"Heaven, Hell and Purgatory" is a pamphlet designed to help the reader reflect on life after death. A selection of passages from the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska on ... Read more
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In a video released on Sept. 2, a Sunni militant gestures at the camera before beheading 31-year-old American Steven Sotlof.
In the span of two full pages in the Diary of St. Faustina, we get ominous imagery that can make the blood curdle, followed by a directive from Christ that puts the priorities of most of us to shame, followed by brief, matter-of-fact words from Faustina that remind us of why she matters so much to our present age. The pages run from entry 741 through 742. They are remarkably tuned to our violent times.
To begin with, St. Faustina, the Secretary of Divine Mercy who died in 1938, writes of being "led by an Angel to the chasms of hell ... a place of great torture." She details the kinds of tortures and describes "the continual darkness," the "suffocating smell," the "horrible despair, hatred of God ... curses and blasphemies."
Why this round trip into the abyss? God needed a foreign correspondent of sorts, one who was steely nerved, battle ready, and spiritually sensitive, to prove to us that hell is real. He wanted Faustina to experience it and write about it "so that," as she explains in entry 741, "no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there."
The Church defines hell as the "state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1033). Today, can there be any doubt hell exists and that the devil is alive in the world? His latest, most brazen agents of evil include Boko Haram in Nigeria — killers and kidnappers of school children, enslavers of young girls —and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Middle East. There are many more. The Sunni extremists of ISIL, for one, are all too pleased to post on the internet their broad-daylight beheadings, rapes, torture, crucifixions, and murder of children, women, and men — virtually any non-Sunni jihadist in their path, most of their victims being ethnic minorities, many of them Christian.
And as for Christians, make no mistake: From North Korea through West Africa, there are mobs, militias, and entire regimes methodically wiping Christianity off the map. Persecution of Christians "is stronger than in the first centuries of the Church," says Pope Francis.
Bryan Thatcher, director of Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy (EADM), provides support for Divine Mercy prayer cenacles throughout the world, including in Sudan where a school in a diocese he visited was recently set ablaze and more than 80 schoolchildren burned to death. You want to see visions of hell? Don't just take St. Faustina's word for it. Google "Sudan children burned to death." On second thought, don't.
While some world leaders, to varying degrees of commitment, seek to stem the chaos and protect innocent populations by military and diplomatic means, what are we apostles of Divine Mercy to do?
Let's turn back to the Diary, entry 742, where the answer is plainly spelled out. It cannot be accidental that immediately following St. Faustina's vision of hell Jesus says, "I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this. ... I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first — by deed, the second — by word, the third — by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me."
For us, by deed, we must send aid to the survivors of violence, including the millions of refugees fleeing Syria and northern Iraq. We can send aid through agencies such as the pontifical organizations Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, and Caritas Internationalis (see below).
By word, we must raise awareness in our communities, our parishes, and our schools. Write letters to our political representatives in support of any and all Vatican-approved efforts to stop unjust aggression.
Finally, pray — to St. Faustina, who is uniquely qualified in such matters.
With that, let's turn back to the final few words of Diary entry 742. Faustina writes:
With my heart I encompass the whole world, especially countries which are uncivilized or where there is persecution. I am praying for mercy upon them.
Isn't that evidence enough of St. John Paul II's declaration that Faustina is "God's gift to our time"? Pray for the intercession of St. Faustina, who promises "poor earth" that she will not forget us. "God," she writes, "will give me the possibility of boundless action" (1582).
Never underestimate the power of prayer. Trust that Christ's mercy is lethal to the devil's strongholds. Pray through St. Faustina's intercession that those intent on committing evil acts may open their hearts to God.
The heart is hell without Him.
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How you can help
• Aid to the Church in Need — visit acn-intl.org
• Catholic Near East Welfare Association — visit cnewa.org
• Caritas Internationalis — visit caritas.org