Praising God In Hell (Pt.2)

Author: Fr Pat Collins CM

Picture: Flickr/Ashley Campbell

Praising God In Hell (Pt.2)

Praise can bring liberation from despair, hopelessness and inner desolation, says Fr. Pat Collins in part 2 of his article 'Praising God In Hell.'

Many people have to endure the torments of hell while they are still alive. Firstly, there are saintly people who are led by God’s providence to share in the sheol experience of Jesus. Let me cite two examples.

In her Autobiography, St Therese of Lisieux said that, during her time of inner darkness, near the end of her life, she seemed to hear a mocking inner voice which said, “It is all a dream, this talk of a heavenly country, bathed in light, scented with delicious perfumes, and of a God who made it all, who is to be our possession in eternity!... All right, all right, go on longing for death! But death will make nonsense of your hopes; it will only mean a darker night than ever, the night of mere non-existence and annihilation.” 

When St Teresa of Calcutta died in 1997, it came as a surprise to learn that in spite of her cheerful personality, her beautiful and reassuring words and loving actions, she herself had endured inner desolation of spirit for many years. She wrote in a letter to her spiritual director, “they say people in hell suffer eternal pain because of the loss of God. ... In my soul I feel this terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing”

'Be sober-minded; Be Watchful'

There is evidence that both of these saintly women, like many people before and since, felt that the devil was attacking them in their vulnerability as they suffered desolation of spirit.

They had to take heed of the words of 1 Pt. 5:8-9: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.”

The blood sisters and companions of St Therese of Lisieux prayed that she would be delivered from the attacks of the evil one. Cardinal Henry D’Souza of Calcutta revealed that, a year before she died, he had asked a priest to perform a minor exorcism on Mother Teresa, to free her from the attack of the father of lies.

Join Jesus The Lord Of Sheol In Praise

In the course of my pastoral work, I have found that many, many people have to endure a psycho-spiritual type of hell when they feel overwhelmed by tribulation and separated from God and devoid of hope as a result of such things as bereavement, depression, addiction, sickness, pain, isolation, failure, guilt, hopelessness, a sense of meaninglessness, unbelief or spiritual oppression.

I thought in particular of those who have to endure the dangers and horrors of wars in countries such as Ukraine, Ethiopia and Yemen. What I sensed was that the members of the army of praise should join with Jesus as the Lord of sheol in praising and thanking God in anticipation of being led forth from captivity into the freedom of the children of  God

There are intimations of that kind of liberation in the story of Jonah praising God in the belly of the whale, the three young men praising God in the fiery furnace, and Paul and Silas praising God in the depths of a Philippian gaol. In each case, praise anticipated their liberation, like Jesus, by God the Father.

So it will for us when, in union with all those in hell, we praise our faithful God. 

His Power At Work In Us Is Great

As we do so, the truth of Paul’s words in Eph 1:18-20 will kick in: “How very great is his power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength which God the Father used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world.”

I must say, I was deeply moved by the thought of those in the darkness and forlornness of Hell praising God in union with Jesus in anticipation of liberation. I was reminded of some words of St Patrick in his Confessions. He revealed that, although he had to endure a lot of trials of a hellish nature, he was, nevertheless, committed to thanking and the praising God, his deliverer.

He wrote: “I give unceasing thanks to my God, who he kept me faithful in the day of my testing . . . that I might constantly rejoice and glorify your name wherever I may be, both in prosperity and in adversity. You did it so that, whatever happened to me, I might accept good and evil equally, always giving thanks to God. God showed me how to have faith in him forever, as one who is never to be doubted.”

  • Read here for part 1 of the article



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