"A person who rails at God in adversity, suffers without merit; moreover by his lack of resignation he adds to his punishment in the next life and experiences greater disquietude of mind in this life."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"It is well to choose some one good devotion, and to stick to it, and never to abandon it."

St Philip Neri

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"It is not God's will that we should abound in spiritual delights, but that in all things we should submit to his holy will."

Blessed Henry Suso

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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)

 

19. HELL AND OUR OWN AGE

 
Certain authors, attempting to propose a modern conception of hell, have departed from traditional doctrine. They hold that the damned are not all absolutely perverted, that not all are guilty of hating God. In these cases, then, pain of loss and of sense would not be as severe as theologians generally affirm.

Such authors have not reflected sufficiently on the distinction between the road and the goal. They do not reflect that these separated souls undergo a total privation of God, of all goods which flow from the beatific vision, and also of those created goods given as means to reach God.

These authors, further, have not reflected sufficiently on the nature of obstinacy, and its relation to infinite justice. They lose sight of what the greatest doctors have said on the finality of hell. They ignore the imprescriptible rights of the sovereign good to be loved above all things: rights which are emphasized in the visions granted to saints. [312]

Question: Is it proper in our own age to preach on hell? We answer thus: first, it is certainly better to go to God by the way of love than that of fear. The redemptive Incarnation invites us continually to the way of love. But fear is today a necessary element of salvation, just as surely as it was when the Fathers preached the gospel. We conclude, with the author of the article on hell in the Dictionnaire de theologique "Preachers must indeed omit all purely imaginary descriptions. The simple truth is sufficient. But to keep systematic silence on any portion of Christian teaching, particularly on forethought for our last end, is to ignore radically the spirit of Christianity. This life is a road, which ends inevitably either in hell or in heaven." [313]

Further, our Lord deigns frequently to give privileged souls a higher knowledge of hell, by contemplation, or by vision, imaginary or intellectual, in order to carry them on to greater hatred of sin, to growth in charity, to more burning zeal for the salvation of souls. It is sufficient here to recall the visions. Like St. Theresa, many saints were thus illumined by contrast, on the infinite greatness of God and the value of eternal life.

St. Theresa speaks thus: "I often ask myself how it came that pictures of hell did not lead me to fear these pains as they deserve. Now I feel a killing pain at sight of the multitudes who are lost. This vision was one of the greatest graces the Lord has given me. From it arise also these vehement desires to be useful to souls. Yes, I say it with all truth: to deliver one soul from these terrible torments, I would gladly, it seems to me, endure death a thousand times." [314]

Our Lord said to St. Catherine of Siena: [315] "The first suffering which the damned endure is that they are deprived of seeing Me. This suffering is so great that, [316] if it were possible, they would choose to endure fire and torments, if they could in the meantime enjoy My vision, rather than to be delivered from other sufferings without being able to see Me. This pain is increased by a second, that of the worm of conscience, which torments them without cessation. Thirdly, the view of the demon redoubles their sufferings, because, seeing him in all his ugliness, they see what they themselves are, and thus see clearly that they themselves have merited these chastisements. The fourth torment which the damned endure is that of fire, a fire which burns but does not consume. Further, so great is the hate which possesses them that they cannot will anything good. Continually they blaspheme Me. They can no longer merit. Those who die in hate, guilty of mortal sin, enter a state which lasts forever."

These vivid descriptions confirm the traditional doctrines. They show by contrast the value of eternal life, and the value of the time of merit, which is given to us to attain that life. [317]

Fear of God's chastisements is salutary, though it diminishes with the growth of charity. The more the saints love God, the more they fear to be separated from Him. This filial fear is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It makes hope perfect. It spurs us on to desire God still more strongly, and at the same time it bridles presumption.

A good theologian, Father Gardeil, O.P., in his book, The Gifts of the Holy Spirit among the Dominican Saints, speaks as follows: "Christianity has the honor of transfiguring human passions. Now is there any passion more difficult to rehabilitate than fear? Who
dares to defend it? Who would undertake this task in our own time, ruled by a moral code which is founded on human respect? Mere human philosophy has but one fear, not to elevate itself enough." [318]

For these moralists, nothing will do except a doctrine completely filled with disinterestedness. Disinterestedness is the watchword. What! Admit that man sometimes suffers fear? That with this passion he spurns himself to good? Oh what shame! No! Let us conceal this misery. Let it not soil our serene ordinances. Let us suppress its very name.

"Only the divine Spirit will rehabilitate fear. The fear adopted by the Holy Spirit has nothing in common with mundane fear. It is not a fear of man; it is the fear of God. 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of
wisdom.' And the Council of Trent, underlining a long tradition of Christian centuries, declares that even the fear of divine punishments is good and salutary." But filial fear, the fear of sin, the fear of being separated from God, is evidently still higher in nature. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It grows with charity. The saints, who know not how to tremble before men, have this holy fear of God. As Father Gardeil says: "The Stoic, fearing nothing, is but an infant beside the saint who fears God alone. The saint represents human morality made divine by God's revelation." St. Louis Bertrand, missionary, who defied the stones and arrows, who ardently desired martyrdom, still feared God: "Lord, burn me here, cut me here, spare me not here, that Thou mayest spare me in eternity." [319]

God speaks by the prophet: "Turn to Me, . . . and I will turn to you." The soul answers him with Jeremias: "Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted." [320] We can find no better words to express the sweetness of conversion. The response of the soul is more beautiful than the divine exhortation, because the divine voice was heard in order to obtain this response, just as the word of Jesus to the Cananean woman was meant to inspire her answer. The sweetness of conversion balances the rigor of the dogma.

The Three Species of Fear

Before we begin the treatise on purgatory, we must dwell briefly on the three kinds of fear. One kind is bad. The two others are good, but so distinct, one from the other, that growth in charity reduces the one and augments the other.

Fear, in general, is a shrinking of the soul faced by grave danger. When fear is a mere emotion, it must be dominated by the virtue of fortitude. But fear can exist also in the spiritual will, and can be either good or evil.

Hence theologians distinguish three kinds of fear. First, there is mundane fear, which fears the opposition of the world and turns the soul away from God. Secondly, servile fear, fear of the punishments which God many inflict. This fear is useful for salvation. Thirdly, there is filial fear, a fear of sin, which grows with love of God, and which continues to exist in heaven under the form of reverential fear. Let us see what St. Thomas [321] teaches us on these three kinds of fear.

In mundane fear, the fear of temporal evils which the world may bring upon us, the soul is ready to offend God in order to escape these evils. This fear appears in many forms: human respect, culpable timidity, slavery to the judgments of the world. Under this fear the soul may neglect Mass on Sunday, Communion at Easter, the duty of confession. Loss of situation may follow faithfulness. Under the form of cowardice, it can lead a man to deny his faith, to avoid the loss of exterior good or of personal liberty or of life itself. Jesus says: "Fear ye not them that kill the body and are not able to kill the soul. But rather fear Him that can destroy both soul and body in hell." [322] Again He says: "What is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world and lose himself and cast away himself? For he that shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him the Son of man shall be ashamed, when He shall come in His majesty and that of His Father and of the holy angels." [323]

Mundane fear, then, is always bad. We must pray God to deliver us from it. Those who regard the fear of God as an ignoble sentiment are ruled by mundane fear. Fear which shrinks from Holy Mass reverses all values, because the Mass perpetuates sacramentally the sacrifice of the cross, which has infinite value. Assistance at Mass is great honor and great profit, both for time and for eternity.

Servile fear differs very much from mundane fear. It is not fear of persecution by the world, but the fear of punishment by God. This fear is good, since it leads the soul to fulfill the divine commandments. This fear is meant when the Old Testament is called the Law of Fear, whereas the New Testament is called the Law of Love. But this fear, in itself good, can still become bad, if the soul avoids sin only to escape punishment. Such a soul would sin, if it did not fear eternal punishment. In this last case fear is servilely servile. It has mere fear of God, no love. It is evil. It cannot exist with charity, the love of God above all things. [324]

But when this fear is not servilely servile, it is good, it aids the sinner to approach God. But even thus it is not a virtue, not a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is, says St. Catherine of Siena, [325] like a storm which strikes the sinner down. It is insufficient for salvation, but it can lead to virtue. Thus, during a tempest at sea, the sailor may remember to pray. Even if he is in mortal sin, he prays as well as he can, moved by the actual grace, which is given under all such circumstances.

In the just man, servile fear can continue throughout life, but it grows less with the progress of charity. The more we love God, the more does selfishness diminish. The more we love God, the more do we hope to be recompensed by God. But servile fear, fear of divine punishment, can certainly not exist in heaven.

Filial fear differs very much from the two preceding kinds. It is the fear of a son, not that of a hireling or a servant. It is a fear, not of the punishments of God, but of sin which separates us from God. It differs therefore essentially from servile fear, and still more from mundane fear.

This filial fear is not only good, like servile fear: rather it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. "Pierce Thou my flesh," says the Psalmist, "with Thy fear, O Lord." [326] This filial fear, though it is the least elevated of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, is nevertheless the beginning of wisdom. It is true wisdom to fear sin, which drives us far from God. Filial fear corresponds to the beatitude of the poor in spirit, of those who fear the Lord and therefore already possess Him.

Whereas servile fear diminishes with progress in charity, filial fear grows continually, because the more we love God, the more we fear sin and separation from Him. The seven gifts are connected with charity and all other infused virtues. These gifts are the varied functions of our spiritual organism. Hence they all grow simultaneously just as "the five fingers of the hand develop simultaneously." [327]

St. Catherine of Siena says that, with progress in charity, filial fear grows until mundane fear disappears completely. The apostles, after Pentecost, began to glory in their tribulations. They rejoiced in being judged worthy to suffer for our Lord. Before the Ascension, feeling acutely their own impotency, they feared the persecutions our Lord had foretold. On Pentecost they were clarified, fortified, confirmed in
grace.

Filial fear in heaven is called reverential fear. "The fear of the Lord is holy, enduring forever and ever." [328] Thus the psalm. It will no longer be fear of sin, fear of being separated from God, but deep reverence. Seeing the infinite grandeur of the Most High, the soul
sees its own nothingness and fragility. God is reality itself. "Ego sum qui sum." In this sense, as we sing in the preface, even the Powers tremble. This gift of reverential fear exists even in the holy soul of our Savior, just as do the other gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Reverential fear appears in the saints even in the present life. When St. Peter, after the first miraculous catch of fishes, came to Jesus, he said: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." [329] It is then that Jesus said to him: "Fear not, from henceforth thou shall catch men." And Peter, James, and John left everything to follow Him.

We see how different these three kinds of fear are one from the other. Mundane fear is always bad. The fear of suffering is good, if it does not become servilely servile, if it does not dispose us to sin. Filial fear is always good. It grows with charity as do the other gifts of the Holy Spirit and continues to exist in heaven as reverential fear. Lord, deliver us from mundane fear, diminish in us servile fear, augment in
us filial fear.

This distinction is not owing to human psychology. To arrive at these distinctions we need revelation, expression of divine wisdom.

Certain authors, as we have seen, teach a moral system based completely on disinterestedness, which neither fears divine punishment nor desires recompense. They blush to admit that at times they suffer this passion of fear, for such admission would upset their doctrine. [330]

It belongs to the Holy Spirit to rehabilitate fear. [331] And this in three ways: in condemning human respect; in showing that fear of punishment is good; and especially in showing that filial fear is a fear of separation from God, and consequently a supernatural gift which grows simultaneously with charity. This last species of fear inspired the saints' lives of reparation to obtain the conversion of sinners. St. Dominic nightly scourged himself to blood, in favor of sinners to whom he was preaching. This same holy fear inspired the mortifications of St. Catherine of Siena, of St. Rose of Lima, and of many other saints. But there is something higher than filial fear, even in its highest forms in heaven. Christian doctrine recognizes the pre-eminent place of charity, of love for God and for neighbor, that corresponds to the divine precepts. Read the description of this love in The Imitation of
Christ. [332]
 
 

   
 
312. Dict. theol.. cath., "L'Enfer."
313. Ibid., col. 119.
314. Autobiography, chap. 32.
315. Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, chaps. 38-40.
316. The pain here spoken of is that of not possessing the supreme Good, source of joy; a pain that is more severe because the soul has already lost other joys.
317. We refer to a recent book: Un appel a l'amour, Toulouse, Apostolate of Prayer, 1944. As is shown by Father Vinard, S.J., in the introduction to this book, and by Father Charmot, S.J., in its conclusion, the visions of hell and purgatory reported in this book are in harmony with the teachings of theology. The diabolical nature of these sufferings may frighten the imagination, but does not destroy poise and peace in the souls of God's servants; it rather gives them new zeal to suffer for the salvation of souls.
318. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Paris, 1903, p. 60.
319. Ibid.
320. Zach. 1:3; Isa. 45:22; Lament. 5:21.
321. IIa IIae, q. 19.
322.

322 Matt. 10:28.
323. Luke 9:26.
324. Servile fear is in its essence good, but its mode is bad, since it fears the chastisements of God more than sin and separation from God. The soul loves itself more than God. It retains affection for mortal sin, which it would commit if it did not fear eternal punishment.
325. Dialogue, chap. 94.
326. This fear is called initial fear. It is still
united with servile fear, until charity has grown
strong enough to expel all servility. Ps. 118:120.
327. Ia IIae, q. 61, a. 2.
328. Ps. 18:10.
329. Luke 5:8.
330. The position here described is that of Kant. The rationalists gave great importance to his doctrine, since it includes the negation of revealed truth. But if we take the standpoint of revelation, many who are ordinarily called great philosophers appear as strong spirits, but false, who have special ingenuity in presenting error. They are great Sophists. Many of them are like intellectual monsters, false in fundamental conceptions of God, of man, of our destiny. This is particularly true in the case of Spinoza, Hume, and Hegel. The thought of the Catholic theologian agrees with what St. Augustine said of the great Sophists: "Magni passus sel extra viam" ("Long steps but aside from the road") . We shall see this clearly in eternity, when the horizontal view, where error seems to be on the same level as truth, yields to the vertical view. The vertical view judges everything from on high in the manner of God, the supreme cause and the last end. Perspectives given us by histories of philosophy will then be wonderfully changed. Superficial judgments will emphasize the value of definitive judgments.
331. Gifts of the Holy Spirit, 1903, p. 60.
332. Imitation of Christ, Bk. III, chap. 5.