Do not believe that you will go to hell … There is no such thing as heaven and hell. You know, it would need a very stupid God if he creates me as a human being and at the end of my earthly life he would just send me to hell.
— President Rodrigo Duterte, speaking in Davao last week
Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire, which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear.— Fatima visionary Sister Lucia Dos Santos recounting the vision of hell
Someone’s telling the truth here, and someone isn’t. Too bad the only way to know if hell awaits in the afterlife is, well, to reach the afterlife, if there is one. Which may be a bit too late to do anything about where one spends the rest of eternity.
For devotees of Our Lady of Fatima, of course, there’s hell to pay for those who transgress God’s law and don’t repent, seek forgiveness, and make reparations.
Not only did our Blessed Mother tell of hell to the three visionary children tending sheep in a countryside Portugal a century ago. She showed the fearsome place.
“Mother of God, have pity on those who do not amend their lives,” the youngest visionary, Blessed Jacintha Marto, 7 years old during the 1917 apparitions, would often pray in the few years she lived before succumbing to the 1920 Spanish flu.
“If men only knew what awaits them in eternity,” she added, “they would do everything in their power to change their lives.”
She also conveyed the Virgin Mary’s warning, “The sin that brings the most souls to Hell are the sins of the flesh,” though the girl never knew what such transgressions were.
How one goes to hell
These days, of course, and even when the Marian apparitions began on May 13, 1917, people don’t believe much or at all in hell, heaven, or God. That’s why He sent our Lady to deliver His wake-up call to humanity.
Many listened over the decades, following Mary’s instructions to pray the Rosary daily, perform the Five First Saturdays devotion (as devotees did yesterday), and always wear the brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel — the three ways she urged to obtain graces for salvation.
But most people didn’t hear or care, even the billion-something Catholics venerating the Mother of God. Millions of faithful don’t even know what the Rosary is, let alone the First Saturday ritual of confession, communion, one decade of the Rosary, and meditation for a quarter-hour on the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries.
That’s why the Second and Third Secrets of Fatima, after the First Secret showing hell, warned of apocalyptic chastisements if men don’t repent.
Not only did Mary warn of eternal punishment; she also predicted terrible events to make men realize there is a God, and hell awaits those who “do not believe, nor adore, nor hope, nor love” Him, to quote the words of Saint Michael The Archangel when he thrice appeared to the Fatima children in 1916.
So will God really send unbelievers and transgressors to hell, and will He allow catastrophes just to make us believe, repent, plead for mercy, and change?
Let’s recap one simple argument for hell in our column two Sundays ago.
God made us to be happy with Him for eternity, if we wish (He won’t force us). Even President Duterte’s argument assumes that God wants us to go to heaven.
To join Him after death, we must believe in Him and live according to His ways and laws. After all, why would we want to be with anyone whose ways we don’t like?
Now, if one doesn’t live as God commands, one ends up rejecting Him or making it near-impossible to suddenly embrace all that He is after a lifetime of being all that He isn’t. Capice?
Hence, souls who lived the opposite of the holiness God Himself showed in His Son’s life on earth, find their afterlife state so dark next to His light. And they cannot bring themselves to purge who they are (in purgatory, according to the Church). Thus, they end up living eternity away from God, Whom they decide not to be like.
That’s hell, even without the sea of fire.
So God isn’t so stupid, after all. He never sends anyone to hell. Those who go there choose to do so.
Waking up the world
Now, if a loving Father sees billions of humanity disbelieving and transgressing, should He do something to wake the wayward up and turn them — or us — away from the hellbound lives they or we live?
He should, right? Now, tell me, what earthly events would be able to awaken the people of our age, so enamored of godless knowledge and living, to realize that God and hell exist, and we are careening toward damnation in our unbelief and transgression?
It’s not a teleporting iPhone or some other amazing concoction. Sadly, it has to be cataclysmic.
Then people stop thinking they’ve got everything figured out and under control. And start wondering if maybe, just maybe, Someone up there really Who knows it all and is truly in charge. And unhappy with how we live and run His world.
The Second Secret of Fatima predicted the Second World War, where some 60 million people perished, and Russia’s spread of atheist communism worldwide. That and other apparitions of Mary and visions of other holies warned of even greater catastrophes.
And they’re happening now, as we will go over next Sunday.