|Hell's jaws in a Cotswold church|
There has been a correspondence touching on this in the Catholic Herald; my contribution is in the current edition.
Stratford Caldecott (Letters, Jan 25) makes clear that the theologian Balthasar did not assume that all are saved. We can go further than this: as well as hearing many times in the Gospels, in general terms, that 'many' are lost and 'few' saved (Mat 7:13-14, 22.14, and passim), we also learn specifically that Judas Iscariot was damned. Our Lord says of him 'it were better for him, if that man had not been born' (Mat 26:24); after his suicide, St Peter affirms that he went 'to his own place' (Acts 1:25).
|Dante, pointing to Mount Purgatory|
The smallest suggestion of such a guarantee is not only contrary to Scripture, but is utterly destructive of the apostolic work of Catholics, and of the sense of the urgency of repentance of sinners. Rather than fall prey to the false hope that somehow God will make everything all right without us lifting a finger, we should redouble our prayers for sinners. With this in view, the Latin Mass Society has launched the Sodality of St Augustine to unite our prayers for lapsed Catholics and others with the ceaseless prayer of the Church for this intention. Full details can be found on our website, LMS.org.uk.
My letter is accompanied by a rather amusing, and touching, testimonial from a certain Bernard Keigher, 'brought up in the 1940s', who has a healthy fear of hell: just as he developed early a healthy fear of 'hot irons, breaking school rules, and a lot more'. Of course we should fear hell: it is a fearful place. That doesn't exclude the love of God: on the contrary, the more we love God, the more we should be horrified at the possibility of losing Him. But we should fear hell even if our love of God is underdeveloped. As Mr Keigher concludes:
I hope to greet all the readers of The Catholic Herald in heaven one day. In my very humble opinion a lot more of them will make it if they believe in hell.
Making the possibility of damnation as vivid as possible has always been the practice of the Church. In this she follows her Founder, so if you don't like it you'd better take it up with Him. Here is a good example from the life of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi (1769-1837), who was granted private revelations of a particularly impressive kind. She lived in Rome, and the following was presented during the investigation of her for her beatification, by her confessor. Following a discussion of the number of the saved, she
saw the destiny of those who had died during that day. Very few, not as many as ten, went straight to heaven; many remained in purgatory, and those cast into hell were as numerous as flakes of snow in midwinter.
(Quoted in 'Wife, Mother, Mystic' by Albert Bessieres SJ, trans Rev Stephen Rigby. p184, footnote.)
If you feel compassion for those poor souls, instead of pretending hell doesn't exist, get on your knees and pray for the conversion of sinners! John the Sodality of St Augustine.