Padre Pio on Hell

Padre Pio was asked what he thought about modern people who didn’t believe in hell.

“They’ll believe in hell when they get there.” he replied.

There’s pretty much packed into that little riposte, and what I like most about it is that the last judgement will be a time when things are stood on their head.

I’m reminded of one of the great judgement carvings which is on the South portal at Chartres. It is one of those scenes with Christ enthroned in glory, St Michael weighing the souls in judgement and the demons taking some below and angels lifting others up above.

I was visiting there and the old Englishman who used to give tours said, “Notice that both the damned and the saved have expressions of surprise on their faces.

The damned are surprised to be going to hell because they were proud and self righteous (and didn’t think they were headed for hell) or scornful and unbelieving (and didn’t believe such a place existed) The saved are surprised because they were humble and didn’t think they would make it into heaven.

So as you read this, ask yourself where you think you might go when you die and then stand on your head and check again.

It’s troubling isn’t it?

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  • Old Bob

    Great zinger by Padre Pio! The thought is troubling. But I'm too old to physically stand on my head, Father.

  • Rob

    I'm of the opinion that, me being the sinner that I am, if I manage to squeeze into last place in the line in Purgatory, I'll be overjoyed.I'm not aiming for that spot…I try (and mostly fail…) to set my spiritual-sights just a wee-bit higher, but I won't be holding my joy in if I do get that spot.

  • Bender

    A good pithy comment, but I'm not so sure it is accurate. Hopefully, none of us will find out for sure.But I suspect that a good many people who end up in Hell will still be clinging so hard to their delusions and lies that they could very well believe that they are in Heaven. After all, they will get to spend eternity with their favorite person — themselves.During their lives on earth, they refused to see the truth, they refused to know what authentic love is. So would they really have any way of judging the good from the bad after those lives on earth are concluded?In this, I'm afraid, I have to go along with C.S. Lewis' vision of people in Hell — so proud and deluded that they could never imagine themselves to be in Hell, in fact, they are eager to go there so twisted and divorced from the truth are they.

  • Derek Caudill

    If I am able to generate by force such an ordinarily meritorious feeling of humility, I become proud of my humility, or at least begin to consider myself humble — which may not be a humble enough attitude, I hear. If I accept being proud, I might remain proud and be lost. All that's left for me is to look outward and pray for mercy and true humility, like a beggar begging for his bread, thinking about that bread and not himself. Otherwise, I'll chase my tail forever in a whirlwind of vague, New Age self-knowledge. I'd rather stand on my head; it's better for the blood flow to the brain and less exhausting.Peace be with your spirit, Father. And may God keep your balance upon your crown steady.– "The Lounging Layman"

  • Father of 4 – Eric

    Thank you for this post father; it's just what I needed to hear today!

  • Sally

    HAHAHA.@Joe D'Hippo…I have been harrassed in the workplace by non-Catholic Christians over and over again that I am going to hell for the belief that I believe and other Catholics believe that the Blessed Mother never sinned. I have been laughed at and mocked for going to daily Mass every morning before work and people will actually sing a song as they pass my desk…hail mary, full of …. and those are the evangelicals, baptists, etc and it goes on and on for years with these so-called Chrisitians….you are all taught that Catholics go to hell…so, who are you kidding?! So, yeah, I ignore those people and if they think I am snobbish toward them, you bet I am… :) I am a peace-loving Catholic. :)

  • Sally

    1910 great opportunity to read the preface and the first pages amazing the old books are written so perfectly. it is what is needed today

  • Gregory

    Father, have you seen, 180, the movie? Hopefully you will not find this question too off topic, but I recently saw this movie, and it questioned about heaven and hell. I loked for Catholic commentary on this film but found none. Why is the Catholic blogosphere so quiet on this movie? I found it quite a good resource. Am I missing something.

  • David

    Humility is intimately connected with truth. It is a caricature of humility–and the truly humble person–to say that he does not expect to get to heaven. A truly humble person who knows the teaching of Christ is convinced he will get to heaven if he does not abandon the practice of that teaching, because Christ has promised it. This is what the theological virtue of hope is all about.

  • tibby

    I was very upset with this commentary. So what is it, the luck of the draw that some go to Heaven and some to Hell? Is it a result of a coin flip? The flippancy of this post bothered me. This isn't light subject matter but the very reason we've all been created and I prefer to see this treated as such.We either go to Heaven because we accept God's grace or go to Hell because we reject the gift of His love — I think C.S. Lewis said those who go to Heaven say to God "Thy will be done" and those who go to Hell, God says to them after they've made their choice to follow their own way, "Your will be done," or something like that…but salvation isn't something to be trivialized like a throw of the dice…