St. Faustina Kowalska said that in hell ‘there are caverns and torture pits where each type of agony differs from the other.’
In the history of the Catholic Church various saints and blesseds have described what hell is like and even exactly where “bad Christians” would be placed, based on visions and messages they received during their lives.
St. Teresa of Ávila, a doctor of the Church, related in her Autobiography that when the Lord showed her hell it seemed to her that she was in an “entrance that seemed to me like a very long, narrow alley, like a very low, dark, and narrow furnace: The floor seemed to me to be like mud, with a pestilential smell.”
St. Frances of Rome was also at the entrance to hell. According to the testimony of her confessor, Father Juan Mattiotti, there she “saw an extremely great and terrible abyss.” In addition, there was a sign with this warning: “This is hell, where there is neither rest, nor consolation, nor hope.”
According to an account by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, the hell she saw had “the shape of an immense, dark building, illuminated with a metallic light.” Emmerich said that it had an entrance with “huge black doors with locks and bolts.” But the angels knocked them down and the enemies worshipped Christ when he descended into hell.
The blessed said that there are prisons, caverns, deserts, and lakes that lead to “disgust and horror.” St. Faustina Kowalska said that in hell “there are caverns and torture pits where each type of agony differs from the other.”
The Torments According to God the Father
Something unusual in the lives of some saints is that God the Father himself speaks to them directly. A very particular case was that of St. Catherine of Siena, a doctor of the Church. In her work called The Dialogue, the saint narrates that the eternal Father indicated to her the four main torments of hell, from which all other pains are derived.
According to the saint, God the Father said that the first torment is that condemned souls are deprived of him. This causes them such pain that they would prefer fire and cruel torments to be able to see him. This agony activates the second torment, which is the pain of the worm of conscience, because they are aware that because of their own fault they cannot be with him.
The third torment is the vision of demons because “by seeing them they know themselves better, that is, they know that because of their fault they are worthy of them,” the eternal Father revealed to her. Furthermore, in the demons these souls see their own figure so horrible “that the human heart cannot imagine it.”
The fourth torment is fire. God the Father told her that the soul is immaterial and cannot be consumed, but that he in his divine justice has “allowed it to burn with suffering, to afflict it and not to consume it.” He then emphasized that the fire makes the soul suffer with great sorrows, in various forms and depending on the variety of the sins and the severity of the guilt.
The Place of ‘Bad Christians’ in Hell
In the Golden Legend of Blessed Santiago de la Vorágine it says that one day St. Macarius the Abbot, a great demon-fighter, found a skull. The saint, after praying to God, asked who the skull belonged to and where his soul was.
The skull responded that it belonged to a pagan man and that his soul was at the bottom of hell. Then the abbot questioned him about who was below his soul. The skull told him that at the bottom were the souls of “bad Christians” because “during their lives they treated with disregard the blood of Christ with which they were redeemed.”
Prayer, Sacrifice Can Help Sinners Repent and Avoid Hell
On July 13, 1917, Our Lady appeared to the three Fátima children, Jacinta and Francisco Marto and Lucia dos Santos. The former two are now canonized saints and the latter has been declared venerable.
Our Lady urged the children to “make sacrifices for sinners, and say often, especially while making a sacrifice: O Jesus, this is for love of thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Next, the children saw a vision of hell as Lucia later related:
“Rays of light seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw as it were a sea of fire. 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 huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. (It must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me). The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals.
“Terrified and as if to plead for succor, we looked up at Our Lady, who said to us, so kindly and so sadly: ‘You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.’”
Our Lady then told the children: “When you pray the rosary, say after each mystery: O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.”
Later, when Jacinta was very ill she would share many insights, among them: “The sins which cause most souls to go to hell are the sins of the flesh.”
Joseph Pronechen of the National Catholic Register also contributed to this story.