• Msgr. Stephen Rossetti

Exorcist Diary #96: Hell as God's Mercy?

It always amazes me how much the demons suffer during an exorcism. After about 15-20 minutes, even the stoutest of demons start screaming. Spray a little holy water on them, hold up a crucifix, and/or say the Rite of Exorcism and they scream. The pain is so intense that, if they were mortal, it would kill them on the spot.

Some exorcists have said the pain of an exorcism is, for demons, greater than the pain of hell. They can suffer it for a short time, but eventually they cannot endure it and they leave. It often makes me wonder, "If demons cannot stand the sight of a wooden cross or a little holy water, what would a direct vision of God be like for them?" It would be a cruel suffering beyond imagining.

Pope St. Leo the Great said something similar about damned souls: "For the eye that is unclean would not be able to see the brightness of the true light, and what would be happiness to clear minds would be a torment to those that are defiled (Sermon 95, 8-9; PL 54, 465-466). For fallen souls, as for demons, seeing God in heaven and experiencing holy things would be an insufferable torment.

Hell is a terrible, terrible reality. I personally believe the gruesome visions of hell of such mystics as St. Catherine of Siena, the children of Fatima, and St. Faustina. And yet, if the fallen angels and damned souls were put in the direct presence of the infinite holiness of God in heaven, it is likely that their pain would be insufferable.

This underscores the terrible destruction of the soul caused by sin. Holiness becomes a torment. Perhaps even the existence of hell is yet another mercy of the Almighty.


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