Hell and the Secret
It is the terrifying vision of Hell which opens the Secret of Fatima. Through it, Our Lady leads us at the outset to the essential, to the only thing that counts, our eternity. That first part of the Secret is of prime importance. Much more yet than the announcement of famines, wars and persecutions, that gripping, agonizing reminder, of the eternal Hell which threatens us, is one of the most essential points of the message of Our Lady. It is one of the major truths of our Catholic Faith that the Virgin Mary of Fatima wishes to recall to our apostate, naturalistic and materialistic century, blindly walled in by its earthly horizons.
THE HORRIBLE AND VERY REAL VISION
Let us once more listen to the terrible and realistic account that Sister Lucy traces for us in her Memoirs1:
«As She spoke these last words, She opened Her hands once more, as She had done the two previous months. The rays [of light] appeared to penetrate the earth, and we saw as it were a sea of fire.
«Plunged in this fire we saw the demons and the souls [the damned]. The latter were like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, having human forms. They were floating about in that conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves, together with great clouds of smoke. Now they fell back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fright. (It must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me).
«The demons were distinguished [from the souls of the damned] by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals.
«That vision only lasted for a moment, thanks to our good Heavenly Mother, Who at the first apparition, had promised to take us to Heaven. Without that, I think that we would have died of terror and fear.»
There it is. It is frightening! Before everything, the Blessed Virgin Mary wants us to consider the most serious characteristic of our short life which must result in our going to either Heaven or Hell for all eternity. It is in the brief years of our mortal life that our definitive fate is irrevocably played out...
"Come, blessed of My Father2..."
If by grace, we go to Heaven as a full member of the family of God, transformed, divinized and joyous in His Glory, we will be happy forever, in an unspeakable ecstasy. Faith already allows us to glimpse that promised happiness. In Heaven we shall forever enjoy the contemplation full of joy at the beauties and glories of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, of Her maternal embrace and of Her smile.
Such is our Catholic Faith, the Divine bliss reserved for the elect.
"Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire!3..."
If, freely, through our fault, we merit eternal chastisement, what a frightening contrast! It is an eternity of frightful misfortune that would open up for us. There is found only the torment of the terrible «pain of the damned», and that fire of the wrath of the «jealous God», scorned in His Infinite Love. Hell is that eternal curse of the angry Face of the thrice-Holy God, and that «rage of a fire which shall consume His adversaries»4 who are forever rejected far from Him in the abyss. The «pain of sense» torments the damned and adds, among other horrible sufferings, the tortures of a sensible and mysterious fire, without doubt different from what we know here below, but nevertheless real and most terrible. Hell consists of spiritual and physical fire, both exterior and interior. It tortures the soul and the body with atrocious sufferings throughout the whole being, and at every moment, without any respite, and forever. There is no hope of it ever ending. The damned human soul is eternally cursed, cast far from God, deprived forever of His Presence, of all peace, of all joy, and is always in the blackest despair...
This outline forcefully draws to mind in a very striking and incomparable manner, though in a very sober way, the description of Sister Lucy. If we fully accept her vision of Hell exactly as she described it, then it will deeply engrave in our souls that fear of Hell, so salutary, so Catholic.
The modernist theologians have managed to persuade many people in our times into giving no importance to the dogma and reality of Hell, upon which depends all the rest of our religion.
AN AUTHENTIC VISION, FULLY TRUTHFUL
In such a context of creeping apostasy, the vision of Hell granted to the three children of Fatima takes on a prophetic aspect. Our Lady, by recalling the existence and atrocity of the torments of Hell, wanted to fortify us against that blindness. This is the most terrible blindness there is because it leads right to the abyss of Hell that person who endeavors in vain to ignore it. And, let us note well, at the end of the horrible vision, Our Lady did not say to the three shepherds: "You have seen a symbol, an image of eternal damnation which is different, since it is of a purely spiritual order." No, She simply said to them: «You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go.»
When Our Lord, dozens of times in His Gospel, declares to us that Hell is «the fire of Gehenna»5, «everlasting fire»6, «the Hell of fire, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished»7, «the outer darkness», «the furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth»8, it is God the Word, the Creator Who speaks to us, the Eternal Wisdom by Whom everything has been made and through Whom everything subsists.
If, putting aside vague and abstract formulas, He deliberately chose to speak to us in such concrete language, it is because He is most truthful. Those terrifying realities were made by Him in creation precisely because they help us understand here below the mystery of eternal Hell.
Far from leaving us in ignorance about the nature of Hell, God, in His immense Goodness, willed certain of His creatures to foreshadow the whole truth of it for us.
Thus the existence of devouring fire, of putrid atmospheres, of filthy pestilence, of nauseating stenches. Thus He created ferocious beasts, monstrous or filthy, which arouse in us an instinctive fright. The Creator has given us this horror to serve as a sampling, a warning.
Thus it seems clear that the images Jesus in His Gospel and His Holy Mother at Fatima wanted to give us of Hell, far from being distant approximations or vague echoes of reality are, on the contrary, its most exact expression. We can say in all truth: «That is Hell! It is at least that!»
«Jacinta was very much impressed by certain things revealed in the Secret. It was really like this. The vision of Hell had horrified her to such a degree that all the penances and mortifications seemed to her insufficient to achieve saving some souls from Hell... Some people, even pious ones, Lucy notes again, do not like to speak about Hell to their children so as not to frighten them. But God did not hesitate to show it to three children, one of whom was barely seven years old, and He was well aware, I dare say, that she would be horrified by it, to the point of being consumed with fright.9»
|The Immaculate Heart of Mary.||
THE REVELATION OF
Such are the words Our Lady wished to give us. By these words, She wants us to draw a most important lesson from the vision of Hell. Soft and soothing words, full of a warm hope, by which the Virgin of Fatima opens wide for us the way to Her Immaculate Heart.
One who has never felt a profound and true fear of everlasting Hell, especially and first of all for himself, will never be able to penetrate the real meaning and the consequences of the Secret. It is not by chance that it began with the vision of Hell.
Never does God reveal to us the danger of our eternal damnation without immediately opening up to us the arms of His Mercy and without indicating to us a way of salvation which is both accessible and very appealing! To the spectacle of the infernal demons, succeeds the "blessed vision of peace" of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, Queen and Gate of Heaven. «The vision of Hell, writes Father Alonso, has as a goal to inspire the little seers with recourse to the protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Her powerful intercession for the salvation of sinners.l0»
THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, «MOTHER OF MERCY»
» In this we are in the purest Catholic tradition which, from time immemorial, venerates the Blessed Virgin Mary as the «Mother of mercy and pardon,» «the Patroness of the most desperate cases», the ultimate recourse after the greatest sins, as in the most terrible temptations.11Facing the absolute Evil which threatens us, God proposes the only remedy which can preserve us: The Immaculate Heart of His Mother, Refuge of sinners. Sister Lucy explains to Father Fuentes while pointing out to him the means of our salvation: «Finally devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our Most Holy Mother, in considering Her as the seat of clemency, of goodness and of pardon, and as the sure gate for entering Heaven.
«God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart.» This last sentence, Our Lady pronounced on July 13 for the second time, She had already said it on June 13, before manifesting Her Heart to the children. Here is "the secret of the Secret", the essential and most important part of the message of Fatima.
Thus the revelation of Fatima comes to complete that of Paray-le-Monial, and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be joined to the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, commanded three centuries ago. Indeed, most certainly, these two devotions, as the two Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, are inseparable and could not ever proceed one without the other. Such is the great design of our Heavenly Father for «the last centuries of history»: the reign and universal triumph of Their two Hearts united.
Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is henceforth the certain gage of salvation. To the children who, on June 13, 1917, asked Her to take them at once to Heaven, Our Lady replied as a sovereign:
«Yes, Jacinta and Francisco, I shall take them soon.» Lucy alone will stay. «Jesus wants to make use of you, Lucy, to make Me known and loved... My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.» Thus Our Lady Herself promised to lead Her three privileged ones to Heaven.
And through an incredible mercy, the marvelous promise is immediately opened to all. For Our Lady continues:
«Jesus wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart. Whosoever embraces this devotion, I promise salvation; those souls will be cherished by God, like flowers placed by Me to decorate His throne.»
What astounding words! An unbelievable facility is offered to us in order to be saved: it suffices for us to adopt the predilection of the Heart of Jesus for the Immaculate Virgin, and to prove it to Him by accomplishing His simple requests.
DEVOTION TO THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY,
AN EXALTING CALL TO HOLINESS
The last recourse of the greatest sinners who are on the edge of perdition is devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The message of Fatima also tells us that it is the surest and the quickest road which leads to holiness.
«During the July 13 apparition, Our Lady had told us in the Secret that God wanted to establish in the world devotion to Her Immaculate Heart and that, in order to prevent the future war, She would come to ask for the consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart as well as the reparatory Communion of the first Saturdays.»
In another letter, Sister Lucy reports to us the confidences of Our Lord Himself. «I very ardently desire the propagation of the cult and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, because that Heart is the magnet which attracts souls to Me, the Heart which radiates on the earth the rays of My light and of My love, the inexhaustible source which causes to pour over the earth the living waters of My Mercy.12»
That is the whole essence of the Secret, and it was also the most profound inspiration of the lives of our three seers. Their souls were so profoundly marked by the great Secret of Our Lady, that the account of their life is the best commentary on it.
1) Sister Lucy's Third Memoir, page 108; Sister Lucy's Fourth Memoir, page 172, English edition.
2) St. Matthew, chapter 25, verse 34.
3) Ibid, chapter 25, verse 41.
4) Hebrews, chapter 10, verse 27.
5) Saint Matthew, chapter 18, verse 9.
6) Ibid, chapter 18, verse 8.
7) Saint Mark, chapter 9, verse 48.
8) Saint Matthew, chapter 13, verse 42; Saint Matthew, chapter 22, verse 13.
9) Sister Lucy's Third Memoir, pages 105-107.
10) [MSC] "Fatima et le Coeur Immaculé de Marie" (Fatima and the Immaculate Heart of Mary), page 36.
11) [VSF] "La Verdad sobre el Secreto de Fatima" (The Truth About the Secret of Fatima), page 106.
12) Letter of May 27, 1943, [FCM] "Fatima e o Coraçao de Maria" (Fatima and the Heart of Mary), pages 62-63.