…but nobody’s talking about it anymore.
Is it reasonable, then, to conclude that a great many people go to hell? Is this a well-founded conclusion, based on the undeniable prevalence of objective mortal sins and a consideration of human intelligence and freedom, together with the truth that God offers the grace to avoid sin? I think we should say it is not unlikely that many are lost. We should definitely not hold the opinion that few are lost.
The objection may be given that it is better not to weigh the question at all; that no good can be achieved by doing so. I disagree. We should strive to reach the truth, even though we can’t settle the question definitively. To ignore it, or to assume the danger is slight, is to diminish an important motive for avoiding sin: the danger of damnation. The realization that many may be on the way to eternal misery will also stimulate us to help convert sinners by example, words, prayer and penance. This is strikingly evident in the short life of Jacinta Marto, who showed such an heroic spirit of penance. One of the reasons Lucia gave for it was that Jacinta “had looked upon hell, and had seen the ruin of souls who fall therein.”26
The need to teach the doctrine of hell, and for priests to preach about it, is also clearer if we understand that many people may well be lost. In teaching about hell we will be following Christ’s example, for he returned constantly to this theme. We will also be imitating Our Lady at Fatima, who showed those little children the vision of hell, and who gave us the prayer to say at the end of each decade of the rosary, in which we ask to be saved from hell.
On the other hand, we must avoid generating a morbid fear of hell or an obsession with it. It is not a fate that can overwhelm us against our will; any who go there have chosen evil deliberately. The doctrine should be seen in the light of God’s greatness and our dignity as free beings. He is so great that hell is a just punishment for rebelling against him; our dignity as responsible beings is so great that we can deserve that fate.
For sure, there is nothing to be done for those in Hell.
When the brain is injured, there is nothing to be done for the dead brain cells, but a lot can be done to protect the surviving brain from ‘secondary injury’. As well as ensuring normal blood flow and oxygenation, it has been discovered that mild chilling of the brain for at least 48 hours prevents secondary injury to a great extent. (This was a Kiwi discovery from studies on oxygen starved newborns, btw ).
Got that? Chill baby-baby, chill baby-baby, wait!*
‘Chill’ to me means to sit quietly, do little, do without, await events: The soul of asceticism. We are about to start the Church’s great ascetical season, Lent.
As Lent approaches, and who knows, it may be the last ever Lent, let us this time prepare to mortify ourselves in union with Christ for the conversion of sinners, and the shortening of time spent in purgatory by our beloved departed, and ourselves. Let us say the Fatima prayer with greater trust:
“O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy.”
Let us chill our appetites, our worldliness, our openness to sin. With our spiritual bloodflow devoted to the spiritual essentials, great wonders will happen, I am sure.
* a reference to the 1990 pop song: “Things that make you go Hmmmm” – warning, the clever video may be a little racy for some tastes. Great bass line.