Hundreds years have passed since the Virgin Mary showed to three shepherds of a
small village in Portugal, Fatima, in July 1917, a heap of hell: "a great sea
of fire, which
seemed to be under the ground. Immersed in
that fire ,demons and souls, as if they were transparent and black or bronzed
peals, with human form floating in the fire."
"This vision lasted just a moment ... otherwise I believe we would be dead of
fright and terror" Sister Lucia later wrote, the only one of the three
children who came to adulthood and become a nun. She then said that the most
important of the three "secrets" reveald by Mary is the very first: Hell, a
secret that is not really such, because it is widely documented by the Word of
God - the Bible, Old and New Testament - like this Treatise wants to prove.
Throughout 20 centuries all the saints have believed in it, and innumerable
saints and mystics of all time had also hellish visions. Five ecumenical
councils have reaffirmed the existence of an eternal hell.
As I collected material to deal with this not quite easy and pleasant topic, a river of arguments and considerations has opened before me, and somehow I had to stem it.
This book that I'm going to publish gradually on line, in the first part is intended to prove the biblical validity of such a forgotten, misunderstood or escaped truth of faith as Hell is. In the second section, it will show how much to believe in Hell is a help to better understand - and consequently to live better - many other truths of the Christian faith.
A hint may be useful for the readers of how I have personally referred to the disturbing and inevitable reality of Hell, and how I now deal with it.
lost my feeble Catholic faith after high school studies: the Classical high
school philosophies had led me to agnostic positions. When I was attending the
University of Perugia I recovered the faith in the risen Christ and in the Word
of God, the Bible, becoming a "Protestant": I attended Bible study meetings of
an evangelical circle of university students, and joined a local evangelic
church. I believed in Hell, because the Holy Scriptures clearly spoke of it, but
it did not concern me personally because, as I was taught in those environments,
I could and should be sure to be saved because I had believed in Christ: salvation "by faith", regardless of own works (the more I professed that doctrine, the less I was intimately convinced of it, for the ragged awareness of my miseries and moral contradictions).
With my fiancée - also she was evangelical - we headed in Perugia a Bible conference center for university students. And there one night a singular person turned up, who had came to faith in an absolutely unusual way (I wrote about his conversion and his extraordinary prophetic vocation in the book "From the Land of Assisi and Francis the Spirit of Prophecy"). That man - Marcello Ezekiel Ciai - a former businessman wholly lacking in theological notions and religious practices, had been prodigiously converted from a celestial vision of Jesus. He dislodged us out of our mental and fundamentally heretical faith, to bring us back gradually in the Catholic church. We began to consider Hell as a reality to be taken in extremely serious consideration. One night I heard my wife shouting - we were recently married - frightened by a dream in which she was dragged to Hell by a river of fire: that helped her a lot to abandon her diverted and diverting evangelical profession (she had come to Italy from Australia as an evangelical missionary). As for me, I later experienced, in an incredibly concrete way, the meaning of those disturbing words of Jesus on "Gehenna", that is Hell, where "the worms never die, and the fire is never quenched" (Gospel of Saint Mark 9: 42-48).
before we go into this impervious yet absolutely inevitable topic, a fundamental
consideration must be of help and encouragement: God is love, and his acting in
the history of the cosmos is motivated by love.
It is for love that God wanted that you and me were to exist. In his omniscience he has "pre-known" us from eternity, calling us to live in this time of history, to share with us the joy of being which He lives since eternity in the divine triunitarian love. And He has made us in his image, creative - and procreative - as He is, in a wonderful world that only the pride of our progenitors - and our pride as well - has been able to spoil so much. And for love He has come down to this earth in the person of Christ Jesus, to get us out of the mire of our misery, suffering unspeakably to offer us eternal salvation ... These brief notes of "theology" intend to clarify that the God of whom we are talking, is the one who "loved the world so much as to give his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" (St. John 3:16): where behind the word "give" there is the infinite torment of a father who sees his son tortured and then crucified, and does not intervene just for the salvation of torturers and cruisers (we all!). And that "may not perish" means that those who believe will not die of the death that never dies, that is they will not end into the eternal hell: "whoever believes in me - Jesus said - will not die forever” ( St. John 11:26) .
In short Hell, this tremendous, chilling reality, is inscribed in a much brighter and comforting bottom truth: the love of God.
“Justice inspired my high exalted Maker; I was created by the Might divine, the highest Wisdom and the primal Love”: these words, which Dante finds written at the entrance of Hell, poetically express a theological truth that many - even consecrated religious - today disown. Yes, even Hell, like all the other visible and invisible things created by God, proceed from His love. A love though, to be known and to which we must stick as it is really, without lessening and distorting it by reducing it into our poor intellectual and moral categories. But on this subject we will return at the beginning of the second part of this book, in the chapter titled "Hell and the true face of God".
Finally, I feel to add that while I profess to be a convinced Catholic, first of all I am convinced, however, of my inconsistencies and of my sins.
The following text does not want to be an intransigent and severe "lent sermon" designed to frighten people. It is love for the Church, for the souls of those who will read it and for my own soul, which has led me to reflect and make others reflect on Hell, this inescapable truth of the Catholic faith, unfortunately so widely removed or underestimated by compliant ministers of the Church.
By paraphrasing the prayer that Mary, after having shown Hell to the three little sheperds of Fatima, old them to add at the end of every ten grains of the Rosary: I trust that the Lord, who is undoubtedly love but also a "consuming fire" (Letter to the Jews, 12:29), may forgive our sins and keep us from the fire of Hell, drawing to Him and bringing to heaven our souls so needy – as my soul is indeed - of His mercy.
PART ONE: Hell in the Word of God