I originally posted this last year, I am very reluctant to write about myself, but in reading this again, I pray you may find this helpful. May Mary's prayers go with you always.
Fear of Hell is a Good Thing
Today it is common to hear messages assuaging our consciences. We often hear words such as these spoken: "God is love, He loves us as we are, what is there to fear?" Or "God loves me unconditionally, I'm certain He'll understand, He would never throw me/us/etc. into hell. Besides, is there really such a place?" Well, certainly you've heard similar things. I myself used to believe such nonsense. Years ago during my conversion, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother I came to know something of the nature of my soul and that I was most certainly on the path of perdition. Words cannot describe the dread and certainty of my own damnation, this drove me into the confessional. At that very confession, the priest told me the Mother of God had obtained this grace for me. I am quite sure Jesus was speaking to me through this holy priest - who became the physician of my soul for years. I was shocked to read some time later in the Diary of St. Faustina of Divine Mercy fame, Jesus tell her He is the one who hears the confession, it is He who speaks through the priest "The lips are his but the words are Mine." I have experienced this sort of phenomena several times since that day. I strive to the best of my wretched ability to confess my sins as to the Lord Himself. It is He who sits behind the screen, it is He who pronounces the words of absolution, it is He who imparts the blessing.
I normally do not speak of myself, but rather have chosen to stay in this blog's background and let the postings speak. I do not wish to showcase myself, but hope to showcase devotion to our Lady of Sorrows. For some reason I felt powerfully moved to write some about my own experiences today. I have been posting about hell the last several days because the reality of hell was the major factor in my turning to God. My conversion, like many others I've read about, started with a fear of hell. This fear led me to confess my sins with tears and sorrow. This imperfect contrition was enough for the Lord to move in with His merciful grace, which He poured into my wicked soul. He took my weak and shakey hand in His and led me into the amendment of my life. After He planted in my soul certain knowledge, faith and a great love for His mother, He placed me in a crucible of suffering which purged most of the unnecessary things from my life. This suffering was one of the greatest gifts the God of Creation bestowed upon me. I was plunged into isolation, poverty, overworked and overwhelmed with small children and full time school...all but one of my friends abandonned me. I walked around every day for months, as I recall, feeling as if I was on fire. The spiritual suffering was so great it seemed like my poor soul would break. To this day I can name no "cause" for this suffering, I only know it was there. I believe God was allowing me some form of spiritual or moral suffering because my wicked soul needed it. The only time I had some relief was in praying the rosary, which I would do several times a day. At one point, I would every afternoon sit at my table, make rosaries while praying the rosary, while watching the rosary on EWTN - like some kind of Catholic Trifecta. Had anyone known what I was doing they'd think I was losing my mind, and I guess I was.
One of the fruits of this agony was my senses were turned off to the world in all except that which was absolutely necessary - turning my soul wholly and completely to God. I was glad when friends stopped calling, I could pray more - so totally unlike me. I fasted for weeks on end, far too much it turns out but it seemed the only way to "combat" this suffering.
Oddly enough, dwelling in my soul right beside this horrific suffering was a joy and a peace that cannot be described. The one did not diminish the other at all, but this co-habitation allowed me to live and function. I remember one day at work, I had a moment alone in the operating room (working at the time as an OR nurse) where I was seized by a spiritual pain so acute I was nearly doubled over. I was dressed in sterile garb, what we called "scrubbed in", I could barely move without contaminating so I grasped my hands to my chest, bent my head and spiritually embraced the pain overtaking me. With my whole soul I raised myself to God, clasping the cross as if my very existence depended upon it, offering myself to He Who Is without holding a thing back. As the pain surged and threatened to desolate me, the joy also surged. How odd that such exquisite suffering can coincide with such exquisite joy and peace in one soul - at the same time. I marvel at it now as I write it down for the first time.
Ok, so why talk about all this? As I stated earlier - this life saving conversion was initiated by the fear of hell. Twas not the love of God, nor was it spontaneous love of neighbor, love of virtue, nor disgust with myself. No! I loved my sins! I had effectively murdered my conscience with sin and felt only a mild, transient jab of guilt on very rare occasions - easily dismissed. It was suffering that caused me to turn to the rosary, it was Mary's response - her obtaining for me the certainty of my own damnation that turned me to the sacraments of the church - which healed me. We ought to fear hell and think often of its pains. If we do not fear hell, then surely we are in mortal danger. The only true tragedy which exists in all of God's creation is the loss of a soul as it plunges headlong into hell.
"Jesus permits the spiritual combat as a purification, not as a punishment. The trial is not unto death but unto salvation. The Mother of Sorrows is my confidante, my teacher, my counselor, and my powerful advocate." ~St. Padre Pio Amen+