Visions of Hell

I am going to delay a week before continuing the explanations of the various spaces and elements in the Catholic Church.

We are immersed in this centenary year of the apparitions of Our Lady to the three Shepherd Children at Fatima, Portugal, and
yesterday, Saturday, May 13 was the 100th anniversary of the first of the six apparitions. So today, I would like to focus on the
tremendous impact those apparitions, prophecies and promises by Our Lady of the Rosary had, and should continue to have, on
all of us believing Christians. When I say “believing” Christians I include all those who have been brought to be believers
because of the astounding miraculous occurrences that the children boldly predicted as to time, place and date, and then …
actually took place. While what the children were told by the Virgin Mary would happen…did indeed happen, this was
considered private revelation. However more than 70,000 people gathered for the widely reported 6th apparition, on October 13, 1917,
primarily out of curiosity and disbelief, and became part of the testimony of this private revelation.

This miraculous event was so widely reported in 1917 that there are still available today copies of newspaper accounts,
quoting myriad eyewitnesses, including the reporters themselves, as well as, photos of the tremendous crowds. When I encounter
persons, even acquaintances, that espouse to be atheists or agnostics, the first place to which I turn them, is to their computer to
google “Fatima Apparitions.” There they will find attestation of Mary, the mother of Jesus, drawing multitudes to believe… albeit for many of those, it was ignited by fear. For the nonbeliever there is no denying that Fatima was miraculous.

I mentioned fear as being a factor, as it truly is often part of coming to belief. The original “Act of Contrition” began …”Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you. And I detest all my sins because of the loss of heaven and the pains of hell…”. That has since been amended to become a “Perfect Act of Contrition”, eliminating fear as the reason for our sorrow. It now begins as this… “Oh my God I am heartily sorry for having offended you. And I detest all my sins because of Your just punishments…”. Well now, somewhat lost in all of Our Lady of Fatima’s promises and prophecies, is the fact that she gave those three “grade school children” a vision of hell and Fatima miracles gave credence to the testimony by the children of their vision of hell.

But now, consider this, just 20 days prior to yesterday’s celebration of our Lady of Fatima, we celebrated Divine
Mercy Sunday, which came to be by Our Lord appearing to the visionary, Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, and making her His
Apostle of Mercy. The closeness of these two events on the Church calendar invites comparison. I ran across a commentary in
the National Catholic Register by Paul Kengor, pointing out the common elements of these two messages as being “Repentance”
and “Mercy.” The title of this commentary was: “Fatima and Faustina Offer Frightening Visions of Hell”. Here is an excerpt
of his findings:

“There is one commonality between the two that I found most interesting and enlightening…even frightening: their
jarringly similar visions of hell. As for Fatima, that vision was given to the Shepherd children…Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta…
on July 13, 1917. Granted by the Blessed Lady, the vision was horrible, monstrous and terrifying – so much so that, as the
children were permitted to view, they were divinely infused with a protective grace that enabled them to observe the scene
without being so terrified as to perish at the sight. Lucia later described it as a ‘Sea of Fire,’ filled with ‘demons and souls in
human form, like transparent embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagrations, now raised into the
air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke…amid shrieks and groans of pain and
despair, which horrified us.’ She said the demons could be distinguished by their ‘terrifying and repellent likeness to
frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals.’ It was after this vision that the lady taught a special
prayer to the shepherd children… what we now know as the ‘Fatima Prayer’ that ends each decade of the Rosary: ‘O my Jesus,
forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy.’

That redemptive mission of mercy was precisely the one charged to sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, who became
Jesus’ specially appointed ‘Apostle of Mercy’ to save sinners from the fires of hell. And it was 19 years after the Fatima
children received their vision of hell, that Faustina received hers. In late October 1936, Faustina was doing an eight day
retreat. One day during this retreat she was led by an Angel to what she called the ‘chasms of hell.’ She described it in her Diary
as a place of great torture and fire that will penetrate the soul without destroying it… a terrible suffering.’ This hell was filled
with darkness, and, despite that darkness, ‘the devils and the souls of the damned see each other and all the evil, both of others
and their own.’ She also observed, Dante-like sections of hell reserved for specific agonies earned in this fallen world. ‘There are
caverns and pits of torture where one form of agony differs from another,’ she recorded in her now-famous Diary. She said that
what she was sharing was merely ‘a pale shadow of the things I saw. But I noticed one thing: that most of the souls there are
those who disbelieved that there is a hell.’ In a situation akin to what the Fatima children reported. She added, ‘I would have died
at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God had not supported me.’ She testified in her diary: ‘I, Sister Faustina
Kowalska, by the order of God, have visited the abysses of hell so that I might tell souls about it and testify to its existence.’
Then, much like the Fatima prayer, she urged our fervent prayer for the ‘conversion of sinners’ to be saved from the fires of hell.

Some readers will find these two visions frightening in their similarity, which, of course, they are. But I also find their similarity
ironically reassuring… Reassuring in the sense that the two analogous visions and messages, received less than two decades
apart, strike me as more believable because they are so comparable, given two totally separate people on separate occasions. And
moreover, scary as they are, they also echo a positive urgency to mercy. Through these visions and their messengers, the divine
is giving us yet another chance. We are being warned to get ourselves in order, to stop sitting still and instead, reach for conversion and redemption, before it’s too late.”

So let us not be fearful! There is no reason to fear if we simply resolve to avoid evil, avoid bad choices,
and whenever we slip to quickly turn to his limitless mercy in the Sacrament of Mercy and eliminate any need to

Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!

Father Denis