Category Archives: Eschatology

I’m Working on a Book on Eschatology

I’ve been writing a book on Eschatology. I’m about half way through the first draft. I expect to finish in January, 2017.

Working title: “Every Life Matters: The Fundamentals of Catholic Eschatology.”

Here’s hoping it gets accepted for publication.

It will be covering the basics, without undue excesses of an academic text. However, it will regard the matters debated among serious theologians (and heretics). Thus, it will ask for a reader to be educated and thoughtful.

Limitations of Liberation Theology – Part II

Observe Gustavo Gutiérrez’s words:

“The prophets announce a kingdom of peace. But peace presupposes the establishment of justice…. It presupposes the defense of the rights of the poor, punishment of the oppressors, a life free from the fear of being enslaved by others, the liberation of the oppressed. Peace, justice, love, and freedom are not private realities; they are not only internal attitudes. They are social realities, implying a historical liberation. A poorly understood spiritualization has often made us forget the human consequences of the eschatological promises and the power to transform unjust social structures which they imply. The elimination of misery and exploitation is a sign of the coming of the Kingdom” (Theology of Liberation, p. 97).

Some comments. First, it is true that if we love God, we must love our neighbor. That we cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor. However, love of God is absolutely primary. The reason we love our neighbor is the love of God, or else we are not loving our neighbor properly. Gutiérrez does not retain this balanced hierarchy. His strategy in fact inverts the hierarchy and eliminates balance. (a) He insists, against the hierarchy, that there must be a “both and”, as though implying that the hierarchy is an “either or”. That is the first false move. (b) He isolates the love of neighbor as though that is primary. His very focus on it makes it primary.

Second, to love is to will the good to someone. The chief good we ought to will to our neighbor is the greatest good, that good for which he was born: Union with God. Now, God is spirit, and the union with him is spiritual. Therefore, the chief good we will for our neighbor, if we truly love him, must be spiritual. To be sure, since we are also animal, our good must also be physical. We are rational animals, so our goods must be not merely “animal goods” but rational: music (the rational movement of sound), humor, just relations, natural sex, etc. Gutiérrez, however, employs his bait and switch tactic again. (a) He insists on a “both and,” both spiritual and physical goods. Here, his insistence is that a focus on the spiritual is false; thus, he flattens the hierarchy. (b) Then, he focuses on the physical goods and social “structures,” thereby effectively casting aside the spiritual or subjugating it to the priority of the physical.

Gutiérrez’s moves are highly dangerous for the soul and for the good of man. For human dignity suggests that the rational goods of contemplation and friendship transcend the entire order of physical goods on the level of animal survival and basic comfort. When we have a distorted view of the whole, we will take any strategy to secure the narrow good we have defined. Such strategies, among the liberationists, include those of Marxist revolution, violence, rebellion, subversion, sedition, etc. Thus, they would throw the world into chaos in order to achieve their illusory notions of true peace.

But our Lord speaks of a peace “not that the world gives, but which I give.” Only when we live from that peace which comes down as a gift from the Father of lights, rightly ordering our passions so that each of us is an icon of peace and right order, can we turn to our neighbor without a distorting vision and a violent or unnatural or aggressive of mistaken hand, and give him what he needs, when he needs it, as he needs it. Only when we live by that gift coming down can our internal justice pour forth into social relations that build up a kingdom of God based not on sociological ideologies but on the truth of Christ’s anointing, bringing brothers into one. James indeed rebukes us for claiming we love God while neglecting our brothers. He also tells us that the origin of wars and injustice is sin, that is, personal sin and injustice. The origin is not “structures” except insofar as these are in turn rooted in personal sin.

If we come trumpeting our “social structures” as the cause of all evil, we will also patronize the victims, mislead them into an erroneous vision of the whole, and bring destruction and ruin on civilization. The real “revolution” is in fact a return to the wellsprings of nature and grace, a return to God the giver of all good things. The Marxist revolution against these wellsprings of course gives the nod to all the western decadence of the sexual perversions in which our society is currently awash. For, having abandoned the truth of God and his worship, we are left to our own dim lights. Our creativity, wrested from the moorings of nature and grace, is un-fruitful vs. fruitful, it is unnatural vs. natural, it is not tender, vs. tender, it leads to brokenness vs. union, death vs. life. Let us return to the God who made us, and who made us, male and female, “very good.”

True Heaven vs. Banal Naturalism / Humanism

Once again, Garrigou-Lagrange wants to lift up the reader’s mind to the heights of heaven. Truly to contemplate, in however non-detailed a manner, how awesome is that to which we are called.

We all know, however, that sometimes when we imagine heaven, we get bored pretty quick. That tells more about us and our limited imagination than about the boredom to come. We know we shall not be bored, but we cannot picture it.

Hilarious: My son once asked, “Will we pass gas in heaven?” I responded, “No.” He retorted, “That’s ridiculous.” I think he was eight at the time. But he’s right in a way. When we try to get to details, we fall off the mark. On the other hand, if we just live for today, with no thought of tomorrow, we cannot map our priorities in the best way. Then, we will get unduly upset about things that should cause us less pain than otherwise.

How to keep the vision high? I’m not so sure. But that we must keep it high is crucial.
One ingredient Lagrange insists on is differentiating the true essence of the holy vision from false sentiments of “happiness to come.”

He writes,

“What a world separates the true idea of heaven from heaven as conceived by naturalism, by pantheism, a heaven which would be married to hell beyond good and bad, a heaven where without renouncing anything men would find supreme beatitude. This is the heaven defended by the secret doctrines of the counter-Church which begins with the Gnostics of old and continues in present-day occult doctrines that produce universal confusion. In the second part of Faust, Goethe is inspired by naturalism, so distant from Christian faith,” (Life Everlasting, p. 172, n. 20).

When we ask too little of souls, we belittle their worth and their calling. When we act as though heaven did not require repentance, we insult the very sinner himself. When we preach mercy without adequate articulation of the rigors of divine justice and the power – the truly healing power – of divine graces, we deprive souls of the reason to hope for great things. We make a marxist heaven, a down to earth ending, we make our exalted religion crass, we tread over delicate things, we make what is sacred into something … something, not simply profane but… —banal! And no one believes the banal. The banal is worthy of the rubbish heap.

But, when we demand excellence; when we exhort to sanctity, when we uphold the full extent of the moral law, when we cling to Tradition, when we sing the Wonder ever ancient and ever new, then, truly, do we raise a realistic hope: Arduous, to be sure, but firm and lasting and awesome.

Good Old Garrigou-Lagrange: Purgatory and the Meaning of Life

Purgatory tells us that iniquity is punished, that there is retributive justice, that one cannot simply stop sinning and everything is alright but that offenses must be expiated and forgiven.

Purgatory also tells us that our life gains great meaning from the seemingly senseless suffering we endure. Note that if we lack a rational explanation of our suffering, but we still suffer anyway, that we will grow very angry at the apparently meaningless suffering.

How many young people are very angry today! Why? Obviously for various reasons. I suggest that underlying the anger of many is a failure to understand the meaning of pain, the possibilities of suffering, the value of a redemptive acceptance of suffering.

And since our life is under the Cross — no matter what the trans-humanists hope for — we inevitably will have our share of suffering. Hence, everyone will be angry, unless he has an account.

Many ancient religions assigned an account: You have done the gods wrong! This is a good starting point, as JHNewman tells us (Grammar, chap. 10). It is a good start because it is correct. The gods do care, and we have done wrong. Recognizing that puts into wildly different perspective all the pain and suffering people endure. Imagine these race riots today illuminated by the insight: Each of us has done wrong, we have all gone astray.

Now, the classical Jewish and Christian approach to this is balanced. First, each approach is anchored in the Truth and in Right Moral Laws. Second, each holds out hope. Third, each offers concrete ways, given us by God, to achieve that hope.

What the angry person needs is a way forward. Fight the evil that can be justly fought and conquered; accept the evil that cannot be justly fought and conquered; hope one’s way forward with regard to both evils. This is the recipe for a brighter future, a future that uplifts.

Now, many will be the evils that must be endured, esp. as our society devolves into the most unnatural of evils. Hence, great must be our endurance. We can pick up the mantel of Christ, that is, his Cross. Our life does have meaning. Its meaning is largely, or to a large extent, acceptance of suffering. If you strip that from me, you really do reduce my meaning. Also, you tell me a lie. Because I cannot be having pleasure all the time. There is repetition, and sometimes that really does “drag one down” … unless one can see the point.

Where does Garrigou-Lagrange fit into all this? He stresses the importance, the meaningfulness, of a life of redemptive suffering. He also notes how sad, how tragic indeed, is the heretical doctrine that denies that meaning. He notes one Lutheran who saw through just how awful was Luther’s own idea:

“To deny the necessity of satisfaction in this world and and of satispassion in purgatory amounts to denying the value of a life of reparation. Such denial involves the Lutheran negation of the necessity of good works, as if faith without works could suffice for justification and salvation.

At the end of a conference which I gave in Geneva, a Protestant, intelligent and well-instructed, came to see me. I said to him, ‘How could Luther come to the conclusion that faith alone and the merits of Christ suffice for salvation: that it is not necessary to observe the precepts, not even the precepts of the love of God and neighbor?’ He answered me, ‘It is very simple.’ ‘How very simple?’ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘it is diabolical.’ ‘I would not dare say that to you,’ I answered, ‘but how is it that you are a Lutheran?’ ‘My family,’ he answered, ‘has been Lutheran for generations, but in the near future I shall enter the Catholic Church.’

Father Monsabré wrote the following words: ‘Its principles regarding justification led Protestantism to deny the dogma of purgatory. Man, saved by faith alone, by the merits of Christ, without relation to his own deeds, need fear nothing from divine justice. Divine justice must acknowledge his audacious and imperturbable conscience in the redemptive virtue of Him whose merits he exploits, even though he himself may have violated all the commandments. The negation which follows from these principles, invented to shield the wicked, is as odious as it is absurd. It is unintelligent and barbarous, for nothing is more conformable to reason than the doctrine of the Church on purgatory, and nothing is more consoling for the heart. Protestant, at the last hour, faces the terrible perspective: everything or nothing. How count on heaven when a man looks back on a life of sin, sees that he is offering to God only a late repentance, without reparation for so many offenses? Hence there remains only the perspective of malediction” (Garrigou-Lagrange, Life Everlasting, pp. 161f).

Now, GL indeed notes that death bed conversions are possible. They even happen. But they are not frequent. Indeed, they are very difficult. Devotion to sin, devotion to neglect, failure to repent, repeated sin, etc…. All this hardens the heart and makes it less likely that one will achieve salvation. Conversion at the last second is possible, but let us not presume on God’s mercy, while he is right now calling us to conversion.

Good Old Garrigou-Lagrange: Way of Gentleness

It is commonly alleged that Garrigou-Lagrange was some horrible miscreant, some devilish power monger. These are quite false depictions.

Sanctity can be discerned, although indeed the man’s mind was as acute as any theologian in the 20th century, among the very best.

Gently does he persuade his reader to adopt the sweet yoke of Christ. For instance, in speaking of Purgatory, in justifying its existence dogmatically from Scripture and Tradition, he refers to St. Paul’s marvelous line in 1 Cor 3, wherein Paul states that if one builds on the foundation (remains in the Charity of Christ), then one shall survive, though some of one’s works are burnt up.

Garrigou-Lagrange comments:

“These works which will be devoured are, for example, good works done in vanity, good accomplished in order to advance oneself, or by a spirit of opposition to adversaries, rather than by love of truth and of God.”

Note how here he takes all those zealous souls, who really love God and his Holy Church, and who dedicate their lives to the defense of the faith, and gently encourages them to do so indeed for love of God, and not for the love of competition or victory or recognition. It is easy for a successful soldier of Christ to suddenly admire his own success. One must be on one’s guard, for that leads to a bad form of self-love, which cools charity and eventually kills it. Let one’s own good be as rubbish, St. Paul himself says. Let us only yearn for Christ. St. Thomas Aquinas himself wanted only this, and yet This is All!

Good old Garrigou-Lagrange: Hell is Forever

Garrigou-Lagrange continues. It is commonly argued today that punishment is evil. If one accepts that punishment is necessary, one says, “It is a necessary evil.”

This is a very lamentable set of theses. First, not all punishment is evil; some punishment is just. And justice is good. Ergo, some punishment is good, and not to punish in such cases is evil. Let us offer the argument in a moment.

Second, there is no such thing as a “necessary evil” if by evil we mean moral evil. It is never licit (morally right) to commit an evil act. It is always evil to commit evil. Ergo, if punishment were morally evil, it could not be “necessary”. What a sad pickle one is in if one thinks punishment a necessary evil, for one will punish — and rightly so, at least sometimes — and yet hate oneself in the process — wrongly so, at least some times.

Why is punishment sometimes necessary? Well, sin is a disturbance of Right Order. Right Order, such as that of a family or city or state, has a certain “being.” Now, things want to preserve themselves in being. Disturbances threaten the existence of the order. Just as a lion will defend itself when attacked, so a society will. Whereas the lion’s action is instinctual, society’s ought to be governed by reason. It is rational to defend a society against unjust attack. We are defining the disturbance as unjust. So, disturbances ought to be put down.

This is what we call punishment. The primary aim of the punishment, then, is the restoration of order to the society. This aim is achieved if the offender is punished. The offender might benefit from the punishment, and amend his ways and so contribute to societal order after his liberation. Or he might never repent. His repentance or not bears on him, not on the just society itself. In this sense: Even should he not repent, if he is adequately punished, the societal order stands. The act of punishment can be already just in itself, even before / apart from his repentance.

Punishment can be medicinal for the criminal; that is the outcome to hope for. But medicinal change is NOT the justification for punishment. It is already just and necessary apart from that possible outcome, provided that the medicinal change is hoped for and made possible in those situations in which it is not impossible.

Well, then, Hell is a just punishment, although it is not medicinal for the criminal. It’s existence is, however, salutary for the living, since, fearing damnation, they might repent before it is too late. See Rom 2.

No Squirming out of Hell into Non-Existence (Part 2)

Dr. Paul Griffiths contends that his thesis does not contradict the Church’s teaching.

In my opinion, good believers will know that the thesis that hell is impossible contradicts what their devout Mommas told them. And that should count for something. The sensus fidei should find the thesis of the impossibility of hell abhorrent.

But, given the confusion of our age, it may be fitting to cite some Magisterial Authorities, which simply echo the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ that “their worm dies not.” Now, what was the implication of our Lord’s discourse?

Surely, he was not talking about a physical worm but about the worm of conscience. Now, the worm of conscience cannot exist except ‘within’ an existing rational agent. Therefore, if the worm dies not, the rational agent must still exist. If the worm never dies, so must the rational agent. But the speech here is quite figurative (worm, teeth, etc.). So, let us turn to Magisterial declarations.

Here D and SCD are teachings from Sources of Catholic Dogma. DSF is from Denzinger (Ignatius Press edition, 2010). What we see in Magisterial texts through the ages is the affirmation of “burning / being tormented / being tortured, etc.” without end. The subject that burns forever is the rational agent who did evil. But one cannot burn unless one exists. So, one cannot burn forever unless one exists forever. Ergo, the Church teaches that those who die in mortal sin shall exist forever, in the state of burning. Even if the “burning” be taken figuratively, for some kind of punishment (pain of loss or of sense or both), the inference stands.

          • Pope Pelagius I: “The wicked, however, remaining by choice of their own with vessels of wrath fit for destruction, who either did not know the way of the Lord, or knowing it left it when seized by various transgressions, He will give over by a very just judgment to the punishment of eternal and inextinguishable fire, that they may burn without end.” D 228a (DS 443).
          • Innocent III at D 410: “The punishment of original sin is the loss of the vision of God, but the punishment of actual sin is to be tortured everlastingly in hell,” (my trans.). “Poena originalis peccati est carentia visionis Dei, actualis vero poena peccati est gehennae perpetuae cruciatus”
          • Lateran IV: “[he will return] to render to each according to his works, to the reprobate as well as to the elect…. [They shall arise] to receive according to their works, whether these have been good or evil, the ones perpetual punishment (poenam perpetuam) with the devil and the others everlasting glory (gloriam sempiternam) with Christ” (DSF 801, D429).
          • Lyons 1: “If anyone without repentance dies in mortal sin, without a doubt he is tortured forever by the flames of eternal hell” (D 457).
          • Again, The Second Council of Lyons declares, “The souls of those who die in mortal sin or with original sin only … immediately descend to hell, yet to be punished with different punishments” (SCD 464). disparibus
          • Pope John XXII teaches, “the souls … of those who die in mortal sin, or with only original sin descend immediately into hell; however, to be punished with different penalties and in different places” (D, 493a, published A.D. 1321).
          • Finally, Benedict XII teaches more directly a torture by temporal punishments A.D. 1336, writing, “we declare that according to the common arrangement of God, the souls of those who depart in actual mortal sin immediately after their death descend to hell where they are tortured by infernal punishments, and that nevertheless on the day of judgment all men with their bodies will make themselves ready to render an account of their own deeds before the tribunal of Christ…” (SCD, 531).
          • Florence, D 693: mox in infernum descendere, poenis tamen disparibus puniendas (punished w/ diverse pains). This is an identical citation of Lyons II at D 464.
          • Catechism of Trent: “The divine justice deservedly pursues them with every species of malediction, once they have been banished. The next words, into everlasting fire, express another sort of punishment [besides poena damni], which is called by theologians the pain of sense, because, like lashes, stripes or other more severe chastisements, among which fire, no doubt, produces the most intense pain, it is felt through the organs of sense” (85f).

I’d like to repeat one of these teachings, after a few more reports about Griffiths’s article. His article starts with the cautious “Perhaps some people can annihilate themselves.” But already the seeds are sewn for the conclusion, “On this argument, none can be damned,” and that conclusion is explicitly drawn by the end. So, the rhetoric is polished.

One of Griffiths’s ways of dealing with the Magisterial teachings is this: Benedict XII, he submits, speaks of 2 categories, the damned and the blessed. Benedict XII does not, Griffiths contends, necessarily exclude the possibility that some are annihilated. Benedict envisions only two possibilities, but Griffiths adds a third. So, there is no contradiction, according to Griffiths.

Sed Contra. Let us look at the following statement from an earlier era, but also authoritative:

  • Lyons 1: “If anyone without repentance dies in mortal sin, without a doubt he is tortured forever by the flames of eternal hell” (D 457).

This is a simply a teaching, “If you die in unrepented mortal sin, you go to hell forever.” This statement does not allow for the annihilation of anyone in the category of the wicked. But those in the category of the good would not want to annihilate themselves. Ergo, theological reasoning concludes with a sententia certa: None are annihilated.

Further, I would contend that these Magisterial teachings on the end really do put forward only 2 categories, the good and the wicked. The good are blessed and the wicked are punished. There is no room for a person who acted freely to be ‘neither wicked nor good’. Theology has considered there to be room for one who never acted freely to be neither wicked nor good. Such a place would be limbo. That would be a place for those who never acted with freedom and who never received the grace of Baptism. The old limbus puerorum. That is a discussion for a different day, but suffice it to say, it is not a non-place of non-existent things that have left only their traces, but a real place peopled by real people, if it exists.

Squirming Out of Hell into Non-Existence?

Dr. Paul Griffiths of Duke University has argued that hell must be empty. Not that it might be empty. But that it must be empty. The article first came out in Pro ecclesia 16 (2007) and was subsequently published as chap. 4 in Liberal Faith.

He contends his thesis does not necessarily contradict the faith, that it is possibly compatible with the faith. Interesting. Let us see the argument and examine it….

One of Griffiths’s arguments runs thus. That is annihilated which loses any feature it needs to have in order to exist. This point is well taken and suggests he takes each thing to be an irreducible whole, not just a locus of parts. He goes on, however, to add slyly that “being able to repent” is such a feature of being a man. Ergo, whoever can no longer repent cannot be a man. At this point, he can simply conclude to the non-existence of hell. Why? Hell is the ‘where’ (either qua state or qua locus or both) of the damned. But the supposedly-eternally-damned are not able to repent. That is a property of being damned. Ergo, Griffiths concludes, neither are they men. Poof! They have gone. Transmorphed. If they are damned, they are not men! What happened? They  “poofed” themselves out of existence!

Wow! How awesome! So, I can eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow I shall poof myself out of existence. No damnation. No everlasting fire. Oh wait: Maybe there is an everlasting fire, … but alas for it, I have escaped its wrath.

If we attend to this argument carefully, we shall see that the Church’s teaching — that there is a hell of the angels and that hell for men is possible — is contradicted. Why? Hell is in its chief essence a state of a rational being. Namely, that state of permanent alienation from God, without capacity for repentance. But Griffiths has just asserted that to lose the capacity to repent is to cease to be the rational substance you once were. So, the Church teaches that a rational being can exist in a state in which repentance is impossible, but Griffiths submits that no rational being can exist in such a state. On Griffiths’s thesis, hell is not a possibility. How is this not a contradiction?

Confusions abound in Dr. Paul Griffiths’s article. As he rightly notes, sin diminishes the human person. He wrongly concludes that one can therefore sin unto annihilation. (If I can diminish myself a little, why not a little more, why not all the way?) This is to confuse being-a-substance with reaching-one’s-end. It is to confuse substantial being and operation. I am a man, that’s what I am substantially. Perhaps I grow or develop; that is I reach my potential, chiefly, union with God. Or on the contrary, perhaps I shrink and shrivel; that is, I fail to reach my end, namely, I suffer temporary or even eternal loss of God. We have here distinction of substance and operation, essence and action. But Griffiths collapses the two and imagines that the permanent failure to reach one’s end must be the permanent failure to be. Or he imagines that if I can fail in various degrees with regard to operation, and diminish myself in operation, I can therefore diminish my substantial being.

Most interesting is this. He seems to recognize that the Church teaches that there is an everlasting punishment. He tries to incorporate this into his proposal. He suggests that one can be “eternally punished” when annihilated. How? He runs to the definition of punishment as a “loss of a good.” He then notes that the non-existent surely lack a good, namely, union with God. Ergo, they are punished. And since they shall never have this good, they are punished forever. Well, now! A most interesting move! Let’s see if a dead man could be sickened by this definition of punishment. Let’s work it out with “sickness,” for as punishment involves evil so sickness involves evil. And Griffiths uses “loss” or “lack” to pinpoint the general character of evil. Ok: Let “To be sick” be “to lack health.” Now, the dead lack health; therefore, the dead are sick. Wow! Why, then, aren’t doctors doctoring the dead?

What we have here is sophistry and sophistical definitions. Let’s return to a definition of punishment. A good definition would lead with something like “privation” rather than loss. Privation implies absence of a good in a subject apt for that good; hence, it implies the subject and the aptness for the good. Ergo, the non-existent cannot be punished, are not being punished.

Note that the air is not blind. “But it lacks sight” someone objects. Indeed, but it is not apt to see. We call something “blind” only if it is apt to see, and the reason is that “blindness” is a privation, not a simple absence.

Interestingly, the metaphysically obtuse usually reject the notion that evil is a “privation” precisely because they fear the sophistry of those who make evil poof out of existence. If evil were a “privation” in the sense of “mere absence” then indeed evil would not exist in the sense the metaphysically obtuse worry about. That is why some of the ‘Dramatists’ say “Evil is a reality; it is not nothing.” Griffiths won’t fall for that, thankfully. But, he errs the other way, falling short of marking the real genus of evil. Evil is a privation of a due good in a subject apt / born for that good; that is why evil is indeed most odious and dreadful. Scrooge is a man, not just a lack of generosity. But Oh how ugly the man who wants generosity. Now, then, if punishment is a privation, and a privation implies a subject, then everlasting punishment implies an everlasting subject.

The impossibility of hell is wishful thinking. The faith teaches us that it is nonsense.

Hell Saves: What?

That’s right, hell saves. The doctrine of hell, that is, saves many souls. So argues Garrigou-Lagrange.

I cite from his little book Everlasting Life, p. 97:

There is today an unwillingness to preach [about hell], and therefore people often forget revealed truth that is very salutary. They do not give attention to the truth that the fear of hell is the beginning of wisdom and the beginning of conversion. They forget that, in this sense, hell has saved many souls.

Someone might object: But that is negative. We should be positive. Start with the positive. And doesn’t perfect love cast out all fear? So, isn’t all fear of punishment evil? Isn’t it selfish?

Let us calmly reason. First, to love one’s own life is not “selfish” but just natural. And good. And God gives us this love of self in giving us life. Hence, his commandment to love neighbor is premised on love of self: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” So, let us get this clear and very clear. Recent heretics reject love of self, and then they prey on your inveterate love of self to make you hate yourself. (It is what certain “leaders” are doing with nations, when they say that all efforts to protect borders are evil.) This is very perverse and we must return to it in another post. Second, to fear what opposes your good is itself good. If I don’t fear the lion, I do not love myself. I am thus unnatural, sick. Third, hell indeed opposes my good. So, I should fear it. Fourth, whoever is not yet justified, not yet holy, does not have charity for God above all things. When you are reaching out to this person, you cannot appeal to the charity they do not have. You have to appeal to something they love naturally. They naturally love their own good and what they think will constitute their happiness. So, you can argue it out with them that none of these things will deliver. And further, if they believe in God and his providence, you can remind them of his coming judgment and the possibility of hell. Fear of hell can motivate them to stop sinning. This is not yet love of God, but it is better not to fornicate than to fornicate. It is a step in the right direction in this sense: It is to stop stepping in the wrong direction. Fifth, so many saints began their journeys this way. Teresa was shown hell. Ignatius begins the Exercises with mediation on hell. Dante teaches us by taking us down to hell. Newman – O Kindly Light – is very sober about true religion. True religion shows us hell before it shows us heaven. That is Newman. Newman! (See Grammar, chapter 10).

Lastly: Yes, the fear of hell is a sign that one is not yet perfect. But since we should accompany sinners, we should start where they are at. If they are not yet perfect saints, we should remind them of hell, or inform them of hell. “But in the proper context.” Yes, of course; this is obvious. It need not be stated. We get it. The context is important. Namely, One God, creator of all, freely made us and calls us, we sinned, he redeems; we balk, he calls; etc. BUT DO WE PRESUME ON THE GRACE OF HIS KINDNESS? DO WE NOT REALIZE THAT HIS KINDNESS IS MEANT FOR OUR REPENTANCE, SO THAT WE MIGHT STAND ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT WHEN HE JUDGES THE SECRETS OF HEARTS? (ROMANS, CHAPTER 2)

A True PREPPER: Catherine of Genoa

Garrigou-Lagrange’s wonderful little book, Everlasting Life, continues to impress me. His appreciation of St. Catherine of Genoa is immense, so immense that he gives a chapter by chapter summary of her classical text on Purgatory. Her life’s story is also a wonder, a wonder of early zeal, slackness leading to a somewhat worldly life, and a deep and lasting conversion, a conversion which won over her violent and evil husband.

Garrigou-Lagrange brings up these stories of heroic saints, both classical saints who are canonized and also the anecdotal saints whom he encountered in his priestly ministry. All the better to spur on our own zeal, our own desire to be with Christ, leaving behind the rubbish of yesterday, the rubbish of the world.

He cites from chap. 17 of Catherine these marvelous words of exhortation, a true goad for us to prepare for the one life that lasts, the one foundation that endures, the one house that cannot fall, BEING IN GOD:

O WRETCHED CREATURES, WHY SO BLINDLY ATTACHED TO THINGS THAT PASS? WHY NOT MAKE PROVISION FOR THE FUTURE? YOU SAY PERHAPS ‘I WILL GO TO CONFESSION, I WILL GAIN A PLENARY INDULGENCE, I WILL BE SAVED.’ BUT REMEMBER THAT THE ADEQUATE CONFESSION AND THE PERFECT CONTRITION, REQUIRED FOR GAINING A PLENARY INDULGENCE, ARE NOT EASILY ATTAINED. (P. 193)