From the Pastor: A Hell of a Pain? Hardly!
At the beginning of Lent this year I suggested, strongly, that you pick up some reading material on Hell so that you can refresh your brain and soul with some holy fear of eternal punishment, something that the whole world seems to completely ignore or ridicule. It is so easy to get caught up in even the wicked ideas of the world (such as there being no possible way an all loving God would ever condemn anyone to eternal punishment--except for the people I despise, of course) when everyone, including, God help us, Catholic clergy, seem to be on the same wavelength. It is imperative that real Catholics (yes, I am opposing “real” Catholic to “fake” Catholics) find time to immerse themselves in even the “harsh” teachings of Holy Mother Church so as to be immunized from the diseases of modern man. I have heard from some of you that you have taken me up on the suggestion and with good results. Hell is gruesome. Hell is terrifying. Hell is... well, Hell is a place you want to avoid at all costs once you get even the smallest idea of what it is like.
Start out trying to imagine Hell by simply thinking of the worst of everything you have ever experienced all coming together at the same time. Think of the worst smell you have ever had to endure. The day the septic tank backed up into the house? The thing your dog rolled in last week? The perfume that lady in the pew directly in front of you right now drenched herself with this morning? The stench in Hell is infinitely worse. Think of that putrid odor emanating from the most repulsive person you have ever seen, spoken with or heard of. I’m thinking here of major physical and mental deformities and abnormalities, untoward social boorishness, rudeness without parallel, complete lack of couth and hygiene, and in-your-face moral turpitude. You know, your typical liberal politician. You would be wise to choose to be surgically conjoined to that “thing” for life rather than to spend one day ten feet away from the least hideous person or demon in Hell. Think of the most discordant or earsplitting noise you have ever heard. Your kids’ music? Dentist’s drill? Fingernails on a chalkboard? (Alexa, what is a chalkboard?) In Hell you will fantasize about sitting inside one of those aggravating cars which drive around playing rap “music” which can be heard from 3 blocks away because, compared to the rest of the cacophony in Hell, it would be like enjoying a symphony at Carnegie Hall.
OK, you get the idea. I didn’t mention thinking about the loss of God and the loss God feels when He loses us (though that should be our worst grief and greatest fear) because I don’t think most people can readily conceptualize what would be even a fairly good emotional or rational understanding of just how disturbing that would be (and should be, not in imagination but in reality, whenever we commit mortal sin). I also left, until now, getting you to think about your worst physical pain, but I think that is probably what most people first sweat over if they ever consider Hell. Visions of plunging into the fires of Hell and the pools of burning sulfur quickly elicit shudders and trembling. I was thinking about such pains last week when my back went out. I don’t know why it went out, it just did. The first day was terrible. I had trouble walking. I had even more trouble bending over. It was painful to stand but sitting didn’t so much relieve the pain as shift it to other body parts. That night before going to bed I set the alarm for 30 minutes less sleep. Not that I didn’t want the extra sleep, for I knew it would be a tumultuous night, but rather because I knew what to expect in the morning. It took me about 15 grueling minutes just to struggle out of bed, to get my feet on the ground and my hands on the door jam so that I could take the two excruciating steps necessary to get into the bathroom. Anyway, it is not my intention to describe what it felt like so much as it is my objective to tell you what I did about it (besides moving very slowly and deliberately). I did what I always tell you all to do. I offered it up. “Thank you, God, for this incredible pain, especially during Lent. I would never have willingly taken this upon myself but You knew that it would be good for me, so you mercifully allowed me to experience it. Lord, I don’t want to go to Hell, where this agony will be just the warm up for the real torment. Thank you for reminding me of that so that I can redouble my efforts to remain always in a state of grace. Help me love you enough to accept this gift without complaint and to offer it up with joy.”
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka