21 December 2011

Hitchens, Hell, Kim Jong-Il

Mundabor puts into words some of what I've been thinking about all this.

One might respect Hitchens for a number of reasons: his willingness to stand on conviction, even when it rendered him unpopular; his ability to turn a phrase; his wit and intellect; his refusal to mince words, etc. But all those things, as interesting or attractive as they might be, don't work an ounce in one's favor when we stand before the throne of God to give an account of our lives. And in the end, what matters? Not the wit, the intellect, the ability to speak charmingly or arrestingly, but rather how much we have conformed our lives to the Crucified One.

I sound like a fundy, but there it is. It's the uncomfortable and annoying truth.

I sincerely hope Hitchens, in his last moments, accepted the Divine Mercy as it reached out to him in a final act of love--after a lifetime full of reaching out and being rejected. I sincerely hope this, and pray for his soul. But those who cavalierly assume he wound up in purgatory, because God just doesn't send souls to "the other place" anymore, are unwitting victims of the modernism that's infected our age, in large part due to the absolute silence on hell from the pulpits.

Even Fr. Robert Barron, an eloquent apologist for the faith, has fallen prey to von Balthasar's soft stance, considering hell only a very real possibility rather than a place actually and currently inhabited by souls for all eternity. I'm not entirely sure how he can square his stance with the words of Our Lady of Fatima, an apparition approved by the Church:
Souls are falling into hell like snowflakes because there is none to pray and sacrifice for them.
--Our Lady of Fatima

And then there's this anecdote from St. Leonard of Port-Maurice's famous sermon on the number of the saved, which caused scandal in his day as it would no doubt cause scandal in our own:
Saint Vincent Ferrer relates that an archdeacon in Lyons gave up his charge and retreated into a desert place to do penance, and that he died the same day and hour as Saint Bernard. After his death, he appeared to his bishop and said to him, ‘Know, Monsignor, that at the very hour I passed away, thirty-three thousand people also died. Out of this number, Bernard and myself went up to heaven without delay, three went to purgatory, and all the others fell into Hell.’
Only five out of 33,000 saved, and two of them who died in the odor of sanctity.

Yet Hitchens *must* be saved, we assume...

We do him and others no favors by our cavalier assumptions about salvation. Why did the saints of old wear themselves out for souls, and consider their lives nothing but one long toil for the sake of souls? It is because they took hell seriously--unlike Catholics today, for whom hell is only some quaint possibility, who cheapen God's grace and the sacrifice and suffering required to save souls.

Annoying sermon over.