St. Catherine of Siena's Vision of Hell


#1

I came across this article about St. Catherine of Siena’s vision of Heaven and Hell: What God Told St. Catherine About Heaven and Hell and I found it fascinating. Read her full vision here.

To sum it up, the three vices of people are

  1. Self-love
  2. Love for one’s reputation
  3. Pride (with injustice, cruelty, and other filthy and iniquitous sins)

From these come the Four Torments of Hell:

  1. They are deprived of the vision of God, which
  2. Revives the worm of conscience, which gnaws at them continually and burns as a fire because they know that they rejected God
  3. The sight of the Devil and knowing their sins make them worthy to be with him
  4. Being burned in a fire that does not consume, according to their sins

I’ll copy the last paragraph here because it describes how sinners send themselves to Hell, and not God. This is a question that comes up frequently here on CAF:

“Out of these four torments issue all others, such as cold and heat and gnashing of the teeth and many others. Now because they did not amend themselves after the first reproof that they had of injustice and false judgment, neither in the second, which was that, in death, they would not hope in Me, nor grieve for the offense done to Me, but only for their own pain, have they thus so miserably received Eternal Punishment.”

This quote implies that everyone in life will have an opportunity from the Holy Spirit to amend their lives and turn to Him, and at the moment of death, still refuse to turn to Him in hope and with no repentance, and thus receive eternal punishment.

Reading her vision reminded me of a past discussion we had recently on CAF: Who is in Charge of Hell? because this poster wondered if there are literal worms in Hell.

I bring it up because St. Catherine describes the pain of conscience (knowing that one has rejected God and instead chosen to be miserable in Hell) as a worm that gnaws ceaselessly. I thought this was such an apt description and answers the question about worms quite well.

Disclaimer copied from the article: Although Catholics are in no way required to believe in this private revelation of St. Catherine’s, nevertheless, her writings has been held up by the Church as being worthy of belief and theologically sound.


#2

Your disclaimer is most apropos. Again, this is private revelation so it can be interesting but not mandatory for belief of the faithful.


#3

Saint Catherine of Sienna it was who got in the Pope’s face and shamed him into moving back to Rome from his palatial estate in Avignon, France. And, even though doubters will doubt, (and submit to the impulse to say it) we are well advised to listen to her words.


#4

Saint Catherine of Siena is one of my favorite saints.


#5

Yes, of course. No one is required to believe it, but it reminded me of the previous question about Hell that had been brought up and I wanted to post it for that user, since the thread was locked.

However, St. Catherine was a very holy Saint who received the sign of Stigmata…I think it’s wise to listen to those holy saints who have gone before us. I don’t believe in a Hell like Dante described with the devils torturing us with pitchforks and such. She describes the pain of being eternally separated from God, and I think we can all agree on that.


#6

Undoubtedly you are most correct. No intent on my part to denigrate St. Catherine’s account was intended.


#7

She is also one of the very few Doctors of the Church, meaning her works and her life are particularly recommended to the faithful.


#8

It may not be mandatory, as others here have reminded us, to believe in the words of St Catherine of Siena regarding Hell. However, disregarding an account of what may lie ahead for some of us, from the mouth of one of the most revered saints in the calendar, strikes me as especially contrarian and rather foolish. It is not mandatory to pay attention to the warning light on the dashboard of a car, either, but continuing to ignore it will eventually lead to certain disaster. It is never wise to write off the words of a saint merely because what she has said is not a strict teaching of the Church.


#9

What is self love?


#10

IDK, whenever I see descriptions of hell regarding literal fire and worms and the like, I find it off-putting. Not because it’s unpleasant, but because it seems mythological and also uncharacteristic of a loving God revealed in Jesus.

Yes, as a Catholic, I believe in hell and the possibility of hell. However, some can take St Catherine’s vision to mean that God arbitrarily punishes us. The talk of specific punishments for specific sins sounds a lot like God inflicting – out of vengeance – unconnected punishments. But, isn’t it much better to speak of hell as a natural consequence: Not a punishment from God inflicted from without, but a natural progression of a life chosen without God and love?


#11

Loving yourself most, putting yourself first before God and others


#12

Did you read her vision? There is fire, yes, for all, in proportion to one’s sins.

But the worms are figurative and reference being tormented by one’s conscience and regret of having rejected God.

Her vision doesn’t speak to specific punishments for people like Dante. She spoke generally of the anguish people feel in being denied seeing God and separated from Him, tormented by their conscience, the hideousness of seeing the Devil in all his grotesqueness, and the burning fire.

Some argue that this fire that does not consume is the same fire of God’s love that burns in Purgatory.

I do see her description as a natural result of rejecting God and choosing to live separately from Him. She specifically said that people were given a chance to repent in life and at the moment of death and still refused God.

He doesn’t want to send people to Hell, but He also won’t force them to be in Heaven, because that would also be a hell for them.


#13

Well, why should they be burned in any fire, whether metaphorical or not? It suggests external punishment. Wouldn’t absence of God’s vision be enough?

Although, I would admit that St Catherine’s vision could be understood in a more “reasonable” way. I’m only trying to caution those who look into these kinds of visions with detail. I believe the vision of Fatima were more graphic regarding hell.


#14

That I don’t know. I believe the fire was prepared for Satan and his minions as eternal punishment after the Lord returns.
It wasn’t originally meant for us. We were supposed to live in eternal bliss on earth and heaven but we messed that up big time.

Why doesn’t God create a third option, a “Limbo” for those who reject Him…a “medium place” like the tv show “The Good Place” suggested? I don’t know the answer to that but I assume scholars like Aquinas have tried to answer it.

I am confident that God, in His perfect mercy and justice, is ultimately in charge and we can be confident in that. Since Jesus taught about fire in Hell and countless saints have had visions of it, I assume it to be true. When we get to Heaven I am sure it will all make sense.

I am sure no one is getting more punishment than they deserve. The pain of separation from God is enough. The question of “why fire” is beyond my paygrade but that’s how Jesus described it.


#15

My hat is off to all the posters here who have profoundly pondered the question of eternal punishment. Not myself being an intellectual giant, I salute your theological knowledge and expertise in apologetics. Having said that, and I say this merely as a personal observation, not as a criticism, I am nervous when we start to question things like why did God choose fire and not another sort of punishment, or whether the absence of God’s vision should be enough without further torment, and so forth. It puts me in mind of God’s answer to Job, wherein He reminds him and us that it is not for us to question His actions. Really, though I love to discourse and discuss theological questions, this particular line of questioning God just seems to cross a forbidden boundary for me. Also, to the point that a loving God as revealed through Christ would not likely commit his creations to such hideous tortures: well, I have thought about this long and often, and have concluded that, amongst other errors we commonly make about God, one of the most frequent is when we anthropomorphise HIm, in the sense of attributing to Him qualities which we ourselves find desirable in someone we love and admire. We are so far removed from the common man of two thousand years ago that, were he and I to meet face-to-face, it might be difficult for us to recognise one other as members of the same species. How much more difficult is it for us to truly relate on any meaningful level to the Most High. He is unknowable and inscrutable, and does not answer to our petty concerns about the appropriateness of His actions. One might as well expect a mussel or a clam to relate to a human being on a like intellectual and emotional level. For this reason, I am profoundly grateful for the Blessed Virgin and all the saints who act as intercessors between us and the Father. Were direct petition and appeal to God my only option in my prayer life, I might very well be so intimidated that I would never pray at all! A very good friend of mine is of like mind on this matter, finding Mary and the saints far more congenial as targets of his prayers than actual appeals to God Himself, since they are human beings like ourselves.


#16

I saw a cartoon recently -
People in hell - taking selfies -
And the devil was angry -
cause the people were that distracted - to their true predicament.


#17

I guess that love of pleasure that makes itself the predominant motive of all of our actions and goals.


#18

I have heard - that a demon appeared to a Saint -
He said - it’s appearence - was so frightful -
as to kill him, if he looked any longer than he did.

I have heard how important confession is -
so as not to be tormented - any longer - by the worms !
I will have to read her book…etc


closed #19

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.