Idleness is the principle snare the devil puts before youth, and a sorry source of all other vices. So be convinced, my dear boys, that man was born to work and when he ceases to do so he is off-centre and runs a great risk of offending the Lord. There is nothing that torments the damned in hell more than having spent the time God gave them to save themselves in idleness. On the contrary there is nothing that consoles the blessed more in heaven than the thought that a little time spent for God has earned them an everlasting good.
However I do not mean you should be busy from morning to evening without a break, for there are many things you can do that can bring delight but also can be very useful.
For example this could be studying history, geography, mechanical or liberal arts, other studies and domestic work. You can enjoy yourself but also gain useful and honest knowledge and keep your superiors happy; and indeed you can also enjoy yourself with games and legitimate amusements which can be recreation and not weigh you down. But do not undertake these amusements without first asking proper permission and prefer ones that give you bodily skills since they are better for your health. Keep far away from certain kinds of chicanery, confidence tricks sleight of hand, quirky stuff which sows discord and offends charity amongst your friends. While you are playing, or in conversation or other pastime raise your mind to God sometimes, offering these very amusements for his greater honour and glory.
Once St Aloysius was asked, while happily playing with some of his peers, what he would have done at that moment if an angel had warned him that the Lord would be calling him to his fearful judgement in a quarter of an hour's time. he promptly answered that he would have continued his game, "”Because I know for sure,” he said “that these games please the Lord.”
But what I warmly encourage you to do in pastimes and recreations is to keep away from bad companions like the plague.
Article 2 - Fleeing bad companions
There are three kinds of companions. Some are good, others are bad; some are not completely bad but neither are they good. You can be with the first group and it will do you good; you can deal with the last group when there is a need, without becoming too familiar. You have to keep away absolutely from the bad ones. But who are these bad companions? Pay attention and you will understand who they are. All those boys who are not ashamed of using obscene language in your company, or dubious or scandalous words, murmuring, lies, perjury, curses, blasphemy, or try to keep you away from church or ignore your duty - these are bad companions, ministers of Satan whom, you should avoid like the plague and the devil himself. Ah my dear friends, I beg you with tears in my eyes to flee and abhor companions like these!
Listen to what the Lord says: “The one who walks with virtuous people will also be virtuous. The friend of idiots will also be like them. Avoid the bad companion like you would avoid being bitten by a snake: tamquam a facie colubri.” So if you go with the good people,I assure you you will go to heaven with good people. On the contrary if you stay with the bad ones, you will be bad yourself to the irreparable loss of your soul.
Someone will say: there are so many bad companions around that you would have to get away from this world to avoid them all. I know there are many bad companions and that is precisely why I am so warmly recommending your flee them. And if that means you have to be alone to avoid them, well, lucky you. You will have Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin, your guardian angel as company. Could you find better companions than these? Nonetheless we can also have good companions and these will be ones who frequent the sacraments, go to church, encourage you to do your duty and do not engage in talk that offends the Lord. So go with them and you will draw great profit from it. When the young David began going with a good companion called Jonathan, they became good friends to their mutual advantage; one encouraged the other in practising virtue.
Article 3 - Avoiding bad conversation
How many young people end up in hell because of bad conversations! Saint Paul already preached this truth when he said that filthy things should never come out of the mouth of the Christians, since they are the ruin of good morals: Currumpunt bonos mores colloquia prava. Think of these conversations like food: a dish might be good but just one drop of poison in it can kill whoever eats it; the same goes for obscene language. A word, a gesture, a joke are enough to teach malice to one or more companions and boys that were innocent little lambs of Jesus Christ become the unfortunate prey of the devil.
Someone might say: “I know of the sad consequences of bad conversations but what can we do about it? I find myself at school, in a workshop, in a shop, or doing the work I have to do and there they carry on with this kind of talk.” I too know there are these kinds of places, so I am suggesting the rule for getting away without offending the Lord. If these people are less important than you then correct them quite firmly; when they are people you cannot reprimand then get away from them if you can and if you can't, then be quite firm about not taking part, neither with words or a smile and say in your heart: “Jesus, have mercy on me.” There will not be any lack of people who laugh at you and mock you, but that does not matter. There will come a time when the laughter and mockery of the evil ones will turn into wailing in hell, and the contempt that the good have felt will change into the most consoling happiness in heaven: Tristitia vestra vertetur in gaudium [Jn 16:20]. If you remain firm on the Lord's behalf, it will come to pass that these same scoffers will be forced to appreciate your virtue in such a way that they will no longer dare to trouble you with their perverse reasoning.
Wherever St Aloysius Gonzaga was no one dared use an off word and if someone was about to say something like that he was soon told: keep quiet - Aloysius is here.
Article 4 - Avoid scandal
When the devil does not succeed in catching a boy, he makes use of scandalous individuals. How many grave sins must weigh on the conscience of boys who give scandal in church, on the street, in class or elsewhere in their work? They are guilty in God's eyes for all the sins of the people who have observed them. And then what should we say about those who teach evil to people who are still innocent? Let these wretches hear what the Saviour says to them. taking a child by the hand one day and turning to the multitudes listening to him, he said: “Woe to the one who scandalises a child; unfortunately there is scandal in the world, but woe to the one who gives it. It would be better for him to have a millstone around his neck and be thrown into the depths of the sea.” If we could ever remove scandal from the world, how many souls would go to paradise who on the contrary are eternally lost in hell. So watch out for this breed of villains and flee them more than the devil himself. A girl of tender age, when she heard scandalous talk said to the one saying it: away from here, your accursed devil. My dear boys, if you want to be true friends of Jesus Christ and make up for the great evil that scandals cause to souls, try to give good example. So let your conversations be good and modest; be devout in church, obedient and respectful to your superiors. Oh how many souls will imitate you and walk the way to paradise! You will be sure to go there too, because anyone who saves a soul can basically hope to save his own: Animam salvasti, animam tuam praedestinasti. These are the main things,, my dear boys that you must avoid in the world: they are few but enough to go about life in a virtuous and Christian way. Happy are you if you avoid them. I assure you that you will gain your eternal salvation.
Article 5. - How to act during temptation
Even at your tender age, my dear children, the devil sets snares to steal your soul. You have to be very careful not to fall when you are tempted, or when the devil suggests to you to do something wrong. One way of keeping out of temptation is to avoid occasions of sin, such as evil conversations and immoral public shows, which are not good for you and worse still where you always learn something bad. Always try to keep busy and when you don't know what to do, When you become tired of these, decorate your little altars with images or holy pictures, or spend some time in healthy amusement, if your parents allow you. When you are tempted, do not trifle with the temptation and let the devil take hold of your soul. Rid yourself of it at once by work or prayer. If the temptation still remains make the Sign of the Cross, kiss some holy object and say: “St Aloysius, help me not to offend God.” I am naming this Saint because he is proposed by the Church as the special protector of the young. In order to conquer temptations he avoided all occasions of sin; he fasted frequently on bread and water; he scourged himself so violently that his clothes, the walls, and the floor were stained with his innocent blood. Thus St. Aloysius mastered his temptations. In this manner you also will triumph, if you strive to imitate him at least in the mortification of the senses. Above all, in temptations against modesty have recourse to him, and you will keep free from sin.
Article 6 - Some tricks the devil uses to ensnare the young
The first trick the devil uses to trap your soul is to suggest to you, however could it be possible for forty, fifty or sixty years for you to promise you will walk the difficult road of virtue from from all pleasures.
When the devil suggests this you answer him: “Who can assure me I will reach that age? My life is in the Lord's hands, and even today could be the last one of my life.” How many were once happy, doing well, having fun and today are being taken to their grave? And even when we have had to work hard for some years for the Lord, will we not be abundantly compensated by an eternity of glory and pleasure in heaven? Also we see that those who live in God's grace are always happy, and even when there are problems their heart is content. On the other hand those who always give themselves to pleasure are upset and make every effort to find peace in their pastimes but are always more unhappy: Non est pax impiis [Is 48:22].
Someone might say: “We are young. If we start thinking of eternity, hell, this will make us melancholic, and it might even send us off our head.” I grant that thinking about a happy or unhappy eternity,thinking of never-ending punishment may be a dark and scary thought. But tell me: if just thinking about it sends you off your head, what would it be like going there? Better to think of it now and not end up there in the future; and for sure if we think of it now we will be saved from it. But observe that if the thought of hell is sad, the hope of paradise where we will enjoy everything that is good, fills us with consolation. Therefore the saints, while they thought seriously of an eternity of punishment, lived very happily with a firm trust in God that they could avoid such punishment and one day possess the endless infinite good that the Lord has prepared for those who serve him. So courage my dear boys, try to serve the Lord and then you will see how content your heart will be.
Article 7 - Warnings for boys who have enrolled in some congregation or oratory
If you have the good fortune to be enrolled in some congregation or oratory try to go there regularly and observe all the rules exactly as explained by the superiors. I especially recommend the greatest respect for the directors of these holy places. Always try to ask permission if you have to be absent. Be especially modest and quiet in church, reading or listening to some devout book being read until it is time for the service. Then with your mind uplifted and in recollection sing the Lord's praises. If you are going to confession or holy communion always try to do it in your congregation or oratory, since this will contribute much to good example and will encourage others to frequent the sacraments.
Then if your oratory has good things like recreation on Sundays take part willingly and avoid fights, using nicknames or showing dissatisfaction with the games that are given out. If you hear of something in that holy place that is going wrong, run quickly and tell the superior quietly so he can prevent any other wrongdoing that might eventuate.
It would be wonderful if those who are better instructed could tell some stories to the others.
Be sincere in your words and avoid telling lies, because if you are caught lying, other than offending God, you are disgraced before your friends and your superiors. I also encourage you to have a childlike confidence in your director turning to him when you have some doubt of conscience. Be very respectful also to your superiors especially if they are priests, and when you meet them doff your cap and kiss their hand reverently. When they speak to you answer their questions humbly and sincerely. Those who have some task as cantors, assistants and the like should take care to be the most devout and zealous in everything regarding the practices of piety. I encourage everyone to be very exact in observance of the rules, each vying to show himself the most devout, the most modest and the most accurate in the exercises of devotion.
Seven reflections for each day of the week Since I would really like you to do a little spiritual reading each day, and not everyone can have the right books, I am giving you seven very brief reflections, one for each day of the week. They should be helpful for those who do not have the right books. When you are kneeling down say: “My God, I am sorry with all my heat for having offended you. Give me the grace to understand well the truths I am about to reflect on. Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, pray for me.”
1. Consider, my son, that this body of yours, this soul of yours were given to you by God without any merit of yours, creating you in his image. He made you his child by holy baptism. He loved you and does love you as a tender father, and the only purpose for which he created you is to be loved and served in this life, to then be happy in heaven. You are not in the world only to enjoy, become rich, to eat, drink and sleep, like the animals but your purpose is to love your God and save your soul. If you do this, how much consolation you will have at the moment of your death! On the contrary, if you do not serve God, how much remorse you will feel at the end of your life when you realise that your wealth, pleasures have only saddened your heart! You will regret having wasted so much time with no benefit for your soul. My son,see that you are not one of these that only think of pleasure, amusements and at the final hour will be eternally lost. A secretary of the King of England when he was dying said: poor me! I used so much paper writing letters for my King but never used a single sheet writing down my sins to make a good confession.
2. You should also consider that if you save your soul, everything will go well and you will rejoice forever, but if you err, you will lose body and soul, God and Heaven and will be forever damned. See that you are not amongst those who say: “I will commit this sin then confess it afterwards”, since God condemns the one who sins while hoping for forgiveness: maledictus homo qui peccat in spe. Everyone in hell had some hope of amending their behaviour, but now they eternally lost. Who knows if he will have time to confess? Who can assure you that you will not die soon after sinning and that your soul will not go straight to hell? And besides, how stupid can it be to catch a disease in the hope that there will be a doctor to cure you? So let go of sin. It is the worst of all evils and deprives you of everything that is good.
3. How many there are in the world who think of everything except saving themselves! If I tell someone to go to the sacraments, do some prayer each day and he answers: “I have other things to do. I have to work, I have to enjoy myself.” Oh God! Do you not have a soul? So whatever you do, say or think, see that it is all for your soul, because it would be the greatest imprudence to think seriously about something that is going to soon come to an end and think so little about eternity which never ends. Saint Aloysius could enjoy pleasures, riches and honours but gave everything up saying: “How does this help me for eternity? Quid haec ad aeternitatem.”
You should also conclude: “I have a soul; if I lose it I have lost everything. Even though I gain the whole world, if it does harm to my soul what have I gained? If I become a great man, if I acquire riches, if I gain a reputation for wisdom and know all the arts and sciences of mechanics, music but I lose my soul, what good does it do me? All the wisdom of Solomon is of no use if you are lost. So only the soul should be the purpose for all my activity. It is a case of being always blessed or always unhappy, so let everything go as long as I am saved. Oh my God, forgive me my sins and see that I never ever have the disgrace of offending you, and that indeed I may faithfully serve you in the future. Mary, my hope, intercede for me.”
Monday: on mortal sin
1. Oh if only you knew, my dear children, what you do when you commit a mortal sin! You turn your back on God who created you, and who has granted you so many favours. You despise his grace and his friendship. The sinner in fact says to Our Lord: “Depart from me, I no longer wish to obey you; no longer do I want to serve you, to recognise you as my Lord: Non serviam. I want no other God than pleasure, vengeance, anger, bad talk or blasphemy.” Can one imagine an ingratitude more monstrous than this? And yet you do this every time you offend your Creator.
2. Greater still will this ingratitude appear to you when you reflect that, in sinning, you employ those very gifts God gave you. Ears, eyes, mouth tongue, hands, feet—they are all gifts of God, and you made use of them to offend Him. Imagine Our Lord speaking to you: “My child, I created you out of nothing; I gave you all that you have; through me you were baptised, and brought up in a good Catholic atmosphere. I gave you everything you have. You were condemned to death by sin, and I died for you. I shed my blood to save you, and you still wish to offend me?” Who is not overcome with sorrow for having offered so great an insult to God, who is so good and so gracious towards us, his wayward creatures?
3. Moreover you should consider that this God, who is so good, always feels greatly indignant when you offend him. Hence you should greatly fear lest your sins become so numerous that he will finally abandon you. In plenitudine peccatorum puniet. Not only will the divine mercy be withheld from you, but you will also lack time to seek it, because he who abuses the mercy of God in order to offend him, does not deserve mercy. How many have hoped in conversion and not having had time to adjust their conscience, on the approach of death have been eternally lost? Take heed lest the same fate befall you. After Our Lord has pardoned you so many times, you should rightly fear lest, for a fresh mortal sin, the divine wrath may strike you and send you to hell. Thank God for withholding his judgement, and make a firm resolution, saying: “Too often, Lord, I have sinned against you. I do not want to spend the few remaining years of my life offending you. In stead I will spend them in loving you and repenting for my sins. I am heartily sorry for them all. My Jesus, I want to love you. Give me strength. Most holy Virgin and my Mother, help me. Amen.”
1. Death is the departure of the soul from the body, and complete separation from the things of this world. Consider, therefore, my child, that your soul will one day have to leave your body. You do not know whether death will come to you in bed, at your work, in the street or elsewhere. The bursting of a vein, a bad cold, a haemorrhage, a fever, a wound, a fall, an earthquake, a stroke of lightning – any of these is enough to deprive you of life. Death may take place a year hence; within a month, a week, an hour, or perhaps a moment after finishing the reading of this meditation. How many there are who have gone to sleep at night feeling well and in the morning have been found dead! How many there are who meet with some accident and die instantly; and then what is their fate? Happy are they who have been in the grace of God for they are eternally happy, but if instead they were in mortal sin, they are eternally lost. Tell me, my dear child, if you were to die at this moment, what would happen to your soul? If you are unprepared take heed of this warning. He who today is unprepared runs the great risk of dying in mortal sin.
2. Although the time and place of your death is uncertain, yet there is nothing more certain than that death will come. However let us hope that the final hour of your life may not come unexpectedly or violently but gradually and with the usual sickness. A day will come at any rate when you will find yourself stretched on a bed, awaiting your departure to eternity. You will be assisted by a priest who will recommend your soul to God. Your gaze will be fixed on a crucifix and in your hand you will hold a candle lighted for you by another. Around will stand your weeping relatives. Your head will be in dreadful pain, your sight weak, your tongue parched, your mouth closed, your chest congested, your blood chilled, your body worn out, and your heart laden with sorrow and depression. When you have breathed your last your body will be wrapped in a few rags and lowered into a grave. There your flesh will decay and be consumed until only the bones and a little dust will be all that remains of you. Open a tomb and see what has become of a youth who, perhaps, was once rich, proud and ambitious. Read this, my child, and prepare for a good death. Now the devil, to induce you to sin, will try to cover and belittle your faults, telling you there is no great evil in such and such a pleasure, in disobedience, in missing Mass on Sundays, but in death you will discover the seriousness of your sins and they will all be brought before you. And what will you do then at the point of your departure for eternity? Woe to those, who at that moment are not in the state of Grace.
3. Consider that your eternal happiness or your eternal damnation depend on that fateful moment. On the brink of eternity, as the last sighs escape our lips, in the light of that candle how many things will be known! Twice is a lighted candle held before us; once at baptism and then at the moment of our death. The first time, that we may know the precepts of Divine Law, which we are to keep; the second to let us see if we have kept them. Then, my child, in the light of that candle you will see if you have loved your God or neglected him; if you have honoured his Holy Name or if you have taken it in vain. You will see if you have misspent the Holy days of Obligation and failed to attend Mass on Sundays. You will see all the disobedience to superiors, and scandal given to your companions. You will see the pride which deceived you; you will see everything in that moment on the threshold of eternity: momentum a quo pendet aeternitas. Oh awful, terrible moment on which depends eternal glory or eternal misery! Do you understand what I am saying? On that moment depends whether you go to heaven or to hell; whether you will be always happy or always tormented; whether you will be forever a child of God or a slave of the devil; whether you will rejoice with the angels and the saints in heaven or groan and burn with the damned in hell for all eternity. These are great issues for your soul and reflect that upon a good life depends a happy death and eternal glory. Therefore delay no longer but prepare to make a good confession and to put your conscience in order. Promise God to forgive your enemies, to repair the scandal you have given, to be more obedient, to abstain from meat on the appointed days, to waste no more time, to keep the Holy days of Obligation in a worthy manner, to fulfil the duties of your state. Meanwhile place yourself in the presence of God and tell him with all your heart: “My God, from this moment I return to you. I love you and I want to love and serve you unto death. Most Holy Virgin, my Mother, help me in that moment. Jesus, Joseph and Mary, may I breathe forth my soul in peace with you.”
1. As soon as your soul has left your body you will immediately stand before the Divine Judge. The first thing that renders this appearance terrible to the sinner’s soul is that it stands alone before the God it has despised, who knows every secret of the heart and every thought. What do you bring with you? You shall bring as much good and evil as you have done in life: refert unusquisque prout gessit sive bonum, sive malum [2 Cor 5:10].One can then find no excuse or pretext. You will see before you an angry Judge. On one side will appear the sins that accuse you, and on the other the devils ready to lead you away to condemnation. Your conscience will trouble and torment you. At your feet a gaping hell will be ready to engulf you. In such straits where will you turn, where will you flee to? Happy will you be my child if you have done good things in life. The Divine Judge will open the book of conscience and begin the scrutiny: Iudicium sedit et libri aperti sunt.
2. Then the examining Judge will say: “Who are you?” “I am a Catholic”, you will answer. “Very well,”’ he will reply “if you are a Catholic let us see if you have acted as one.” Then he will begin to remind you of the promises made at Holy Baptism, in which you renounced the devil, the world and the flesh. He will remind you of the grace bestowed upon you, the sacraments you frequented, the sermons, instructions, counsels of your confessors, corrections from your parents. Everything will be laid open before you. “But,” the Divine Judge will say, “you have despised many of my gifts and graces. Oh, how badly you have corresponded to your Christian profession! At the time when you had hardly begun to know me, you began to offend me with lies, with lack of respect in church, with disobedience to your parents and with many other transgressions. At least with the increase of your years you could have regulated your actions better; but no! With your years you also grew in disregard for my Law. Masses missed, Holy days ignored, blasphemy, confessions badly made, communions often made sacrilegiously, scandal given to your companions; this is what you did instead of serving me.” He will then turn with anger to the scandal-giver and say: “Do you see that soul treading the path of sin? By your scandalous talk you are the cause of that. As a Catholic you should have shown your companions the way to heaven by your good example; but instead, betraying my Blood, you have shown them the way to perdition. Do you see that soul down there in hell? It was you who by your evil counsel snatched that soul away from me and handed it to the devil. You were the reason for it going to eternal perdition. Render up your own soul now for the soul you have lost by your scandal: Repetam animam tuam pro anima illius.” What are your thoughts, my child, at this scrutiny? What is your conscience telling you? There is still time, ask God forgiveness for your sins with a sincere promise never to sin again. Whatever heat, cold, hunger, thirst, illness or displeasure you have to suffer, do it for the Lord as penance for the sins you have committed.
3. To this rigorous account that the Supreme Judge exacts, the sinner will try to present some excuse or pretext. He will plead that he did not know he had to undergo such a strict examination. But he will receive the answer: “And did you hear no sermons? In the catechism did you not read that I would exact a strict account of everything?” The unfortunate one will then commend himself to the Divine Mercy but it will be in vain because the time for mercy is over. He will turn to the angels, the saints, to Mary Most Holy, and she will answer in the name of them all: “Do you seek my help now? You did not want me for your mother in life and now I cannot have you as my child. I know you not: nescio vos.” Thesinner, finding no escape, will cry to the mountains, the stones to cover him and they will not stir. He will call upon hell and he will see it open: Inferius horrendum chaos. At that moment the inexorable Judge will pronounce the terrible sentence: “Unfaithful son, depart from me. My heavenly Father has condemned you; I also condemn you. Depart and go into eternal fire to weep and suffer with demons for all eternity: Ite, maledicti, in ignem aeternum [Mt 25:41].” When these words are uttered the soul is abandoned into the demons' hands. They will take it away, plunge it into the abyss of suffering, pain and torment for eternity. Do you not fear a judgement such as this? Ah for the love of Jesus and Mary prepare a favourable sentence for yourself by good works. remember that though the condemnation pronounced against the wicked is a terrible one the invitation of Jesus will be a consolation to the one who has lived as a good Christian. “Come,” he will say, “posses the glory I have prepared for you. You served me, now you shall rejoice eternally: Intra in gaudium Domini tui” [Mt 25:21]. “My Jesus, grant me the grace to be one day numbered amongst the blessed in heaven. Most Holy Virgin, help me; protect me in life and in death, and especially when I present myself before your Divine Son to me judged.”
1. Hell is a place destined by Divine Judgement for the eternal punishment of those who have died in mortal sin. The first pain the damned suffer in hell is to find themselves in an abyss of fire. Fire in the eyes, fire in the mouth, fire in every part. Every sense will suffer its own pain. The eyes are blinded by fire and darkness, terrified by the sight of the devils and other lost souls. The ears, day and night, hear nothing but continual howling, lamenting and blasphemy. The sense of smell suffers terribly from the suffocating fumes of sulphur and burning pitch. The mouth is afflicted with a burning thirst and ravenous hunger: famem patientur ut canes [Ps 58:7]. The rich man, in the midst of these torments, raised his eyes towards heaven and begged for just a tiny drop of water to moisten his parched tongue, and a drop of water was denied him. Then those unfortunate souls, burning with thirst, devoured by hunger, tormented by fire will cry out moaning and despairing. Oh hell, hell, how unhappy are the souls that fall into it! What do you say my child? If you died at this moment, where would you go? If now you cannot hold your finger over a candle flame, cannot suffer a spark of fire on your hand without crying out, how will you stand those flames for all eternity?
2. Consider, my child, the remorse that the conscience of the damned will feel. They will continually remember the reason why they are lost; for some pleasure, giving vent to some passion; this is the worm that will never die: vermis eorurn non moritur [Mk 9:45]. They will remember the time given them by God to save themselves from eternal perdition, the good example of their companions, the good resolutions they made and never carried out but will see this at a time when there is no remedy. The will can no longer have what it desires; on the contrary it suffers every evil. The intellect will know the great good it has lost, meaning paradise. Oh God! Who could put up with such torment! My child, if you care not now whether you win or lose paradise and God, you will know your blindness when you see so many of your more ignorant companions and people poorer than you are in triumph, enjoying the kingdom of heaven while you, condemned by God, are being sent away from that blessed land, the enjoyment of God himself, from the company of the Blessed Virgin the angels and the saints. Do penance now, do not wait until there is no time left. Give yourself to God. Who knows but this may be the last call, and if you do not correspond, God may abandon you and let you plunge headlong into eternal suffering.
Friday: Eternity of suffering
1. Consider my child, that if you go to hell you will never leave it. There all pains are suffered throughout eternity. A hundred years will pass after you are sent to hell; a thousand will go by and hell will be only beginning: a hundred thousand, a hundred million years, millions and millions of centuries will pass and even then hell will still only be beginning. If an angel were to bring the damned news that God would free them from hell after so many millions of centuries as there are drops of water in the sea, or leaves on trees or grains of sand on the shore and the earth, these tidings would bring them the greatest consolation: “It is true,” they would say, “that all these centuries of torment have yet to come, but one day they will come to an end.” But all these centuries will go by and all the time imaginable, and hell will always be at the beginning. Each lost soul would willingly make this covenant with God: “Lord increase my pains as much as you wish, let me suffer these torments as long as you want, only give me the hope that one day they will end.” But no, this end will never come. If only this lost soul could deceive and delude himself, saying: “Who knows, maybe one day God will have mercy on me and release me from this abyss!” No, he will always see written before him the sentence of eternal unhappiness. So he will say: “All these pains, this fire, these agonising cries, will they have no end for me?” “No,” will be the answer, “never.” “Will they last forever?” “Always, for eternity.” ‘Forever’, he will see written in the eternal flames that burn him; ‘forever’, he will see written on the blades of the swords that pierce him; ‘forever’, will flash from the eyes of the devils who torment him; forever will be stamped on those doors closed for him for eternity. Oh accursed sin! What a terrible punishment is in store for those who sin! Ah! There shall be no more sin in my life.
2. What ought to keep you from this terrible fate is the thought that this horrible furnace is always open before your feet and that a single mortal sin is enough to make you fall into it. What could you do, what could you say in the midst of those flames, far from your God, deprived of heaven forever? You would turn your gaze for the last time to heaven and at the height of your desolation you would say: “Goodbye my companions, goodbye friends living in the kingdom of glory; goodbye father, mother, brothers, sisters rejoicing forever. I will be always in torment; goodbye guardian angel, all the angels and saints in paradise, I will never see you again; goodbye my Saviour, goodbye holy cross, goodbye blood spilt for me in vain. I will never see you again.” Right then I cease to be a child of God and will be forever a slave of the devils in hell. Do you understand, my child, what you are reading? Eternal punishment for just one mortal sin. So do everything to avoid it. If your conscience disturbs you because of some sin go quickly to confession and commence a good life. Put into practice all the means the confessor suggests to you. Fly from dangerous occasions of sin, bad companions and if God also calls you to leave this world behind, comply immediately. Whatever one may do to escape an eternity of pain is little, nothing: Nulla nimia securitas ubi periclitatur aeternitas (Saint Bernard). Oh, how many have left the world, their country, their family and have sought solitude in caves, in deserts living only on bread and water, and a few roots and herbs, and all this to avoid hell! And what are you doing after deserving hell so often by your sin? Kneel at the feet of God and say: “Lord, here I am ready to do your will; let me suffer any pain in this life so long as I save my soul.”
1. Just as the thought and consideration of hell is terrible, so is the thought of the heaven prepared for you consoling. To form an idea of heaven consider a clear night. How beautiful it is to see the sky sparkling with stars of great number and variety! add to this the vision of a beautiful day, but such that the splendour of the sun does not hinder you from seeing the stars and the moon. Try to imagine all the beauty that can be found in the sea, on land, in the country, in cities and in Kings' and monarchs' palaces all over the world. Add to this every delicious drink, tasty food, beautiful music, the sweetest harmony, and all this together is nothing compared with the excellence of heaven. Oh how desirable and wonderful is this place where enjoyment is complete! The blessed can only cry out: “I am filled with the glory of the Lord: Satiabor cum apparuerit gloria tua.” [Ps 16:15].
2. Consider then the joy your soul will experience on entering heaven. The meeting and reunion of parents and friends; the nobility and beauty of the multitudes of Cherubim and Seraphim and all the angels, saints who in their myriads praise and bless their Creator. The choir of the Apostles, the immense array of Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins. There is to be seen also that glorious multitude of the young, who because they preserved the virtue of purity sing a hymn to God that no one else can sing. Oh how they rejoice in that kingdom of the blessed! They are always happy, there is no sickness, no trouble, no anxieties to disturb their happiness and peace.
3. Observe, my child, that all this is as nothing compared to the wonderful consolation experienced at the sight of God. He consoles the blessed with his glances of love and floods their hearts with an ocean of joy. Just as the sun illumines and beautifies the world, so God with his presence brightens paradise and fills all with an inexpressible gladness. For that reason the choirs of angels and the blessed sing his glory: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, to Him be honour and glory forever.” So courage, my child. Suffering may come to you in this world but that does not matter. Your reward in heaven will infinitely compensate for all you have to suffer in this life. What consolation will be yours when you find yourself in heaven in the company of your parents, friends, the saints and the blessed and you will say: “I will be with the Lord forever: Semper cum Domino erimus.” [1 Ts 4:17]. Then it is that you will bless the day on which you renounced sin, made a good confession and frequented the sacraments; when you forsook bad company and devoted yourself to the practice of virtue. Full of gratitude you will turn towards God and sing his praise forever and ever. Amen.