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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Compunction Two--On Hell

The beginning of the section on hell in Father von Cochem, The Four Last Things, written in 1899, sounds like something from 2015...

Death is not an easy thing to face or "go through".  I shall return to his section on death. But, I wanted to skip to Father's part on hell, as it is difficult for most Catholics today to realize that going to hell is a real possibility for each of us.

Thinking on the Four Last Things can help one train one's conscience to be more sensitive, and have more compunction. To become more aware that even a venial sin offends God must be the goal of every person who wants to be a saint. Christ Himself refers to hell and the fires of hell. These fires cannot be seen as symbolic, or as poetry. Here is a bit from Father's book.

I. On the Fire of Hell.

ALTHOUGH in the present day many are found to deny the existence of Hell, or, at any rate, the eternity of punishment, we do not consider it incumbent upon us to bring forward a number of proofs that there is such a place as Hell. In the case of the Christian reader, for whom this book is intended, evidence of this nature is quite superfluous, because he will not have made shipwreck of his faith. Indeed, what further proofs can be required for the existence of Hell and the eternity of punishment, seeing that the prophets, that Christ Himself, that the apostles, and the Fathers of the Church, nay, the very Turks and heathens, speak of it as an unquestioned fact. Those who deny the existence of Hell must consequently be counted amongst the fools who say in their heart that there is no God who punishes their misdeeds. 

It would undoubtedly be very agreeable for these people if all things ended with this life, if there were no day of reckoning, or if, at least, the infernal regions were somewhat less intolerable. This accounts for their catching at any apparent arguments wherewith to delude themselves and lull to sleep their fear of the eternal chastisements of Hell. We will not enter upon any examination of the wretched sophisms wherewith these fools deceive themselves ; for the teaching of the Catholic Church on this point is all we need* She teaches that there is a place or state of unequalled and never-ending pain in reserve for the damned. 

We know that there really is fire in Hell, from the words Christ spoke to the wicked : " Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his Angels " (Matt. xxv. 41). This shows that there is real fire in Hell, and that in it the damned must burn eternally. What the intensity of that pain will be it is beyond the power of man to depict. For of all the varied kinds of physical suffering to which man can be subjected, there is none so great, so cruel, so agonizing, as that which is caused by fire. The rack, the wheel, amputation of a man's limbs, are all terrible torture, but they are not to be compared to the pain of burning. If one does but touch a red-hot iron, what exquisite pain it occasions! In a moment the skin is off, the raw flesh protrudes, blood and matter exude from the wound, and the pain goes to the very marrow of our bones. One cannot refrain from crying out and screaming as if one had lost one’s senses. Now if momentary contact with the red-hot iron causes such acute pain, what would it be if one had to hold a red-hot iron for any length of time 

Compunction may arise for contemplating hell. This type of compunction is imperfect, but enough to bring us to repentance and salvation.

Father quotes Isaiah:

"Behold, the wrath of the Lord burneth and is heavy to bear, His lips are filled with indignation, and His tongue as a devouring fire. His breath as a torrent overflowing even to the midst of the neck, to destroy the nations unto nothing." And again: " Topheth (Hell) is prepared from yesterday, deep and wide. The nourishment thereof is fire and much wood ; the breath of the Lord as a torrent of brimstone kindling it" (Is. xxx. 27, 33). 

The priest refers to St. Augustine as well.

 St. Augustine tells us that the most fearful fire on earth is, in comparison with the fire of Hell, like a painting of fire compared to a real fire. 

I am afraid that many people will go to hell from our times. This is why we must share the Gospel and love in and out of season. We, also, must resolve to endure the suffering of purgation. Purification is a gift from God.


Woe betide me and all who have the terrible misfortune to commit mortal sin. May God keep me from such sin as would be the means of casting me into eternal perdition. I will gladly suffer all things, the greatest temporal troubles, the acutest pains, even the cruellest death, in order to escape everlasting torment in Hell. This is my firm purpose; wherefore grant me Thy grace and strengthen me in my good resolution.