that God conceals the time of our death so that we will always be prepared to die.[2]

St. Bernard says, “Since, then, death may take away life at any time and in any place, we ought, if we wish to die well and save our souls, to live always in expectation of death.”[3]

Scripture also warns us that the timing of death is unknown to us, in order for us to take the means to prepare for it: “Delay not to be converted to the Lord, and defer it not from day to day; for His wrath shall come on a sudden, and in the time of vengeance He will destroy thee.” Ecclesiasticus, 5:8-9.

Here is how St. Paul warned the Thessalonians to prepare for death:

But of the times and moments, brethren, you need not, that we should write to you: For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord shall so come as a thief in the night.  For when they shall say: Peace and security, then shall sudden destruction come upon them, as the pains upon her that is with child, and they shall not escape.  But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you as a thief.  For all you are the children of light and children of the day: we are not of the night nor of darkness.  Therefore, let us not sleep, as others do: but let us watch, and be sober.  For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that are drunk, are drunk in the night.  But let us, who are of the day, be sober, having on the breast plate of faith and charity and, for a helmet, the hope of salvation. Thessalonians, 5:1-8.

Here are the words of Our Lord warning us to be always ready for death:

Watch ye, therefore, because you know not what hour your Lord will come.  But this know ye, that if the good man of the house knew at what hour the thief would come, he would certainly watch, and would not suffer his house to be broken open.  Wherefore, be you also ready, because at what hour you know not, the Son of man will come.  St. Matthew’s Gospel, 24:42-44, cf., St. Luke’s Gospel, 12:39.

And again:

Behold, I come as a thief.  Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.  Apocalypse, 16:15.

St. Peter echoes these words:

Wherefore, dearly beloved, waiting for these things, be diligent that you may be found before Him unspotted and blameless in peace.  1 Peter, 3:14.

Likewise, Holy Mother Church warns us and prays for us in the Litany of the Saints for the Rogation Days, “From a sudden and unprovided death, deliver us, O Lord.” This invocation carries with it a 300 days indulgence which inspires us to say it often.

This fact – that we know not the hour, the moment, or the circumstances of our death – helps us to remember what St. Paul tells us to work out our salvation in all fear and trembling.  With this sober thought, let us pass on to the consideration of the second point.

Considerations for the SECOND POINT:

Why is death so terrifying for us humans?  Is it only because of the horrific pain of the separation of the soul and body?  No, it is because of the unknown beyond.  We will meet Jesus Christ our Judge and He will be all just, and the time of mercy will be over.  Furthermore, there will be the formidable foe to taunt us especially at our last hours.  St. Gregory reminds us with the following words what this will mean.  He tells us:

Consider well how terrible is the hour of death, and how appalling the remembrance of our evil deeds will be at that time.  For the spirits of darkness will recall all the harm they have done us, and remind us of the sins which we have committed at their instigation.  They will not go to the deathbed of the godless only, but they will be present with the elect, striving to discover something sinful whereof to accuse them.  Alas! How will it fare with us hapless mortals in that hour, and what can we say for ourselves, seeing how innumerable are the sins to be laid to our charge?  What can we answer our adversaries, when they place all our sins before us, with the object of reducing us to despair?[4]

Fr. Cochem also tells us in his book The Last Four Things, “It is the opinion of many of the Fathers, that every one, when expiring, sees the evil enemy, at any rate at the moment of drawing his last breath, if not before.  How appalling this sight is, and with what terror it must inspire the dying, exceeds the power of words to declare.”[5]

What will our death be like?  It really depends on how we have lived.

If the tree fall to the south, or to the north, in what place soever it shall fall, there shall it be.  Ecclesiasticus, 11:4.

St. Alphonsus de Liguori explains the meaning of this passage in this quote from one of his sermons about death.

If, when the tree of your life is cut down, you fall to the south, that is, if you obtain eternal life, how great shall be your joy at being able to say: I shall be saved; I have secured all; I can never lose God; I shall be happy for ever. But, if you fall to the north, that is, into eternal damnation, how great shall be your despair! Alas! You shall say, I have erred, and my error is irremediable! Arise, then, from your tepidity, and, after this sermon, make a resolution to give yourselves sincerely to God. This resolution will insure you a good death, and will make you happy for eternity.[6]

With these realities in mind let us consider the two types of death possible to a man—death in the state of grace or in the state of mortal sin.

Death in the State of Grace

“The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them.  In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken for misery: and their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace.”  Wisdom, 1:1-3.

These are very consoling words of Scripture.  They remind us that God will not ever abandon us.   The quotes given above about the attacks of the evil one at our death are dreadful, yet we know that our heavenly helpers will be with us to defend us. Our Lady and St. Joseph will come to assist us.  Also, we know that our guardian angel and patron saints will protect us.

We should work hard to foster a great love for Our Lady and St. Joseph.  By being close friends with this holy couple, they become our heavenly parents, too.  By speaking to them very often, this will help us to develop the habit of having recourse in prayer to them.  In this way we will build our confidence in them and their special protection against the evil foes who at our death will be trying desperately to drag our thoughts to darkness and despair.  Then, even when we are in the greatest weakness of our lives, that is, when we are dying – we will still be directing our thoughts and prayers to them.

Likewise, we should not forget that if we are faithful in praising, revering, and serving God in our lives, then we will look forward to finishing our course here on earth and be out of the danger of losing our souls.

How then can we be faithful in praising, revering, and serving God?  We must work on being detached from earthly goods in order to put our hearts on eternal things and on our service of God.  We must be zealous in His service because our entire eternity will be determined by how well we served Him.

Fr. Hurter, in his Sketches for the Exercises of an Eight Day’s Retreat, says:

“Whilst we have time let us work good.” [Gal 6:10] “Defraud not thyself of the good day, and let not the part of a good gift overpass thee.” [Eccl.,14:14] therefore spend your days in such a manner that you can say every evening what our Divine Redeemer said on the evening of His earthly life: “I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do.” [John 17, 4]  Then we can hope to hear the consoling words of the divine Judge: “Well done, good and faithful servant… enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” [Matt. 25:23] [7]

Therefore, death in the state of grace is a beautiful thing.  When we live loving God with all our might, then we have peace with God.  We accept what He deems best to send us even if we do not understand His plan.  We soon build trust in His Providence and will be willing to die trusting in Him.   

Now let us consider the tragedy of death in the state of mortal sin.

Death in the State of Mortal Sin

What kind of death can a person in mortal sin expect?  Whether a person be a hardened sinner, a careless sinner who foolishly thinks that he will convert on his deathbed, or a worldling who doesn’t give any serious thought of death, death will come and find him unprepared.  Hell awaits him.  Despair seizes him.  He has been living in hellish pride, no doubt, for quite some time now.

He has been living in selfishness and accustomed to giving in to sensuality.  Where was God in his life?  He either put God completely out of the picture or only had a little corner reserved for God and any communication with God.  He talked to God only when he wanted something from God. He had no real friendship with God.  He totally disregarded Our Lord’s words, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

St. Alphonsus de Liguori describes the scene:

How will the dying man, who has always lived in sin, be able, in the midst of the pains, the stupefaction, and the confusion of death, to repent sincerely of all his past iniquities?  I say sincerely, because it is not enough to say and to promise with the tongue: it is necessary to promise with the heart.  …  What terror and confusion will seize the unhappy Christian who has led a careless life, when he finds himself overwhelmed with sins, with the fears of judgment, of hell, and of eternity!  Oh!  What confusion will these thoughts produce when the dying sinner will find his reason gone, his mind darkened, and his whole frame assailed by the pains of approaching death.  He will make his confession; he will promise, weep, and seek mercy from God, but without understanding what he does; and in this tempest of agitation, of remorse, of pains and terrors, he will pass to the other life.  The people shall be troubled, and they shall pass [Job, 34; 20].[8]

Another striking quote of St. Alphonsus is, “Having loved sin till death, he has also loved the danger of damnation.  Hence the Lord will justly permit him to perish in that danger in which he has voluntarily lived till the end of his life.”[9]

St. Paul puts the situation of the unrepentant sinner aptly when he says, “Be not deceived, God is not mocked.  For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap.  For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall he reap corruption.” Galatians, 6:7-8.

And what of the typical worldling who has been caught up in the pleasures of the world—one who wanted all sorts of material things and comforts?  When death approaches, he will finally realize that he must leave everything behind.  How empty he will find his life then.  He will see that he has led a very shallow life.  All the pampering of his flesh and the luxuries that he wallowed in, he can have them no more.

And of course, as we have said above, the devil will torment him now, saying that it is too late to be truly sorry and it is not worth humbling himself to beg God’s mercy. The devil will try whatever trick worked the best with the poor sinner before.  He can easily use the trick of despair or presumption.  Certainly, the devil will try with all his might to see that this poor wretch makes it to hell and makes absolutely no attempt at true repentance.

COLLOQUY: Accordingly, now after having considered these very sobering truths, I can certainly pour out my heart to the Sacred Heart and thank him for His example of how to die.  I will thank Our Lord and Our Lady for all the mercy shown to me up to this point. I will thank God for all of His insights and blessings, especially for allowing me to understand death better through considering death in all its aspects.

I will ask God for the grace of final perseverance.

I will talk to Our Lady, my Mother, to assist me in life and especially at my death.

Likewise, I will talk with St. Joseph and beg him to help me always, and especially as I draw my last breath.  

In our next lesson, we will consider both the PARTICULAR JUDGMENT and the GENERAL JUDGMENT in order to keep enhancing our love for God and to foster an even greater desire in our souls to persevere in making our greatest efforts in all we do for Him.


[1]            The explanation of holy indifference is given in June, 2022, Lesson #11 The Principle and Foundation Part IIhttps://catholiccandle.org/2022/06/27/lesson-11-the-principle-and-foundation-part-ii/


[2]           This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Preparation for Death, in his consideration five, The Uncertainty of the Hour of Death.


[3]           This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Preparation for Death, in his consideration five, The Uncertainty of the Hour of Death

[4]           This quote is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page 15.


[5]           This quote is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page 19.

[6]           Quote from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Sermon XXXIII for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

[7]           Quoted form Sketches for the Exercises of an Eight Day’s Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, ©1918, third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 81.

[8]           This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Preparation for Death, in his consideration six, The Death of a Sinner.


[9]            This quote is taken from St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s Preparation for Death, in his consideration six, The Death of a Sinner.


Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

During this month of the Holy Rosary, it is very consoling to remember the following:

Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the Sacraments of the Church.

The Seventh Promise of the 15 Promises to those who pray the Rosary, From Saint Dominic and Blessed Alan De La Roche

Even though it seems that there are no uncompromising priests available to us in most places, we must remember that if we are faithful to the recitation of the Holy Rosary and don’t compromise in any way, Our Lady will take good care of us in this life and at our death.

The Holy Rosary is Increasingly Powerful and Attacked

Catholic Candle note: During this month of the Holy Rosary, it is an especially opportune time to not only appreciate the Holy Rosary more and to be more devoted to it, but also to understand better that the forces of evil are strengthening their attacks on it.

In our times of Great Apostasy, when there is no access to an uncompromising priest to provide the uncompromising sacraments (at least in most places), God wants us to be greatly devoted to those means of salvation He currently places in our hands, especially the Rosary. 

We are in the time of the greater efficacy of the Holy Rosary, as Our Lady told us, through Sr. Lucy of Fatima:

God is giving two last remedies to the world: the Holy Rosary and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  …  Prayer and sacrifice are the two means to save the world.  As for the Holy Rosary, Father [Fuentes], in these last times in which we are living, the Blessed Virgin has given a new efficacy to the praying of the Holy Rosary.  This in such a way that there is no problem that cannot be resolved by praying the Rosary, no matter how difficult it is – be it temporal or above all spiritual ….[1]

Therefore, we should now have a greater appreciation of the power of the Rosary, and the devil knows of its greater power too.  In his fight against us, the devil and his minions attack the Rosary more fiercely because they have an increased fear of its power and its role protecting and sanctifying the Church Militant during these times.

Also, it seems to us that the devil might know that his time is short before the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart by the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Thus, Satan and his minions are boldly intensifying their attacks on the Rosary.  Hell’s forces are attempting to stigmatize this heaven-sent means of sanctification as a weapon of violence of “right-wing extremists”.  Since no one likes being called an “extremist” or a “crackpot”, this stigma makes people embarrassed to pray the Rosary and reluctant to connect themselves with it.

For example, in August, 2022, the Atlantic magazine attacked the Rosary as part of what the magazine calls the “extremist gun culture”.[2]  The Atlantic also declares that the Rosary has “been woven into a conspiratorial politics” and “radical-traditionalist … campaigns against” the acceptance of unnatural impurity in the Church.  (The Atlantic’s name-calling refers to Catholics who faithfully uphold Catholic dogma on matters of purity.)  The article warns about what it calls “rad-trad” Catholics who “idealize the traditional patriarchal family” (in other words, these Catholics oppose feminism).[3] 

The magazine says that this is part of the “far-right” milieus including “real world terrorist attacks”.[4]  The magazine asserts that:

The “battle beads” culture of spiritual warfare permits radical-traditional Catholics literally to demonize their political opponents and regard the use of armed force against them as sanctified.  The sacramental rosary isn’t just a spiritual weapon but one that comes with physical ammunition.[5]

The Atlantic acknowledges that some mainstream [viz., conciliar] Catholics pray the Rosary too, but distinguishes those mainstream Catholics from “the modern radical-traditionalist Catholic movement” because that movement “generally rejects the Second Vatican Council’s reforms” and “is far outside the majority opinion in the Roman Catholic Church in America”.  To show how (supposedly) extreme the “radical-traditionalist Catholic movement” is, the magazine points out that “many prominent American Catholic bishops advocate for gun control”.[6]

The take-away message from the article is that society should be wary of those “radical-traditionalist Catholics” who pray the Rosary and hold “extreme” positions on social issues.  The magazine suggests that these “extremist” conservative Catholics are only a short distance away from committing “real world terrorist attacks”.[7]

The leftists’ persecution of Christ’s True Church continues to increase.  They are anti-God and are showing their “true colors” more clearly! 

Let us re-double our love of the Rosary and spread devotion to it, far and wide!  As our Lady of Fatima assures us, “there is no problem that cannot be resolved by praying the Rosary, no matter how difficult it is – be it temporal or above all spiritual ….”[8]

[1]           Words of Sister Lucy, seer at Fatima, from her December 26, 1957, interview by Fr. Augustin Fuentes, vice-postulator of the cause of beatification for Francisco and Jacinta.  (Emphasis and bracketed word added.)  This interview can be found at: http://radtradthomist.chojnowski.me/2019/03/is-this-interview-that-caused-her.html


[8]           Words of Sister Lucy, seer at Fatima, from her December 26, 1957, interview by Fr. Augustin Fuentes, vice-postulator of the cause of beatification for Francisco and Jacinta.  (Emphasis and bracketed word added.)  This interview can be found at: http://radtradthomist.chojnowski.me/2019/03/is-this-interview-that-caused-her.html


A capital “T” was added in lieu of the small “t” in this part-sentence taken from the larger quote given above.


Lesson #15 The Second Exercise On Hell

Mary’s School of Sanctity

Lesson #15: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – The Second Exercise on Hell—On the Pain of Loss of God; the Worm of Conscience; and the Eternity of Hell

Meditation on the pain of the loss of God and the other moral punishments of hell is so efficacious that we wanted to add it to our series of the Spiritual Exercises.  Even though the following considerations are not given by St. Ignatius, the holy writers of the Church have focused so much on them because they aid souls in increasing the soul’s desire for God and in acquiring a filial love of God.  Since the highest perfection requires the filial love of God, we Catholics should aspire to obtain filial love.  In fact, the part of this meditation about the loss of God should intensely move us to desire to love God ever increasingly.  This meditation can and should be done often to strengthen our love of God and to help us remain faithful children to Our Heavenly Father.  One crucial additional advantage to this meditation is that it helps a person have perfect contrition.    

We will set this out as in the previous exercises.

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual: I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE is the mental representation of the place.  Here it is to see hell as we saw it in Lesson #14.

The SECOND PRELUDE is to ask for the grace to acquire true filial love of God and a great horror of sin and its malice which so displeases God Whom we should love with all our hearts, minds, and souls. THUS, WE SHOULD BEG GOD THAT WE BURN WITH SUCH GREAT LOVE FOR HIM THAT WE HAVE A GREAT FEAR OF LOSING OUR WILLINGNESS TO LOVE HIM WHICH COMES AS A CONSEQUENCE OF US HAVING BLINDING PRIDE.  Hence, we beg Him to give us self-knowledge in order to foster our knowledge of Him, and the proper humility necessary in order to have a divine friendship with Him.  Furthermore, we will consider an additional way to conceive a true horror for sin by trying to understand the ugly malice which is found in the mind of the damned so as to conceive a true fear of imitating such a wretched soul.  Hence, we beg God to help us shun all sinful pride.    

The FIRST POINT is the pain of the loss of God.  Here it will be to ponder deeply about what it means to lose our most beloved Spouse of the soul, Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom Himself.  I will take the sobering words of Our Lord to allow myself to feel the intense anguish of losing Him Who I was created to love and be united with for all eternity in sublime bliss.  In His parable about the foolish virgins who did not care to keep the oil of sanctifying grace in the lamps of their immortal souls while they waited for the Divine Bridegroom, Our Divine Lord said, “Amen, I say I know you not.”  And again, Our Lord tells His Apostles what He will say to those who did not love Him or want to obey His Commandments, “Depart from Me, ye cursed into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [St. Matthew 25; 41].  I will make many more considerations to penetrate this GREAT LOSS.

The SECOND POINT is to consider the worm of conscience and its remorse.

The THIRD POINT is to consider ETERNITY.  The pain of loss and remorse of conscience will never end.

 The COLLOQUY: Enter into a colloquy with Our Lord speaking to Him about His mercy and thanking Him profoundly for His mercy.  Also the exercitant should humbly beg God for His continued mercy on his soul.  Included in this begging heart to heart talk with Our Lord is to beg for a humble and fervent love for Him in order to desire Him with all one’s heart and to want to be with Him for all eternity.

Considerations for the FIRST POINT – the Pain of the Loss of God

One can begin this meditation on the pain of the loss of God, by taking some moments to consider what loss means in general.  When one loses something he owns and cares about, he grieves for its loss.  Logically, the more important the object lost, the greater is his grief for having lost it.  For example, if one loses his car keys, he is not pleased.  Go further and consider if he loses the car itself, he would be even more distressed.  Now take the example of him losing his house key and think about his reaction.  Then go further and consider his house burning down from top to bottom, we would say that he suffered an enormous loss. 

Still, we can go further and consider what it is like to lose a loved one, e.g., a loving spouse, or a child.  How horribly grieved one is for such a loss!   Now we must consider the ultimate and most crucial loss possible for man: THE LOSS OF THE ALL-GOOD GOD FOR ALL ETERNITY!!!

For this to have a profound impact upon us, we must ponder deeply Who God is.  In our Lessons #10 and #11 on the Principal and Foundation, we spoke of God and His magnificent attributes.  We meditated on the fact that we were created to praise, revere, and serve God, and this really means to love Him with our whole heart and mind.  “Our hearts were made for Thee, O Lord, and are restless until they rest in Thee,” is the famous quote from St. Augustine.   Oh, how St. Augustine captured this tremendous truth!

Think about it: to be cursed by God; to be separated from our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Sanctifier!

If we were thus cursed, then this deserved curse means that we did not appreciate being created, redeemed at such an enormous price, and also that we shunned the Holy Ghost, the Divine Love, by our refusal to cooperate in His most loving assistance, to sanctify us and make us happy in this life and in eternity.

The pain of the loss of God really involves a soul realizing the lesson of what we meditated on in the Principle and Foundation.  The lesson, that is, that we are creatures of God, made in His Image and likeness in order to praise, revere, and serve Him during our lifetime, and thus save our souls and be happy with Him for all eternity.  The happiness that God planned for us to have is the only perfect happiness there is, seeing God in the Beatific Vision for all eternity.  This means seeing God in the state of glory, which St. Thomas Aquinas explains is the only way man can see God.[1]  The damned soul knows there is no possible happiness available for him.

Yet, the reprobate, whilst he was on earth did not concern himself enough or at all, with this moral obligation.  He tried to be happy in his own way and not in the way that God designed.  He was made for happiness and still wants the happiness that he was created to enjoy; yet because at his death his will was fixed against God, it remains fixed against God for all eternity.  Nevertheless, he still wants happiness in eternity in his own way, which doesn’t include God.  This constant contradiction of the truth about his happiness and his own proud designs for happiness on his own terms constitutes this horrific pain of loss.  In other words, he will never get his way.  In life this soul didn’t want to obey God’s way of things, namely, do God’s Will and therefore in hell, he does not want to do God’s will.

Let’s further penetrate the mindset of the damned.  Because the reprobate rejected God and served himself by giving into selfish sensuality, this base selfishness naturally brought forth an excessive opinion of himself, which we usually call self-conceit.  The natural result of his self-conceit is pride, which is none other than he wishing to appear above what he really is.  His reason tells him what manner of man he is and that he owes all praise to God.  However, because he is not consulting his reason when seeing himself, he becomes completely blind.   God, in His Infinite Wisdom, allows the reprobate to remain in his blinding-pride.  The reprobate lived his life on earth as the enemy of God, despising God’s precepts.

In addition to this wretched way that they lived, at their deaths these souls cared more about the punishments they deserved and their plight than they cared about the injustice their sins against God have caused.  They show further false judgment and injustice to God by not thinking about His mercy.  They falsely judge that their own wretchedness is greater than God’s Mercy, thus heaping a far greater insult on God.  This is a sin against the Holy Ghost and is known as dying unrepentant.  This sin can never be forgiven.  Because they refused to acknowledge what they owed to God, He allows them to die in their self-centered self-pity and despair.

Of course, we can also well imagine the case of a completely blinded soul caught up in the pride of presumption at his death.  This person shows his insulting and audacious pride by not recognizing the injustices that he committed against God, and presuming that God will take him to heaven.

Therefore, the souls in hell are punished not only for their malicious disregard for God’s commandments but also for their selfish disregard for His justice.

The unrepentant sinner sees at his particular Judgment that God is Just and He rightly condemns the sinner to eternal separation from the Infinite Good, namely, God.

So now in hell, being fixed in his blind pride, he knows that he deserves to be separated from God FOREVER!  We must remember that the lost soul’s heart is fixed in evil in hell as it was found at death, and indeed, as it was in his life on the earth.  As the saying goes, as we live, so we shall die.  If we try to make ourselves our own god and disregard God and His Commandments, we show that we hate God.  There are no repentant sinners in hell.  These souls think to themselves in hell, as they did in their lifetime, and at the crucial moment of their death, that, “since I cannot have happiness on my terms, I don’t want the Author of happiness at all.”  And yet they know they are miserable because they were made for God’s Way of happiness, and not their own.

They have lived according to Satan’s motto, “Non serviam,” and now they are not surprised to find that they are living that motto for all eternity.  They plainly hate God and blaspheme Him and His justice.  THEY HAVE BROUGHT UPON THEMSELVES THIS ETERNAL DENIAL OF TRUE HAPPINESS!!!

Our Lord calls their punishment eternal death.  St. Thomas Aquinas says that before the general resurrection, the damned with suffer as if they had their bodies.   And so before and after the general resurrection, their eternal death is always occurring.  They will feel the awful intense pain as if they were at the moment of their souls actually separating from their bodies, namely, death.  We must imagine in this meditation the concept of being forever on the point in which our souls are being separated from our bodies.  This is a fitting punishment for the damned because it shows all the better the absolute malice of one trying to make himself his own god and not wanting to be humble and comply with God’s Plan.

The soul that damns itself truly has rejected God.   Nevertheless, we must not think that the inability to have the happiness their human nature desires, does not give these souls the greatest pain—for truly it does!

Fr. Cochem, in his book, The Last Four Things, quotes St. Bonaventure as saying, “The most terrible penalty of the damned is being shut out forever from the blissful and joyous contemplation of the Blessed Trinity.”[2]

Likewise, Fr. Cochem follows this with the authority of St. John Chrysostom saying, “I know many persons fear hell because of its pains, but I assert that the loss of the celestial glory is a source of more bitter pain than all the torments of hell.”[3]

Fr. Cochem also informs us that:

For the vision of God is so beauteous, so blissful, so full of rapture and infinite delight, that all the joys and attractions of earth cannot compare with it in the remotest degree.  In fact, all celestial happiness, how great soever it might be, would be turned to bitterness if the vision of God was wanting; and the redeemed would choose rather to be in hell, if they could there enjoy that beatific vision, than be in heaven without it.  Just as the privilege of beholding the divine countenance constitutes the chief felicity of the blessed, the one without which all others would be no happiness at all, so it is the chief misery of hell, that the lost souls should forever be excluded from it.  On this subject St. John Chrysostom says: “The torments of a thousand hells are nothing in comparison to the anguish of being banished from everlasting bliss and the vision of God.”[4]

Let us think about what St. Paul writes, “That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him.”[1st Corinth 2:9]

Also, St. Paul writes, “We see now through a glass in a dark manner, but then face to face.” 1st Corinth 13:12.

Here St. Paul is alluding to the wonderful Beatific Vision that awaits the Elect.  Certainly the mystical saints saw visions of God and were completely in love with Him.  They were so much in love that they longed extremely earnestly for heaven.  We were all made for this union with God, which is the Beatific Vision.[5]  

Since spiritual pains are much worse than physical ones, the damned suffer the most exquisite pain in always knowing they cannot have happiness in any way whatsoever.  Now let us pass on to our second point, which we must keep in mind is ongoing in conjunction with the pain of loss.

Considerations for the SECOND POINT – the worm of conscience – “this worm that dieth not”

Fr. Cochem, in The Last Four Things, says:

All the senses of the reprobate have each their peculiar punishment: their reason, or intellect, is punished by the pain of loss – a punishment surpassing all the senses.  The memory of the reprobate is tormented by “the worm that dieth not,” that is, by a most keen and constant remorse of conscience, which will give them no rest.

The lost sinner will remember how many graces and means of salvation he had during life to save his soul; how God sent him so many good instructions, how he had the grace of  prayer within his power to enable him to practice the virtues of his state, to overcome temptation, to keep the commandments of God and the Church; how his pious friends exhorted him to lead a good life by their exhortations, but especially by their good example; he had so many opportunities of instructing himself in his obligations by the hearing of the word of God and the reading of good books, and of  strengthening himself in the discharge of his duties by the reception of the sacraments and by the practice of devotion to the blessed Virgin![6]

The damned feel an overwhelming shame.  The reprobate will see how easy it was to have saved his soul.  He will see that he could have taken the means and lived completely for God.   He could have made the necessary efforts to amend his life.

Yet he was too lazy and/or slothful.  He was seeking comfort and ease instead.  He certainly did not think about what happens to souls immediately after death, the particular Judgment.  He did not meditate on the four last things.  He could have kept his mind focused on his duty and pleasing God.  He will see all the lost opportunities for virtue and his growth in virtue.   He will constantly reproach himself and hear the reproaches of Christ and all that Christ suffered in order to help him save his soul.  But now it is too late!!  He can never change what he did in his life.  He will feel intense despair and will wail, lamenting and gnashing his teeth.  His hatred of God will ever be manifest to him and his fellow-inmates in that abode of doom.[7]

Here again we quote Fr. Cochem in The Last Four Things:

St. Thomas [Aquinas] tells us that the sins of each one will be a fully known to the others as if they could behold them with their bodily eyes.  Every one can imagine what anguish this must be.   For what is so painful on earth as to be put to open shame? [8]

Jeremiah 23:40, “I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame which shall never be forgotten.” [9]

Thus, as St. Ephrem says, this shame and infamy will be more insupportable than hell-fire itself, because it will keep constantly before their remembrance the sins whereby they defiled themselves on earth.[10]

Their shame is most bitter and is intensified by the fact that every soul in hell knows all of the sins of his fellow inmates.  All reputations will be public.  The Catholics will especially be mocked in hell because they were given the supreme benefits of the Church and they still failed to save their souls.  This suffering of intense shame will be worse because of the fact that IT WILL NEVER END!!!

This brings us to the third point—the consideration of eternity.     

The THIRD POINT is to consider ETERNITY.

Not only is this suffering without end, without mitigation, without interruption, but it is also without consolation.

Fr. Cochem explains why hell must be eternal:

Rather than humble himself before God, and implore His pardon, he [the reprobate] would endure yet greater tortures in hell.  Therefore, because the sinner will not repent of his sins, nor ask pardon for his sins, he remains eternally in a state of sin, and because his sin is never expiated or repented of, the punishment is likewise eternal.[11]

The torments of the damned will never end, never pass away.  When a thousand years have gone by, another thousand will commence and so on for evermore.[12]

One can meditate on this concept of eternity and think of how if I damn by soul I will NEVER get out of this place, I will be here FOREVER!

The damned see clearly that they will never be released from the prison that they deserve and they shriek with despair and blasphemies against their Creator and Judge for punishing them so.  THEIR DESPAIR AND HATRED ARE AT THEIR HEIGHT AND WILL NEVER DIMINISH AS LONG AS GOD IS GOD – THUS, FOREVER!!!!

COLLOQUY: After considering these points, let us speak with heart-felt prayer to Our dear Lord about all He has done for us.  Let us beg Him to give us a genuine sorrow for sins and fear of displeasing Him ever again in our lives.  Let us desire with the mystics to be with Him in the highest contemplation.   Let us beg Him to enkindle our hearts with love and gratitude for sparing our souls up to the present time and not allowing us to fall into hell.  Let us tell Him of our desire to be so strongly attached to Him that we shudder at the mere thought that anyone could actually hate Him.  Let us end our colloquy with begging Him to never let us fall into carelessness in our service of Him, knowing that such carelessness is the road to ruin.

It is also a good idea to speak to Our Lady and St. Joseph, begging their intercession in order to increase our love for God and our hatred of sin. 

 In our next lesson, we will consider DEATH both in the state of grace and in the state of mortal sin.  This meditation is done with the same motivation of intensifying our love for God and our hatred for sin.

[1]           St. Thomas explains that without the light of Glory, man cannot see God in His essence because God’s essence is too much for our finite minds.  We cannot comprehend God completely as He understands Himself, but we can truly understand Him intellectually.

[2]           This quote is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page 155 (first letter of this quote was made a capital “T”).


[3]           This quote is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page 155-156.


[4]           This quote is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page157-158.

[5]           Here is how St. Thomas Aquinas, greatest Doctor of the Catholic Church, explains this truth:


It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness. For happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether; else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object of the will, i.e. of man’s appetite, is the universal good; just as the object of the intellect is the universal true.  Hence it is evident that naught can lull man’s will, save the universal good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone; because every creature has goodness by participation.  Wherefore God alone can satisfy the will of man, according to the words of Psalm 102:5: “Who satisfieth thy desire with good things.” Therefore, God alone constitutes man’s happiness.


Summa, Ia IIae, Q.2, a.8, respondeo.

[6]           This quote is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page 163.

[7]           St. Thomas Aquinas says that the souls of the damned hate God as their punisher but not in His essence because then they could not hate Him if they viewed Him as all-good and all-loveable.

[8]           This quote is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page 150.


[9]           This quote is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page 150.


[10]         This quote is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page 150-151.


[11]         This quote is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page 172-173.


[12]          This quote is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page 170.



Lesson #14 The Fifth Exercise—On Hell—the Pains of the Senses

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

This meditation is on hell.  Its main purpose is to strengthen our conviction that the greatest evil that exists is sin.  In this Exercise, St. Ignatius is focusing on the pains in the senses.  As usual, we will first set out exactly what St. Ignatius tells us, and then incorporate more considerations for the exercitant to use when actually doing the meditation.

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual, I ask God Our Lord for the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE: This is the mental representation of the place.   Here it will be to see in imagination the length, breadth, and depth of hell.

The SECOND PRELUDE: I will ask for what I desire.  Here it will be to ask for a deep awareness of the pain suffered by the damned, so that if I should forget the love of the Eternal Lord, at least the fear of punishment will help me to avoid falling into sin.

The FIRST POINT is to SEE in imagination the great fires, and the souls enveloped, as it were, in bodies of fire.

The SECOND POINT is to HEAR the wailing, the screaming, cries, and blasphemies against Christ Our Lord and all His saints.

The THIRD POINT is to SMELL the smoke, the brimstone, the corruption, and rottenness.

 The FOURTH POINT is to TASTE bitter things, as tears, sadness, and remorse of conscience.

The FIFTH POINT is with the sense of TOUCH to FEEL how the flames surround and burn souls.

COLLOQUY:  Enter into a colloquy with Christ Our Lord.  Recall to mind the souls in hell; some are there because they did not believe in His coming, others, though they believed, did not act according to His Commandments.

 I can divide these souls into three classes:

1. Those who went to hell before the coming of Christ.

2.  Those who were damned during His lifetime.

3. Those condemned to hell after His life in the world.

I will now give Him thanks for not having permitted me to fall into any of these classes, thus putting an end to my life.

I will also thank Him for the great kindness and mercy He has always shown me until this present moment.  Conclude with an “Our Father.”

St. Ignatius gives us a basic framework in which to meditate on hell.  He has told us to ask for a fear of the physical pains of hell and that our fear should be so intense that if we should forget to fear displeasing God, at least the fear of His punishments would prevent us from committing offenses against the all-good God. 

We must remember that God, Who is all-good, is also all-just.  As we considered the most horrific malice of mortal sin in our last lesson [Lesson #13], we can see plainly that such malice must have a place of fitting punishment.

We, by our fallen human nature, do not like to suffer, nor do we like to think of suffering.   Yet, by pondering the terrifying suffering of hell, the place of God’s just punishments, we can gain strength to resist the wicked inclinations of our fallen human nature.   As it says in Ecclesiasticus, “In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.”[1]  So, in meditating often on hell, we shall more certainly escape hell after death.

 Father Hurter, S.J. tells us this truth in a striking way in his book Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat.  He says,

This meditation shows us clearly and distinctly how God judges mortal sin, and we must form our judgment according to His.  It should fill us with a holy fear. “Pierce thou”, says the Psalmist, “my flesh with thy fear, for I am afraid of thy judgment.” (Ps. 118:120) A time may come when love and fervor relax, temptations multiply, seductive occasions of sin become so enticing that only the fear of hell will keep us away from them.[2]

Let us now take an intense look at each of the senses and see their accompanying deserved pains of hell.

What do the damned see in hell? 

Although there is everlasting fire, there is no light.  The abyss is like an ocean of flames.      

Picture to yourself a pillar of fire that reached up two miles in the sky, much like what happened in the firestorms in the bombing of Hamburg during World War II.  Yet despite the fire of God’s Wrath, deep impenetrable darkness will prevail.  As Our Lord warned, “bind his hands and his feet and cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” [St. Matt. 22:13] 

Fr.  Martin von Cochem, in his book The Last Four Things, speaks of the impenetrable darkness and gloom of hell. Here are his words:

Now there is a land which is covered with the shadow of death, where no order, but an eternal horror reigns.  That land is hell.  An oppressive gloom weighs upon the lost; an indescribably terrible darkness prevails…

In this horrible darkness the damned lie helpless as blind men, or as those who have had their eyes cruelly put out.  They see nothing, for the acrid sulphur destroys their sight.[3] 

And St. John in the Apocalypse says, “To him (Satan) was given the key of the bottomless pit.  And he opened the bottomless pit; and the smoke of the pit arose as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke of the pit.” (Apoc. 9:2)

“They shall be tormented with fire and brimstone, and the smoke of their torments shall ascend up forever and ever; neither shall they have rest day and night.” (Apoc. 14:11)

However, the damned can sense the fierce demons who will be like monsters that torture the damned.  To be in the dark in a place unknown is terrifying.  What must it be like in hell where the reprobate is aware of thousands of demons and damned souls around him in this dark and noisome dungeon?

Let us now consider the source of all the gruesome noise.


What do the damned hear in hell?

Endless moaning, groaning, whining, weeping, screaming, howling, wailing of souls in agonies, cursing, blaspheming, laughter voices of the demons mocking the damned, the gnashing of teeth which will send a blood-curdling chill up the spines of the other damned etc.   The list could go on and on.  In short, every imaginable terrifying noise at the loudest pitches barely tolerable to human ears will be the constant torment of the damned for all eternity.  There will be no breaks or peaceful silence.   

Perhaps those who indulged in raunchy rock-n-roll so-called ‘music’ will be tormented in hell with the horrific thumping of heavy-metal bass drums like deafening thunder in their ears.  Then their ears will ache with the piercing of the demonically-inspired noise which is “rock-music”, that they found no problem listening to while on earth.  Thus, while they were alive, they tortured and scandalized other souls by forcing their trashy noise on the poor ears of others.  Most of us have had the unfortunate experience of being in a store and hearing this demonic trash blaring over the store’s public announcement system.  This demonic noise is so horrible that one’s soul actually hurts and one can get a headache.  One cannot wait to get out of that place!!

There will be the noise of hissing and growling of the demons who will take the shape of the most hideous monsters.  The damned will curse each other, especially the souls which were related by family ties, and associated with each other in life.  They will mock one another.  Catholics will especially be mocked because they were given the means to salvation and they threw their salvation away.

The damned hear resounding in their ears the severe words of the angry Judge: “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” [St. Matthew 25:41].  These awful and dreadful words will echo and re-echo in their ears as the worm of conscience that dieth not.  They will hear their consciences rebuking them with, “You could have changed.  It was not so hard.  You liked to boast and criticize others, look where your boasting has brought you!  You thought you were so great and look at you now.  How ugly you are, you horrible monster!   You are worse than all the other trash in this place!  Cursed is the day that you were conceived, and the day that you were born!   What good was all the pampering of your body in your lifetime?  Look where all that luxurious pampering has brought you—to this reward of pitch and darkness!!  Where is your air-conditioner now?  Where is the comfort of pleasant warmth in this frozen part of hell where the fire chills you to the bone? Etc.”

Yes, there will be no end to the torment of the ears; however, we will now consider the odors of hell.

What do the damned smell in hell?

The stench of one carcass is so disgusting.  Most people have some idea of what this smells like.  Who has not at some point smelled perhaps a dead mouse or experienced smelling a piece of rotten meat?

One man we know told us that he came to a place where there were deer carcasses at room temperature which were set aside to feed some dogs.  He said the stench was so horrid that all he knew was that he had to get out of that place because staying there was not compatible with life or sanity.  What a striking thing to experience!  What if we picture “hundreds of thousands [of carcasses] heaped together, the air for miles around would be so infected that it would cause the death of all in the vicinity.”[4]

Fr. Cochem has many more forceful points about the stench of hell.  First of all, he tells us to remember that hell is an abyss filled with brimstone [sulfur].  He also mentions pitch, the residue from distilling tar which is hot and sticks to things. 

He relates how St. Bonaventure says the body of a single reprobate would so taint the air on earth as to cause the death of all living beings coming near it.  Then Fr. Cochem goes on to say that, “if one single damned body emits so horrible a stench, what can the exhalation be that rises from many millions of these wretched beings?”[5]

Fr. Cochem tells how the tyrant Maxentius used to punish a living man by binding him to a corpse, “face to face and limb to limb, until the unhappy victim fainted, or even died through contact with the dead and decomposing body.”  What an inhumane punishment to give a man!  Yet in hell, the bodies will be placed close to one other and this is a fitting punishment for the damned because God is all-just.

In addition to these nauseating and frightful examples, Fr. Cochem reminds us that the demons will also emit a vile stench which is much more offensive than the souls of the reprobates.  He says, “We read in the life of St. Martin that the evil one appeared to him upon one occasion, and the stench that filled the room was so overwhelming that the saint said to himself, ‘If one single devil has so disgusting an odor, what can the stench be in hell, where there are thousands of devils all together?’”[6]

Of course, we all have our own ideas of the most horrible odors we have experienced—rotten food with mold, sewage, vomits, rotten eggs, etc.  It is best to imagine the worst smell we have ever experienced and use that smell in this meditation.  The important thing is to incorporate the most graphic scene in order for this meditation to be the most efficacious. 

We live in very immoral times where people are loath to accept suffering of any kind, which includes people unwilling to have any distasteful odors anywhere.  We see this is true by going into the bathroom supply aisle in a store, where we find find every kind of potpourri, aerosol fragrances, scented candles, and even perfumed oils to plug into an outlet – all of which is meant to keep everything smelling wonderful at all times.  If a person finds it difficult to tolerate these odors, what is he going to do if he must endure far worse in hell for all eternity?

With this remarkable contrast in mind, let us turn to the sense of taste.

What do the damned taste in hell?

We live in very corrupt times and in very rich times, especially in more modernized countries.  Every luxury seems to be available in residential areas and most definitely on the internet. 

People so are obsessed with specialty foods and drinks.  The food industry gears its advertising to appeal to every whim people have from fancy gourmet coffee, elaborate entrees, and so-called ‘health-food’ to the lowest ‘craving’ for sweet, salty and greasy foods.  This industry is pushing more and more for us to satisfy any whim.  Obesity is on the rise even in poor countries.  In these apostate times man has truly forgotten God!!   Food, instead, has become his sole comfort.  St. Paul’s admonition fits our times well when he speaks of people “whose god is their belly”.[7]

What a contrast when comparing this to what is to be expected in hell.  Hunger and thirst forever!  Starvation without end!  All the things we mentioned about the wretched smells in hell will pervade the taste buds as well as the nostrils of the damned.

The taste buds will be tormented with the bitter tears of remorse and the fire.  The mouth and tongue will be torched and tortured with a violent thirst as Our Lord says of Dives, who wanted Father Abraham to let fall one drop of water to soothe his burning tongue.  The throat will likewise be scorched and parched, never allowed to have any relief.

In the history of mankind, we can find examples of people starving in famines and wartimes.  We can read about people eating the most disgusting and unclean things because they were starving—including eating human flesh!

Yet, what a stark contrast this picture is to modern men who, having indulged themselves at the slightest pang of hunger on earth, will have never-ending, intense gnawing-pain in their stomachs in hell!!

As Our Lord says, “Blessed are ye that hunger now: for you shall be filled,” and later on a few verses down He adds, “Woe to you that are filled: for you shall hunger.”  St. Luke’s Gospel, 6:25.

So here in this meditation we can clearly see our dear Lord’s words fulfilled.  Our Lord spoke very often about hell, but the theme that He spoke the most about when referring to hell is the everlasting fire.  With this in mind, let us now consider what torments are awaiting the sense of touch.


            What do the damned feel with the sense of touch in hell?

Now let us turn our attention to what is perhaps the most gripping of the physical pains in hell—the never-ending fiery flames of hell!!

Fr. Martin von Cochem has several poignant things to say about hell’s fire. We now share some of them with our fellow students in Mary’s School of Sanctity.  Because we want to avoid going to this horrible abode of the reprobate, we want to make the deepest impression on our souls and be completely filled with a just fear of the Lord.

St. Bridget says in her revelations, “The heat of hell-fire is so great that if the whole world were wrapped in flames, the heat of the conflagration would be as nothing in comparison with it.”[8]

Fr. Cochem writes, “St. Augustine tells us that the most fearful fire on earth is, in comparison with the fire of hell, like a painting of fire compared to a real fire.”[9]

Fr. Cochem continues, “When thou seest a fire, call to mind the fire of hell.  And since thou couldst not endure to put thy hand for a single instant into that fire, think what the heat of hell-fire must be, surpassing as it does so infinitely the small fire thou seest before thee.  If thou canst not bear this, how canst thou endure the other?”[10]

Most likely, we humans have done this brief reflection at some point in our lives.  Unfortunately, we most likely shrugged our shoulders and have thought within ourselves, “That’s a horrific thought.  I surely cannot endure thinking about that anymore.  At least, I will not think about it anymore right now.”

Here’s another powerful statement from Fr. Cochem:

“It has now been made clear that the damned will one day be cast, body and soul, into the huge and awful furnace of hell, into the immense lake of fire, where they will be surrounded by flames.  There will be fire below them, fire above them, fire all round about them.  Every breath will be the scorching breath of a furnace.   These infernal flames will penetrate every portion of the body, so that there will be no part or member, within or without, that is not steeped in fire.”[11]

There are times when we humans suffer a slight example of this description.  Take the case of someone who is in the heat of a ferocious fever, or someone who has taken some medication that causes a major vasodilation of the blood vessels, or some hormonal or other physical cause of a burning flush.  In these circumstances, one feels as if he would like to take his skin off if it were possible to get a little relief or coolness.  Yet, this troublesome ailment is nothing compared to the eternal internal and external intense heat of the damned.

We humans are truly frail and fickle.  Again, when we think of the corrupt times we live in, we are witnesses of how most people are continuously looking for physical comforts.  With the human body temperature being 98.6 degrees, we are very limited in what temperatures feel tolerable to us.  Indeed, it seems that mid-seventies are our best comfortable range and if conditions be anything slightly above or below this, people start to complain. 

At least in modern industrialized countries, people have air-conditioning in their homes, offices, stores, cars—just about everywhere.  People indulge in swimming pools, etc., because they feel like they cannot handle the season unless they have these amenities.  And again, people use “the heat” as an excuse to dress so scantily as if they were still in the Garden of Eden and original sin had not yet occurred.  The same type of self-indulgence occurs in the coldest months of the year.  Let’s face it, modern man wants to be comfortable all the time and not sacrifice anything.  Most unfortunately, people do not realize that their attitude is a recipe for damnation.

Using the above considerations:

“In truth, hell is a place of suffering, pain, and sadness. ‘Pierce thou my flesh with thy fear: for I am afraid of thy judgments.’ [Ps. 118: 120]”[12]

The exercitant is to read through all of the material or as much as he needs to, in order to accomplish what St. Ignatius intends, namely, to acquire:

a deep awareness of the pain suffered by the damned, so that if I should forget the love of the Eternal Lord, at least the fear of punishment will help me to avoid falling into sin.

Quoted from the Second Prelude, above.

For indeed, St. Ignatius wants the exercitant to make the considerations so he has a stronger Fear of the Lord and abhorrence for sin and especially to stir up his heart and to pour out his heart to Our Lord to thank Him for the great kindness and mercy He has always shown until this present moment.  [Bold text taken from the colloquy quoted above]

In our next lesson, we will consider the FIFTH Exercise (ON HELL) again but this time we will consider THE PAIN OF THE LOSS OF GOD.




[1]           Ecclesiasticus,7:40.

[2]           Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, ©1918, third edition, St. Louis, MO, and London, page 65. 


An additional point here is that this aspect not only gives us a more sobering view of our own salvation but also of the salvation of our loved ones.


[3]  This quote is taken from The Last Four Things, by Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F. C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, pages, 133 and 134.

[4]           This partial quote is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page 129.

[5]           This quote is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page 130.

[6]           This quote is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page 131.

[7]           St. Paul, Philippians, 3:19.

[8]           This quote is taken from The Last Four Things by Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page 119.


[9]           This quote is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page 120.


[10]         This quote is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page 120.


[11]         This quote is taken from The Last Four Things, Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C., ©1899, Benzinger Brothers, page 120.

[12]         Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat by Hugo Hurter, SJ., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, ©1918, third edition, St. Louis, MO, and London, page 69.