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The Promise of Hell & the Hope of Virtue

May 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Book Club, Sarah Reinhard

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The Sinner’s Guide (Week 5 of 16)

That this eternity, this terrible forever, were deeply graven in our hearts! We are told that a worldly man, giving himself to serious reflection upon eternity, made use of this simple reasoning: There is no sensible man who would accept the empire of the world at the expense of thirty or forty years spent upon a bed, even were it a bed of roses. How great, then, is the folly of him who, for much smaller interests, incurs the risk of being condemned to lie upon a bed of fire for all eternity!

The Sinner's Guide (Chapter 10, Paragraph 19)

The Promise of Hell and the Hope of Virtue


I was just starting to enjoy this book and feel pretty comfortable with it when WHAM. Here's a bit of eternal reality slapped across my face.

To be honest, I don't think of hell much, except when I slip and use the word in ways I shouldn't. I don't really consider the impact it has on me, the twisted promise it holds to me, the beckoning it pulls.

It's the small things, as Louis of Granada points out. The gateway sins that ease me into the bigger, harder stuff, that make me immune to the prick of conscience, the need for Confession, the dirt that's all over my soul like the dust on my van.

But there's hope.

If you still tell me that the path of virtue is rugged, that its duties are difficult, I beg you to consider the abundant and powerful aids which God gives you. Such are the infused virtues, interior graces, the gifts of the Holy Ghost, the sacraments of the New Law, with other divine favors, which are to us like sails to a ship, or wings to a bird, to help us on our voyage to eternity. Reflect upon the very name and nature of virtue. It is a noble habit, which, like all other habits, ought to make us act with facility and pleasure. Remember also that Christ has promised His followers not only the riches of glory, but those of grace: the former for the life to come, the latter for this present life. “The Lord

The Sinner's Guide (Chapter 11, Paragraph 8)

Louis points out, at the end of Chapter 12, that some are more motivated by the fear than by the reward. As I read these three chapters, I wasn't really sure which motivated me more; it's more accurate to say they motivated me differently.

On the one hand, wow: never thought of hell that way before. I mean, I have the caricatured, stereotypical images that I battle and I've read Dante. But Louis of Granada gives hell a texture that makes it worse than my needs-to-be-mucked-out chicken coop and more real than the mess in the kids' bedrooms after a stomach bug.

But on the other hand, can I get a woohoo? Virtue isn't boring anymore, and heaven just became a party that even the fun people will enjoy! The reward is waaaaay better than I envisioned.

And isn't that as it should be?

In Chapter 12, Louis considers gratitude. He considers it A LOT. And it made me stop and think: all those #gratefultweets on Twitter and #grateful posts on Facebook don't really scratch the surface. Starting my day with a thankful thing is all well and good, but what's in my heart? Am I really changed and impacted and moved? Is my life–or, more specifically, my living of my life–reflecting that gratitude?

Reading Assignment:

Chapter 13-16

Discussion Questions:

1. What's your fear of hell? No, really. What do you fear about hell? And when you consider that fear, how can you bring it around to let it be a draw into a deeper relationship with God?

2. Why do you want to get to heaven? Get past the canned answers and really consider this question. How does the way you live your life reflect your desire to spend eternity with God?

3. What are you grateful for? Consider writing a note of thanks to God today or starting a gratitude journal. And then revisit it and stretch yourself to really be grateful and live gratitude for all God is and does for you.

Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

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About Sarah Reinhard

Sarah Reinhard continues to delight ”and be challenged by” her vocations of Catholic wife and mother. She's online at and is the author of a number of books for families.

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