This sobering narrative serves as a warning that describes well the slippery slope that may overtake any one of us if we are not careful in our prayer life and in our faith and trust in God.
This unusual story recounts the revelations of a lost soul to a former acquaintance. It is a powerful record of the steps which led a young woman to lose her soul in Hell for all eternity. Although it has several times been printed with imprimatur, this in itself does not guarantee the authenticity of the story. An imprimatur merely indicates that the subject matter is free from error in faith and morals. Is it true? Obviously, it cannot be '`guaranteed" because the only evidence is that of the girl herself. It certainly may be true and its instructional qualities would pertain even if the story itself were not true. In the July apparition at Fatima a vision of a Hell of fire was given to the three little children, and significantly, its existence was confirmed by the great public miracle on October 13th.
And we have seen that many today, including some Catholic priests, have "abolished" Hell as a place of physical pain. Because of this, the special intervention of Heaven, may, as at Fatima, be necessary to restore this sobering doctrine to its important place in Christian dogma. It is well to remember that the Hell spoken of here is the Hell which has a significant place in Catholic doctrine, the Hell described vividly by Christ Himself, the Hell seen in all its livid horror by the children at Fatima on July 13th, 1917.
(The names of persons and places are changed because of the nature of the story and the fact of its recent origin.)
Clara and Annette, both single Catholics in their early twenties, worked adjacent to each other, employees of a commercial firm in Germany. Although they were never very close friends, they shared a courteous mutual regard which lead to an exchange of ideas and, eventually, of confidences. Clara professed herself openly religious, and felt it her duty to instruct and admonish Annette when the latter appeared excessively casual or superficial in religious matters. In due course, Annette married and left the firm. The year was 1937. Clara spent the autumn of that year on holiday at Lake Garda. About the middle of September she received a letter from her mother: 'Annette, the victim of an auto accident, was buried yesterday at Wald-Friedhof.’ Clara was frightened since she knew her friend was not very religious. Was she prepared to appear before God? Dying suddenly, what had happened to her? The next day she attended Mass, received Holy Communion, and prayed fervently for her friend.
The following night, at ten minutes after midnight, the vision took place . . .
“Do you still remember our first meeting four years ago at . . .? You were then 23 and had been there already half a year. Because I was a beginner, you gave me some helpful advice. Then I praised your love of your neighbor. Ridiculous! Your help was mere coquetry. Here we do not acknowledge any good in anybody."
"Do you remember what I told you about my youth? Now I am painfully compelled to fill in some of the gaps. According to the plan of my parents, I should not have existed. A ‘misfortune’ brought about my conception. My two sisters were 14 and 15 when I was born. Would that I had never existed! Would that I could now annihilate myself! Escape these tortures! No pleasure would equal that with which I would abandon my existence, as a garment of ashes which is lost in nothingness. But I must continue to exist as I chose to make myself as a ruined person. When father and mother, still young, left the country for the city, they had lost touch with the Church and were keeping company with irreligious people. They had met at a dance, and after a year and a half of companionship they 'had' to get married. As a result of the nuptial ceremony, so much holy water remained on them that my mother attended Sunday Mass a couple of times a year. But she never taught me to pray. Instead, she was completely taken up with the daily cares of life, although our situation was not bad. I refer to prayer, Mass, religious instruction, holy water, church with a very strong repugnance. I hate all that, as I hate those who go to church and in general every human being and everything."
"From a great many things do we receive torture. Every knowledge received at the hour of death, every remembrance of things lived or known is, for us, a piercing flame. In each remembrance, good and bad, we see the way in which grace was present, the grace we despised or ignored. What a torture is this! We do not eat; we do not sleep; we do not walk. Chained with howling and gnashing of teeth, we look appalled at our ruined life, hating and suffering. Do you hear? We here drink hatred like water. Above all we hate God. With great reluctance do I force myself to make you understand. The blessed in heaven must love God because they see Him without veil, in all His dazzling beauty. That makes their bliss indescribable. We know this and the knowledge makes us furious. Men on earth, who know God from nature and from revelation can love Him, but they are not compelled to do so. The believer, I say this with gnashing of teeth, who contemplates Christ on the cross, with arms extended, will end by loving Him. But he whom God approaches only in the final storm, as punisher, as just avenger, because He was rejected by him, such a person cannot but hate Him with all the strength of his wicked will.
We died with willful resolve to be separated from God. Do you now understand why hell lasts forever? It is because our wills were fixed for eternity at the moment of death. We had made our final choice. Our obstinacy will never leave us."
"Under compulsion, I must add that God is merciful even towards us. I affirm many things against my will and must choke the torrent of abuses I should like to vomit out."
“God was merciful to us by not allowing our wicked wills to exhaust themselves on earth as we should have been prepared to do. This would have increased our faults and our pains. He caused us to die before our time, as in my case, or had other mitigating circumstances intervene. Now He shows Himself merciful towards us by not compelling a closer approach than that afforded in this remote inferno. Every step bringing us closer to God would cause us a greater pain than that which a step closer to a burning furnace would cause you."
"You were scared when once, during a walk, I told you that my father, a few days before my first Communion, had told me: `My little Annette, the main thing is your beautiful white dress, all the rest is just make-believe.’ Because of your concern, I was almost ashamed. Now I sneer at it. The important thing is that we were not allowed to receive Communion until the age of 12. By then I was already absorbed in worldly amusements and found it easy to set aside, without scruple, the things of religion. Thus, I attached no great importance to my first Communion. We are furious that many children go to Communion at the age of seven. We do all we can to make people believe that children have insufficient knowledge at that age. They must first commit some mortal sins. Then the white Particle will not do so much damage to our cause as when faith, hope and charity, these things received in Baptism, are still alive in their hearts. Marta K and you induced me to enter ‘The Association of the Young Ladies’. The games were amusing. As you know, I immediately took a directive part. I liked it. I also liked the picnics. I even let myself be induced to go to confession and Communion sometimes. Once you warned me, ‘Anne, if you do not pray, you go to perdition'. I used to pray very little indeed, and even this unwillingly."
"You were then only too right. All those who burn in hell did not pray or did not pray enough. Prayer is the first step towards God. And it is the decisive step. Especially prayer to her who is the Mother of Christ, whose name we never pronounce. Devotion to her rescues from the devil numberless souls whom sin would infallibly give to him. I continue my story, consumed with rage and only because I have to. To pray is the easiest thing man can do on earth. And God has tied up the salvation of each one exactly to this very easy thing. To him who prays with perseverance, little by little God gives so much light, so much strength that even the most debased sinner will, at the end, come back to salvation. During the last years of my life I did not pray any more, so I lacked those graces without which nobody can be saved. Here we no longer receive graces. Moreover, should we receive them we would cynically refuse them. All the fluctuations of earthly existence have ceased in this other life. For years I was living far away from God.
For, in the last call of Grace, I decided against God.
I never believed in the influence of the devil. And now I affirm that he has strong influence on the persons who are in the condition in which I was then. Only many prayers, others' and mine own united with sacrifices and penances, could have snatched me from his grip, and even this only little by little. If there are only few externally obsessed, there are very many internally possessed. The devil cannot steal the free will from those who give themselves to his influence. But in punishment of their, so to speak, methodical apostasy from God, He allows the devil to nest in them.
"I hate the devil too. And yet I am pleased about him, because he tries to ruin all of you, he and his satellites, the spirits fallen with him at the beginning of time. There are millions of them. They roam around the earth, as thick as a swarm of flies, and you do not even notice it.
It is not reserved to us damned to tempt you; but to the fallen spirits. In truth every time they drag down here to hell a human soul their own torture is increased. But what does one not do for hatred?"
"Deep down I was rebelling against God. You did not understand it; you thought me still a Catholic. I wanted, in fact, to be called one; I even used to pay my ecclesiastical dues. Maybe your answers were right sometimes. On me, they made no impression since you must not be right! Because of these counterfeited relationships between the two of us, our separation on the occasion of my marriage was of no consequence to me. Before the wedding I went to confession and Communion once more. It was a precept my husband and I thought alike on this point. Why not comply with this formality? So we complied with this, as with the other formalities. Our married life, in general, was spent in great harmony. We were of the same idea in everything. In this, too, that we did not want the burden of children. In truth, my husband would have liked to have one, no more, of course. In the end I succeeded in dissuading him even from this desire. Dresses, luxurious furniture, places of entertainment, picnics and trips by car and similar things were more important for me. It was a year of pleasure on earth, the one that passed from my marriage to my sudden death. Internally, of course, I was never happy, although externally at ease. There was always something indeterminate inside that gnawed at me. Unexpectedly I had an inheritance from my aunt, Lotte. My husband succeeded in increasing his wages to a considerable figure. And so I was able to furnish our new home in an attractive way. Religion did not show its light but from afar off, pale, feeble and uncertain."
"I used to give free vent to my ill humor about some mediaeval representations of hell in cemeteries or elsewhere, in which the devil is roasting souls in red burning coals, while his companions with long tails drag new victims to him. Clara! One can be mistaken in depicting hell, but never can one exaggerate. I tell you, the fire of which the Bible speaks does not mean the torment of the conscience. Fire is fire! What He said: ‘Away from Me, you accursed ones, into eternal fire’, is to be understood literally. Literally! How can the spirit be touched by material fire, you will ask? How can your soul suffer on earth when you put your finger on the flame? In fact the soul does not burn; and yet what torture all the individual feels! Our greatest torture consists in the certain knowledge that we shall never see God. How can this torture us so much, since on earth we are so indifferent? As long as the knife lies on the table it leaves you cold. You see how keen it is, but you do not feel it. Plunge the knife into the flesh and you will start screaming in pain. Now we feel the loss of God; before we only thought of it. Not all the souls suffer to the same degree. With how greater wickedness and how more systematically one has sinned, the more weighs on him the loss of God and the more the creature he abused is choking him. The lost Catholics suffer more than those of other religions, because they, mostly, received and despised more graces and more light. He who knew more suffers more cruelly than he who knew less. He who sinned out of malice suffers more keenly than he who sinned out of weakness. But nobody suffers more than he deserves. Oh, if that were not true, I should have a motive to hate!"
"My death happened this way . . . A week ago; I am speaking according to your reckoning , because according to the pain, I could very well say that it is already in years that I am burning in hell. A week ago, then, my husband, and I, on a Sunday, went on a picnic, the last one for me. The day was glorious. I felt very well. A sinister sense of pleasure that was with me all the day long, invaded me. When lo, suddenly, during the return, my husband was dazzled by a car that was coming full speed, he lost control. Jesses! (misspelling of JESUS, used frequently by some people of German language) escaped from my lips with a shivering. Not as a prayer, but as a shout. A lacerating pain took hold of the whole of me, (in comparison with the present one, only a trifle). Then I lost consciousness. Strange, that morning this thought had come to me in an inexplicable way: 'You could go to Mass once more'. It seemed like the last call of Love. Clear and resolute, my 'NO' cut off that train of thought.
"You will know already what happened after my death. The lot of my husband and that of my mother, what happened to my corpse and the proceedings of my funeral are known to me through some natural knowledge we have here. What happens on earth we know only obscurely, but we know what touches us closely. So I see also where you are living. I myself awoke from the darkness suddenly, in the instant of my passing. I saw myself as flooded by a dazzling light. It was in the same place where my dead body was lying. It was like a theater, when suddenly the lights in the hall are put out, the curtains are rent aside and an unexpected scene horribly illuminated appears, the scene of my life. My soul showed itself to me as in a mirror; all the graces despised from my youth until my last `NO' to God. I felt myself like an assassin, to whom his dead victim is shown during his trial at court. Should I repent? Never! Should I feel ashamed? Never!
However I could not even stand before the eyes of God rejected by me. There was only one thing for me: flight! As Cain fled from the dead body of Abel, so my soul rushed from that sight of horror.
"This was the particular judgment: the invisible Judge said: 'Away from Me'. Then my soul, as a yellow brimstone shadow, fell headlong into the place of eternal torture…"