Saturday, August 23, 2014

St. Philip Benzini's Fear of Damnation


Think about Hell every day.
St. Philip Benzini is honored by the Church today. He is not among the more well-known saints, but the Bear wishes to invite your attention to the extraordinary contrition this holy man felt. How it contrasts with the carefree presumption of today! Who gives the real prospect of eternal damnation a thought nowadays? Look at the short lines at the once-a-week penance service, while the pews empty and everybody goes to communion. Hell is never mentioned in a homily. Not seldom, but never. Sin might be mentioned on the rare occasion, but then again, maybe not.

We are in the age of do-it-yourself salvation. That means contemplating your sins and doing penance. Most of all, it means facing the very real fact that people go to Hell. Such has been the unanimous opinion of saints throughout history. Most have said the majority follow the wide road to damnation, while only a minority perseveres to the narrow door of salvation. There is no guarantee that you yourself will be saved. In short: we are all at risk of Hell's fire.

From the Pictorial Lives of the Saints, for your edification:

St. Philip was born in Florence, on the Feast of the Assumption, 1233. That same day, the Order of Servites was founded by the Mother of God. As an infant at the breast, Philip broke out into speech at the sight of these new religious, and begged his mother to give them alms. Amidst all the temptations of his youth, he longed to become himself a servant of Mary, and it was only the fear of his own unworthiness which made him yield to his father’s wish and begin to practice medicine.

After long and weary waiting, his doubts were solved by our Lady herself, who in a vision bade him enter her Order. Still Philip dared only offer himself as a lay brother, and in this humble state he strove to do penance for his sins. In spite of his reluctance, he was promoted to the post of master of novices; and as his rare abilities were daily discovered, he was bidden to prepare for the priesthood. Thenceforth honors were heaped upon him; he became general of the Order, and only escaped by flight elevation to the Papal throne.

His preaching restored peace to Italy, which was wasted by civil wars; and at the Council of Lyons, he spoke to the assembled prelates with the gift of tongues. Amid all these favors, Philip lived in extreme penitence, constantly examining his soul before the judgment-seat of God, and condemning himself as only fit for hell. St. Philip, though he was free from the stain of mortal sin, was never weary of beseeching God’s mercy. From the time he was ten years old, he said daily the Penitential Psalms. 

On his death-bed he kept reciting the verses of the Miserere, [Psalm 51] with his cheeks streaming with tears; and during his agony, he went through a terrible contest to overcome the fear of damnation. But a few minutes before he died. all his doubts disappeared and were succeeded by a holy trust He uttered the responses in a low but audible voice; and when at last the Mother of God appeared before him, he lifted up his arms with joy and breathed a gentle sigh, as if placing his soul in her hand. He died on the Octave of the Assumption, 1285.

Shea, J. G. (1887). Pictorial Lives of the Saints (pp. 366–368). New York; Cincinnati; Chicago: Benziger Brothers.

2 comments:

  1. ahhhh....so beautiful.....especially the ending.

    I just read a post somewhere yesterday on how few souls will attain Heaven according to the majority of Saints and Visionaries. Scary as all get-out. Really, really scary.

    ReplyDelete
  2. For many are called, but few are chosen. Matthew 22:14

    ReplyDelete

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