For most of us, the outcome of our final audit is eternal damnation (Matt 7:13).
From scripture and the saints we have an idea of what Hell will be like, even though we cannot comprehend its intensity. How foolish of us to ignore the certainty of death, judgement and the likelihood of damnation, because Hell is where the overwhelming majority of us are going. There are hints from the Church Fathers and Doctors that just one person in a thousand will succeed in achieving the beatific vision. So what is there to look forward to?
1 Fire. So intense that St Augustine tells us that the fire we have on earth, compared to that of Hell, is like looking at a picture of a fire. And the fire does not just burn the outside, but goes right through.
2 The worm. We don't know if this is an actual worm which eats us from the inside, or whether this refers to the 'worm of remorse', but either way it adds to our misery.
3 The loss of God. At the moment of death we see God in His loving greatness, so desirable and yet unattainable. We retain this impossible desire forever.
4 How easy. We are left with the knowledge of with what little extra effort we could have been saved, and how unwise we were to make no effort to be saved.
5 Remorse. We spend eternity in regret for how we have wasted our lives, and yet we can never find a way to feel contrition for the offence to God or to feel love for Him. We hate those who prayed for us, and hate God, His saints and angels. We hate especially any of our relatives who are in Heaven.
6 Eternity. This condition will never end. There will be no relief. No rest, even for a moment. There is nothing but despair.
7 Blackness. The whole of Hell is in utter darkness, and yet we can detect the surrounding damned and hear their cries and lamentations.
8 Cursing. We are surrounded by blasphemies, people cursing their former friends, and anyone who partook in the evils that led to damnation. In this way it is possible to sin even after death. And in the midst of this dreadful company there is no companionship, no one to converse with. We are absolutely alone, except for bitter demonic enemies.
9 Stench. The smell of rotting flesh is so strong that it would kill the living if released on earth.
10 Immobility. As we fall, so we lie. We cannot turn over, stretch, or move in any way. Discomfort never ends.
11 Demons. In Hell the only company is that of demons. Far more intelligent that we are, they greatly exceed any earthly torturer in their ability to inflict pain. And they never get tired.
12 Death. There is no time in Hell. Everything happens now. With the help of demons we die, and yet remain alive, constantly.
13 Senses. Each of your senses will suffer, and we hunger and thirst. There are many aches and pains possible.
14 Special pain. According to our sins during earthly life, we face torment from demonic companions. Those who took part in abortion, in which babies are torn limb from limb, will suffer similar torment. Homosexuals in particular will come in for demonic attention.
Sunday attendance at Mass for Catholics is heading down to 5% and below. Thus we have about 95% of Catholics headed to Hell. Of the practising Catholics, how many have used contraceptives? With few children at Mass, the numbers in the state of grace could be closer to 1%.
At least part of the cause is that the Catholic faith has not been taught by our bishops and priests, with a few wonderful exceptions, for more than 50 years. They also will face a difficult reception at death.
The Church tells us that there are no Protestants in Heaven. No Muslims, no Buddhists, no Hindus, no one but Catholics. And perhaps only a few of those.
If all this is true, there are many people falling into Hell right now, all over the world, and they will never get out. God has placed us here as a test, to see if we are interested in joining Him for eternity, and to see if we want to save our families, friends and neighbours.
Soon each of us will have to account for the entries on our book of life. After that, we go to our chosen destination. The time to get ready is now.
So what is it like there, really? Here is a guess, based on the writings of the saints.
Ben Williams was a careful driver, waiting for the lights to change, but that did not help him. The driver of a double-cab ute behind had been texting, and had totally failed to see what was happening. With a loud bang the ute slammed into Ben's car, and the tray of a 3-ton truck ahead of him had gone over his bonnet and through his windscreen. Death was instantaneous.
Dimly he saw a light ahead. It grew bigger and brighter, into the shape of a man. A Man he recognised. The light was now brighter than the sun, but his eyes were not affected. He was not seeing with his eyes. At his side he observed a beautiful man, taller than himself, wearing a red robe. He noticed that this man left him and disappeared.
In a moment, his life flashed before him, and he faced his Judge. Ben was a Catholic, but had not taken much notice of the need for Sunday Mass. And he had made his wife use the pill. He knew it was forbidden, but no priest had reminded him of the consequences. He felt betrayed, but was unable to offer an excuse. Even Protestants knew that contraceptives were forbidden to Catholics. A lump of fear arose inside him, and worked rapidly to his throat, and then to his skull. He saw his Judge for the last time, strangely beautiful, loving and lost to him, as a strange being suddenly appeared at his side.
This new being was tall and horribly evil-looking. It had a vulture's bill, but much larger, and huge eyes. Talons for hands and feet. With a single stroke, it took hold of Ben and dragged him downward at tremendous speed. He understood now that his future was lost for all eternity, but had no idea what would happen next.
Down they went, into the mouth of a volcano, and down through heat beyond belief, heat that no one on earth could stand for an instant, but he had no choice. He landed flat on his back on a large rock. He heard the rattle of chains, and he was clasped to the rock, in a position which could not be changed.
The darkness was intense, but he could sense that he was in a large cavern, and by the sound of the howling, curses and cries around him, he knew that he was not alone. The pain was so great, more than all the pains suffered by the population of the whole world. But there was no relief possible.
He cursed his mother and father, cursed his parish priest, whom he saw just twice a year, at Christmas and Easter. And he cursed God.
The fire did not surround him. Instead, it went right through him. He felt a great pain inside. There was something moving there, eating him from the inside.
He felt remorse. No, he did not regret what he had done, but regretted being punished for it. He thought how easy it would have been to avoid Hell, so that he could have then spent eternity with a loving God, and this made him renew his curses.
Then he considered his wife, and his children. In his anger he wondered how he could force them to join him in this darkness and pain. In his despair he cursed his family.
The fire he could never get used to. But now he detected a most awful stench, like rotting flesh. Although the fire did not consume, the people in Hell had the appearance and the smell of bodies lying dead in the open.
He wondered how this could be, since his body was back on earth, and until the end of time, his soul remained separate. But it was clear that souls are able to materialise at the will of the Creator. In any case, after the last judgement, body and soul would be together, back in this place.
He tried to move, but the chains held him. He could not even roll on his side. He was going to stay in this position forever. There would be no relief.
Now he felt hunger and thirst, and pains in all his senses. Those also would continue without end.
Through the blackness he could somehow see that the cavern was virtually endless, with thousands, maybe millions of souls suffering dreadful torment. Next to each was a hideous demon, and each demon had an instrument of torture, to inflict special pains according to the sins committed in life.
And he saw his own demon, a great animal, armed with a spear. The demon spoke.
"Now begins your time with us. It will never end, and I shall never get tired. Time does not exist here. All is now. And you will die and continue to die, forever. I know many ways to inflict pain, and you will learn them all."
Ben groaned, and tried to turn away, but he could not hide or even move. He was totally at the mercy of an immensely strong being, who meant him nothing but great harm.