Thoughts for January 2 from Fr Willie Doyle


I can imagine I am a soul in Hell, and God in His mercy is saying to me, “Return to the world for this year and on your manner of life during the year will depend your returning to Hell or not.” What a life I should lead! How little I should think of suffering, of mortification! How I would rejoice in suffering! How perfectly each moment would be spent!

COMMENT: The thought of Hell is an unpleasant one. Yet the Gospel contains numerous references to the possibility of eternal damnation – if we want to ignore this aspect of the Gospel we would end up deleting quite a lot of the Gospel texts! 

Whether we imagine Hell as a place of burning fires (as suggested by the Gospels and by the experiences of mystics such as St Teresa or St Faustina or the children of Fatima), or as a state of eternal regret and anguish for the loss of God, it is clear that it is a place/state we should do everything in our power to avoid. The mental exercise in Fr Doyle’s quote today is a very valuable one as we start the new year. If we knew this was to be our last year, how differently we might live it!

However, the reality of our situation is even more acute than this mental exercise. Our eternal destiny does not depend on how we live this year, but how we live this moment. We cannot change what we have done in the past, and we are not guaranteed the future. Not even the most powerful or wealthy individuals can prevent death or guarantee that they will be alive tomorrow. Fr Doyle always emphasised the importance of the present moment, and of doing our duty well. This is the ordinary discipline and penance that we are all called to follow.

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