The Difference Between Heaven and Hell
Thomas A. Droleskey
The pull of this world is very strong in most of our lives. Fallen human nature inclines us to consider this passing, mortal vale of tears to be our true home when it is nothing of the sort. Each one of our Actual Sins, both Mortal and Venial, incline us all the more to be attached to the things, people and places of this world.
That is, the residue of our forgiven Mortal Sins and of our Venial Sins darkens our intellects and weakens or wills, inclining us to be slow in our prayers and very prone to viewing ourselves and the events of the world through the lens of naturalism rather through the lens of the true Faith. Each of the Seven Deadly Sins (Pride, Anger, Lust, Sloth, Envy, Gluttony, Greed) that tug at us as a result of the Fall and our own Actual Sins makes us all too ready to dismiss the importance of living light of our First Cause and Last End, ever desirous of seeking the pleasures of the world while postponing any thought of the world that is to come, the world that is meant to live within our immortal souls and radiate itself into the midst of the lives of those God places in our paths on a daily basis.
The pull of the world caused the Chosen People to worship the molten calf when they thought that Moses had abandoned them during their Exodus from Egypt:
And the people seeing that Moses delayed to come down from the mount, gathering together against Aaron, said: Arise, make us gods, that may go before us: for as to this Moses, the man that brought us out of the land of Egypt, we know not what has befallen him. And Aaron said to them: Take the golden earrings from the ears of your wives, and your sons and daughters, and bring them to me. And the people did what he had commanded, bringing the earrings to Aaron. And when he had received them, he fashioned them by founders' work, and made of them a molten calf. And they said: These are thy gods, O Israel, that have brought thee out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it, and made proclamation by a crier's voice, saying: Tomorrow is the solemnity of the Lord.
And rising in the morning, they offered holocausts, and peace victims, and the people sat down to eat, and drink, and they rose up to play. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Go, get thee down: thy people, which thou hast brought out of the land of Egypt, hath sinned. They have quickly strayed from the way which thou didst shew them: and they have made to themselves a molten calf, and have adored it, and sacrificing victims to it, have said: These are thy gods, O Israel, that have brought thee out of the land of Egypt. And again the Lord said to Moses: See that this people is stiffnecked: Let me alone, that my wrath may be kindled against them, and that I may destroy them, and I will make of thee a great nation.
But Moses besought the Lord his God, saying: Why, O Lord, is thy indignation kindled against thy people, whom thou hast brought out of the land of Egypt, with great power, and with a mighty hand? Let not the Egyptians say, I beseech thee: He craftily brought them out, that he might kill them in the mountains, and destroy them from the earth: let thy anger cease, and be appeased upon the wickedness of thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou sworest by thy own self, saying: I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven: and this whole land that I have spoken of, I will give to you seed, and you shall possess it for ever. And the Lord was appeased from doing the evil which he had spoken against his people. And Moses returned from the mount, carrying the two tables of the testimony in his hand, written on both sides,
And made by the work of God: the writing also of God was graven in the tables. And Josue hearing the noise of the people shouting, said to Moses: The noise of battle is heard in the camp. But he answered: It is not the cry of men encouraging to fight, nor the shout of men compelling to flee: but I hear the voice of singers. And when he came nigh to the camp, he saw the calf, and the dances: and being very angry, he threw the tables out of his hand, and broke them at the foot of the mount: And laying hold of the calf which they had made, he burnt it, and beat it to powder, which he strowed into water, and gave thereof to the children of Israel to drink. (Exodus 32: 1-20)
The pull of the world caused King David, from whose royal line Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was to be born, to forget about his humble origins as a shepherd boy, steeping himself in various sins, including adultery and murder. He had to be reminded by the Prophet Nathan that he had let his earthly power go to his rather swollen head:
And the Lord sent Nathan to David: and when he was come to him, he said to him: There were two men in one city, the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many sheep and oxen. But the poor man had nothing at all but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up, and which had grown up in his house together with his children, eating of his bread, and drinking of his cup, and sleeping in his bosom: and it was unto him as a daughter. And when a certain stranger was come to the rich man, he spared to take of his own sheep and oxen, to make a feast for that stranger, who was come to him, but took the poor man's ewe, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. And David's anger being exceedingly kindled against that man, he said to Nathan: As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this is a child of death.
He shall restore the ewe fourfold, because he did this thing, and had no pity. And Nathan said to David: Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord the God of Israel: I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee from the hand of Saul, And gave thee thy master's house and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and Juda: and if these things be little, I shall add far greater things unto thee. Why therefore hast thou despised the word of the Lord, to do evil in my sight? Thou hast killed Urias the Hethite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Therefore the sword shall never depart from thy house, because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Urias the Hethite to be thy wife.
Thus saith the Lord: Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thy own house, and I will take thy wives before thy eyes I and give them to thy neighhour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing in the sight of all Israel, and in the sight of the sun. And David said to Nathan: I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said to David: The Lord also hath taken away thy sin: thou shalt not die. Nevertheless, because thou hast given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, for this thing, the child that is born to thee, shall surely die. And Nathan returned to his house. The Lord also struck the child which the wife of Urias had borne to David, and his life was despaired of. (2 Kings 12: 1-15)
David repented at the admonition of the Prophet Nathan. This lesson was lost on David's son, Solomon, who threw away the wisdom God had given him in his youth to become to grow foolish, to become impure and thence to fall into idolatry, violating the First Commandment, causing him to be chastised and the Kingdom of Israel to be split in two. Here is the contrast between the wise Solomon of youth and the one who could not resist the pull of the world as he grew older.
And Solomon said: Thou hast shewn great mercy to thy servant David my father, even at, he walked before thee in truth, and justice, and an upright heart with thee: and thou hast kept thy great mercy for him, and hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O Lord God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a child, and know not how to go out and come in. And thy servant is in the midst of the people which thou hast chosen, an immense people, which cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore to thy servant an understanding heart, to judge thy people, and discern between good and evil. For who shall be able to judge this people, thy people which is so numerous? And the word was pleasing to the Lord that Solomon had asked such a thing.
And the Lord said to Solomon: Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life or riches, nor the lives of thy enemies, but hast asked for thyself wisdom to discern judgment, Behold I have done for thee according to thy words, and have given thee a wise and understanding heart, insomuch that there hath been no one like thee before thee, nor shall arise after thee. Yea and the things also which thou didst not ask, I have given thee: to wit riches and glory, as that no one hath been like thee among the kings in all days heretofore. And if thou wilt walk in my ways, and Beep my precepts, and my commandments, as thy father walked, I will lengthen thy days. And Solomon awaked, and perceived that it was a dream: and when he was come to Jerusalem, he stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered holocausts, and sacrificed victims of peace offerings, and made a great feast for all his servants. (3 Kings 3: 6-15.)
And king Solomon loved many strange women besides the daughter of Pharao, and women of Moab, and of Ammon, and of Edom, and of Sidon, and of the Hethites: Of the nations concerning which the Lord said to the children of Israel: You shall not go in unto them, neither shall any of them come in to yours: for they will most certainly turn away your heart to follow their gods. And to these was Solomon joined with a most ardent love. And he had seven hundred wives as queens, and three hundred concubines: and the women turned away his heart. And when he was now old, his heart was turned away by women to follow strange gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. But Solomon worshipped Astarthe the goddess of the Sidonians, and Moloch the idol of the ammonites.
And Solomon did that which was net pleasing before the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as David his father. Then Solomon built a temple for Chamos the idol of Moab, on the hill that is over against Jerusalem, and for Moloch the idol of the children of Ammon. And he did in this manner for all his wives that were strangers, who burnt incense, and offered sacrifice to their gods. And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his mind was turned away from the Lord the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not follow strange gods: but he kept not the things which the Lord commanded him.
The Lord therefore said to Solomon: Because thou hast done this, and hast not kept my covenant, and my precepts, which I have commanded thee, I will divide and rend thy kingdom, and will give it to thy servant. Nevertheless in thy days I will not do it, for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. (3 Kings 11: 1-12.)
As goes the leaders so go the people. The Chosen People of the Old Covenant had become so generally corrupt and mired in the ways of the world that God spoke as follows through the Prophet Osee about their infidelity and idolatry:
When I would have healed Israel, the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria, for they have committed falsehood, and the thief is come in to steal, the robber is without. And lest they may say in their hearts, that I remember all their wickedness: their own devices now have beset them about, they have been done before my face. They have made the king glad with their wickedness: and the princes with their lies. They are all adulterers, like an oven heated by the baker: the city rested a little from the mingling of the leaven, till the whole was leavened. The day of our king, the princes began to be mad with wine: he stretched out his hand with scorners. (Osee 7: 1-5)
Indeed, the Old Testament is filled with examples of warnings being issued by prophets to the kings and the people of Israel and Judah. This infidelity resulted in the Babylonian Captivity, as was summarized in the First Book of Esdras:
But after that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven to wrath, he delivered them into the hands of Nabuchodonosor the king of Babylon the Chaldean: and he destroyed this house, and carried away the people to Babylon (Esdras 5: 12)
The saint whose beheading we commemorated yesterday, Saint John the Baptist, warned King Herod and his consort, Herodias, that they had to repent of their bigamous and adulterous marriage, urging them to obey the law of God rather than to think that their power had placed them above that law:
For Herod himself had sent and apprehended John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias the wife of Philip his brother, because he had married her. For John said to Herod: It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife. Now Herodias laid snares for him: and was desirous to put him to death, and could not. For Herod feared John, knowing him to be a just and holy man: and kept him, and when he heard him, did many things: and he heard him willingly. (Mk. 6: 17-20)
Human beings, you see, need to be reminded of the fact that they did not create themselves and that their bodies are destined for the corruption of the grave until the Last Day at the General Judgment of the Living and the Dead. They take no material possessions with them when they die. No earthly honors matter at the moment of their Particular Judgments. None of the momentary pleasures of this earth, the legitimate, moderate enjoyment of which are meant to be but a reminder that better, eternally lasting goods await the just in Heaven, take the place of the loss of the Beatific Vision for all eternity. We must, therefore, be earnest in our pursuit of Heaven as members of the Catholic Church who are consecrated to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, not immersed in the pursuit of the things of this passing world as ultimate ends that define our very existence.
Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ explained this to us in the Sermon on the Mount
Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal.
For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also. The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome. But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be! No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment?
Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? And which of you by taking thought, can add to his stature by one cubit? And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. And if the grass of the field, which is today, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith?
Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore solicitous for tomorrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. (Mt. 6: 19-34.)
The world, the flesh and the devil will place obstacles in the path of our pursuit of Heaven. It is sometimes the case that our relatives and friends will the instruments by which the adversary seeks to convince us to be "easy" on ourselves and to "fit in" with the rest of the world, that it is not "necessary" to give up television and rock music and motion pictures filled with blasphemy and indecency and professional sports. People are advised not to cause "unnecessary" divisions in their families, that it is not important to shield children from bad company and simply "impossible" to expect children to dress modestly at all times, that is old fashioned and very much "out of date" to take these words of the first Pope, Saint Peter, seriously:
In like manner also let wives be subject to their husbands: that if any believe not the word, they may be won without the word, by the conversation of the wives. Considering your chaste conversation with fear. Whose adorning let it not be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel: But the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and a meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God. For after this manner heretofore the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands:
As Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters you are, doing well, and not fearing any disturbance. Ye husbands, likewise dwelling with them according to knowledge, giving honour to the female as to the weaker vessel, and as to the co-heirs of the grace of life: that your prayers be not hindered And in fine, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, being lovers of the brotherhood, merciful, modest, humble: Not rendering evil for evil, nor railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing: for unto this are you called, that you may inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile.
Let him decline from evil, and do good: let him seek after peace and pursue it: Because the eyes of the Lord are upon the just, and his ears unto their prayers: but the countenance of the Lord upon them that do evil things. And who is he that can hurt you, if you be zealous of good? But if also you suffer any thing for justice' sake, blessed are ye. And be not afraid of their fear, and be not troubled. But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you.
But with modesty and fear, having a good conscience: that whereas they speak evil of you, they may be ashamed who falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better doing well (if such be the will of God) to suffer, than doing ill. Because Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust: that he might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit (1 Pt. 3: 1-18.)
As the pull of the world is very strong, the words of Saint Peter's First Epistle are not received with a great deal of enthusiasm by many Catholics today. Indeed, the necessity of withdrawing from an immersion into the things and the pleasures of this world--and the necessity of protecting our own souls and those of our children from naturalistic, if not overtly evil, influences--is not something a lot of Catholics across the ecclesiastical divide want to even think about, no less embrace for the love of God and for the love of their own immortal souls and those of their children. Although this reality is very accentuated today because of religious indifferentism and cultural pluralism and the sloth engendered by the Protestant and Masonic Novus Ordo Missae, it has been difficult throughout the history of the Church for many people to resist the pull of the world and to seek the things that are above first and foremost, as Saint notes in his Epistle to the Colossians:
Therefore, if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above; where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God: Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth. For you are dead; and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ shall appear, who is your life, then you also shall appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, lust, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is the service of idols.
For which things the wrath of God cometh upon the children of unbelief, In which you also walked some time, when you lived in them. But now put you also all away: anger, indignation, malice, blasphemy, filthy speech out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another: stripping yourselves of the old man with his deeds, And putting on the new, him who is renewed unto knowledge, according to the image of him that created him. (1 Col. 3: 1-10.)
Saint Rose of Lima, whose exemplary life of penance and Charity we commemorate today, August 30, had to struggle with her own parents to live the life of a Dominican Tertiary. Saint Rose had determined at the age of five to consecrated herself totally to God, something that her strong-willed mother, Maria de Oliva Flores. Consider these passages from Mary Fabyan Windeatt's Saint Rose of Lima: The Story of the First Canonized Saint of the Americas:
As Rose grew older, she obtained her father's permission to care for many other poor women who were ill. A special room was set aside for these unfortunates. It was known as "The Infirmary," and very rapidly became a real haven for Lima's sick poor.
Rose's heart was full of love for these sufferers because her heart was full of love for God. To be good to he sick was to love Our Lord. No matter how sickening a disease might be, Rose did not refuse to help anyone. Sometimes a really terrible infected wound would be too much for her stomach to bear, and she would have to leave and go outside for a few minutes. Then, after pulling herself together, she would return to her patient with a kind smile on her face.
As the months passed, several Indians reported that they had been cured of ailments at "The Infirmary," especially after Rose had let them hold her little statue of the Child Jesus. This statue, they insisted, was miraculous. Rose herself referred to it as "The Little Doctor."
Despite her daughter's popularity with the poor of Lima, Maria de Oliva sometimes lost her temper over the number of cases in "The Infirmary."
"Aren't there enough hospitals in Lima without turning our home into one?" she demanded of her husband one day. "Santa Ana, San Andreas, San Lazaro--really, there's no reason why rose should keep so many wretched women here, Gaspar. It makes me sick!"
Gaspar Flores smiled. Hardly a day passed that his energetic wife did not complain about something.
"We have a big house, Maria. Surely Rose can use one room for her charity."
Charity! Gaspar, do you realize that this is the year 1606? Rose is twenty years old and not married yet! Surely I have a right to complain when she spends hours at a time with sick Indians and Negroes. Why can't she be interested in meeting some nice young men for a change?
"What good would that be? You know that the child told us."
A shadow crossed Maria's face. So Gaspar really believed that his daughter could never marry because she had promised herself to God at the age of five. What nonsense! No child of five understood about such things."
"If Rose doesn't marry, I'll die of shame!" she declared flatly. "Already people are starting to talk. They say that there's something wrong with her mind, that she's strange. . ."
Gaspar sighed. Rose had always been different from his other children. Even when she was very small there were things about her that puzzled him. The stories she told, for instance. Was it really possible that the Child Jesus had taught her to read and write? That she saw her Guardian Angel? That the Blessed Mother often appeared to her as she worked in the garden?
"Maybe it's God Will that Rose enter a convent," he said presently. "We owe at least one of our eleven children to the religious life, Maria. Rose is well suited, it seems to me. . ."
"That girl enters a convent over my dead boy," proclaimed his wife grimly. "For years I've paced all my hopes on her marrying well. Do you think I'm going to be disappointed now?"
What, Gaspar thought, was the point of arguing? During the twenty-nine years of their married life, Maria had always had her own way. (Mary Fabyan Windeatt, Saint Rose of Lima: The Story of the First Canonized Saint of the Americas, republished by TAN Books and Publishers, 1993, pp 55-57.)
"Something wrong with her mind, that she's strange. . ." Yes, so it is, my friends, that many of us are considered strange by our non-practicing Catholic relatives simply because we desire to shed the "old man" and put on the "new Man" Who is Christ Himself, making reparation for our own sins and for our lukewarmness, for our own immersion into the ways of the world. This is particularly the case when one person in a family undergoes a sudden, perhaps even miraculous, transformation by means of the graces won for us by the shedding of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ's Most Precious Blood and that flow into our hearts and souls through the loving hands of Our Lady, the Mediatrix of All Graces. The worldly, the sensual man cannot understand the one who is spiritual. Saint Paul notes this in his First Epistle to the Corinthians:
For what man knoweth the things of a man, but the spirit of a man that is in him? So the things also that are of God no man knoweth, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit that is of God; that we may know the things that are given us from God. Which things also we speak, not in the learned words of human wisdom; but in the doctrine of the Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God; for it is foolishness to him, and he cannot understand, because it is spiritually examined. But the spiritual man judgeth all things; and he himself is judged of no man. (1 Cor. 2: 11-15.)
The explanation provided in the Douay-Rheims Bible should give us consolation when we, despite our sins, seek the "higher gifts" when even our closest friends and family members mock us for doing so:
"The sensual man"... The sensual man is either he who is taken up with sensual pleasures, with carnal and worldly affections; or he who measureth divine mysteries by natural reason, sense, and human wisdom only. Now such a man has little or no notion of the things of God. Whereas the spiritual man is he who, in the mysteries of religion, takes not human sense for his guide: but submits his judgment to the decisions of the church, which he is commanded to hear and obey. For Christ hath promised to remain to the end of the world with his church, and to direct her in all things by the Spirit of truth.
It was not uncommon even in the Christendom of the Middle Ages, no less the Christendom of the Americas that began to flower within a very short time following Our Lady's apparitions to Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill in 1531 (Saint Rose of Lima was born just fifty-five years later, in 1586), for parents and siblings to make fun of children and other siblings who aspired to the "higher things," who aspired, indeed, to be saints. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was considered to be a mad man by his sister-in-law Elizabeth, who was married to Bernard's brother Guy, as Bernard argued with her that her husband, his brother, should enter the Cistercian monastery. Bernard's own Sister, Humbeline, was very attracted to the world before she was convinced by her brother (and with the permission of her husband) to leave the world and become a Sister of the Order of Saint Benedict. No, the tug of the world that pulled at the mother of Saint Rose of Lima, the tempestuous Maria de Oliva Flores, and that tugs at the hearts of so many Catholics today is nothing new.
Saint Rose explained her calling to be a Dominican Tertiary to a wealthy woman, Dona Maria, discussing the fact that had been inspired by the life of Saint Catherine of Siena, whose sufferings parallel those of Saint Rose's in so many ways:
The visit to the seminary was interesting, but Dona Maria de Quinones did not stay long. She informed Rose that she had other places to visit.
"The nuns at the Monastery of the Incarnation?"
"That's right. Afterward perhaps we'll have time to go to the Monastery of the Conception. And to the Trinity, too."
Dona Maria's carriage rolled swiftly through the narrow streets. Rose followed the busy scenes about her with interest, although it was not the magnificent buildings or the many colorful gardens which chiefly claimed her attention. Instead, it was the people in the streets--cripples and beggars and ragged little children. There were so many of them! and they seemed to have forgotten how to smile!
Dona Maria threw a swift glance at her young companion. "I can guess what you're thinking, my dear."
The girl's dark eyes shone. "I was thinking about if I were a boy, I'd go to Santo Domingo tomorrow so I could be a priest and do something for all these poor people. So many of them don't know a thing about God, Dona Maria. And there aren't enough priests here in Peru to teach them. It's a pity, isn't it?"
The woman nodded. "A great pity, child. But tell me why you'd like to be a Dominican. Why not a Franciscan, or a Jesuit, or an Augustinian?"
Rose smiled. So many other people were always asking the same question. "Because of Saint Catherine of Siena, Dona Maria. She was a Dominican Tertiary. And such a wonderful person! We have a book at home that tells about her. I've read it so may times that I must know every word by now."
"I've read about her, to. She certain was a wonderful person. But she was a Tertiary, spending all her days in the world. She never entered a convent."
"I know, Dona Maria. She belonged to the Third Order of Saint Dominic. It must be a lovely life since she love it so much."
"And a hard life, child. It takes a very special grace to become a saint while you go on living in the world."
Rose laughed. "I'm going to try, Dona Mari. I won't every marry or enter a convent. I've asked Saint Catherine to help me to be like her. You see, when I was five years old. . ."
"It sounds like a rather foolish story, for I was small then."
Dona Maria smiled. "You tell me your story and then I'll tell you one," she said. "By that time we should have reached the Monastery of the Incarnation. But of course if you want to keep that secret. . ."
Rose shook her head. "It's not that important. Besides, when I'm older and people expect me to marry, I'll have to explain why I can't. So I'll tell you first. I know you'll understand."
"Thank you, my dear. I'll respect your confidence."
"It was one afternoon when Ferdinand [her brother] and I were playing in the garden," began Rose. "I was five and he was seven. Marianna had just washed my hair and I was pleased with the way it shone in the son. It was soft and silky and it had little curls in it. I was proud of those curls, Dona Maria."
"No doubt they were nice."
"But Ferdinand began to make fun of me. He pretended he was a priest preaching a sermon, and he talked about how foolish it is to be proud of one's clothes and one's looks. He said people go to Hell for things like that. As I sat there listening to him, he suddenly took up a handful of dirt and threw it over my clean hair."
" 'You needn't be proud any more,' he said.
"At first I was really cross with Ferdinand. But after I thought it over I decided he was right. We really shouldn't be so concerned over our looks, or whether we have money or health or education. Of course he was only playing a game. He never thought I'd take him seriously. But I did. Then everyone was terribly angry with me."
"Because I decided to cut off my curls, as Saint Catherine of Siena did when she was a little girl, then I wouldn't be proud of my looks any more."
Dona Maria laughed. "Your mother never told me about that," she said. "And I'm glad your hair has grown again, Rose. It's really very pretty."
"Thank you, Dona Maria. Only there's more to my store than that. You see, when I cut off my hair, I promised Our Lord that I would always love Him more than anyone or anything. I was only five, but I knew that all I wanted in life was to serve Him and to work for His glory here on earth. I didn't want a husband or children--only Him."
"Of course Mother doesn't know about this, and probably she'll be angry when I do tell her But that's the way it is, Dona Maria. And there's nothing anyone can do that will make change my mind. I belong to God--forever and ever." (Mary Fabyan Windeatt, Saint Rose of Lima: The Story of the First Canonized Saint of the Americas, republished by TAN Books and Publishers, 1993, pp. 37-40.)
Saint Rose of Lima was considered "odd" by her mother because of her decision not to marry or to enter into a convent. Maria de Oliva Flores could not understand how one could live in the world and not be of the world. Saint Rose's initial request to live as a hermit in a little hut in the Flores family garden was not met at first with a great deal of enthusiasm by her mother:
"Even though Maria de Oliva frequently found fault with Dominican Tertiary life, with the prayers and sacrifices to which her daughter was dedicated, Rose knew such trials could be turned into great merit.
"Long ago I offered to pray and suffer for others," she thought. "Dear Lord, don't le me run away from any pain now. Let Mother's failure to understand only bring me closer to You. Let it help make me a saint."
The weeks passed, with their ceaseless round of ordinary activities. Always clad in her white Tertiary habit and veil, Rose tender her flowers and herbs, did her fine sewing and embroidery. She was completely unaware of the rumors spreading throughout the city to the effect that she was quite as holy as those other great servants of God, Archbishop Turibius, Father Francis Solano, and Brother Martin de Porres. Hardly a day passed that men and women did not come to beg her prayers, to ask her advice on one subject or another, touch her famous statue of the Child Jesus, which she called "The Little Doctor."
"Rose is another Catherine of Siena," they told one another. "She fasts all the time. She sleeps only two hours a night. She has given her whole self to the saving of sinners."
Eventually, however, some of all this did reach the young woman's ears. Quickly she went in search of her mother with a strange request. She wanted permission to be a hermit in the garden. If she cut herself off from the world, if she appeared only rarely in the streets, perhaps people would forget about her. But since the little oratory she had made as a child, far back among the banana trees, was nearly in ruins, it would be necessary to build another. And this second hermitage would have to be of more durable material--with a door that would lock.
Maria de Oliva refused to listen to any such suggestion. It was bad enough to see her pretty daughter in a religious habit, to know that she had thrown away forever the chance to have a husband and children. But that she should live as a hermit in a little adobe house in the garden--never!
Four years passed. Rose did not give up hope of having her little adobe house. Finally, overcome with the pleadings of Father Alonso Velasquez, Dona Maria de Usategui and Don Gonzalo, her mother gave in. Yes--Rose could buy herself as a hermit, if Father Alonso thought this the proper thing to do. She could stop having visitors. She could ruin her health by spending hour sin a damp mud hut.
"Mother, how can I ever thank you?" cried the girl. "I've waited for so long!"
Maria sighed as she looked at her daughter, now twenty-eight years of age. She was still pretty, but far too thin. The white Dominican habit could not hide the fact that for years Rose had been following a very difficult life.
"Sometimes I can't understand why you didn't enter a convent, child. What other girl in Lima prays as much as you?"
Rose laughed, remembering that Sunday afternoon at Santo Domingo when a mysterious power had keep her kneeling at the Rosary Shrine. "It was never my vocation to be a nun, Mother. Please believe me. And please pray that I serve God well as a hermit."
"I'll pray," said the mother sadly. "But just remember this-if it hadn't been that Father Alonso thought it the thing to do, I'd never have given my permission. It's--it's such an odd kind of life for a young woman." (Mary Fabyan Windeatt, Saint Rose of Lima: The Story of the First Canonized Saint of the Americas, republished by TAN Books and Publishers, 1993, pp. 89-91.)
Perhaps you have been called "odd" for embracing the Catholic Faith without any concessions to the spirit of the world (or without any concessions to the conciliarism that has made its "opening up" to the spirit of the world). Perhaps you have been called "odd" for going to the Immemorial Mass in the catacombs where no concessions are made to conciliarism or to the legitimacy of the false shepherds who encourage the worship of false gods on mountains referred to most blasphemous as "sacred." Perhaps you have been called "odd" for refusing to participate in various aspects of the popular culture and/or for protecting your children from the influences of naturalistic, agnostic or atheistic relatives or neighbors or acquaintances who think nothing of undermining your efforts at forming your children in the true Faith so that they can scale the heights of sanctity and have the highest place in Heaven next to that of the Blessed Mother herself.
Saint Rose of Lima's extensive mortifications would be considered "odd" by the world-at-large and by many, although certainly far from all, in the world of the Novus Ordo today. The late Mary Fabyan Windeatt book of Saint Rose's life, which is written for children but is wonderful for Catholics of all ages to read, does not even begin to discuss the severe penances that the first native-born saint of the Americas imposed upon herself. The Catholic Encyclopedia provides a little glimpse into these mortifications:
Thereafter [after retiring to the hermitage] she redoubled the severity and variety of her penances to a heroic degree, wearing constantly a metal spiked crown, concealed by roses, and an iron chain about her waist. Days passed without food, save a draught of gall mixed with bitter herbs. When she could no longer stand, she sought repose on a bed constructed by herself, of broken glass, stone, potsherds, and thorns. She admitted that the thought of lying down on it made her tremble with dread. Fourteen years this martyrdom of her body continued without relaxation, but not without consolation. Our Lord revealed Himself to her frequently, flooding her soul with such inexpressible peace and joy as to leave her in ecstasy for hours. At these times she offered to Him all her mortifications and penances in expiation for offences against His Divine Majesty, for the idolatry of her country, for the conversion of sinners, and for the souls in Purgatory. CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Rose of Lima
This, of course, is one of the essential differences between the path to Heaven and and the path to Hell. That is, those who truly love God as He has revealed Himself exclusively through His true Church that He founded upon the Rock of Peter, the Pope, understand that the only path to Heaven is embrace the Cross, heedless of its sufferings and of its shame in the eyes of the world. The more we love God, you see, will be the more that we seek to deny self so that He may live in us more fully and shine through us more visibly to those we see and meet. The more we love God will be the more that we embrace suffering and to understand that each cross we are asked to bear has been perfectly fashioned for us from all eternity and that the graces He for us on Calvary are sufficient to prosper under them as the consecrated slaves of His Most Blessed Mother's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. The more that we deny ourselves the legitimate pleasures of this world, no less avoid anything resembling the near occasion of sin in the world as God Himself commands us to do, will be the more that we aspire for the things of Heaven, relying upon the intercessory power of Our Lady, Saint Joseph, and all of the angels and saints, including that great exemplar of mortification and penance, the first native-born flower of the Americas, Rose Flores of Lima Peru.
The path to Hell, conversely, consists in the repudiation of the Catholic Faith by the choices one makes on a daily basis. This choices may consist of many things, including a refusal to accept crosses with equanimity and love, an incommensurate, disproportionate immersion into the things of this world, a viewing everything, including salvation itself, in naturalistic, earthbound terms, in believing that human respect (the desire to be respected by other people) is more important than pleasing God as He has revealed Himself through His true Church, in abandoning even any minimal effort to walk on the straight and rocky road that leads to the Narrow Gate of Life Himself by persisting in one unrepentant sin after another, of refusing to perform the Corporal Works of Mercy in light of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, of growing slothful in the interior life, believing prayer--and even Holy Mass itself--to be unnecessary to save one's soul. Just as there are great exemplars of how to live in this world in anticipation of the possession of the glory of the Beatific Vision in the next world, as Saint Rose of Lima demonstrated, so are there many exemplars of how to live in this world with no thought of the flames of Hell and the pain of the loss of that same Beatific Vision.
The Life of Saint Rose of Lima, written in 1671 by a French priest, Father Jean Baptist Feuillet, O.P., and translated into English in 1855 by Father Frederick William Faber, contains much important information about the unspeakable sufferings to which Saint Rose of Lima was subjected throughout her life as she, humble, self-effacing soul that she was, thought that was not doing enough to make reparation for her sins and those of the whole world:
She desired suffering with a sort of eagerness, and when Divine Providence sent her sickness to furnish her with an occasion of it, she felt much more compassion for the trouble she gave others who waited upon her, than pity for herself, which made her often say, "Oh, how advantageous and agreeable it would be to be always ill and to suffer great pains, if we did not give so much trouble to those who attend upon us!" Almighty God who inspired her with this great desire of sufferings, furnished her with many occasions for practicing patience; she was scarcely ever one moment without suffering excessive pain, and when had nothing to afflict her exteriorly, Almighty God sent her interior pains. When those with whom she live relaxed their unjust persecutions a little, sickness came upon her in all sorts of shapes. She was three years in bed a paralytic, suffering great torture, without shedding a tear, or making the least complaint. These diseases arose from different causes, which all united in her body to give her an increase of suffering. Even the physicians were surprised to to see her suffer so long, sometimes from tertian, sometimes from quartan fevers, which made her burn with heat and then shiver with cold; for her body was so attenuated and dried up, that there seemed to be scarcely anything remaining to nourish fever.
She on her part adored the Hand of God in her infirmities, acknowledging that they did not proceed in her from a derangement of the system, as is the case with others, but from the particular dispensation of her Divine Spouse, who sent them to exercise her patience and to furnish her with opportunities of merit and grace. She declared to one of her most familiar friends, that she did not think there was a member of her body that had not suffered all it was capable of enduring. Her patience was invincible in these continual sufferings, and though her pains sometimes rose to the highest degree of torture, she never showed a single movement of patience, nor uttered a word of repugnance to follow the will of God by this path of the cross; on the contrary, she always showed a entire resignation and a respectful disposition to suffer everything to had to bear.
It is almost impossible to enumerate her different afflictions; for we think there are very few which she did not experience in the greatest degree. First, she suffer long from a quinsey; secondly, she was subject to asthma, which impeded her respiration; thirdly, she felt for several years the severe pains of sciatica, which tormented her day and night; fourthly, she was several times in danger from pleurisy; fifthly, she frequently fell into convulsions caused by the pain she suffered in the membrane which surrounds the heart and from the heat of her inside which sent vapours to her brain; sixthly, she was scarcely ever free from fever; seventhly, we must confess that she stood in need of al her patience to bear the pain of gout in her hands and feet; and though this affliction is generally the effect and the punishment of intemperance, this chaste virgin was cruelly tormented by it, although her whole life had been spent in fasting and severe penitential exercises.
In all these severe pains, which succeeded one another, and which made the blessed Rose a daughter of affliction, she made known to those whom she saw touched with compassion for her sufferings, that she was still too well; that Almighty God had treated her with too much tenderness; and that if He were to increase her pains to an infinite degree He would do her no injustice, for she had deserved more. In the extremity of her sufferings she turned lovingly towards her crucifix, from which she derived her strength and patience, and addressed her Divine Redeemer in these tender and affectionate words: "Oh my Jesus! oh my Jesus! increase my sufferings, but increase also Thy Divine love in my soul!" We may conjecture from a vision which she had one day, that the Son of God heard the ardent prayers of this chaste Spouse. He appeared to hear on two very brilliant rainbows, holding a pair of golden scales, in which He weighed on one side the sufferings mankind could endure and on the other the graces and infinite rewards which He promises; she heard Him immediately extol with magnificent praises the constancy of those who suffer generously for His love, and declare aloud that there was no other means of mounting to heaven but by the ladder of the Cross.
This vision inflamed her heart with so great a desire of suffering all things for her Divine love, that she was on the point of going to publish to all men the inestimable advantages of affliction, and the great grace which God bestows whenever He sends sickness, losses, or any other visitation; for these apparent evils acquire for those who bear them an infinity of merits, which dispose them for the possession of sovereign happiness. The blessed Rose drew new strength from this vision, which encouraged her under the paralytic seizure which Almighty God sent to crown her patience, and which caused her to die a sort of martyr in the flower of her age. (Father Jean Baptist Feuillet, O.P, The Life of Saint Rose of Lima, published n 1671 in France and translated into English and edited by Father Frederick William Faber in 1855, pp. 124-128.)
The path to Heaven involves the Cross. The path to Hell involves self-indulgence and "self-fulfillment" in the eyes of this passing world. We must love every suffering, including being calumniated and rejected by our family members and friends and by complete strangers in order to show forth our love for God and to attempt to make reparation to Him through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary for our own many sins and those of the whole word. Saint Rose was as silent in physical sufferings and persecutions as was Our Divine Redeemer Himself. What is our excuse for complaining and seeking justification before men?
It is with this in mind, therefore, that we must invoke Saint Rose of Lima's intercession to help us seek the "higher things" with constancy, especially by our tender reliance upon Our Lady and her Most Holy Rosary, to which Saint Rose herself was so very dedicated, the spiritual weapon that she gave to the founder of the Order of Preachers, Saint Dominic de Guzman.
Our Lady provides us with the path to Heaven through her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, which suffered in a perfect communion of love with the Most Sacred Heart of her Divine Son, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Saint Rose of Lima will help us to keep close to Our Lady, who will help us to imitate her Divine Son by our voluntary renunciation of the pleasures of this passing world in order to the pleasures of an unending Easter Sunday of glory in Paradise.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our deaths. Amen.
All to you, Blessed Mother. All to your Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we love you. Save souls!
Viva Cristo Rey! Vivat Rex!
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Rose of Lima, pray for us.
The Novena to Maria Bambina
(begins today, Friday, August 30, 2013, and runs through Saturday, September 7, 2013)
Mari Bambina--Infant Queen of the universe, intercede for all of us who have recourse to thee! Do not forget us, thy faithful but lowly subjects who await thy response to our constant prayers ! We long to kneel before thy crib and watch thee sleep, dear little Queen! Choose to look upon us with thy loving childlike gaze and through that gaze send graces to us so that we may rejoice with thee and praise that beautiful day that God chose from all of eternity to begin the Redemption through thy most glorious Immaculate Conception! Amen.