The Gift of Miracles,  Fr. Robert DeGrandis (with Linda Schubert), a book that finally addresses the miracles available to us, that have happened to others, with testimonies and pointers on unleashing the power of God. What are miracles? What are their characteristics? What are the "action steps"? Have miracles occurred in places like Medjugorje? How do we pray for them? CLICK HERE



[adapted from The Other Side]

If we want to see Heaven, we catch glimpses in the splendor of nature around us. If we want to see hell, we can see that too. It is a wasteland. Think drained marshland. Think muck. Think, of course, darkness (but for an infernal glow).

Hell is the opposite of love and when you die your afterlife will reflect the light or dark in you.

Is there a netherworld?

It's not a pleasant topic but to ignore it is to leave souls in danger. From saints to those who have glimpsed eternity through near-death experiences we can say the following about the lowest realms: There is first off the darkness. It does not end with the tunnel. It begins there.

In some descriptions, hell is like a dungeon, a musty, foul underworld where souls are trapped in "cells" and behind those bars harassed by demons.

Saint Teresa of Avila saw this at prayer one day "when suddenly, without knowing how, I found myself, as I thought, plunged right into hell. I realized that it was the Lordís Will that I should see the place which the devils had prepared for me there and which I had merited for my sins. This happened in the briefest space of time, but even if I were to live for many years, I believe it would be impossible for me to forget it.

"The entrance, I thought, resembled a very long, narrow passage, like a furnace, very low, dark, and closely confined; the ground seemed to be full of water which looked like filthy, evil-smelling mud, and in it were many wicked-looking reptiles. At the end there was a hollow place scooped out of a wall, like a cupboard, and it was here that I found myself in close confinement. But the sight of all this was pleasant by comparison with what I felt there. My feelings, I think, could not possibly be exaggerated, nor can anyone understand them.

"I felt fire within my soul the nature of which I am utterly incapable of describing. My bodily sufferings were so intolerable that, though in my life I have endured the severest sufferings of this kind Ė the worst it is possible to endure, the doctors say, such as the shrinking of the nerves during my paralysis and many and divers more, in that pestilential spot, where I was quite powerless to hope for comfort, it was impossible to sit or lie, for there was no room to do so. I had been put in this place which looked like a hole in the wall, and those very walls, so terrible to the sight, bore down upon me and completely stifled me."

Hell is exactly what we have been taught: a place of torment. It is the outward manifestation of hatred. Burning hatred. Sometimes there is fire. Worse than anything is the total absence of the Holy Spirit. It is what we form for ourselves when we live a hateful, selfish life. Most of all, it is for those who reject God.

Incredible it is that even at the very last moment, in that transition to the afterlife, at the tunnel -- when the soul finally realizes that it survives death -- are those so arrogant and spiteful as to still refuse Him, and thus hell is their choice. Those who are not comfortable with God gravitate to the muddiness of surroundings that match the dirtiness of their spirits. Such souls are not so much condemned as drawn here.

Some say only a tiny percent of those in near-death episodes have hellish experiences. Others argue that the figure is higher but that upon return the mind blocks it out. Surgeons have described patients who expired on the operating table and screamed when they were revived Ė in terror at what they had encountered.

There is no nourishment; there is no warmth.

In is an outer darkness.

There are creatures.

Many kinds of demons haunt the condemned with features like those of gargoyles (or malformed humans). Their only delight is heaping hatred upon others and St. Teresa said that the affliction was worst than fictionalized accounts of "how the devils tear the flesh with their pincers."

We need not dwell on this for long. Fear is not productive, and those who love God have no reason to dread the lowest of reaches, or what Howard Storm described as "the cesspool of the universe."

Others depict the fire. During the famous visions at Fatima, Lucia dos Santos, the oldest seer, saw it as "demons and souls in humans form, like transparent embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent."

"We could see people before they went into the fire, and then we could see them coming out of the fire,Ē said a seer at Medjugorje. ďBefore they went into the fire they looked like normal people. The more they are against Godís Will, the deeper they enter into the fire, and the deeper they go, the more they rage against Him. When they come out of the fire, they donít have human shape anymore; they are more like grotesque animals, but unlike any on earth."

Another visionary there saw a beautiful girl enter the flames; when she came out she was "no longer human."

"These creatures were once human beings," says Dr. Howard Storm, the atheist we often have quoted who was on his way down a foggy passage before he was saved by Jesus.

"The best way I can describe them is to think of the worst imaginable person stripped of every impulse of compassion. Some of them seemed to tell others what to do, but I had no sense of there being any organization to the mayhem. They didnít appear to be controlled or directed by anyone. Simply, they were a mob of beings totally driven by unbridled cruelty. They had very long, sharp fingernails, and their teeth were longer than normal. Iíd never been bitten by a human being before this. The level of noise was excruciating. Countless people laughed, yelled, and jeered. In the middle of the bedlam, I was the object of their desire. My torment was their excitement.

"The more I fought, the greater their thrill. They were playing with me just as a cat plays with a mouse. Every new assault brought howls of cacophonous laughter. I havenít described everything that happened. There are things I donít care to remember. In fact, much that occurred was simply too gruesome and disturbing to recall. Iíve spent years trying to suppress a lot of it. After the experience, whenever I did remember those details, I would become traumatized."

One female atheist who died during labor found herself "surrounded by a noise so loud and painful that it was like a giant freight train circling my head.

"At a deep level, I knew that this was going to be my Ďeternalí condition. I was acutely aware of being alert and in a place of such darkness that my hand placed in front of my open eyes was impossible to see.

"There was no light of any kind anywhere. There was nothing in this dark, loud, chaotic place, but my thoughts and me. I was alone and in agony but I had what I would call expanded knowledge. It was like all the mysteries of the universe made sense to me and what we call important here in  this life is mostly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I sensed no one in this place but me and I knew that I would be spending eternity here alone and without peace."

The question that kept entering her mind: "What have you ever done in your life that was totally selfless?"

"As I thought about the question I realized that I had always acted to please myself," she recalled. "I had never said a kind word or done a kind deed that wasnít motivated by personal gain."

Most of us don't have to fear that. But we need to purge imperfections (for purgatory otherwise beckons). In one survey twelve percent of near-deathers had hellish-like encounters, some with both mud and fire. One of these was a man named Don Brubaker who had a heart attack and found himself falling feet first into a damp, musty tunnel where he saw a huge glowing red ball "almost like the light on the front of a train.

"In that instant, as the red ball rushed toward me, I knew terror like never before," he wrote. "As it approached, I realized that it was really a large, eerie red eye. It stopped when it got close to me, and then began traveling alongside me through the tunnel. I could hardly stand to look at it, its gaze was so piercing."

Thatís hell and then Ė nearly overlapping -- are the lower reaches of purgatory. This too is a place of darkness Ė so much like hell that some near-death witnesses confuse it with condemnation.

There is, however, a major difference: however horrible lowest purgatory may be, the soul there is saved and will one day ascend to Heaven.

[Next: purgatory]

[resources: The Other Side, After Life, and My Descent into Hell]

[Detroit area retreat (Michael Brown: afterlife, prophecy]

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