Hell and Evil

The following is an excerpt from the Marian Press book 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle:

“I fight a continuous battle with the enemy of my soul," Diary, 1287

We touched upon spiritual battle earlier in this book when we discussed Sr. Faustina’s dealings with doubt, struggle, and what she called a “continuous battle” fought in her soul. This week’s spiritual exercise will delve into the existence of hell, some tricks and traps of Satan, and how hell and evil impacted St. Faustina’s life. Are you ready? Let’s go!

WEEK 46

Hell and evil are not necessarily comfortable subjects. Perhaps most of us would be delighted if these topics never had to come up. Countless folks simply do not believe in the existence of hell. Yet it’s essential to acknowledge that hell indeed exists, and that the devil is not some fictitious cartoon character with horns, but rather a very real evil being. Not only that, but he also desires to drag as many souls as possible to the eternal fires and tortures of hell.

Sister Faustina spoke about the “continuous battle” fought in her soul. Early on in her spiritual life, Sr. Faustina was plagued with doubts and confusion. Clearly, the evil one was trying to trip her up. However, God allowed these struggles, not for her destruction, but in order to cause the young nun’s growth in holiness. Sister Faustina trained herself to turn to prayer immediately when she was tempted or struggling. Jesus told her many times to reside near His Sacred Heart. One time, she wrote, “Despite the peace in my soul, I fight a continuous battle with the enemy of my soul. More and more, I am discovering his traps, and the battle flares up anew. During interludes of calm, I exercise myself and keep watch, lest the enemy find me unprepared. And when I see his great fury, I stay inside the stronghold; that is, the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus” (Diary, 1287). The young mystic was certain that prayer and staying close to Jesus’ Heart would be her saving graces.

One evening, Satan tried to convince Sr. Faustina to give up on Divine Mercy. Just before he spoke to her, a “strange dislike for everything having to do with God” suddenly came over her, and Satan said, “Think no more about this work. God is not as merciful as you say He is. Do not pray for sinners, because they will be damned all the same, and by this work of mercy you expose your own self to damnation. Talk no more about this mercy of God with your confessor and especially not with Father Sopoćko and Father Andrasz.” She noted that, following these words, “the voice took the appearance of my Guardian Angel.” She said in reply, “I know who you are: the father of lies [cf. Jn 8:44].” Sister Faustina made the Sign of the Cross, and the being vanished “with a great racket and fury” (Diary, 1405). The devil knew well the great importance of the work of Divine Mercy and would attack Sr. Faustina often, attempting to cause her to doubt the mercy of God. He even knew the names of Sr. Faustina’s spiritual directors.

Satan also knew well the power of intercessory prayer and wanted to stop it. When Sr. Faustina was praying for sinners and offering all of her sufferings for them, she recalled that “the Evil Spirit could not stand that.” Sister Faustina said he took on the form of an apparition and said, “Do not pray for sinners, but for yourself, for you will be damned.” The young mystic paid no attention to Satan. She redoubled her efforts to pray for sinners! Satan “howled with fury,” she recalled. He was full of anger, saying, “Oh, if I had power over you!” and disappeared. Sister Faustina was enlightened about the benefits of her intercessory prayer and how it stops Satan in his tracks. She wrote, “I saw that my suffering and prayer shackled Satan and snatched many souls from his clutches” (Diary, 1465).

Satan Hated St. Faustina

Sister Faustina recalled the graces she experienced during Mass one day as she was praying. She thought she might die of joy. Her knowledge of her union with God and His attributes became very acute. Her awareness of what she described as her own “wretchedness” was crystal clear. She marveled over God’s love for her. “I am amazed at the Lord’s great condescension to such a miserable soul as mine.” All throughout the day, Sr. Faustina was very aware of “His every glance into the depth” of her heart. She continued to be in a state of recollection, and, about midday, visited the chapel. She recalled, “Again the power of grace struck my heart.” Obviously, Satan was not happy because, she recalled, suddenly he “took a large  flower-pot and angrily hurled it to the ground with all his might.” Sister Faustina “saw all his rage and his jealousy” (Diary, 411). She tried to quickly clean up the mess and repot the flower before anyone entered the chapel. However, Mother Borgia, along with the sacristan and several other sisters, suddenly walked in. They assumed Sr. Faustina had touched something on the altar and had caused the flowerpot to fall. A look of displeasure spread over the sacristan’s face. The young novice tried to explain.

Later, Sr. Faustina felt exhausted and asked the Mother Superior to allow her to go to bed early and miss her Holy Hour. Sister Faustina recalled, “I fell asleep as soon as I lay down, but at about eleven o’clock Satan shook my bed.” Awakened, she prayed to her guardian angel peacefully. She suddenly saw many souls in Purgatory, but among them she also saw demons. “One of these tried to vex me; taking on the form of a cat, he kept throwing himself onto my bed and on my feet, and he was quite heavy, as if [weighing] a ton.” She continued to pray the Rosary, and toward dawn, fell asleep after everything vanished. In the morning, Jesus spoke to His bride as she entered the chapel. “You are united to Me; fear nothing. But know, my child, that Satan hates you; he hates every soul, but he burns with a particular hatred for you, because you have snatched so many souls from his dominion” (Diary, 412).

Hell is Real

Make no mistake — hell is real! The reality of hell is part of public Revelation. We might avoid thinking about its existence or even deny its reality. Yet God in His great mercy and love has revealed the reality of hell by giving certain souls unique visions of hell or unique insights into hell for their own sakes, as well as for the benefit of the entire world. One time, St. Faustina was led by an angel to the depths of hell. She described it in detail in her Diary. “It is a place of great torture; how awesomely large and extensive it is!” She observed many kinds of torture:

[T]he first torture that constitutes hell is the loss of God; the second is perpetual remorse of conscience; the third is that one’s condition will never change; the fourth is the fire that will penetrate the soul without destroying it — a terrible suffering, since it is purely spiritual fire, lit by God’s anger; the fifth torture is continual darkness and a terrible suffocating smell, and despite the darkness, the devils and the souls of the damned see each other and all the evil, both of others and their own; the sixth torture is the constant company of Satan; the seventh torture is horrible despair, hatred of God, vile words, curses and blasphemies. These are the tortures suffered by all the damned together (Diary, 741).

However, there is more. Saint Faustina enumerated specific tortures. “There are special tortures destined for particular souls. These are the torments of the senses. Each soul undergoes terrible and indescribable sufferings, related to the manner in which it has sinned.” There are even specific places in hell for certain damned souls. Sister Faustina explains, “There are caverns and pits of torture where one form of agony differs from another.” She admitted that she would “have died at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God had not supported” her. Saint Faustina wants us to know of the reality of hell and the torture that awaits the damned. She wrote, “Let the sinner know that he will be tortured throughout all eternity, in those senses which he made use of to sin. I am writing this at the command of God, so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is like” (Diary, 741).

Saint Faustina explained that she had been commanded by God to testify to hell’s existence and to give a warning. She wrote, “I, Sister Faustina, by the order of God have visited the abysses of hell so that I might tell souls about it and testify to its existence. I cannot speak about it now; but I have received a command from God to leave it in writing. The devils were full of hatred for me, but they had to obey me at the command of God.” And hell is worse than Sr. Faustina has described. She explained, “What I have written is but a pale shadow of the things I saw.” She adds a very dire warning. “But I noticed one thing; that most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell.” She was so shaken by the experience that she could “hardly recover” when she “came to.” The suffering of the damned souls upset her immensely. “How terribly souls suffer there!” she wrote. Because of this terrifying experience, St. Faustina prayed even more fervently for souls of sinners to be converted. “I incessantly plead God’s mercy upon them. O my Jesus, I would rather be in agony until the end of the world, amidst the greatest sufferings, than to offend You by the least sin,” she exclaimed (Diary, 741).

The warning St. Faustina gives, that “most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell,” should deeply impact our hearts. We should do all that we can to impress this fact upon our loved ones and those whom God puts into our lives for us to serve in love. The three young visionaries at Fatima were also shown a horrifying vision of hell. Sister Lucia wrote in her Memoirs that if she hadn’t already known from the Blessed Mother that she would be going to Heaven, she would have died of fright at the sight of hell. The vision only lasted a brief moment, but it made a lasting impression on the three young shepherds, who then devoted the remainder of their lives to praying and making sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. Sister Lucia wrote, “Some people, even the most devout, refuse to speak to children about hell, in case it would frighten them. Yet God did not hesitate to show hell to three children, one of whom was only six years old, knowing well that they would be horrified to the point of ... withering away with fear.” 

We must examine our own lives and ask ourselves if we could also care about the souls of sinners like the Portuguese shepherd children and St. Faustina.

Something to Ponder

Every Christian faces the reality of spiritual battle. How do we handle it? We are instructed to put on the armor of Christ.

Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints (Eph 6:11-18).

We must be steadfast in prayer and always attentive, for as the St. Michael Prayer tells us, Satan prowls “about the world seeking the ruin of souls.” I discussed this earlier; however, as a reminder, let us recall that when St. Faustina asked Satan to tell her to which souls in religious life he has the easiest access, he unwillingly confessed, “To lazy and idle souls.” Let us stay busy for the Lord! Now, we don’t want to allow the devil to make us think we have to be super busy by joining endless committees and engaging in countless activities so that we have no time to pray. We need to find a proper balance. Fidelity to prayer and the Sacraments is a perfect way of avoiding idleness and staying close to God. Like St. Faustina, let’s also stay close to Jesus’ Sacred Heart.

A Merficul Action

Pray and ponder ways in which to carry out works of mercy this week that will specifically help the souls of sinners. Be attentive for opportunities to help the doubtful, especially unbelievers. Also, be prepared to speak to those who present themselves as Christians, but don’t believe in hell. And, finally, make time this week for the Sacrament of Confession.

A PRAYER OF MERCY FOR THIS WEEK

(To be prayed each day this week.)

Dear Merciful Jesus,

You love us so much that

You arranged for Your chosen ones to experience

seeing the torments of hell so that they could

attest to its existence to benefit us.

Please grant me the graces to turn away from even

the least sin and to confess any

sins as soon as possible.

Mother Mary, please keep me pure.

Saint Faustina, please pray for me.

Jesus, I trust in You! Amen.

 

PRAYER TO ST. MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL

Saint Michael the Archangel,

defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness

and snares of the Devil.

May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,

and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts,

by the power of God,

thrust into hell Satan,

and all the evil spirits,

who prowl about the world

seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

You can order 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle here:

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Photo by Cullan Smith on Unsplash

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