Tuesday 5 December 2023

What Will Hell Be Like? - Saint Alphonsus María de Liguori - TAN Books

What Will Hell Be Like?
Saint Alphonsus María de Liguori
Alphonsus Liguori
ISBN 9780895553416
eISBN 9781618902498

First I want to state that this is an excellent little volume. It is a great booklet. Second I first encountered this at the end of Stories about Purgatory & What They Reveal, as supplemental reading. It is also available as an eBook, Kindle, and booklet formats. During November 2023 I am reading through the book on Purgatory, and I picked up the eBook of this volume to read it during All Saints Day and All Souls Day. I am glad I picked it up and read the standalone version. But it is available as supplemental readings on a few of TAN’s other eBook titles.

The description of this volume states:

“Selections from St. Alphonsus' writings. Covers virtually every aspect of Hell. Shows it exists, describes its torments, proves it is eternal, demonstrates it is not unjust and answers a host of questions. Best short antidote for today's irreligion that we know.”

The chapters and sections in this volume are:

We Expect Reward or Punishment.
Teaching of Pagan Philosophers
Belief of Pagans
Where Is Hell Located?.
Catholic Teaching
Hell Is a Definite Place.
Pains of Hell
Fire of Hell
Can a Spiritual Soul Feel Fire?
Punishment by Cold
Remorse of Conscience
Suffering from Devils and Darkness
Pain of Loss of God
Teaching of St. Thomas
God Makes Heaven
God Makes Hell
Eternal Choice Is Made During Life
Greatest Pain of Hell.
The Damned Do Not Forget
The Damned Know Nothing About Us.
Do the Damned Have Faith?
The Will Is Set on Evil
Do the Damned Wish Evil to Others?.
Case of the Rich Man in Hell
Do the Damned Repent of Sin?
Hatred of God
Do the Damned Desire to Be Destroyed?.
Punishment of Hell Is Eternal
This Punishment Is Not Unjust
How Punishment Is Measured
The Patience of God
Jesus’ Parable of Dives and Lazarus
Fatima Children’s Vision of Hell

Prior to the table of contents is this verse:

“And I saw a great white throne, and one sitting upon it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away, and there was no place found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne, and the books were opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works . . . And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the pool of fire.”
—Apocalypse 20:11–12, 15

The chapters in this volume vary in length from single paragraphs up to 4 paragraphs. A few samples are:

What Will Hell Be Like?
THOUGH many of the pagans were true atheists, considering Hell a fable invented to frighten the wicked, the more renowned of the ancient philosophers such as Socrates, Xenophon, Aristotle, Plato and others had no difficulty in admitting the existence of a future life—a Heaven where the good would be rewarded, and a Hell where the evil are to be punished. Only the most perverted of men will deny that there is a God, the Creator and Governor of all things. Such men would prefer to deny the existence of God than to face the just chastisement of their own misdeeds.”

Catholic Teaching
Aside from these debatable opinions, a group of heretics known as the Ubiquitists maintained that Hell is not restricted to any determined place, but is to be found everywhere, since God has not destined any special place for the damned. This opinion, however, is evidently false, and contrary to the common belief of the Catholic Church which teaches us that God has established a definite place for the demons and the reprobate, as is evident from several texts of Sacred Scripture. St. Jerome deduces this specifically from a passage in the book of Numbers (Num. 16:31-33). Here is described the fate of Dathan and Abiron who were precipitated into Hell, falling into a chasm which opened under their very feet. At the same time a great flame burst from the earth and killed two hundred and fifty men who were accomplices in their sin. Moreover, in many passages of Sacred Scripture, the word “descend” is used in reference to Hell, indicating that Hell is situated in the bowels of the earth.”

Hell Is a Definite Place
This assertion is confirmed by a passage of St. Luke (16:22): “But the rich man also died and was buried in hell.” The sacred text employs the word “buried,” because burials are made within the earth. Moreover, the rich man himself describes Hell as a “place of torment” (Lk. 16:28), confirming the opinion that Hell is a determined and definite place. In another place it is called a “lake”; “Thou hast saved me from those descending into the lake” (Ps. 29:3); and elsewhere, a pool: “And the devil who deceived them was cast into the pool of fire and brimstone.” (Apoc. 20:9). It is evident, therefore, that Hell is a determined place, and most probably situated within the earth. But as to where, precisely, it is situated, whether at the very center of the earth or nearer to the surface, cannot be determined from any revealed document. St. Thomas also declared that the dimensions of Hell, which will be the dwelling place of the damned after the resurrection, cannot be determined.”

Remorse of Conscience
In addition to their sufferings from the heat and cold of the fire of Hell, Sacred Scripture enumerates a number of other torments which will afflict the damned. One of these is the “worm,” to which the Scriptures refer frequently. Some commentators have explained this “worm” as a material thing, which will feed upon, without consuming, the flesh of the damned. But most theologians explain it metaphorically as the remorse of conscience which will afflict the damned in the fire and darkness of Hell. Forever will they have imprinted on their memories the results of their sins; forever will they repeat the words ascribed to them in the book of Wisdom: “We have erred from the way of truth, we wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity and destruction and have walked through hard ways. What hath pride profited us? or what advantage hath the boasting of riches brought us? . . . Such things as these the sinners said in hell.” (Wis. 5:6-14).”

Teaching of St. Thomas
St. Thomas describes for us perfectly in what will consist the happiness of the elect and the torment of the reprobate. Insofar as his intellect is concerned, the Saint remarks, man will find complete joy in the vision of God; but, insofar as his affections are concerned, he will find complete satisfaction in the permanent union of his will with the infinite goodness of God. On the other hand, the torment of the damned will consist in being deprived of all divine light in his intellect, and in finding his affections obstinately turned away from the Divine Goodness. Elsewhere the saintly Doctor teaches that, though the punishment of the fire will be more terrifying, this separation from God is, however, a greater torment than that of the fire.”

And the volume ends with this piece:

Fatima Children’s Vision of Hell
(NOTE: In 1917 Our Blessed Mother appeared six times at Fatima, Portugal to Lucia dos Santos and Jacinta and Francisco Marto, three small children. During the course of these six world-famous apparitions—now approved by the Church as worthy of our devotion and propagation—the Blessed Virgin Mary made several startling statements and predictions, among them the outbreak of World War II if people did not change their lives. During the July 13 apparition, she allowed the children to see a vision of Hell. Following is Lucia’s description of what they saw.)

At this point, Lucia was heard to say aloud: “Yes, she wants people to recite the Rosary. People must recite the Rosary.” The Lady’s face then grew very grave and she said: “Sacrifice yourselves for sinners and say often, especially when you make some sacrifice: ‘0 my Jesus, this is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the offences committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.— At these words, she opened her hands on the three children once again and the light streaming from them seemed to penetrate the earth, and the children beheld a vision of Hell. Lucia cried out in terror, calling upon Our Lady. “We could see a vast sea of fire,” she revealed many years later. “Plunged in the flames were demons and lost souls, as if they were red-hot coals, transparent and black or bronze-colored, in human form, which floated about in the conflagration, borne by the flames which issued from them, with clouds of smoke, falling on all sides as sparks fall in a great conflagration without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of sorrow and despair that horrified us and caused us to tremble with fear. The devils could be distinguished by horrible and loathesome forms of animals, frightful and unknown, but transparent like black coals that have turned red-hot.” Full of fear, the children raised their eyes beseechingly to the Lady, who said to them with unspeakable sadness and tenderness: “You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go. In order to save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If people do what I ask, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”

Lucia later stated that although the vision lasted “but an instant,” she felt they would have died of fear and terror if Our Lady had not already promised to take them to Heaven.”

I hope those samples give you a feel for the volume. The booklet is listed as 24 pages, the eBook 21, and Kindle 22. It is a small volume, but it is packed full of great material. I keep seeing meme’s that state something along the lines of “Life is short, eternity is long … prepare for it.” This is a little volume that will help with that preparation. And inspire us to be praying for friends and family, as well as working out our own sanctification. 

This is an excellent little booklet. I can easily recommend it. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews 2023 Catholic Reading Plan!

Review of other books by Saint Alphonsus María de Liguori:

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