"Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life eases the mind and a clean conscience inspires great trust in God."

Thomas á Kempis

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"This is the greatest wisdom -- to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the world. "

Thomas á Kempis

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"The supreme perfection of man in this life is to be so united to God that all his soul with all its faculties and powers are so gathered into the Lord God that he becomes one spirit with him, and remembers nothing except God, is aware of and recognises nothing but God, but with all his desires unified by the joy of love, he rests contentedly in the enjoyment of his Maker alone."

St Albert the Great

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Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.  (1877 - 1964)  taught at the Angelicum in Rome from 1909 to 1960, and served for many years as a consulter to the Holy Office and other Roman Congregations.

 
  LIFE EVERLASTING
   

By Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange,OP

 

 PART 3 : HELL (cont)

 

18. DEGREES OF PAIN

 
The pains of the damned are equal as far as duration is concerned, since they are eternal, but they differ very much in degrees of rigor. God will render to each one according to his works. [299] "It will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment than for that city" (which had refused to receive the apostles). [300] "Woe to thee, Corozain." [301] The wicked servant, who knew the will of his master and has not done it, will receive a greater number of stripes. He who did not know that will, and has done things worthy of chastisement, will receive fewer stripes. [302]

We read in the Apocalypse: "As much as she hath glorified herself and lived in delicacies, so much torment and sorrow give ye to her." [303] Already the Book of Wisdom had said: "The mighty shall be mightily tormented." [304]

Further, it is clear that punishment must be proportioned to the gravity of the fault. Faults differ in gravity and in number, hence the sufferings of hell must be unequal in their rigor. [305] The avaricious will not be punished in the same manner as the voluptuous. We may say that the most guilty are at the bottom of hell, though we can but conjecture the place of hell.

Can there be mitigation of the accidental pain due to venial sins, and of that due to the mortal sins, forgiven but not expiated? Many theologians admit this position as probable, because this accidental pain is in itself temporary. Thus St. Thomas says: "It is not improper to say that the pains of hell, so far as they are accidental, may diminish up to the day of the last judgment." [306]

We saw above that, by divine mercy, the damned suffer less than they merit. [307] Nevertheless, the pain of loss, even the smallest, surpasses immensely all the sufferings of this world. Theologians commonly admit this also for the pain of sense, since it is eternal, without consolation, and in a soul which has already the pain of loss.

A very probable position, upheld by many theologians, is that God will not let die in sin those who have committed only one mortal sin, especially if there is a question of a sin of frailty. Final impenitence would thus be restricted to inveterate sinners. As St. Peter says: "God dealeth patiently for your sake, not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should return to penance." [308] God moves men to conversion. Hell is the pain of obstinacy. [309]

Here we may dwell on the great promise of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary. We quote Father T. J. Bainvel, S.J., [310] who has made a long study of this question. The promise runs thus: "On Friday, during Holy Communion, our Lord spoke these words to his unworthy slave, if she does not deceive herself; 'I promise thee, in the excessive mercy of My heart, that its omnipotent love will accord to all those who shall receive Communion on nine successive First Fridays the grace of final penance. They shall not die in disfavor with God, nor without the sacraments, since My divine heart is their assured refuge in this last moment.'" [311]

Father Bainvel adds these words: "The promise is absolute, supposing only that the Communions have been made and have been well made. The grace promised is not the grace of perseverance in good throughout life, nor the reception of the last sacraments under every hypothesis, but that perseverance which brings with it penance, and the last sacraments so far as they are necessary." This promise is addressed to sinners more directly than to pious souls. The promise supposes that the grace of making good Communions on nine successive First Fridays is a gift reserved to the elect. If they are in sin, they will repent before they die.
 
 
 

   
 
299. Matt. 16:27; Rom. 2:6
300. Ibid., 10:15.
301. Ibid., 11:21-24.
302. Luke 12:47, 48.
303. Apoc., 18:7.
304. Wisd. 6:6.
305. Supplementum, q. 69, a. 5.
306. IV Sent., dist. 23, q. 1, a. 1 ad 5.
307. Ia, q. 21, a. 4 ad 1.
308. II Pet. 3:9.
309. Father Lacordaire, Conferences in Notre Dame, 72nd conference; Dict. theol.. cath., "L'Enfer".
310. Dict. theol.. cath., "Coeur-sacre de Jesus."
311. Vie et oeuvres, II, 159; lettre 83, p. 176.