Our Lady Of Fatima and The Fires of Hell (((HOMILY)))
by Father Brian J. Soliven on Wednesday May 13, 2020
One of my earliest religious memories was as a child finding a tattered prayer card in our house of Our Lady of Fatima. At the time, I had no idea the Blessed Mother had miraculously appeared to three shepherd children in the city of Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. The image on the card terrified my 5-year-old imagination. On July 13th the Blessed Mother showed the children a horrific vision of hell, with people engulfed in flames, being mercilessly tormented by demons. Lucia (one of the visionaries) described it in detail in her 1941 memoir:
"Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror."
You can see why as a child this image leaving a powerful impression. But what is hell? This doctrine is often misconstrued as utter meanness or some medieval relic. However, our Lord speaks of its reality on numerous occasions. In todays Gospel reading for the Holy Mass, he warns: "Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned." (John 15:1-8). Its the place we choose for ourselves when our stubborn pride decides to sever itself from the true vine, which is God. Hell, in other words, is not utter meanness, but rather a requirement of true love that honors the free will and choice of the beloved.
That is why Jesus begs us, "Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me."