So many people today deny the reality of hell, as though ignoring it, would render it non-existent (Don’t try this method with the IRS!). But Jesus Himself told us about the reality of hell. He said that it would be better to gouge out your eye here on earth, if it causes you to sin, than to enter hell with both eyes (Mark 9:47). In Matthew 5:22, He also says that if you call someone a fool, you will be liable to the fires of hell. In Mark 9:48, He indicates that there are worms there, and the fire never dies. So let’s take a look at what four saints, who have actually had visions of hell, have to say about this eternal fiery dungeon of horror.
For the record, what the saints have to say below about hell is not to be taken as infallible Catholic Dogma, or on a par with sacred scripture. Their revelations are more like their personal commentary on what they have seen. So let’s see what they have to say.
St. Frances of Rome’s Vision of Hell
St. Frances of Rome was born in Rome in 1384, and died there in 1440. She had a lot of visions about hell. This gift was given to her so that we today could be warned about the horrible possibility of going there.
She said that the devils are divided up into a one to two ratio. She says that one third of the devils are in hell, and those are the ones who actively fought against Michael and angels in the war to dethrone God. According to her, the remaining two thirds of the devils are here on earth and in the air, and these are the ones who sat on the sidelines during the war, and who refused to take sides (i.e., lukewarm). The ones in hell can only come to earth with the express permission of God, when He wants to punish men the most severely for their sins. The devils already on earth can cause havoc with the weather, and they have the job of testing men and women’s faith by seeing if they can get them to sin against God. They are the members of the lowest rank of devils, and they are daily counteracted in their nefarious actions by our guardian angels. These earthly demons will eventually wind up in hell, but since they didn’t rebel outright, but in a passive manner, they do not suffer the pains of hell just yet.
She says that Lucifer is in the lowest place in hell, and he was formerly the highest of the Seraphim angels. He is in charge of the sin of pride. Below him in the hellish hierarchy is Asmodeus, the former head of the Cherubim. His great sin is lust, and his job is to destroy marriages. Then comes Mammon, the former head of the Thrones. His great sin is greed. Then comes Beelzebul, the former head of the Dominations. His great sins are idolatry and the occult.
St. Faustina’s Vision of Hell
St. Faustina was a Polish nun who lived in the early 20th Century. Her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul was the catalyst for St. John Paul II to declare the Sunday after Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday, when a Plenary Indulgence for all sins is available to the faithful who participate. Here is what she had to say about hell in paragraph 741:
Today, I was led by an angel to the chasm of hell. It is a place of great torture; how awesomely large and extensive it is! The kinds of tortures that I saw;
• The 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 a purely spiritual fire, lit by God’s anger;
• The fifth torture is continual darkness, and a terrible, suffocating smell, and despite the darkness, the devil and the souls of the damned see each other and all the evil, both of others and of 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, but that is not the end of their sufferings. 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 caverns and pits of torture where one form of agony differs from another. I would have died at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God had not supported me.
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.
Sr. Josefa Menendez’ Vision of Hell
“Some yell because of the martyrdom of their hands. Perhaps they were thieves, for they say: ‘Where is our loot now?’ …Cursed hands… Others curse their tongues, their eyes…whatever was the occasion of sin…”
“I saw several souls fall into Hell, and among them was a child of fifteen, cursing her parents for not having taught her to fear God nor that there was a Hell. Her life had been a short one, she said, but full of sin, for she had given in to all that her body and passions demanded in the way of satisfaction…”
“My soul fell into abysmal depths, the bottom of which cannot be seen, for it is immense. . . ; Then I was pushed into one of those fiery cavities and pressed, as it were, between burning planks, and sharp nails and red hot irons seemed to be piercing my flesh. I felt as if they were endeavoring to pull out my tongue, but could not.
This torture reduced me to such agony that my very eyes seemed to be starting out of their sockets. I think this was because of the fire which burns, burns. . . not a finger nail escapes terrifying torments, and all the time one cannot move even a finger to gain some relief, not change posture, for the body seems flattened out and [yet] doubled in two. Sounds of confusion and blasphemy cease not for an instant.
A sickening stench asphyxiates and corrupts everything, it is like the burning of putrefied flesh, mingled with tar and sulfur. . . a mixture to which nothing on earth can be compared. . . although these tortures were terrific, they would be bearable if the soul were at peace. But it suffers indescribably. . . All I have written, is but a shadow of what the soul suffers, for no words can express such dire torment.”
“It seemed to me that the majority accused themselves of sins of impurity, of stealing, of unjust trading; and that most of the damned are in Hell for these sins.”
“Tonight I was transported to a place where all was obscure. . . Around me were seven or eight people; I could see them only by the reflections of the fire. They were seated and were talking together. One demon said: ‘We’ll have to be very careful not to be found out, for we might easily be discovered.’
The devil answered: ‘Insinuate yourselves by inducing carelessness in them. . . but keep in the background, so that you are not found out. . . by degrees they will become callous, and you will be able to incline them to evil. Tempt these others to ambition, to self-interest, to acquiring wealth without working, whether it be lawful or not. Excite some to sensuality and love of pleasure. Let vice blind them. . . As to the remainder. . . get in through the heart . . . you know the inclinations of their hearts. . . make them love. . . love passionately. . . work thoroughly. .. take no rest . . . have no pity. Let them cram themselves with food! It will make it all the easier for us. . . Let them get on with their banqueting. Love of pleasure is the door through which you will reach them. I must conceal my presence, work in the dark; any corner will do from which to tempt them… close to an ear.. in the leaves of a book… under a bed… some pay no attention to me, but I shall talk and talk… and by dint of suggestion, something will remain.. Yes, I must hide in unsuspected places.’”
St. John Bosco’s Vision of Hell
St. John Bosco was an Italian saint born in 1815. He founded the Salesians, which is an order dedicated to taking care of poor children. He had many dreams and visions. One of them was about visiting hell.
He said that the road to hell is very beautiful in the beginning, but always sloping downward, with many concealed traps for young boys. These traps are hard to see, but make many a boy fall. As the road progressed, it became more and more steep, and a lot uglier. He soon found himself at the gates of hell:
I looked up and read these words: “The place of no reprieve.” I realized that we were at the gates of Hell. The guide led me all around this horrible place. At regular distance bronze portals like the first overlooked precipitous descents; on each was an inscription, such as: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25: 41) “Every tree that yielded not good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire.” (Matthew 7: 19)
He then saw a boy running into hell:
As the boy crashed into the portal, it sprang open with a roar, and instantly a thousand inner portals opened with a deafening clamor as if struck by a body that had been propelled by an invisible, most violent, irresistible gale. As these bronze doors – one behind the other, though at a considerable distance from each other – remained momentarily open, I saw far into the distance something like furnace jaws sprouting fiery balls the moment the youth hurtled into it. As swiftly as they had opened, the portals then clanged shut again.
Ahead of me I could see something like an immense cave which gradually disappeared into recesses sunk far into the bowels of the mountains. They were all ablaze, but theirs was not an earthly fire with leaping tongues of flames. The entire cave –walls, ceiling, floor, iron, stones, wood, and coal – everything was a glowing white at temperatures of thousands of degrees. Yet the fire did not incinerate, did not consume. I simply can’t find words to describe the cavern’s horror. The nourishment thereof is fire and much wood: the breath of the Lord as a torrent of brimstone kindling it.
St. John Bosco said that the way they fell into hell, was the body posture they would maintain forever. He touched the gate of hell as he was leaving, and woke up from his dream with a burn on his hand.
The Church teaches the reality of hell (CCC 1035) noting,
The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.
The private revelations of hell, witnessed by the saints, present to us more vividly the reality of hell, the reality of eternal separation from the only source of happiness.