Tag Archives: hell

Restoring sense of the sacred at the heavenly banquet of Mass


If Hell is where the doors of Heaven (and even Purgatory) are closed, what word should be used to describe where the doors of churches have been closed?

“Hell” might be an exaggeration for some, but “Purgatory” is not. American Catholics had been prevented, since mid-March, from participating as fully in the liturgy as they would have liked. The heavenly banquet of the Mass became very sparsely populated due to concern over spreading the most recent of the coronaviruses, COVID-19

Where They Always Stay Six Feet Away

Despite what more people are seeing as an overreaction, many positives have come from the unusual situation— positives that have perhaps helped purify souls for Heaven.

For example, this year Lent went from being “outdated” to mandated. People who in February thought of deliberately toning things down as useless or even ridiculous, were forced to accept such practices. Closings of baseball stadiums, concert halls, and restaurants coincided with shortages of basic goods that had always been there. Even if the motives were not supernatural, the material realities were suddenly the same for everyone. Simplicity ruled the day, and there was more time to ponder the meaning of suffering and the ultimate end of life.

The word “quarantine” was commonly used, and it was said that it comes from the Italian quarantina for “40 days.” That amount of time – the length of Lent – was impressed upon many.

“Social distancing” has also become popular, as citizens have been instructed to stay six feet apart. This has brought cemeteries to mind, where bodies underground always respect the six-foot boundary.

Girms on Your Hands

Concern over stopping the spread of germs got some people to thinking more about spreading the GIRM—that is, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, a document providing guidelines for the celebration of the Mass. While it has gone through official changes over the years, the GIRM has also been through unofficial ones when individuals or communities decide to do things their own way.

For example, shaking hands during the sign of peace has become widespread, despite not being recommended, or even mentioned, in the GIRM. Routine distribution of the Precious Blood by extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion has also become widespread, despite no endorsement of the practice. In fact, there is even explicit rejection of it in documents such as Inaestimabile Donum and On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of the Priest.

Dr. Lynne Bissonnette-Pitre has been pondering these types of points for years. The Portland, Oregon-based choir director’s liturgical interest grew into organizing the first Sacred Liturgy Conference in 2012. It started with the purpose of sharing the sublime teachings on the Mass from Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessors, in the context of chanted Traditional Latin Masses. Its first installment hosted 75 people, and it has grown in subsequent years to over 400.

Dr. Pitre has a keen interest not in only in sharing accurate information about the Mass, but in ensuring that the very delivery itself is worthy of God’s temple. She explained it like this: “The highest calling upon our lives is to be holy as He is holy, to abide in His Presence and to live in His perfect will. To this end the Lord and His apostles have given to the Church the Eucharistic liturgy, which contains all that is necessary for us to contemplate God. Through beholding His glory in the Eucharist, we are changed into His likeness.”

The Sacred Liturgy Conference, which moved from various Oregon locations to Spokane, Washington in 2019, has featured speakers such as former Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (the highest juridical authority in the Church) Cardinal Raymond Burke. This year’s installment was set to feature Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, former Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, but social distancing had the final say. However, there are already plans to hold the event in Spokane June 1-4, 2021, to cap off that diocese’s “Year of the Eucharist.”

Conference Calls

There are other liturgically oriented groups who have made the call (or had the call made for them) to continue, postpone, move online, or cancel altogether. The Saint Gregory Institute of Sacred Music’s Master Class in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – featuring the primary organist of St. Peter’s Basilica – took place in virtual this past spring.

The Institute’s founder, Nicholas Will, actually started the 2019- 2020 school year in Italy, but returned home to Pittsburgh in March as COVID-19 became a crisis in that country. While there have been literal casualties and other challenges in these odd times, Will has also seen positives. The Franciscan University of Steubenville professor said that, since Gregorian chant can be done without instrumental accompaniment or congregational participation, it is ideal for televised Masses in which only a few people are physically present.

Of the televised Masses that have become popular recently, Will said: “This may be some Catholics’ first exposure to chant, and it comes at a time when everything we take for granted concerning the sacraments is being challenged. My hope is that after this era of social distancing, many Catholics will find themselves more open to chant [which should be given pride of place in liturgical services, according to Vatican II] and other forms of sacred music, such as Renaissance polyphony.”

Booking Your Place at Mass

While online liturgical services have become very popular for those unable to be physically present in church, so have low-tech options. Missals, Bibles, Catechisms, Gospel commentaries, and other printed books have become more relevant than ever.

Mother of Our Savior and Refuge of Sinners Publishing has seen a sharp increase in sales of such items. General manager Rose Michna said, for example, that “We have a booklet called Holy Mass for the Absent that is doing very well due to church services being canceled.” She also said that ten-packs of holy cards with a Spiritual Communion prayer are selling better than usual, along with [Venerable Martin Von] Cochem’s Explanation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, an eye-opening book on the perfect offering found in the Catholic liturgy

Genuinely Christocentric liturgy is also a high priority of other publishers, including Ignatius Press (which prints then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s The Spirit of the Liturgy), Roman Catholic Books (which prints Father Robert Hayburn’s Papal Legislation on Sacred Music), and Preserving Christian Publications (which prints Bishop Juan Rodolfo Laise’s updated Holy Communion).

One point addressed in Holy Communion was how some saints made fewer sacramental receptions of Holy Communion but attained an apparently higher sanctity than weekly or even daily communicants display now. This gives hope to those unable to physically receive the Eucharist in their mouths, but always able to do so spiritually in their hearts.

As the faithful are finally able to receive the Eucharist again sacramentally, it is likely being done with much more humility, attentiveness, and appreciation than if things had gone on as planned. Indeed, all things, including this purgatorial experience, work together unto the good for those who love God.

TRENT BEATTIE is a Legatus magazine contributing writer

Hell – real-time risk for the obstinate

One day one of the girls of Fatima asked Our Lady: “Could a condemned soul repent? Could God take him from hell and put him in paradise?” Our Lady responded: “Oh yes, He could, but they do not wish it!”

When one persists in evil, nothing can be done. I once asked a demon, “But you, if you could go back, would you do the same thing? Don’t you see that, before, you were happy in Paradise and now you are damned to Hell?” “You don’t understand me,” he answered. “I have the strength and courage to rebel against God! Therefore, I am superior to Him!”

When a being believes that disobeying and sinning against God makes him superior to God, nothing can be done.

It is impossible for a damned soul, a soul already in Hell, to be saved. It is impossible.

All the conceivable attempts to convert him have already been offered to him by God. Saint Peter tells us, “The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God wishes everyone’s conversion, and then one sees so many perverse people to whom everything is given, and everything goes well: they have health, financial success, and friends. Everything goes smoothly. In addition, God gives them opportunities to convert while they are on earth: afterward there are no more chances. What has been done has been done!

We have no idea whether a condemned soul becomes a demon in every way or remains “chained.” We have so many descriptions of Hell given by saints who have had the grace to see it. They give different descriptions but always speak of atrocious sufferings.

For example, regarding solitude, I once asked a demon: “If two people hated each other until death and found themselves together in Hell, would they continue to hate each other?”

He responded, “Don’t you understand that each soul in Hell thinks only of himself? He does not look at others. He is focused solely on his own suffering. He makes light of the suffering of all others.”


Hell is reserved for those who refuse the mercy of God up to the last instant, because God offers the possibility of conversion up to the last instant.

Excerpt taken from Father Amorth: My Battle Against Satan, by Fr. Gabriele Amorth (with Elizabeth Fezzi), Sophia Institute Press, 2018. From Part I entitled “The Last Conversations,” pp. 70-72. www.sophiainstitute.com.

Late priest of the Congregation of San Paolo, FR. GABRIELE AMORTH (1925-2016) was recognized as the world’s greatest exorcist. His mission of expelling Satan through incessant dedication earned the gratitude of thousands, and esteem of the highest Church authorities. He wrote many works, and hosted a popular radio program on Radio Maria.

The Four Last Things: A Catechetical Guide to Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell

Fr. Wade L.J. Menezes, C.P.M.
EWTN Publishing, 110 pages

No one likes to dwell much on the fact we draw nearer to death with every passing moment, but that is an inevitability of life. So is judgment, and so is our final destiny of eternal happiness or eternal separation from God. Father Menezes’ book walks us through these ultimate realities with the assurance that we need not fear any of it if we trust in Christ, lead lives of faith, and keep our eyes on the Beatific Vision for which we were created. His closing section on “The Necessity of the Spiritual Life” offers practical guidance for doing just that.

Order:  EWTN PublishingAmazon

What are the Four Last Things?

PETER KREEFT breaks down the Catholic understanding of God’s judgment . . .

Peter Kreeft

Peter Kreeft

The Church’s teaching about life after death is summarized in the Four Last Things — death, judgment, heaven, and hell. However, even humanity outside the Church instinctively knows something about these four things.

Life’s one certainty is death. Everyone knows this, though not everyone knows what comes next. Nearly all religions, cultures and individuals in history have believed in some form of life after death. Man’s innate sense of justice tells him that there must be an ultimate reckoning, that in the final analysis no one can cheat the moral law and get away with it or suffer undeserved injustices throughout life and not be justly compensated. Since this ultimate justice does not seem to be accomplished in this life, there must be “the rest of the story.”

This instinctive conviction that there must be a higher, more-than-human justice is nearly universal. Thus the second of the Four Last Things, judgment, is also widely known. As Scripture says, “Whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb 11:6). The final judgment is an encounter with Christ.

Most men also know that justice distinguishes the good from the evil and, therefore, that after death there must be separate destinies for us — rewards for good and punishments for evil. Thus mankind also usually believes in some form of heaven and hell.

There are only two eternal destinies: heaven or hell, union or disunion with God. Each one of us will be either with God or without him forever. If hell is not real, the Church and the Bible are also liars. Our basis for believing in the reality of hell is exactly the same authority as our basis for believing in the reality of heaven: Christ, his Church, and her scriptures.

If hell is not real, then Jesus Christ is either a fool or a liar for he warned us repeatedly and with utmost seriousness about it. There is no reincarnation, no “second chance” after time is over. There is no annihilation, no end of the soul’s existence. There is no change of species from human being to angel or to anything else.

The particular judgment occurs immediately after each individual’s death. The general judgment takes place at the end of all time and history.

So the scenario of final events is: (a) first, death; (b) then, immediately, the particular judgment; (c) then, either hell, or purgatory as preparation for heaven, or heaven; (d) and, at the end of time, the general judgment; (e) and the “new heavens and new earth” for those who are saved.

PETER KREEFT, a professor of philosophy at Boston College, is the best-selling author of over 75 books. This column is reprinted with permission from his book “Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church” (Ignatius Press, 2001).

Catechism 101

Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith.

Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven — through a purification or immediately — or immediate and everlasting damnation. At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1021-1022

Everyone goes to heaven, right?

KARL KEATING writes that many people mistakenly believe they are heaven-bound . . .

Karl Keating

Karl Keating

Is that so? Haven’t you been reading the headlines? Many people behave as though they’re basically evil, including many who never make the news.

Is the abortionist a good fellow? What about those who seem to build their lives around a particular sin? Have they given their hearts to Christ — or to their passions?

True, God created everything good, including every person. But we have free will, which we can use or abuse. We all abuse it at times, and we call such abuse sin. Some people will continue in sin until the end, at which time they will take the down escalator. Others will repent of their sins and die in the state of grace; they will take the up escalator. How many will be on each escalator? We simply don’t know. Scripture doesn’t tell us the proportion outright, but there are unpleasant suggestions: “How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life” (Mt 7:14); “many are invited, but few are chosen” (Mt 22:14).

When asked whether only a few will be saved, Jesus replied, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough” (Lk 13:24). Indeed, in the New Testament hell is mentioned about 30 times. Our Lord refers to “eternal fire” (Mt 18:8) and “fiery Gehenna” (Mt 18:9). Paul wraps it up by saying that when the Lord returns, he will inflict with “blazing fire those who do not acknowledge God” (2 Thes 1:8-9).

The idea that most people will go to heaven arises, perhaps, when people lack a sense of the seriousness of sin — and when they concentrate on God’s mercy to the exclusion of his justice. More than that, the idea is that he will save even those who don’t want to be saved. He won’t force his mercy or his salvation on anyone.

Salvation is a free gift, which, as with any gift, can be declined. We have no good reason to think that there will be only a few decliners. It isn’t so much a matter of God consigning anyone to hell as of the unrepentant sinner consigning himself there. The damned choose to go to hell by choosing self over God. They remain there, impenitent, unable to repent because they have grown absolute in their hatred of God.

This is all a consequence of the most frightening and glorious of our attributes: free will. God allows us to choose him or to choose ourselves. He gives us free rein to decide where we’ll go. He gives each of us enough grace to gain heaven. Only those who reject the grace go elsewhere.

KARL KEATING is the founder of Catholic Answers. This column is reprinted with permission from his book “What Catholics Really Believe — Setting the Record Straight: 52 Answers to Common Misconceptions About the Catholic Faith.”

Catechism 101

The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1035, 1037

Will fallen-away Catholics go to hell?

Karl Keating writes that some fallen-away Catholics will make it to heaven . . .

Karl Keating

Karl Keating

Some will, some won’t. We don’t know the proportions, but leaving the Church is always a blunder. Let’s look first at what makes one a member of the Church.

Pope Pius XII put it concisely in his encyclical On the Mystical Body of Christ, 1943: “Only those are to be accounted really members of the Church who have been regenerated in the waters of baptism, profess the one true faith, and have not cut themselves off from the structure of the Body by their own unhappy act or been severed therefrom, for very grave crimes, by the legitimate authority.”

So three things identify the full Catholic: (1) valid reception of the sacrament of baptism, (2) profession of the Catholic faith, and (3) participation in the communion of the Church. By manifesting these marks, one comes under the triple office of the Church: priestly (baptism), teaching (confession of faith), and pastoral (obedience to Church authority).

When you were baptized, an indelible mark was placed on your soul. You never need to be baptized again because there’s no way to undo your baptism. Not even the worst sin, including heresy and apostasy, can remove a valid baptism.

Catholic tradition has held that those dissociating themselves from the Church voluntarily cease to be full members of the Church. In short, neither heretics nor schismatics are considered full members of the Church.

People leave the Church for various reasons. Some never were “in” it except out of habit. Their faith, if not dead, was a candidate for the intensive care unit. One day they simply stopped going to Mass, and that was that.

Others want spiritual nourishment but can’t seem to find it in their parishes, so they go elsewhere. There is an irony in this, of course, since the greatest spiritual nourishment is the Eucharist, which is available in every parish.

Still others leave in good faith, thinking that the Catholic faith is untrue and some other faith is true. If they and the others don’t realize their actions are wrong, they remain related to the Church spiritually, even though they cease to be legal members of it. They still may achieve justification and salvation, but these are harder to achieve the further they distance themselves from the complete truth, found only in the Catholic Church, and ordinary sources of grace, the sacraments.

If people leave in bad faith, then they have adopted for their motto what Dante put above the gates of hell: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” No one knowingly abandoning the truth and failing to repent can be saved.

KARL KEATING is the founder of Catholic Answers. This column is reprinted with permission from his book “What Catholics Really Believe, Setting the Record Straight: 52 Answers to Common Misconceptions About the Catholic Faith” (Ignatius Press, San Francisco 1995).

Catechism 101

Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ’s Body… do not occur without human sin: Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 2089, 817

To hell with the excommunicated?

Does the Church damn those who are excommunicated. The answer may surprise you . . .

Karl Keating

Karl Keating

Not necessarily. Only God can condemn anyone to hell. It’s not within the Church’s power to do so. The Church’s role is to help people to heaven by teaching and sanctifying. Of course, people can ignore the teaching and reject the grace. If they do and end up in hell, they go there by their own choice.

Excommunication is a Church penalty which excludes a notorious sinner — or someone grossly disobedient to Church teaching — from the communion of the faithful. It doesn’t mean the person ceases to be a Christian. Its purpose is to warn the individual that he risks losing his soul unless he repents.

We’ve seen examples of excommunication in our own time. In 1953, some bishops in China ordained new bishops without the approval of Pope Pius XII. The ordaining bishops and those they ordained were excommunicated under a provision of canon law which stated that episcopal ordinations may be performed only with the pope’s approval. These new bishops had been ordained for the Chinese Patriotic Church, a government-controlled off shoot of the Catholic Church. Other Chinese bishops remained loyal to Rome and found themselves imprisoned — the penalty for loyalty to Church authority.

In 1988, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre ordained new bishops to oversee the religious society he had founded. The ordinations were done against the wishes of Pope John Paul II. Archbishop Lefebvre, another ordaining bishop, and the three new bishops were excommunicated automatically. In this case and the Chinese case, people were excommunicated not for teaching heresy, but for gross disobedience.

Excommunication is rarely used nowadays. At one time, it’s true, it was used too frequently, and the Council of Trent warned bishops to be more careful in its application. The Council said excommunication must be used sparingly. Its purpose is to bring the wayward back to the practice of the faith and to obedience. If excommunication is wielded crudely, it will lose its effectiveness and may do more harm than good.

Now to a corollary. When Paul said that anyone preaching a heretical gospel would be anathema (Gal 1:8), he didn’t condemn the person to hell. He labeled that individual a false teacher. When the Church, in an official decree at a council, accompanies its decisions with anathemas, it’s merely doing the same thing as Paul. It’s saying, “And anyone who teaches otherwise is a false teacher.” It is not condemning anyone to hell.

Karl Keating is the founder of Catholic Answers. This column is reprinted with permission from his book “What Catholics Really Believe — Setting the Record Straight: 52 Answers to Common Misconceptions About the Catholic Faith,” pages 17-19 (Ignatius Press, San Francisco 1995).