With the days getting shorter, the leaves falling to the ground, and harvest time coming to an end, nature itself reminds us that nothing on this earth lasts forever. It's also close to the end of the liturgical calendar with the beginning of Advent approaching, giving us a "great reset" if you will. So where shall we begin when we know where the conclusions of this time of year will lead us? "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" Prov. 9-10 With many fearing the tyranny of the elites who control much of our governments, workplaces, and other aspects of daily life, there is something we should fear far greater than man; it is the One True God. Why? Because there are four things in this life which are certain and which we cannot escape: Death, Judgment, and Heaven or Hell.
Pope St. Gregory teaches, "Christ's conflict with death represented our last conflict, teaching us that the agony of death is the keenest agony that man has ever felt or will ever feel. It is the will of God that man should suffer so intensely at the close of his life, in order that we may recognize and appreciate the magnitude of Christ's love for us, the inestimable benefit He has conferred on us by enduring death for our sakes. For it would have been impossible for man fully to know the infinite love of God, unless he too had drunk to some extent of the bitter chalice which Christ drank." So just as Christ was tempted and suffered in this life, so was His death filled with agony. If we wish to be worthy of Him we must take up our cross and follow Him daily as He has said and also bravely accept the death that He has willed for us without murmuring of its bitterness.
Although experiencing death is quite dreadful, what's worse is at our last hour, devils with all their power will assault us. The book of the Apocalypse says, "Woe to the earth and to the sea, because the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time." Apoc. 12:12 Pope St. Gregory continues: "Consider well how terrible is the hour of death, and how appalling the remembrance of our evil deeds will be at that time. For the spirits of darkness will recall all the harm they have done us, and remind us of the sins which we have committed at their instigation.
They will not go to the deathbed of the godless only, but they will be present with the elect, striving to discover something sinful whereof to accuse them. Alas! how will it fare with us hapless mortals in that hour, and what can we say for ourselves, seeing how innumerable are the sins to be laid to our charge? What can we answer to our adversaries, when they place all our sins before us, with the object of reducing us to despair?" Much can be said of the craftiness and ruses which demons will come up with when approaching us at the hour death. What's worse is to their very sight.
St. Cyril writing to St. Augustine says, that one of three men who were raised from the dead told him: "As the hour of my departure drew nigh, a multitude of devils, countless in number, came and stood about me. Their forms were more horrible than anything imagination can conceive. One would rather be burnt in the fire than be compelled to look upon them. These demons ranged themselves around me and reproached me with all the misdeeds I had ever done, thinking to drive me to despair. And in fact I should have given way before them, had not God in His mercy come to my succor."
What hope can we have in so far as securing a good death and fighting against the onslaughts of the devil? Praying the rosary, wearing the brown scapular and being devoted to the blessed Virgin Mary is a sure sign of predestination. For the sake of brevity I will post this link:
I recommend reading the thirty third chapter (rose) which talks of who the devils fear the most (other than God) as coming from their own words when commanded by St. Dominic to give the answer. Indeed may our holy mother Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death, AMEN.
There are two judgments. Our particular judgment and the general (final) judgment where Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead. As far as our particular judgment, Fr. Martin Von Cochem gives us a description in his book, The Four Last Things from the examples of holy men who were concerned about their judgment, "We read also in the lives of the Fathers that the holy Abbot Agathon was overwhelmed with fear as his end drew near. His brethren said to him: 'Why shouldst thou be afraid, reverend Father, thou has led so pious a life?' But he answered them: 'The judgments of God are very different from the judgments of man.' The holy Abbot Elias used likewise to say: 'There are three things that I fear. First I dread the moment when my soul has to leave my body; secondly, the moment when I must stand before the tribunal of God; thirdly, the moment when the sentence is passed upon me.'
No one can fail to concur in the saying of this saintly man, for indeed, beside the general judgment, there is nothing so much to be apprehended as these three things. All good and holy men have feared them, all do fear them. Those who do not fear them, prove that they know very little about them, or have meditated scarcely at all upon them... If it is so hateful to a criminal to be brought before an earthly magistrate, well may the poor soul quake with fear when she is introduced into the presence of God, the strict and omniscient Judge, and required to give the most accurate account of all the thoughts, words, deeds and omissions of her past life."
Then there is the last judgment where Christ will come to judge the living and the dead. St. Paul says, "We shall indeed all rise again, but we shall not all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible: and we shall be changed." 1 Cor. 15: 51-52 It will be a terrible day for all the evil spirits and the souls of the damned when it comes. Considering how rigorous God will be in His judgment of men, the just will still fear the appearance of Christ's tribunal. St. Augustine tells us, "When Our Lord says that the powers of heaven shall be moved, He alludes to the angels; for so terrible will judgment be, that the angels will not be exempt from fear; they too will tremble and be afraid. For just as when a judge sits in judgment his grave countenance not only strikes terror into the culprits before him, but over-awes the officials standing around, so when all mankind are brought to judgment the celestial ministers will share the universal horror and alarm."
We can only imagine what it will be like for the sheep and the goats on that day when the souls of every person will reunite with its body. Von Cochem in the same book as mentioned above, paints a vivid picture of this, "The body of every good man will rest in the grave as if he were asleep; it will be blooming as a rose, fragrant as a lily, shining as a star, fair as an angel and perfect in every member. What will the soul say when she beholds the body appertaining to her lying before her in such beauty? She will say: Hail, blessed and beloved body, how I rejoice once more to rejoin thee! How lovely thou art, how glorious, how pleasing, how fragrant! Come to me, that I may be wedded to thee for all eternity... Then the holy guardian angels will congratulate these blessed beings and exult with them over their joyous resurrection."
For the damned he says this, "Woe is me , woe is me to all eternity! Better were it for me a thousand times never to have been born, than to have come to this resurrection of misery!" Then the soul will rejoin: Thou accursed body, I have already for several hundred years had to endure the torments of hell, and how I must return with thee to the everlasting burning. Thou art to blame for all this misfortune; I gave thee good counsels, but thou would not follow them. Therefore thou art forever lost. Alas for me, unhappy soul that I am! Alas for me, now and forever more... And the body will answer the soul after this manner: O accursed soul, what right has thou to anathematize me, when thou art thyself the cause of all this wretchedness? Thou shouldst have ruled me more firmly and held me back from evil, for it was with this object that God united thee to me. Instead of associating thyself with me in works of penance, thou didst revel with me in sinful pleasures. It is for me, therefore, to curse thee to all eternity, because thou art the one who hast brought us both to everlasting perdition."
"Every tree that that bring not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast in the fire." Matt 7:19 Instead of talking about what we generally understand hell to be I will share one story of an apparition of a damned soul according to what is related in the book Hell by Fr. F.X. Schouppe:
"In 1604, in the city of Brussels, there occurred the celebrated apparition of a damned soul, attested by Blessed Richard of St. Ann, of the Order of St. Francis, who suffered martyrdom at Nagasaki, in Japan, on September 10, 1622. Blessed Richard related the fact to a theologian of the Spanish Inquisition, Father Alphonsus of Andrada, of the Company of Jesus; he, in turn, communicated it to Adrian Lyroeus, who has inserted it in his Trisagium Marianum, Book III. Saint Alphonsus Liguori, who cites the same fact in his Glories of Mary, has made Blessed Richard one of the two actors in this frightful drama; he (Bl. Richard) was only a witness, like many others who were living at Brussels, but the impression he experienced was so lively that it became the determining cause of his entrance into the Seraphic order.
This is how the occurrence is related, after authentic documents in the Annals of Franciscan Missions, for the years 1866-67. It was not without a terrible, though merciful interposition of God's justice, that Blessed Richard was brought to demand the habit of St. Francis. It was in 1604. There were at Brussels, where Richard was at that time, two young students who, instead of applying themselves to study, thought only of how to live in pleasure and dissipation. One night, among others, when they had gone to indulge in sin in a house of ill-fame, one of the two left the place after some time, leaving his miserable companion behind him.
Having reached home, he was about to lie down in bed, when he remembered that he had not recited that day the few Hail Marys which he had the habit of saying every day in honor of the Holy Virgin. As he was overpowered by sleep, it was troublesome for him; however, he made an effort and said them, although without devotion; then he went to bed. In his first sleep he heard all of a sudden, a rude knocking at the door; and immediately afterward he saw before him his companion, disfigured and hideous.
"Who are you?" he said to him. "What? Don't you know me?" replied the unhappy youth. "But how are you so changed? You look like a devil?" "Ah, pity me; I am damned!" "How is that?" "Well, know that upon leaving that accursed house a devil sprang upon me and strangled me. My body has remained in the middle of the street, and my soul is in Hell. Know, moreover, that the same chastisement awaited you, but the Virgin preserved you from it, thanks to your practice of reciting every day a few Hail Marys in her honor. Happy are you if you know how to profit by this information, which the Mother of God gives you through me."
While finishing these words, the damned soul partly opened his garment, allowed the flames and serpents that were tormenting him to be seen, and vanished. Then the young man, melting into tears, threw himself on his face on the floor to thank the Holy Virgin Mary, his deliverer. Now, while he was praying in this manner and reflecting upon what he ought to do to change his life, he heard the Matins bell ring at the Franciscan Monastery.
That very moment he cried out, "There it is that God calls me to do penance." The next day indeed, at a very early hour, he went to the monastery and begged the Father Guardian to receive him. The Father, who was aware of his bad life, having presented difficulties at first, the young student, shedding a torrent of tears, related to him all that had taken place. And really, two religious, having repaired to the street indicated, found the corpse of the wretched youth, black as a coal. Then the postulant was admitted among the Brothers, whom he edified by a life altogether devoted to penance.
Such is the terrible fact which struck dismay and fright into many souls and which induced Blessed Richard also to consecrate himself entirely to God in the same Order into which the young student, so wonderfully protected by Mary, had just been received."
"In my Father's house there are many mansions... Thomas saith to him: Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me." Jn. 14: 2,5-6
Describing the beauty of heaven, St. Teresa writes, "The Blessed Mother of God gave me a jewel, and hung around my neck a superb golden chain, to which a cross of priceless value was attached. Both the gold and the precious stones thus given to me are so unlike those which we have here in this world that no comparison can be instituted between them. They are beautiful beyond anything that can be conceived, and the matter whereof they are composed is beyond our knowledge. For what we call gold and precious stones beside them appear dark and lusterless as charcoal."
In his Sunday Sermons, St. Alphonsus Liguori gives a one of the best descriptions of Heaven: "In Paradise, death and the fear of death are no more: in that place of bliss there are no sorrows, no infirmities, no poverty, no inconveniencies, no vicissitudes of day or night, of cold or of heat. In that kingdom there is a continual day, always serene, a continual spring, always blooming. In Paradise there are no persecutions, no envy; for all love each other with tenderness, and each rejoices at the happiness of the others, as if it were his own.
There is no more fear of eternal perdition; for the soul confirmed in grace can neither sin nor lose God... But the delights of which we have spoken are the least of the blessings of Paradise. The glory of heaven consists in seeing and loving God face to face. ”Totum quod expectamus," says St. Augustine, ”duæ syllabæ sunt, Deus." The reward which God promises to us does not consist altogether in the beauty, the harmony, and other advantages of the city of Paradise. God himself, whom the saints are allowed to behold, is, according to the promises made to Abraham, the principal reward of the just in heaven. ”I am thy reward exceeding great." (Gen. xv. 1.) St. Augustine asserts, that, were God to show his face to the damned, ”Hell would be instantly changed into a Paradise of delights."
In an old My Military Missal by Fr. Joseph Stedman (1941), there is a poem which reminds us of the the four last things. It reads:
Life is short and death is sure.
The hour death remains obscure.
A soul you have, and only one,
If that be lost all hope is gone.
Waste not time, while time shall last;
For after death 'tis ever past.
All-seeing God, your Judge will be,
And heaven or hell your destiny.
All earthly things will speed away,
Eternity, alone, will stay.