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On Hell Again

Gustave Dore’: Charon ferrying the damned.

A couple of days ago, I have let through one comment on hell in answer to a previous blog post. The very confused poster goes on with the usual confused mantras of the liberal and atheist society, as the concept of eternal torment does not seem to agree with oh how oh good oh he oh is.He also had some problems about those whom he thinks wish hell on other people. Those who feel oh so oh good always need to see the others as oh so oh bad…

I have written here my reflections on “wishing hell” to someone, but this was not about this, and the poster’s problems were much deeper seated.

I suggest that everyone with any doubt about hell reads this. Many of the most common answers to the doubts of the skeptical are found there.

Still, in the middle of the rubbish of the above mentioned post there was one observation which merits a more attentive consideration. I think I have written about that, but it is probably fitting to write another few words.

What about the loving mother, writes the horribly instructed poster. Could she really enjoy heaven knowing her beloved son is in hell? He thinks not.

Of course she does. She does it to the full, with a joy that is perfect and unalloyed.

We Christians believe in God the Father, not – if you allow me the expression – God the Mother. The fact that God is ready to forgive everything does not mean that he will forgive those who insist not to be forgiven. His justice – which puts the damned in hell, because hell is the fitting place for them – is as divine, as perfect, as absolute as His mercy.

In heaven, the saints can see and experience the perfect justice and the perfect love of everything. Whilst the reconciliation of perfect love and perfect justice may at first seem difficult for us to understand, it is not difficult to understand for them.   They have attained that superior knowledge  which does not allow the permanence of any question, of any conflict, of any contradiction. 

The suffering of the souls in hell are, therefore, terrible, but at the same time perfectly fitting. Why? Because God says so. How can we be perfectly satisfied with such an answer? When we are – hopefully, one day – in heaven we will have a full understanding of it; for now, we accept it on faith, with the humility of good Christians who do not even think they could question or – ha! – “improve” on Christianity.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  Our instruction must begin and end with this approach. We fear the Lord’s justice because we are told the lord’s justice is – as much as he loves us – frightful indeed.

It is not for us to decide whether we like this or not. It is not for us to theorise about the “justice” of this, let alone decide it cannot be so, because we don’t like  it. We are not here to question, but to learn, accept, and do the best we can to live what we have been taught.

I don’t like the idea of hell. Who does, I wonder, but I accept the truth of hell. As for the logic and justice of hell, I can see – unpleasant as it is; particularly because it means a concrete danger for myself and those I love – the profound sense of it even in this life.

Christianity is not there for our liking, and cannot be bent to what we like. If we believed that, we’d be Presbyterians.

Please also reflect – the booklet linked above also touches on this – that it is not very easy to die in mortal sin. Mortal sin is not the temporary weakness, but the deliberate will to accept evil. If you read the above mentioned booklet – written in times above suspicion – you will read expressions like

“God damns only those who deliberately choose hatred and evil instead of love and goodness”.


“[mortal sins] are essentially the complete turning away from goodness and the acceptance of evil. Anything less than that is not mortal sin”

One doesn’t go to hell because he made a mistake, was run over by a bus immediately afterwards and God says to him “sorry, old boy, the bus came at the wrong time”. The deliberate intent is exactly that: deliberate. It’s a conscious choice, a taking side of sort. Obviously there will be a number of ways how one can choose the wrong side of the field without having explicitly “said so to himself” (say: by consciously and deliberately denying the existence of hell, knowing this is the teaching of 2000 years of Christianity, and feeling oh so good in the process); but even here we see a clearly rooted preference for one’s own moral law rather than for the Law of God: one has made himself god, and has gone around saying so.

God may have mercy on him, or not. If God hasn’t, I do not think anyone can complain, because it would be blasphemous to do so.

And when does it leave the mother, you will ask? Exactly where we are now: on the one hand, hell is a mystery which cannot be fully comprehended in our lifetime; on the other hand, when the mother dies she understands the perfect mercy and justice of the entire mechanism; a mechanism which, being now the other side of the human experience, she will not have any difficulty in grasping beyond any human doubt or apparent contradiction.

This is, if you ask me, another of the scary characteristics of hell: if I were to land in Hell – God forbid!  – I would not even have the consolation of knowing those I love miss me and are sad for my fate. Nope. Firstly I would not love them – another extremely scary thought – because in hell I would lose every will to love; secondly they would not be sorry, because they would see the perfect justice and mercy of my – God forbid, again! – being in hell.

Hell is, truly, as terrible as that. It might be wise to reflect on this whilst we still breathe and make our best effort to keep away from there. It might not be easy to get to hell, and daily prayer – and the Rosary! The Rosary!! – will go a great deal in keeping us out of the worst.I strongly encourage everyone to pray daily for his loved ones who might be in danger, and to devoutly remember the Fatima Prayer – a prayer whose power of consolation I find more powerful with every year – in your prayer routine. Actually, if you pray the Rosary daily including the Fatima prayer you kill two birds with one stone.

Wretched sinners as we all are, there is much we can do to avoid hell, and to help others to avoid it.God’s mercy, and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin we must never tire to invoke, may well take us – or our beloved ones – out of very dangerous situations.

But if we think we can make our own religion, we have most certainly set our feet in the wrong direction.


A good Thing To Start In The Middle Of Lent: The Rosary

Padre Pio's Weapon of Choice: the Rosary.


I have read on another blog a suggestion to pray the Rosary every day during Lent for the end of the SSPX-Vatican controversy.

Brilliant idea, but I think I have an even better one: to pray the Rosary every day for the sake of your soul.

I have written about it here and will therefore not repeat myself. What I would like to point out today is that Lent seems to me an ideal moment to take that momentum which could carry one praying the rosary every day after the end of Lent.

As always, the most difficult phase is the start, and this is where we often need a special incentive, a kick of some sort, a special propeller. Whilst for many this can be a particular difficult period, for others it might simply be the desire to make a special effort during Lent.

You will soon notice that, as always in life, once the habit starts to kick in everything comes easier, and soon the Rosary will be part of your daily routine; a non entirely pleasant perhaps at the beginning, something lived like a penance rather than a joy; but in time, you will see this habit will become more and more dear to you, a daily companion in the midst of life’s troubles, and a welcome place of quiet serenity in the happier days.

I have starting praying the Rosary every day now several years ago, and have not skipped one single day since. As the years go by, I have a growing awareness that together with Mass attendance, the daily Rosary is the single biggest contribution I bring toward my (hoped for) salvation.

I do not suggest you start “light”, for example with two rosaries a week. In my simple opinion, th eonly effective way to form a habit is to do something every day, and to decide there will be no day without it. As I started this, I decided I had no right to sleep until I had finished praying a proper rosary. It is much easier to get the right mindset at the start than to try to stick to a half-formed resolution.

A good recited rosary will take anywhere between, say, 17 and 20 minutes. By sixteen waking hours a day, this is a maximum of 2% of your waking time. Even taking away work, this is still 4% of your non-working time.

A Rosary doesn’t have to be prayed all at once, which means you do not have to find a 20 minutes spot. You can pray it a decade at a time, and the introduction (the one with the Creed) is even shorter. The train, the walk to the train station, the walk to the office, the walk from the office, are all precious occasions for a rosary. You won’t  be run over by a car and if it truly has to happen, hey, then I prefer to be run over whilst praying the Rosary, please… 😉

But really, the key to your motivation should be the Rosary promises I have discussed in the blog post mentioned above.  Who would want to risk compromising his chances for the sake of 4% of his waking time?


The Rosary old and… new?

Saw no need to "improve" the Rosary: Paul VI.

Beautiful article in the Remnant about the reasons why the “luminous mysteries” should be discarded.

The first one is the historic origin of the Rosary in the Psaltery. When monks started to have the obligation to read all the Psalms (150 in number) every day, the increasing number of conversi (lay people who lived in the monastery helping the monks, generally to expiate grave sins or otherwise to perfect themselves but without becoming monks) made it necessary to create a comparable devotion accessible to them. As most conversi were illiterate, they started to be given the task of reciting 150 Pater Noster every day. In time, this devotion spread to the generality of the lay people in form of 150 Ave Maria. Thus we have a direct link to the Rosary with the Psaltery. An addition of a fourth cycle of mysteries makes of the entire rosary a cycle of 200 Hail Marys and the traditional link with the Psaltery is lost.

Secondly, the division of the Rosary in three parts and three sets of mysteries has been traditionally linked to the Trinity. This is why Pope Paul VI says that the Rosary is wisely distributed in three parts. The addition of a fourth part destroys the traditional link of the Rosary with the Trinity.

Thirdly, in any innovation of the Rosary there is an element of change. After the innovation madness of the last decades, we now know that change is not something good in itself; on the contrary, it creates confusion. What has been honoured and considered orthodox praxis by the centuries should be transmitted unaltered to the following generations. If it ain’t broken…….

Fourthly (and this is not in the article, but is a fact nevertheless) the Rosary has been shaped in his main traits by Marian apparitions to St. Dominic, Blessed Alan de la Roche and lastly to the children of Fatima. The idea that a Pope should add his own suggestions on how to improve on various Marian apparitions really, really doesn’t feel right.

Further interesting elements emerge from this article: the first is the attempted ravaging of the Rosary by the notorious Annibale Bugnini (it is amazing not only what damage the man has caused, but what further damage he wanted to cause), attempt stopped by Pope Paul VI who therefore spared the Rosary from undergoing the same treatment Bugnini inflicted to the Mass. The second is the laud given by the notoriously anti-Catholic New York Times to JP II’s “suggested” changes. Please note the words of the Article: JP II is commended for “crossing another frontier”, because in the NYT’s world if you cross a frontier of traditional Catholicism you must be doing something good. More explicitly, the NYT informs his probably unaware readers that the Pope will be “making a significant change in the Rosary, a signature method of Catholic prayer for centuries now”. Now, the NYT is certainly not interested in the improvement of Catholic spirituality. What it is interested in, is that something which has gone on for centuries is now going to change. They know very well that every time someone gives a shove to a traditional devotion, the faith is weakened as a result. The third is that even in the Vatican’s mind the changes reflect the late Pope’s “creativity” and “courage”. That “creativity” in relation to traditional Catholic devotions be not only contemplated, but even praised speaks volumes about the theological approximation and tireless devotion to “change” which used to afflict the Vatican in those years. Only eight years later, we read these words with stunned disbelief. That they could come from the Vatican is even more disquieting than the fact that they should be praised by their enemies at the NYT.

A bad History teacher doesn’t change History and a bad teacher of Catholicism doesn’t change Catholicism. But both will transmit their mediocrity to their pupils.

This is, of course, no theological matter. Still, traditional Catholic devotions play (or should play) an important role in a Catholic’s life and should be therefore left alone. It is now high time to abandon the shallowness and fashion-conscious thinking making us believe that “change” be something good. Change for the sake of change is not good and is not courageous, and “creativity” is nothing to do with tradition.

I invite you to recite the Rosary every day, and to do it as many generations before us have done.


The Rosary


Has a priest ever told you anything about the rosary? If he has, you can count yourself among a tiny and fortunate minority of the faithful. More likely, your priest has rather preferred to entertain you about so-called anthropogenic global warming, social justice, the necessity of not kicking the cat, and such like. Let us correct this unfortunate situation with some short remarks.

There are some regional variations of the rosary and every faithful can adjust some parts as he likes. In short, a typical rosary would be recited this way:

1) Sign of the Cross. Creed of the Apostles; Pater Noster; three Hail Marys; Glory Be; Fatima prayer.

2) Five decades each composed of the following: Pater noster; ten Hail Marys; Glory Be; Fatima Prayer. At the beginning of each decade you can introduce a short pause to reflect on the mystery and/or to ask Our Lord or the Blessed Virgin for a particular grace.

3) “Hail, Holy Queen”. Sign of the Cross.

During the three Hail Marys of the introduction you can meditate on the three Theological Virtues (Hope, Faith and Charity). During each of the ten Hail Marys of every decade you can meditate on the traditional mysteries of the day or substitute them with some other meditation you prefer. The traditionally used mysteries are – in this context – 15 episodes of the life of Our Lord or of the Blessed Virgin. They are divided into groups of five, whereas every day you meditate on a different set of five mysteries, one mystery for every decade. The five mysteries added for some reason by John Paul II are not traditional and are therefore not considered here, but again there is no obligation as to what is the object of the meditation.

The way to pray (and the beauty of the rosary) is to allow your lips to regularly go through the Hail Marys whilst keeping your mind fixed on the relevant mystery. The mind being what it is, you’ll discover that you are easily distracted but the fact that you are vocally (much better than mentally) reciting the Hail Marys will help your mind to wander its thoughts on the meaning of the words of the Hail Mary and failing that, the vocal recitation will contribute to your fast recovery from your distraction.

Traditionally, a vocal recitation of the prayers will not require you to be sure that you never, ever lose concentration (and you will!). What will initially happen is a constant bouncing of your mind from the meditation to the words of the Hail Mary to what you want to eat for dinner and back to the words of the Hail Mary or to the meditation, in a constant play of wandering thoughts whilst still remaining more or less anchored in the meditation. In time, you will discover that you become more and more focused on the mysteries and your rosary becomes more spiritual, more relaxed (because you are not constantly “trying to stay focused”) and somewhat more rapid.

When a good practice has been attained, allow some twenty minutes for the rosary in its entirety (meaning here: the daily five decades). You can split the rosary into its components but if you interrupt a decade you’ll have to recite it again from the start.  To remain attentive it is a tradition to imagine that every Hail Mary is a rose you are giving to Mary, with the rosary being a beautiful garland.  You want your garland to be beautiful  and your roses fresh, right?

The rosary is a beautiful way to transform boring times of your day into an uplifting experience: for instance whilst waiting for the train or as an alternative to reading junk newspapers during your commute. A complete decade will take you (with practice) not more than three or four minutes. You’ll see how refreshingly beautiful it is.

Many are the Internet sites dedicated to the Rosary. Therein you will find descriptions of the mysteries and visual helps to aid your meditation efforts. The spiritual meaning of the rosary will also be discussed more in-depth and you will often find interesting historical information about the history and evolution of this beautiful devotion. Two links are given here on the right, under “Devotions”. Please do not neglect to read the Promises of Mary to the Christians who recite the rosary!

Here ends this little introduction. I hope that you will find the Rosary uplifting and that you will one day start his recitation as a daily practice. I have found the practice extremely beneficial and cannot imagine a life without it anymore.

Best wishes to you.


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