Stories & Legends
The Road to Hell - III
Entering the Dwelling of the Reprobates
St. John Bosco
This is the third installment of the dream of St. John Bosco on Hell. It starts The two previous parts can be read here and here. TIA
A new group of boys came hurtling down the path, and the portals opened momentarily.
“You should enter as well,” the guide said to me.
I pulled back in horror. I could not wait to return to the Oratory to warn the boys lest others might be lost as well.
My guide, however, insisted, “Come, you will learn much. But first tell me: Do you wish to go alone or with me?” He asked this to make me realize that I was not strong enough to go alone and, therefore, needed his friendly assistance.
I replied: “Alone inside this horrible place without the solace of your goodness? How will I ever be able to find my way out without your help?”
Dante watching the horrors of Hell
Then a thought came to my mind and raised my spirits. I said to myself: Before a person is condemned to Hell, he must pass by his judgment. And I still have not presented myself before the Supreme Judge.
After that I said resolutely: “Then, let us go in.”
We entered that narrow, horrible corridor, whizzing through it with lightning speed. Threatening inscriptions appeared under a veiled light over each one of the inner gateways. The corridor opened into a vast, gloomy courtyard with a small but incredibly thick door at the far end. Above it we could read this inscription: Ibunt impii in ignem aeternu - The impious shall go into the everlasting fire. [Mt 25: 46] The walls all around were filled with inscriptions.
I asked my guide if I could read them, and he answered, “Do as you wish”.
Then I examined everything.
In one place it was written: Dabo ignem in carnes eorum ut comburantur in sempiternum Cruciabuntur die ac nocte in saecula saeculorum - I will give fire to their flesh and they will burn for ever. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever. [Judith 16: 21]
In another place: Hic univérsitas malorum per omnia saecula saeculorum - In this place all the evil ones are put forever and ever.
In others: Nullus est hic ordo, sed horror sempiternus inhabitat - There is no order in this place, but only eternal horror dwells here. [Job 10: 22]
Fumus tormentorum suorum in aeternum ascendit - The smoke of their torments rises forever. [Apoc 14: 11]
Non est pax impiis - For the impious there is no peace. [Isaiah 47: 22]
Clamor et stridor dentium - [Here is] weeping and the gnashing of teeth. [Mt 8:12]
As I moved around reading the inscriptions, my guide, who had been standing in the center of the courtyard, came up to me and said:
“From here on, no one may have a companion to help him, a friend to comfort him, a heart to love him, a compassionate glance or a benevolent word to sustain him. All this is gone forever. Do you want to see and experience these things yourself?”
“I only want only to see!” I answered.
“Then come with me,” my friend replied, and, taking me by the hand, he led me to that small door and opened it. It opened onto a corridor at whose far end was a room with a large window that had a single crystal pane reaching from the pavement to the ceiling, which allowed the observer to look through. As soon as I entered the room, I felt an indescribable terror and stopped.
Ahead of me I could see an immense cavern that extended far ahead ending in deep caves dug into the bowels of a mountain. They were all ablaze, but it was not an earthly fire with leaping tongues of flames, but a fire that made everything incandescent and white because of its high temperature. The entire cavern - walls, ceiling, floor, iron, stones, wood and coal - was white and glossy. That fire surpasses the fire of earth in heat thousands and thousands of times. Yet it did not consume what it burned or reduce it to ashes. It is impossible for me to describe that cavern in all its astounding reality.
While I looked appalled at that place of torment, I saw a lad, oblivious of everything around him, arriving with an indescribable momentum. He emitted a most shrilling scream, like one who is about to fall into a cauldron of liquid bronze. Then, jumping into the center of the fire, he too became incandescent like the entire cavern and perfectly motionless, while the echo of his dying wail lingered for an instant more.
Souls swallowed into the mouth of Hell
Terribly frightened, I stared briefly at that unfortunate youth for a while. He seemed to be one of my Oratory boys, one of my sons.
“Isn't he one of my youth?” I asked my guide. “Isn’t he X?”
“Yes, that is right,” he answered.
“Why is he so still, so incandescent without being consumed?”
“You chose to see. Do not speak. Observe and you will see. For, omnis enim igne salietur et omnis victima sale salietur - Everyone shall be immobilized by the fire. Every victim shall be conserved with salt. [Mk 9: 48]
As I looked again, another boy came hurtling down into the cavern in a despairing fury and at a lightning speed. He too was from the Oratory. As he fell, he remained there immobile. He too emitted a shriek of pain that blended with the last echo of the scream that came from the youth who had preceded him.
Other boys kept hurtling down with the same impetus, all screamed, and then all became equally motionless and incandescent, like those who had preceded them. I noticed that the first became immobile with one hand and one foot up into the air; the second boy was bent toward the floor. Others had their feet up or their faces glued to the floor. Still others supported themselves by only one foot or hand; others were sitting, standing, kneeling or lying on their backs or sides, their hands clutching their hair.
Briefly, the scene resembled a large statuary group of youth set in every painful posture imaginable. Other lads hurtled into that same furnace. Some I knew; others were strangers to me. Then I recalled what is written in Scriptures to the effect that as one falls into Hell, so he shall remain forever. Lignum, in quocumque loco cecíderit, ibi erit - In the place the wood falls, there it remains. [Eccles 11:3]
As my astonishment increased, I asked my guide:
“When these boys run with such speed, do they not know they are coming here?”
“Oh, yes, they surely do! They have been warned a thousand times, but they still choose to rush into the fire because they do not detest sin and are loath to forsake it. Furthermore, they despise and reject Divine Mercy, which calls them to do penance. Thus provoked, Divine Justice harries them, hounds them and goads them on so that they cannot halt until they reach this place.”
“Oh, how terrible must be the desperation of these miserable boys who do not have any hope of leaving this place” - I exclaimed.
“If you really want to know their innermost frenzy and fury, go a little closer,” my guide remarked.
I took a few more steps, coming closer to the window, and looked inside. I saw that many of those poor wretches were savagely striking at each other causing terrible wounds; some were biting one another like mad dogs. Others were clawing their own faces and hands, tearing their own flesh and spitefully throwing it about. Just then the entire ceiling of that cavern became as transparent as crystal and revealed a patch of Heaven and their radiant companions safe for all eternity.
The reprobates gnashed their teeth with envy, hardly breathing because they had once ridiculed those just youth.
I asked my guide, “Why do we hear no sound?”
Reprobates in Hell suffer more to see the Blessed in Heaven
“Go closer!” he advised.
Pressing my ear to the crystal window, I heard some screaming and weeping among the horrible contortions; others were blaspheming and making imprecations against those saints. It was a tumult of voices and cries, shrill and confused.
I asked: “What are they saying? What are they shouting?”
He replied: “When they recall the happy lot of their good companions, they are obliged to admit, ‘We fools deemed their lives to be madness, and their end without honor. Behold, how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints. Thus we passed up the path of truth.’ [Wisdom 5:4-6]
“They also cried out, ‘We wore ourselves out on the path of iniquity and destruction and walked through hard roads, but we ignored the way of the Lord. What has pride profited us? All those things have passed away like a shadow.’ [Wis 5: 7-9]
“These are the melancholic canticles that sound here for all eternity. But screams, efforts, weeping are all useless. Omnis dolor irruet super eos - All sorrow fell over them! Here time is no more. Here is only eternity.”
As, in utter terror, I viewed the condition of many of my boys, a thought suddenly struck me.
I asked: “How is it possible that these boys are damned? Last night they were still alive at the Oratory!”
The guide answered: “The boys you see here are all dead to God's grace. Were they to die now or persist in their evil ways, they would be damned. But we should not waste time. Let us go on.”
From Memorias Biograficas de San Juan Bosco,
Vol. 9, pp. 166-181,
Posted July 21, 2012
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St. John Bosco
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