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.

If You Want to Say the Most Effective Prayer, Say the Our Father

The Our Father is a prayer composed by Our Lord Himself for our happiness on earth and in heaven.

Because I go to the Father: and whatsoever you shall ask the Father in My name, that will I do: that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you shall ask Me anything in My name, that I will do.[1]

Amen, amen I say to you: If you ask the Father anything in My name, He will give it you.[2]

The Our Father is the best of all prayers because it is the Lord’s Prayer, taught us by Jesus Christ Himself, a prayer of perfect and unselfish love.[3]

When the apostles asked Him to "teach us how to pray," He gave them a prescribed form of prayer.[4]

The following are points that may help you to pray the Our Father more efficaciously.


OUR FATHER

When we invoke the Father and when each one of us calls Him our Father, we are to understand thereby that from the privilege and gift of divine adoption, it necessarily follows that all the faithful [viz., those in the state of sanctifying grace] are brethren.[5]   


WHO ART IN HEAVEN

All who have a correct idea of God will grant that He is everywhere and in all places.[6]


HALLOWED BE THY NAME

In praying that the name of God may be hallowed (venerated), our meaning is that the sanctity and glory of the divine name may be increased.[7]


THY KINGDOM COME

Our Lord says: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you."  So great and so abundant are the heavenly gifts contained in this petition, that it includes all things necessary for the security of soul and body.[8]


THY WILL BE DONE

Whoever desires to enter into the kingdom of heaven should ask of God that His will may be done.  For Christ the Lord has said: “Not everyone that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will of My Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.”[9]

ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN

We pray that our conformity to the will of God be regulated according to the rule observed in heaven by the blessed angels.[10]


GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD

We particularly and expressly pray for the needs of soul and body.[11]


AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US

Where before we asked God not only for eternal and spiritual goods, but also for fleeting and temporal favors, we now ask for God’s forgiveness for offending Him and pledge to forgive those who have harmed us.[12]

AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION

When we have earnestly sought pardon of our sins and are longing for the kingdom of heaven, then it is that the devil employs all his resources and efforts to entice us to relapse into sin, and thus become far worse than before.[13]


BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL

On the eve of Our Lord’s Passion, He prayed to His Father for the salvation of mankind. "I pray," He said, "that Thou keep them (i.e., us) from evil.!" (St. Cyprian remarks, "Nothing more remains to be asked.")[14]

Thus, it is easy to see that there is so much more packed into the Our Father than is apparent to those who mumble their way through this priceless prayer.  Hopefully, these few points above might awaken in us a greater appreciation of Christ’s beneficence in personally instructing us in this best of all prayers.  Say it very slowly and devoutly, contemplating every word.  After that, we could incorporate this mediation on the Our Father into a slow and reverent Spiritual Communion.

Lastly, we can aid our prayerful contemplation of these subjects, by using a loving picture of Our Lord (such as the one below, which was derived from the Shroud):



[1]           St. John’s Gospel, Ch. 14.

 

[2]           St. John’s Gospel, Ch. 16.

[3]           My Catholic Faith, Bishop Louis Morrow, My Mission House, Kenosha Wisconsin, ©1949, Ch. 183, p. 378.


[4]           Catechism of the Council of Trent, Joseph F. Wagner, Publisher, ©1923, Part IV, p.478.

[5]           Catechism of the Council of Trent, Joseph F. Wagner, Publisher, ©1923, Part IV, p.508 (bracketed explanation to show context).

[6]               Catechism of the Council of Trent, Joseph F. Wagner, Publisher, ©1923, Part IV, p.511.


[7]               Catechism of the Council of Trent, Joseph F. Wagner, Publisher, ©1923, Part IV, p.514.


[8]               Catechism of the Council of Trent, Joseph F. Wagner, Publisher, ©1923, Part IV, p.520.


[9]               Catechism of the Council of Trent, Joseph F. Wagner, Publisher, ©1923, Part IV, p.529.


[10]             Catechism of the Council of Trent, Joseph F. Wagner, Publisher, ©1923, Part IV, p.537.


[11]             Catechism of the Council of Trent, Joseph F. Wagner, Publisher, ©1923, Part IV, p.540.


[12]             Catechism of the Council of Trent, Joseph F. Wagner, Publisher, ©1923, Part IV, pp.552-553.


[13]             Catechism of the Council of Trent, Joseph F. Wagner, Publisher, ©1923, Part IV, p.565.


[14]             Catechism of the Council of Trent, Joseph F. Wagner, Publisher, ©1923, Part IV, p.577.

CC in brief — September 2022

Catholic Candle note: Catholic Candle normally examines particular issues thoroughly, at length, using the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and the other Doctors of the Church.  By contrast, our feature CC in brief, gives an extremely short answer to a reader’s question.  We invite any readers to submit their own questions.

 

 

CC in Brief

 

Q.        While sanctifying the Sunday at home, I recently read these words in a sermon on hell:

 

In hell, the damned exclaim with tears: “Oh!  That an hour were given to us”.  They would pay any price for an hour or for a minute, in which they might repair their eternal ruin.  But this hour or minute they never shall have. 

 

My question is: Do the damned in hell really long for a chance to repent?

 

 

A.        No.  The damned do not long for a chance to repent and to begin pleasing

God.  They could never use that chance of repentance, even if it were somehow given to them.[1]

 

Hell is not really full of repentant sinners.  In hell, the wills of the damned are fixed forever in rejecting God and hating Him.  The damned hate being in hell but would never have a change of heart and begin to love God, with sorrow for their sins, although the damned regret that they are being punished.

 

The damned hate God and don’t want to be with Him.  They hate being in hell but do not want to be with God in heaven.  They hate reality and would like to be in a (supposed) “paradise” without God (if that could be possible) and would like to be in a place of comfort and pleasure where they could continue to hate God and live a disorderly life.  But the damned do not repent of their sins and do not want to repent.

 

With man’s fallen human nature, it is so common for sinners to delay repentance and to delay amending their lives.  Throughout the ages, good priests have used various techniques to move sinners to cease delay and begin leading the Catholic life they know they should lead.

 

One method is to move sinners to repentance by raising the prospect of having waited too long and losing the chance to repent.  In this sermon, these sinners – who tell themselves they will repent later – are presented with the prospect of having waited “too long”.  Right now, in this present life, these sinners would regret having waited too long and being damned in hell forever. 

 

So, this sermon is, in effect, placing before the listener the prospect of that delay and the regret they would feel now, if they knew their continued delay would eventually cause their damnation.  That seems to be the intent of the sermon you quote.



[1]           Here is one way that St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Doctor of the Church, teaches this truth:

 

Moreover, it is just, that as long as the sinner remains in his sin, the punishment which he deserves should continue. And, therefore, as the virtue of the saints is rewarded in Heaven, because it lasts forever, so also the guilt of the damned in Hell, because it is everlasting, shall be chastised with everlasting torments. ”Quia non recipit causæ remedium,” says Eusebius Emissenus, “carebit fine supplicium.”  The cause of their perverse will continues: therefore, their chastisement will never have an end. The damned are so obstinate in their sins, that even if God offered pardon, their hatred for him would make them refuse it.

 

Quoted from St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Sermon 50, for the twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost.

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

The Our Father contains all the duties we owe to God, the acts of all the virtues, and the petitions for all our spiritual and corporal needs.  …

Saint Augustine says that whenever we say the Our Father devoutly, our venial sins are forgiven.

 The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis De Montfort, 12th Rose.

 

Lesson #13 Second Exercise on Sin; the Third and Fourth exercises

Mary’s School of Sanctity

In the second, third, and fourth exercises, we address sin in its other aspects and with a greater intensity of understanding of what exactly sin is.

The preparatory prayer is the same as the first exercise: 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 SECOND EXERCISE {personal sin}

For this exercise the usual preparatory prayer is used which is given above. 

The second exercise’s meditation is in some ways a repeat of the first exercise.  In this meditation the FIRST PRELUDE is the same mental image of seeing one’s own soul in his corruptible body as St. Ignatius says, “the mental image will consist in imagining, and considering my soul imprisoned in its corruptible body, and my entire being in this vale of tears as an exile among brute beasts.  By entire being, I mean both body and soul."       

The SECOND PRELUDE is to ask God Our Lord for what I desire.  I shall here beg for an ever increasing and intense sorrow and tears for my sins.

THE FIRST POINT is the review of my sins.  I shall recall to my mind all the sins of my life, looking at them year by year, and period by period.  Three things will help me to do this: first, I shall recall to my mind the place and house where I lived; secondly the associations I have had with others; thirdly, the positions which I have filled.

 The SECOND POINT is to weigh my sins, considering the loathsomeness and the malice that every mortal sin has in itself, even though it were not forbidden.

The THIRD POINT is to consider who I am and abase myself by these examples:

1. What am I in comparison to all men?

2. What are men in comparison with the angels and saints of heaven?

3. What is all creation in comparison with God? Then myself alone, what can I be?

4. Let me consider all my own corruption and foulness of body.

5. Let me see myself as a sore and an abscess from whence have come forth so many sins, so many evils, and the most vile poison.

The FOURTH POINT is now to consider who God is, against whom I have sinned, recalling His attributes and comparing them to their contraries in me: His wisdom to my ignorance; His omnipotence to my weakness; His justice with my iniquity; His goodness with my sinfulness.

The FIFTH POINT is to be struck with amazement and filled with a growing emotion as I consider how creatures have suffered me to live, and have sustained me in life.  How the angels, the swords of Divine Justice, tolerated me, guarded me, and prayed for me.  How the saints have interceded and prayed for me.  How the heaven, moon, and stars, and the elements; fruits, birds, fishes, and animals have all served my needs.  How the earth has not opened and swallowed me up, creating new hells that I might suffer eternal torment in them.

COLLOQUY. I will end this meditation with a colloquy directing my thoughts to God’s mercy.  I will give thanks to Him for having granted me life until now, and I will resolve with the help of His grace to amend my life for the future.  Close with an “Our Father.”

In this second exercise St. Ignatius has us take a hurried glance over our past life in order to convince ourselves of our sinfulness.  Without entering upon an exact examination of our conscience, he wants us to consider the ten, twenty, forty, or more years which we have lived thus far.  Perhaps we will not be able to find a year without some grievous sin in it.  Perhaps there are many grievous sins.

In our examination St. Ignatius would have us not forget to examine the five senses of our body and the powers of our soul which are all desecrated and withdrawn from the service of God.  For indeed, we have sinned with our eyes, our ears, our tongue, through stubbornness, self-love, self-will, willfulness, and selfishness; we have abused all our faculties.  We must bear in mind the commandments of God and His Church which we have broken.  Likewise, we must not forget our duties-of-state which we have neglected; the capital sins of which we are guilty; the graces and the sacraments which we have abused.  Let us recall the places, hidden and public, where we stayed and not forget to recall the persons against whom we have sinned, in thought, word, and deed; our parents, our superiors, our brethren, our inferiors.  We should not forget those whom we have induced to commit sin by our bad example and by the scandal we gave.

St. Ignatius knows that this short examination is very beneficial because it wakes us up from our sleep of sin because we have indeed become lethargic and are callous to sin.  This review of our lives also reminds us of our debt to God and urges us on to do penance and return like the Prodigal Son.

Because St. Ignatius wants us to be convinced of the grievousness of sin, he sets forth his points to help us see the enormity of sin.

In his Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat, Fr. Hurter, S. J. presents many good points to help us see this enormity.  He discusses the abyss of ingratitude, the abyss of misery; the abyss of malice; and the horror of sin, both mortal and venial!!!!

Let us consider his points one by one.

I) THE ABYSS OF INGRATITUDE

Sin encloses within itself an abyss of the most hateful ingratitude because of the nature of what man does when he sins.

a. He returns evil for good.  Instead of thanking God for His innumerable benefits, he offends Him and despises His holy Will.

b. But the ingratitude of the sinner is still more contemptible because he abuses the very benefits of God to offend his Benefactor.  With the eyes which God gave him; with the tongue which God loosened for him; with all the powers and abilities which God bestowed upon him.

c. This ingratitude becomes still greater because man offends God at the very moment in which God is conferring benefits upon him and is thinking of new benefits.    For the very moment in which God preserves us in being, gives us health and strength of body and soul, and protects us against the heavenly powers who are but too eager to avenge themselves on us wretched creatures for offending their Lord and God.  [Ponder also that He brings us to a better knowledge of ourselves, brings us to contrition, and to return to Him, and then, makes us partakers of eternal bliss].[1]

Fr. Hurter relates the example of St. Polycarp being asked to deny his faith saying, “It is eighty-six years since I began to serve the Lord, and never has He done anything against me:  How can I now have the heart to blaspheme my King Who has redeemed me?”  This tremendous and edifying example is something to keep in mind when we are sorely tempted.  We see that we must ever shun ingratitude to God and we must give Him what we owe Him with devotion and love.

II) THE ABYSS OF MISERY

Grievous sin contains unspeakable misery.  Here is how Fr. Hurter sets forth some of the sad consequences which grievous sin produces in the soul:

a. The soul loses its baptismal grace.  Baptismal grace is so beautiful because God’s light shines in the soul.  But through mortal sin, the soul becomes deformed and is not acceptable to God.  Therefore, the soul that departs this life in this state must hear the words, “Depart from Me, ye cursed.”[2]

b. The innocent soul in the state of grace is a child of God, a brother of Jesus Christ, a temple of the Holy Ghost; by sin he becomes a child of wrath, a slave of the evil spirit.  Can we think of a greater degradation?  The debasement of a lost son, a child well brought up, of good parents, is but a faint picture of the degradation of a human being fallen into mortal sin.[3]

c. Before the sin the innocent one was rich in graces and merits; for all the good done in this state has a golden value, meritorious for eternity, and in the days of innocence so much was done.  But all this is lost by mortal sin.  To the sinner these words may be applied: “Because thou sayest: I am rich and made wealthy, and have need of nothing; and knowest thou not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor and blind, and naked.” (Apoc. 3:17)[4]

In addition to these consequential points, Fr. Hurter explains further,

Before sinning, the innocent man led a supernatural life, a life of grace. Sin robs him of this life. He dies, and how gruesome is his death! Death is the more disastrous, the higher the scale of life in which the creature was.[5] 

Fr. Hurter goes on to compare the life of a flower with that of an irrational animal and says that of course the death of an animal is more unpleasant because the animal is a higher form of life.  The death of an irrational animal is not as unpleasant as the death of a man[6] because man is the highest material creature. Then he says:

The corpse of a man scares us, and it takes time and self-conquest to become accustomed to the sight.  Why?  Because human life is considered more perfect.  But how much higher and more perfect is the supernatural life of grace.  Therefore, in the light of faith and in the eyes of the angels and saints, the condition of the soul that has lost this life is much more gruesome.[7]

This simple comparison really tells us the serious reality of the disaster of mortal sin.  Fr. Hurter’s words are striking when he adds:

No earthquake, no conflagration, no flood in the richest field of the earth can bring about a devastation as great as mortal sin does in the paradise of an innocent soul.  What a folly the sinner commits who at such a loss flings away the grace of God.[8]

III) THE ABYSS OF MALICE

Mortal sin contains an abyss of malice because grievous sin is an offense against God. The gravity of an offense is based upon the difference between the person offended and the offender.   The higher the dignity of the person offended, the more grievous is the offense.

This is the reason why St. Ignatius has the exercitant make the comparisons of himself with all men; men to the angels and saints in heaven; and then all creation to God. 

Fr. Hurter draws these comparisons out, as follows:

a. What is one man compared to the entire human race?  A mere cipher, a speck of dust, a drop of water compared to the ocean.  What are all men in comparison with the heavenly court? Miserable beings.  And what are all the angels when weighed against God? ‘Behold the gentiles are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the smallest grain of a balance; behold the islands are as a little dust.’ (Isaias 40:15) hence what am I in comparison with God?[9]

To further illustrate the wretched malice connected with sin, Fr. Hurter addresses St. Ignatius’s FOURTH POINT here:

And to become still more penetrated with my nothingness when compared with God, let me review the perfections of God.  God is so infinitely wise, and I so ignorant; God all-powerful, who poises the universe in His fingers, I so impotent, scarcely able to move a rock from its place; God immense, and I bound to space and place; God from eternity, I but from yesterday; God infinite and perfect, and I so limited and imperfect.  And yet I, a mite, have dared to say to God: ‘I will not serve.  You have indeed forbidden, but for all that I’ll do it, I do not care for Your Will.’  What malice![10]

This description is so appalling and yet an absolutely true picture of what the mortal sinner does to God, his Creator.

Fr. Hurter adds still more sobriety in his last two sub-points:

b. To this malice is allied presumption.  Or is it not rashness to sin before His eyes, in His presence? If children wish to violate the precepts of their parents, they do so secretly, behind their backs; not so the sinner, who breaks the command of God openly, before His very eyes.[11]

c. The sinner’s demeanor is indeed very bold, because he dares to offend Him in Whose Hands he is.  On His Hands depends life and death, heaven and hell.[12]

These last two points certainly show how with unspeakable audacity we humans offend God and manifest an utter lack of the gift of the Holy Ghost, that is, fear of the Lord.  We should shudder at such boldness!

If all of the above material has not yet brought the fruit of this meditation, namely intense sorrow and tears, we should beg for spiritual help from our heavenly helpers as we dig deeper into the concept of the horror of sin.  So far, we have been focusing on mortal sins; however, we must not forget that venial sins are infinite offenses against God as well!!

Are we in earnest when we resolve to avoid mortal sin above all things?  Then we must extend our resolution also to venial sin.  Without this resolution we can hardly succeed in always avoiding mortal sin.[13]

The Church also wants us to avoid venial sin.  She shows this in the conditions She requires for obtaining a plenary indulgence.  Not only are Holy Confession and Holy Communion required, but also is the intention to not have any attachment to deliberate venial sin.

Likewise, we must remember Our Dear Lord’s words, “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them; he it is that loveth Me.  And he that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father: and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” (St, John 14:21).  We cannot fool Our Lord.  We cannot claim to care about Him if we have no regard for His commandments.

The following are some key points given by Fr. Hurter to help rouse in us a true horror of all sin.

I.  We can look at the great multitude of our venial sins.

We can take a look at our lives in a similar way in which St. Ignatius had us examine our possible mortal sins—looking at the places we have lived, the persons we have associated with, at the senses of our bodies, the powers of our soul (which we have desecrated), at the duties we have neglected, at the graces we have abused, and bad examples we have given, by word and deed.  Truly as it says in the Mass prayers, we have “innumerable sins, offences, and negligences.”

Even though our sinfulness should startle us, we should not give up in despair, but blush for shame, and learn humility.  We should strive to diminish our daily faults and weaknesses.[14]

II. We can consider the grievousness of venial sins.

These sins are offences against God Who is infinitely great.  Thus, even the least offence to infinite majesty is a very great evil.  If we are careful so as not to offend our loved ones or friends, how much more should we take the greatest care not to offend God Who is supreme goodness and Our heavenly Father?

Venial sin defiles the soul.  Because our souls have been given sanctifying grace and thus made stately in the image and likeness of God, it is a horrific thing to stain the soul with venial sin. We would be ashamed if we were to appear before the angels in a filthy condition, let alone appear before God in this soiled state.  Therefore, it is perfectly understandable that soiled souls prefer to plunge themselves into Purgatory because they know they are unworthy to appear before God.

Venial sin shows its malicious character in the fact that it paves the way to mortal sin.  Because venial sin weakens the will, it especially weakens the soul and makes the conscience callous to sin; the soul can fall when a storm of temptation to commit a mortal sin arises. “He that contemneth small things, shall fall little by little” (Eccl. 19:1).  Therefore, it is all the more crucial to make a firm resolution not to play with venial sin, so one will not fall into mortal sin.  The saints worked to keep their consciences delicate and were truly frightened away from mortal sins.[15]

The causes of venial sin and the means to become free from deliberate venial sin.  Another helpful aspect of Fr. Hurter’s treatment of sin is his accurate assessment of the causes of venial sins and the means to become entirely free from deliberate venial sins, and at least to diminish the number of our faults and failures.

He says, “The first cause is sloth.  When this vice rules us, venial sin and faults thrive luxuriantly.  The remedy for it is fervor, for experience tells us that venial sin will disappear as a fog before the sun when we are all aglow with fervor.” 

He tells us, “The second cause is a want of watchfulness and of mortification of the senses.  If we let our senses roam about freely, the spirit of the world will soon take hold of us.  All kinds of distraction will appear, and with them temptations. The spirit being already weak will be taken by surprise and yield, now to this, then to that fault.”

Then he tells us, “The third cause is conceit.  Whoever over-estimates his own powers, is overconfident in himself, takes too little heed of danger, and is less careful to avoid occasions, will soon learn from his own experience how weak he is.  And the Lord will the sooner permit him to take a false step, the more he trusts in himself and prefers himself to others.  Pride goes before a fall.”[16] 

The means to avoid deliberate venial sins are based upon St. Ignatius’s Rules for the Discernment of Spirits.  We can see by what he says below that certainly agere contra[17] is needed to combat sin.

Fr. Hurter says, “If we are in earnest when we make a resolution against grievous sin, we must take up the fight against venial sin with unshaken firmness, and consider it no small evil with which we can afford to play.  We must be zealous, watch the various occasions, not trust too much to ourselves, and be discreet and humble.  Then with the grace of God we shall avoid all deliberate venial sin and shall considerably diminish the cloud of human weakness and miseries.”[18] 

Along with the resolution to avoid deliberate venial sin, St. Ignatius’s main goal in this Exercise is for the exercitant to have true repentance.  We have asked for intense sorrow and tears.  With all of the above considerations about mortal sin and venial sin, we certainly have much to inspire compunction of heart.  Let us try to see the entire malice of sin, and by the awareness of our own sinfulness, we shall be filled with repentance.  “My eyes have sent forth springs of water: because they have not kept thy law” (Ps. 118:136).  We must tell ourselves that for no price will we commit another grievous sin (if we have had the misfortune to have committed them in the past). This is the greatest misfortune that can befall us.

Let us beg God’s Mercy and not cease to beg Him to preserve us from such a horrific calamity!

THE THIRD EXERCISE

This is a repetition of the first and second Exercises, with three colloquies.

After the preparatory prayer and the two preludes, the first and second Exercises are to be repeated.  I [the exercitant, that is] will note and dwell upon the points in which I have felt the greatest consolation or desolation, or the greatest spiritual relish.  I will then make these colloquies in the following manner:

THE FIRST COLLOQUY is with Our Lady, that she may obtain grace for me from her Son and Lord for three things:

1.  That I may have a thorough knowledge of my sins and a feeling of abhorrence for them.

2. That I may comprehend the disorder of my actions so that detesting them, I will amend my ways and put my life in order.

3. That I may know the world, and being filled with horror of it, I may put away from me worldly and vain things.

Conclude with the “Hail Mary.”

THE SECOND COLLOQUY is with the Son of God.  I will beg Him to intercede with the Father to obtain these graces for me.  Conclude with the “Anima Christi.”[19]

THE THIRD COLLOQUY is with our Eternal Father.  I will request that He Himself grant these graces to me. Conclude with the “Our Father.”

THE FOURTH EXERCISE

 This is a résumé[20] of the third exercise.

I [St. Ignatius] have called this a résumé because the intellect, without digression, is to recall and review thoroughly the matters contemplated in the previous Exercises.  The same three colloquies should then be made.

Although we have covered three exercises in this lesson, St. Ignatius intends each of them to be done separately.  As one can see, they build off of each other but are intended to be done one at a time.  The exercitant is asking for a more intense awareness of the malice of sin and to have a true sorrow for sin and an extreme horror of sin.  We cannot build a fervent love for God if we do not fear to offend Him.

In our next lesson we will do the FIFTH Exercise ON HELL–THE PAIN OF THE SENSES.[21]

 

 

 

 

 



[1]           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, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 41.

[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 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 42.

[3]           Quoted 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 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 43.

[4]           Quoted 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 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 43.

[5]           Quoted 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 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 43.

[6]           Although man is also an animal, as clearly taught by Aristotle, St. Thomas, and many others, man is a rational animal.

[7]           Quoted 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 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 43.

 

[8]           Quoted 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 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 44.

[9]           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 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 45.

[10]         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 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 45.

[11]         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 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, pages 45-46.

[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 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 46.

[13]         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 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 47. 

Here Fr. Hurter makes a very important distinction between the two types of venial sin.  One type is those committed:

with a full knowledge and on purpose, such as a deliberate lie told to get out of a difficulty, or self-praise to make oneself important.  Other venial sins are faults that follow rather the weakness, the haste, the thoughtlessness, the carelessness of poor human nature, as distractions in prayer, a sudden impatience and excitement because something unpleasant strikes us, or vanity because we have met with success in our undertakings. etc.

The former we can with the grace of God avoid, and to them by preference our resolution must extend.  The weaknesses we shall never avoid altogether, as the Council of Trent teaches us, without a special privilege, such as the Mother of God enjoyed.  God permits them for our mortification and humiliation, to keep us fervent and energetic.  If we cannot avoid them all, we must not therefore be unconcerned about them, but make an honest effort to reduce their number.

Hence our resolution should run thus: I shall carefully avoid all deliberate venial sins.  I shall do all I can to reduce the number of my daily faults and imperfections.

[14]         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 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, pages 50-51.

[15]         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 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, pages 52-53.

[16]         Quoted 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 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 53.

 

[17]           Rules for the Discernment of Spirits for the Week One, Rule #12; this means to “act against” a bad inclination we that arises in our soul.

 

[18]         Quoted 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 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, page 54.

[19]         This is the Anima Christi prayer:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.

Body of Christ, save me.

Blood of Christ, inebriate me.

Water from the side of Christ, wash me.

Passion of Christ, strengthen me.

O good Jesus, hear me;

Within Thy wounds hide me;

Suffer me not to be separated from Thee;

From the malignant enemy defend me;

In the hour of my death call me,

And bid me come to Thee,

That with Thy Saints I may praise Thee

For ever and ever.  Amen

 

[20]         A résumé is a summing up; an abridgment or summary [Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, Sixth Ed. 1949]

 

[21]         At this point of the Spiritual Exercises the exercitant prepares for a general confession as he is about to do meditations on hell and death.

Unfortunately, in this time of apostasy in which we are living and in which an uncompromising priest is not available for most people, a general confession is not possible.  In this case we must humbly trust in God and beg His Mercy by trying to make a perfect act of contrition after having done the thorough examination of conscience for confession.

This examination and preparation for a general confession would include making a sin list and telling God that if/when an uncompromising priest should become available; one is most willing to go to confession.

We must have a repentant disposition of mind.  We need heartfelt contrition for our sins.  The Council of Trent (session 14, chapter 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.

 

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

Temptations, though troublesome and severe, are often useful to a man, for in them he is humbled, purified, and instructed.  The saints all passed through many temptations and trials to profit by them, whereas those who could not resist became reprobate and fell away.

My Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book 1, ch.13.                                                                      

 

Catholic Candle note: The quote below from Pope Gregory XVI is a good reminder that we must fight the pernicious error of religious liberty for error.  Here is an article showing that Vatican II’s teaching of religious liberty contradicted the continual and infallible teaching of the Catholic Church: https://catholiccandle.neocities.org/faith/religious-liberty-vatican-ii.html

 

Here is an article about the SSPX’s weak and false position regarding religious liberty: https://catholiccandle.neocities.org/priests/fellay-pozzo-religious-liberty.html

 

 

Words to Live by – from Catholic Tradition

 

Words of Pope Gregory XVI (1765-1846)

condemning the insanity of religious liberty

 

From this poisoned source of indifferentism springs that false and absurd maxim, better termed the insanity [deliramentum] that liberty of conscience must be obtained and guaranteed for everyone.  This is the most contagious of errors, which prepares the way for that absolute and totally unrestrained liberty of opinions which, for the ruin of Church and State, is spreading everywhere….  Here we must include that harmful and never sufficiently denounced freedom to publish any writings whatever and disseminate them to the people, which some dare to demand and promote with so great a clamor.  We are horrified to see what monstrous doctrines and prodigious errors are disseminated far and wide in countless books, pamphlets and other writings….  Some are so carried away that they contentiously assert that the flock of errors arising from them is sufficiently compensated by the publication of some book which defends religion and truth….  Is there any sane man who would say poison ought to be distributed, sold publicly, stored and even drunk, because some antidote is available and those who use it may be snatched from death again and again?

 

Pope Gregory XVI Encyclical Mirari Vos, August 15, 1832, ¶¶ 14-15.

 

 

Lesson #12 First Exercise on Sin — The Triple Sin

                    Mary’s School of Sanctity                   

Before introducing the material for the first exercise, it is important to know the general framework St. Ignatius uses for his meditations.  Also, it is important to note here that St. Ignatius intends that the exercitant has a scheduled time period for doing the meditations.  In the structure of an Ignatian retreat this is all worked out ahead of time and the exercitant simply follows the schedule.  If doing a “retreat” on one’s own, one can set up a schedule for himself.  However, if one is doing the Ignatian exercises as part of a routine of daily meditations, then one would set aside perhaps 25 minutes or a half hour for the meditation.  Toward the end of the time set aside, one could save at least five minutes for a colloquy [closing prayer].[1]

St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises are basically a series of meditations set out in a particular order.  His series is the method he used to lead the soul on a path by which self-knowledge can be obtained as a means of acquiring humility.  St. Ignatius uses this method because he knows that once the soul, as the intended bride of Christ, knows herself better, she can then more perfectly dedicate herself to the loving service of God.  Consequently, he is teaching a sure way to sanctity.   

In general, each meditation in his Spiritual Exercises, in its turn, has a specified order.  St. Ignatius gives the subject matter of each meditation with a preparatory prayer, preludes, the principal points to consider, and suggests an appropriate colloquy.[2]

St. Ignatius has a preparatory prayer which he wishes every exercitant to use before every meditation.  It goes as follows:

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 preludes he gives are preliminary steps to get the exercitant ready for the meditation.  The preludes are supposed to prepare the exercitant for the mental prayer ahead.  It is in a way like preparing the soil for the planting.  In fact, he has the exercitant make a mental image in his mind which matches the topic selected for the meditation.  He calls this making of an image the first prelude.

Then, St. Ignatius usually has two or more additional preludes in each of his meditations.  He explains these at the beginning of each meditation.  His second prelude is usually a specific grace which he wants the exercitant to ask for.

Then, he sets forth the particular points that he wants the exercitant to consider.  Although he gives the points to consider, he certainly intends that if the exercitant finds his heart overflowing with things to say to God, by all means, the exercitant should stop the consideration of the points and use the inspiration given and simply talk to God.[3]   One should not worry about using all of the points for consideration because the main reason for the considerations is to foster the colloquy.

In general, one may think that the colloquy [prayer] would happen at the end of the time set aside for the meditation, but in reality, one finds that his heart is full and he longs to speak to God much sooner, so the colloquy often happens sooner. 

St. Ignatius intends that, if the exercitant has not found his heart pouring out to God at any time during the period set aside for the consideration of the points of the meditation, then he should stop making considerations and begin at once to make a colloquy.  As mentioned above there was a planned time set aside for the colloquy toward the end of the meditation time slot.  This colloquy is a prayer of thanksgiving, contrition, adoration, or petition.  

It is a good idea to read through the entire material for each meditation before actually beginning the meditation.  Now let us look at what St. Ignatius gives for the first exercise, and then we will go through it pondering on the crucial consequences of his material and how the consequences apply to our souls.

 

THE FIRST EXERCISE {The Triple Sin}

For this first exercise the usual preparatory prayer is used which is given above. 

The first meditation is on sin.  In this meditation the FIRST PRELUDE is the mental image.  Since this meditation is about sin, which is not visible, St. Ignatius says that:

the mental image will consist in imaging, and considering my soul imprisoned in its corruptible body, and my entire being in this vale of tears as an exile among brute beasts.  By entire being, I mean both body and soul."      

The SECOND PRELUDE is to ask God Our Lord for what I want and desire.  In this present meditation I shall ask for shame and confusion, for I see how any souls have been damned for a single mortal sin, and how often I have deserved to be damned eternally for the many sins I have committed.

The FIRST POINT will be to recall to memory the first sin, which was that of the angels, then to apply the understanding by considering this sin in detail, then the will by seeking to remember and understand all, so that I may be the more ashamed and confounded when I compare the one single sin of the angels to the many that I have committed.  Since they went to hell for one sin, how many times have I deserved it for my many sins.  I will recall to mind the sin of the angels, remembering that they were created in the state of grace, that they refused to make use of their freedom to offer reverence and obedience to their Creator and Lord, and so sinning through pride, they fell from grace into sin and were cast from heaven to hell.  In like manner my understanding is to be used to reason more in detail on the subject matter, and thereby move more deeply my affection through the use of my will.

The SECOND POINT is to employ the three powers of the soul to consider the sin of Adam and Eve.  Recall to mind how they did such long penance for their sin and what corruption fell upon the whole human race, causing so many to go to hell.  I say to recall to mind the second sin, that of our first parents.  Recall that after Adam had been created in the Plain of Damascus and placed in the earthly paradise, and Eve had been formed from his rib, they were forbidden to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and eating it they committed sin.  After their sin, clothed in garments of skin and cast out of paradise, without the original justice which they had lost, they lived all their lives in much travail and great penance. 

The understanding is likewise to be used in considering the subject matter in greater detail and the will is to be employed as already explained.

The THIRD POINT is to recall to mind the third sin.  This is the particular sin of any person who went to hell because of one mortal sin.  Consider also the innumerable others who have gone to hell for fewer sins than I have committed.  I say consider the third particular sin.   Recall to mind the grievousness and malice of sin against our Creator and Lord.  Let the understanding consider how, in sinning and acting against Infinite Goodness, he has justly been condemned forever.  Close with acts of the will, as mentioned above.  (St. Ignatius is referring here to where he mentioned moving one’s affections more deeply through the use of the will.)

COLLOQUY.  Imagine Christ Our Lord before you, hanging upon the cross.  Speak with Him of how, being the Creator He then became man, and now, possessing eternal life, He submitted to temporal death to die for our sins.

Then I shall meditate upon myself and ask “What have I done for Christ? What am I now doing for Christ?  What ought I do for Christ?” As I see Him in this condition, hanging upon the cross, I shall meditate on the thoughts that come to my mind.

The colloquy is made properly by speaking as one friend speaks to another, or as a servant speaks to his master, now asking some favor, now accusing oneself for some wrong deed, or again, making known his affairs to Him and seeking His advice concerning them.  Conclude with the “Our Father.”

In order to firm up our resolution made in the meditation on the Principle and Foundation, namely to praise, revere, and to serve God faithfully, we must consider the gruesome reality of sin.  Sin is truly the opposite of serving God—it is the refusal to serve God.  The world does not take sin seriously and thinks it is nothing to worry about.  Of course the devil encourages this view of sin and wants us to see sin as no big problem.

St. Ignatius, with his meditation material about sin, is now giving us an opportunity to get a thorough knowledge of the malice of sin, a salutary sense of shame while grieving with heartfelt contrition for the sins we have committed, and to form a firm resolve to never commit sins.

St. Ignatius reminds us of our mortality by telling us to imagine our corruptible bodies which we will leave behind at death.  Our souls will go forth to meet our Judge and we will see clearly how we have treated Him.

 The consideration of the points:

I. The Sin of the Angels:

Let us consider how the angels, by nature, are far more perfect creatures than men.  They have no bodies.  They are pure spirits and have intellects and wills.  They have infused knowledge that God gave them when He created them.  Catholic tradition teaches that the angels were created and in the next instant they made their fateful choice of either to serve God or reject Him.  It is thought that they were told about the Incarnation, and the fallen angels did not want to submit to God’s Plan that God the Son would be born of a woman.  Further, they did not want to have to give honor to the Woman, the Mother of God, who is a creature.  They didn’t see Mary as God’s wonderful masterpiece, she, who was fit to be Queen of heaven and of all creation.  They saw her merely as a creature below them in excellence because of her lower nature as man.  Thus, they fell because of pride.  So we can see how Tobias was so wise to advise his son to “Never suffer pride to reign in thy mind, or in thy words: for from it all perdition took its beginning.” [Tobias 4:14]

The fallen angels committed one sin.  Because of the infused knowledge of their nature and the way that their intellects work, they made one irrevocable choice.  They rejected God’s Will and Plan for them and got the punishment they deserved.  Their one sin was mortal and they lost God forever.  The devils did not want to change their nature and become gods because this was impossible and if their nature changed, they would cease to exist.  They didn’t want to serve God the way He intended for them.

Therefore, we see that their punishment is eternal and never can be changed.

Fr. Hurter, S.J., in his book Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat, has these powerful words to say:

Now my soul, what do you say?   What will happen to me?  I am not an angel; I have sinned, not only once, but many times; I have known from revelation the severity of the avenging justice of God; I have been pardoned often; I have repeatedly broken my word and my resolutions after having vowed to amend.  How ashamed must I not be as I stand before the judgment seat of God?  If the angels were punished thus, what do I deserve?  But God has spared me: “the mercies of the Lord that we are not consumed.”  Lamentations, 3:22 [4]

 

II. The Sin of Our First Parents:

Adam and Eve were created with perfect justice.  Their intellects were very keen, and they had gifted understanding and a rich fund of knowledge.  Their wills were likewise strong and their passions obeyed their wills perfectly.  They had no sickness or pain.  They were free from death. They had no anxiety about anything.  All of their material needs were supplied.  Most wonderful of all was that they were heirs to heaven. 

The devils were envious of Adam and Eve’s happiness, and with their fallen angelic natures, they didn’t want Adam and Eve to have a chance to go to heaven.  They didn’t want Adam and Eve to possess the Supreme Good, Whom the devils can never possess.

Therefore, the devil, knowing that Eve was created with an inferior intellect than Adam’s, and that she was created with a softer heart; the devil set his trap for Adam by fooling Eve first.  Then, with newly-fallen human nature, she convinced Adam to commit sin. 

What were the consequences of this?  The punishments ensued immediately.   Grace is lost and the sonship of God is lost.  Man can no longer go to heaven.  The lower appetites, namely, the passions are made strong and rebellious.  Death and sickness now enter the world.  Now man must toil with great sweat and the woman has much to suffer.  The results do not just affect Adam and Eve, but the entire human race.  What massive consequences for Adam’s fall since he is the head of the entire human race. All of these consequences are attributed to Adam.  And yet the personal sins of all the rest of mankind add to these consequences and misery in the whole world.  Each man feels keenly his personal sins and weakness, even if he would not admit them to others.  In his book Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat, Fr. Hurter says:

How shall I fare who have sinned so often, even after I had known the severity of God’s avenging justice from revelation?  What salutary fear will come over me, and how shall I stand before the tribunal of God’s justice, ashamed in the consciousness of my many sins? What am I to think of sin after such a judgment?  How thankful must I be to God, for I can attribute it only to His mercy that I am not among the lost![5]

III. The Sins of Individuals:

Here St. Ignatius tells us to quake as we think about the sins of so many suffering in hell at this moment who have not committed as many sins as we have.  Think about those souls who have not received as many graces as we have and yet they still damned their souls.  What do we deserve?  What must we expect?  Hence, I must consider sin as the greatest evil that a man can meet with!

St. Ignatius, after giving us such sobering food for thought, tells us to go the Foot of the Cross, with hearts heavy with shame and woefully confounded.  Let us see the price of sin.  Such is the cause of so much anguish and pain for Our Dear Lord.  We owe Him so much!  How have we treated Him? What can I do for Him now?  What can I do for Him from now on?  I must hate sin which is the cause of so much spiritual and physical pain for Our Dear Lord, the cause of such a price to the Eternal Father.  With no hesitation we should tell Our Lord how sorry we are for offending Him so constantly with our selfishness.  We should beg Him to forgive us, to strengthen our hatred for sin and to strengthen our love for Him Who is so loveable.  With hearts full of loving things to say to Our Lord, we pour out our colloquy to His Sacred Heart.  St. Ignatius wants us to end our colloquy with an Our Father.  We could certainly thank Our Lord for allowing us to do this meditation and giving us a better understanding of our poor selves.

In our next lesson, discussing Exercises two, three, and four, St. Ignatius wants us to treat the subject of sin again but with deeper penetration of what sin is.  Hence, we will examine the malice of sin.  We will delve into the many ramifications of the horrifying aspects of sin. So that thus being horrified and filled with a more tender love of Our Lord, we will shun sin with all our heart.



[1]           The basic instruction on how to do “a meditation” was given in Lesson #2 of the School of Sanctity series, in September 2021.  This article can be found here: https://catholiccandle.org/2021/09/03/lesson-2-meditation-how-why/

 

However, we will include footnotes in this current article to refresh the reader’s mind on some of the key aspects of meditation because not everyone may be aware of how a meditation is done.

 

[2]           Here St. Ignatius is not intending to limit the exercitant from doing a colloquy whenever he finds his heart is full of things to say to God, or Our Lady, etc.  The colloquy he suggests here is more in a manner of closing the meditation.

[3]           This would be, the exercitant spontaneously going into his colloquy— pouring his heart out to God.  This outpouring of one’s heart is also called affections and these are the result or the fruit of making the considerations.  In Catholic Candle’s Mary’s School of Sanctity Lesson #2, we explained how a meditation in general is done.   The considerations given in the material for the meditation are meant to foster one of the four types of prayer, namely, thanksgiving, adoration, contrition, and petition.  As we explained in Lesson #2, this “talking to God” is the lifting of the heart and mind to God, which is what prayer actually is.  In other words, this colloquy or prayer is the fruit of meditation.

[4]           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 copyright 1918.; third edition 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 34.

[5]            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 copyright 1918.; third edition 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 37.

 

CC in brief — The Existence of Time in the Afterlife

Catholic Candle note: Catholic Candle normally examines particular issues thoroughly, at length, using the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and the other Doctors of the Church.  By contrast, our feature CC in brief, gives an extremely short answer to a reader’s question.  We invite readers to submit their own questions.

Q.         While sanctifying the Sunday at home, I read in a sermon recently that stated:

“Time is a blessing which we enjoy only in this life; it is not enjoyed in the next; it is not found in heaven nor in hell.”

Is this true that there is no time in heaven or in hell?

  1. There is time in heaven and in hell.

Anywhere that there are bodies which move, there is time.  In fact, time is the measure of the motion of a body.  When a body moves, there is a “before” and an “after” of time, with the movement continuing between this beginning and its ending.  By contrast, angels are not, properly speaking, in time because they do not have bodies.


In heaven

We hold that it will be possible for the blessed to move their bodies in heaven.  We hold that they will be able to smile, to sing, and to move from place-to-place.  In fact, they will have the gift of agility in their glorified bodies.  This will make their movement effortless and extremely fast.  We reject the idea that the bodies of the blessed will be frozen in perpetual immobility.  Because the blessed will move their bodies, there will a “before” and an “after” to these movements and there will be time in heaven.

Further, we hold that it will be possible, e.g., for Our Lord and the Blessed Mother to turn their heads and to smile upon the saints.  

Because of all such movements, there will certainly be time in heaven.


In limbo

The limbo of the babies is a part of hell (but is not a part of the hell of the damned).  We hold that limbo is a place of natural happiness.  We hold that the resurrection of the bodies at the end of the world will include the bodies of those in limbo.  We hold that those persons in limbo will be able to move their bodies.  

Perhaps those in limbo will stroll in beautiful surroundings.  Perhaps they will sing or talk together.  Any such activities (which are part of living in natural happiness) will involve their bodies and will require movement and, thus, time.

In the hell of the damned

It would seem that the damned in hell will not be able to do any activities which will give them relief or enjoyment.  So, in that regard, they might be fixed in immoveable pain and misery.  

However, there are some bodily activities that might occur in hell.  Perhaps the damned will torture each other, or scream at each other, or shout curses and words of hatred at each other.  

So, is there time in heaven and hell?

Thus, we hold that there is unending time in heaven, in the limbo of the babies, and in the hell of the damned.  

Where is there eternity?

In fact, one could ask whether there is any eternity in hell.  Loosely speaking, never-ending time is sometimes called eternity. Since the time in hell is literally unending, we could loosely call it “eternal” in this way.  

Further, we talk about an unpleasant experience being eternal.  For example, if the dentist was drilling my tooth for a long time, we might say, as a manner of expression, that “I sat in the dentist’s chair for an eternity.”

But strictly speaking, it seems that eternity belongs most properly only to heaven, and not to hell.  Whereas time is similar to a point moving along a line, and for which there is a “before” and an “after”, by contrast, eternity is an ever-present “now” which is like a point that does not move.  

Thus, properly speaking, God is in eternity.  He never moves in any way.  He thinks only one thought and has only one act of love without end.

The blessed in heaven are also, properly speaking, in eternity not as they smile at Our Lord (or whatever other acts they do which involve their bodies), but rather as they are immersed in the greatest happiness of heaven, which is the Beatific Vision.  

In this vision, their minds will see God in His essence, without any movement.  As the blessed see God, their minds will not go from “point to point” in the manner in which we think on this earth.  Their minds will see a single vision of God’s essence without movement or weariness, without end.

Thus, in summary, God, the angels, and the saints are in eternity, properly speaking in the Beatific Vision.  The blessed in heaven are also in unending time, along with all humans in limbo and in hell.