Making Sense of Sensus Catholicus (oct18ssc.htm)

October 18, 2005
vol 16, no. 262

Random Thoughts on Eternity

To think about eternity can be mind-boggling because of man's finite nature, but not to take it seriously, not to prepare is akin to one placing more importance on a drop of water than an endless ocean.

Father James F. Wathen

    "Eternity is endless. This life, above all things, is given as a preparation for eternity. If men reflected upon this truth sufficiently, they would all be Catholics, and all Catholics would be good and fervent. It would be a wise thing for you to pause in the course of every day, and repeat to yourself: 'Forever and ever. Either Heaven or Hell, forever and ever.' Compare sixty, seventy, eighty, or ninety years with forever."

    A subject which should be a frequent subject of your meditations is that of eternity. For the person of normal faith and realism, reflection on eternity can only prove sobering and beneficial. When we think of eternity, such adjectives as inescapable, ever nearer, terrifying, mysterious, and endless come to mind. As Catholics, we know all we need to know about eternity; nonbelievers are satisfied with a hopeless and lackadaisical confusion. Despite its mysteriousness and fearsomeness, we Catholics are able to approach eternity, or let it approach us, with something like equanimity, by virtue of the fact that we know how we must live in order to prepare for it. For this spiritual knowledge, our lives should be an uninterrupted prayer of gratitude to God. Eternity means the final reckoning, the inescapable Judgment of God, and the determination of what will be our everlasting fortune or fate.

    When we say that eternity is inescapable, we mean that our death, which is its entrance, is certain; when it will occur, we do not know, but that it will occur is not a matter of doubt or question. And even though we are not guaranteed a long life, the older we get to be, the nearer eternity is to us. In my own case, unless I can attain full remission, I cannot realistically hope for more than seven years, which would put me at eighty; this is optimistic. It is ironic that older people generally are no more concerned about eternity than they were when they were young. It not uncommon to find people on their deathbeds without a thought about eternity, presumptuous of healing and renewed good health. Nor is it uncommon for relatives to conceal from their dying loved one the fact of his imminent demise and Judgment. Everyone who has been painfully and/or seriously ill knows that it is very difficult to pray; it is much easier "just to lie there."

    The most lethal result of Liberalism is to assure everyone that when he dies, he will go to Heaven. Only the very wicked admit that they do not hope for Heaven. The sin of relying on almighty God to save us without virtue or merit is presumption.

    Eternity is terrifying. Everything that we have been taught about eternity is calculated to fill us with dread, because, on the one hand, no matter how much our Faith tells about it, its mystery remains, the gaping maw of the unseen world looms before us. Those who have entered eternity do not return to tell us of the experience. On the other hand, our Faith teaches us that no matter how self-assured and breezy and bold people are on earth, in eternity, they will have no control over themselves whatsoever. Once a man passes out of this life, he is at the complete mercy of his Maker and Judge, Who then asserts His divine dominion over him with overwhelming power. In eternity, the saved and the damned are completely aware of the divine immensity and sovereign rule. Our Faith furthermore tells us that the Judgment is not as lenient as Liberals would have us believe, but stern and "exceeding fine." Indeed, all men will be judged in terms of the Gospel, and out Savior Jesus Christ solemnly enjoined us: "Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!" (Matthew 7:13, 14). St. Matthew records in the same chapter that He said:

    7:21-27 - "Not every one that saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven: but he that doth the will of My Father Who is in Heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Many will say to Me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in Thy name, and cast out devils in Thy name, and done many miracles in Thy name? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity. Every one therefore that heareth these My words, and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock, And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock. And every one that heareth these my words and doth them not, shall be like a foolish man that built his house upon the sand, And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall thereof."

    7:28-29 - "And it came to pass when Jesus had fully ended these words, the people were in admiration at His doctrine. For He was teaching them as one having power, and not as the scribes and Pharisees.

    We can think of few worse sins than to teach men to be blasť and frivolous about eternity, as Modernist priests and bishops do.

    Our Faith teaches us that the Judgment is truly severe. Everything which is to be found in the Scriptures, especially every word Jesus Christ uttered on the subject of the final reckoning, gives us reason for serious and virtuous living, strong dependence on the mercy of God, and unremitting pleading to Him for His loving forbearance. Liberals disregard the most sobering scriptural quotations as if they had never been written, most memorably the words of St. Paul: "With fear and trembling work out your salvation" (Philippians 2:12).

    All this is to say that no matter how unknowable and mysterious eternity is, the divine Christ through His Church has instructed us how to prepare, what we must do, how we must live, so that that dark passage will hold little or no terror for us. Those who devote their lives primarily to preparing for eternity long for death as the event of their being united to Christ.

    Among the truths which console us are the promises which Christ made if we persevere in fidelity and prayer, in humility and frequent reception of the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. This is what is required: integrity of faith, the keeping of the Commandments, daily prayer, flight from sin, and the occasion thereof. We are bound also to charity towards our neighbors, particularly those toward whom we have obligations, such as our immediate family members, those who are dependent upon us, and others who have claims upon us.

    The Lord God deplores modern diffidence and pride, that spirit which suggests that God owes us Heaven, that God is too good to cast us away from Him, that we can determine how much it is right for Him to require of us, that it is our right to decide what is reasonable for Him to demand.

    Eternity is endless. This life, above all things, is given as a preparation for eternity. If men reflected upon this truth sufficiently, they would all be Catholics, and all Catholics would be good and fervent. It would be a wise thing for you to pause in the course of every day, and repeat to yourself: "Forever and ever. Either Heaven or Hell, forever and ever." Compare sixty, seventy, eighty, or ninety years with forever.

    After this life (how long it lasts is almost immaterial), everyone goes either to Heaven or Hell. God sent His beloved Son to teach men how to prepare for the next life. The Lord Jesus taught us everything we need to know, and He established the Church to teach the people of every generation. Everything we need to know and to do is found in the Catechism. The Catechism is no more than a basic text, a mere schema. It is not a prayer book, nor a book of devotion, but its brevity and clarity are such as to exempt no one from knowing what he must do to save his soul. To be sure, the more serious one is about eternity, the further one will advance in the knowledge of and obedience to the Gospel of Christ.


    God willing, I will continue to offer Holy Mass at nine each Sunday.

    I had a Rituxan treatment this past Thursday. I will have three more in the coming weeks. Dr. Browning speculates that I will need this kind of "booster" twice a year, to keep the Lymphoma "under control." This will be necessary unless the supplements I am taking change the course of things. My brother John continues to benefit from his therapy. He asks me to thank everyone who prayed for him.

    One thing I can do for those who receive these e-mails. November is the month dedicated to the Poor Souls. I can remember at Mass deceased persons whose names I receive. They can be sent to me by mail (P.O. Box 15152, Evansville, IN 47716), or by e-mail at The names will be kept on the altar during the coming year. It is a way to be sure that loved ones are not completely forgotten.

    I thank again everyone who has kept me in his prayers. It is truly gratifying to be the object of such charity. I have been edified from the beginning of my illness. I thank also those who have sent me letters and cards of encouragement; these have lifted my spirit more to me than I would have imagined. Also, I receive gifts of money for my support; these have helped greatly. Already, we are in the twenties of the Sundays after Pentecost. The end of the liturgical year represents the end of the world, the Second Coming of Christ, and eternity. I send my priestly blessing to everyone who has been kind to me.

In Christ,

Father James Wathen

For those who want to help Father or write him, you can do so at:

      Father James F. Wathen
      P.O. Box 15152
      Evansville, IN 47716

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