By Bro Jo Rona
What I relate here is true. Hell is real. I do not want you to believe me; but I will just share with you my experience. Hard to believe, maybe; but it is true. I do not want you to believe me; but I just want you to know why one of the reasons that I am in this mission is because I DO NOT WANT TO GO “THERE”, WHERE I WENT. And I pray that many souls will see this for themselves so that they will not only believe but know.
So this is my story….!
First Level of Hell: Not a Vision but AN EXPERIENCE
I was a seminarian in my theology years undergoing pastoral training and conducting seminars, retreats and recollections. My fifteen years of academic studies for the priesthood were just finished; but I had to leave the seminary walls for a while to pursue my preparatory practicum part of the training for the priesthood. This stage in a seminarian’s life is called “Regency.” This was part of the training for those who are about to be ordained. Seminarians about to be ordained had to leave the seminary for a while and stay in the world to experience whatever was needed to be experienced so that one might be able to make a mature decision before subjecting oneself for ordination to the priesthood. So that was where I was.
It was during one of these seminars I was conducting that this particularly incident happened. The seminar topic was about the Covenant, a biblical theme which God allowed me to develop as an introduction to the appreciation of the Bible.
It was past one o’clock in the afternoon in the village of Aras-asan, in the municipality of Cagwait, province of Surigao del Sur. The sun was blazing hot. The sky was clear azure blue with spots of isolated tuft cirrus clouds scattered here and there. I just came from a sound midday nap and a cool bath at the rectory.
Having freshened myself up, I was ready to conduct the seminar on the Covenant at the San Antonio High School across the church plaza. While I was walking towards the seminar hall where about 50 candidates were waiting this incident or experience happened.
All of a sudden everything around me disappeared. Everything was a total black out. At first I could not see anything in that pitch darkness. I found myself suddenly in a place which I could not decipher where. How I got to that place I had no idea. It happened in just a moment in time, even shorter than a flick of a finger.
It was pitch dark. The air was most foul with fetidly brackish smell. I felt thick slimy putrefied mud under my feet. I asked myself where I was. What happened? I had to compose myself for a brief moment in order to recall what exactly happened to me. Was I sick? No! Was I hallucinating? No! Was I not in control of myself? No! I was in perfect sense and good health. I was in my perfect mind set and very conscious!
There was low moaning all around me. Sound of male adults, females faint groaning of pain, faint cries of children. The haunting sound of painful moaning was all around me. Who were these people? I could not see them in that pitch black darkness. I started to suspect I was in a kind of a dungeon somewhere. But I was not sure. Was I becoming blind? It was only the eerie low moaning sounds and the brackish stench that I sensed. Nothing more.
Then all of a sudden, there appeared a faint twilight shadow all around me. Little by little I started to identify the situation where I was. The simmering shadow of twilight came from “someone” beside me. I knew in my mind he was an angel. But he said nothing, did nothing. He just stood beside me assuring me that he was a companion. I asked him questions but he would not answer.
My eyes got used to the darkness. I started to see more of what was around me, although it was still dark. It was then I recognized countless numbers of people, one on top of the other, rotten and emitting foul stench which, if not by God’s grace, I would not be able to sustain. It was a terrible feeling. They were undead piled over the other in heaps of rotting bodies. Could this be a vision of the Nazi Auschwitz holocaust? I had no way of knowing. But these were not dead! They were all alive!
The place had no walls. It seemed like an eternal hall without boundaries. Over me was a dark unknown. Below me was foul smelling black moat and mire.
I asked my companion “angel” where we were. He gave no answer, not even a whisper. I was forced by the silence of my companion to approach a heap of rotting souls right in front of me. Underneath was a male; he must be a father. On top of him was a rotting female, must be the wife. And on top of them both was a rotting child, of about 12 years of age. This must be a family! Everyone was still alive! They could not die, I thought. But why were they here? Even a child? What grave sin could he have done?
“What is this place?” I asked.
“Hell!” was a painful, gasping, struggled reply from the male, followed with a painful moaning; while I could see the tears of the female. I seemed to understand that this was indeed a hell of a place. Oh, the moaning! An awful sound to listen to. Low moan. Lingering pain. A hopeless thought.
“Why are you here, how come?” I continued.
The soul replied with great pain, “For the little but constant negligence of our duties to God and not minding His presence with us while we were still alive on earth…. this is what we have gotten for ourselves. And forever we shall stay in this foul place of darkness, of horror and of hopelessness!”
“What are you suffering from? Is it the pains on your body?” my inquisitive self rattled on while I beheld their rotting bodies with their flesh crackling and dangling out.
“Yes, it is painful enough to see ourselves in this situation.” was his reply. “We indeed suffer from the pains in our bodies. But much more than this, there is still a greater pain within us that cannot be perceived by nobody else. It is this bursting vacuum of burning hopelessness that is killing us forever, knowing that we shall be here until forever. Sometimes we hear above us in this darkness the frolic of little children and the sounds of people. We must be very close to the surface of the earth. There they are not suffering like we do. Here there is no more hope.”
Could this be the pain of loss? I have learned this in my catechism, about a certain kind of suffering in hell. I also at that moment heard sounds of people above me, children playing. But I could see no one. Yes, indeed, this place must be close to the surface of the earth. I started to absorb their fears and hopelessness. I slowly began to panic about where I was. Oh, how I longed to be out of that place. But how could I be somewhere when there was no way out. I was getting confused. I was feeling afraid. Feeling hopeless.
My companion, my angel, by my side assured me I was not alone. “Please let us out of this place!” I pleaded. His silent presence was my only comfort.
He said nothing. His silence was not encouraging. I felt miserable.
All of a sudden as I turned my back, hopelessly looking for where I could run away and escape from this infernal darkness and stench and eerie moaning of pain, just about ten meters away, there he was! The Devil! or perhaps just one among them horrid creatures. He was in chains. He looked exactly the same as those myriads of rotting souls in this damned place. He was very mad seeing me in hell. He seemed to be guarding the only opening to the outside world, so narrow that not even one person can easily go through. He was jealously guarding this exit steps to the upper world. I was barely a couple of steps away from him. In front of him was a little table. On top of it was a registry book and a stylus for writing. Both the book and the stylus were also rotten.
“Here! Take this!” He in anger handed me a rotten stylus. “Write your name in the registry book!” I could feel that the devil noticed I did not belong in this place. I was an intruder, or perhaps a new soul condemned to stay in that pit. The devil like an angry horse snorted and hatedly ordered me to write my name.
“No!” I said. I understood that if I would have written my name in the registry, I would be in this hell forever. I browsed over the pages of the registry book. My, oh my, some of the names that got listed in the book were people I knew. Their names were very clear to me. (But this one thing the Lord did to me. When God took me out from that hell, He removed from me the memory of those names and the feeling of hopelessness and fear. The rest he allowed me to remember.)
The devil got mad for not eliciting from me a favorable response. But he could do nothing. I sensed he was afraid of “the one” who was beside me, my companion angel.
I pleaded my angel that we be out of this horrible pit. I was feeling more afraid, chillingly cold and hopeless. He did not budge. Tears of fear and hopelessness started to trickle through my eyes for a few minutes.
How I felt at that moment that people who are still alive on earth are still blessed or perhaps lucky. They still have all the chances not to come to this empty, cold, slimy, foul and blackest pit, to be in this prison forever. I could not recall how long I stayed there. I had no sense of time.
In a wink of an eye, all around me was so bright and warm. I could see the green grass of the lawn under my feet. I was out of the pit. I did not know how I got out of it. Was I dreaming only? The fear, the hopelessness, the chilly cold, the thick stench slime, the darkness were all gone! Even my companion angel disappeared. But I totally felt I was there! An aftertaste? My fear still clung to me. But the freedom, the hope, the joy were stronger than the chilly fear in that rotten place.
I realized I was right across the main door of San Antonio church. I remembered I was on my way to the seminar hall. What a relief! I hurriedly ran directly inside the church, directly knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, hanged on to the tabernacle and cried my heart out in utter thanksgiving with profuse tears of relief and feeling of salvation.
This was the first time that I realized how wonderful it is to know that I was still alive. I thanked the Lord for dear life, however painful it may be. The worst sorrow on earth is nothing compared to the pain of loss and eternal fear that I started to feel in that pit. Perhaps I did not really have the full pressure of feeling the pain of loss, but rather a faint shadow and prelude of what would happen if I would be doomed in that place.
What a revelation that was which I saw. God allowed me to experience a level of hell. The first level? Having gone there, I resolved that as long as I live I will struggle to tell the world about it and try all my very best to preserve myself from going to hell. In spite of how many times I would fall!
This experience has pushed me on to the mission. It has constantly reminded me all the time to work out my salvation from this “hell.”
To be continued…
Click on link for Part 2 of “Hell is Real”