St. Gertrude asked our Saviour: “My Lord, was not St. Bernard as devoted to Thee as St. Augustine, whose glory shines so resplendently? and yet it seems to me that he does not enjoy the same delights.” He responded:
“Bernard, My chosen one, has received an immense recompense; but your mind is not capable of discerning the glory of even the least of My Saints: how, then, can it discern that of the greatest?”
Before speaking of Heaven… an exhortation:
Meditate on the joys of Heaven. Practice virtue. Bear sufferings patiently and with humility, considering that God has delivered us from the Hell that we justly deserved for our sins. Live among the few, not among the many. Seek to give God the love He desires; His thirst for love is infinite. Shun all deliberate sins, and all occasions of serious sin, such as gossip and impurity. After turning to God with a contrite heart, do acts of penance- however small- to show our loving Saviour that your love for Him is sincere. By doing so you will heal the wounds that you have inflicted on the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus; you will taste of a joy hitherto unknown; and your hour of death will be sweet, as it was for the Saints.
“No sin of yours that is punished by penance in your lifetime will come before My judgement.”
– Jesus to St. Bridget
St. Peter of Alcantara appeared to St. Teresa of Avila and said: “O blessed penance which has earned for me such great glory!”
“Penance… receives in heaven a most sublime recompense… Penance helps the soul rise above things of the earth. Penance cooperates with the Redemption of the world. Penance humbles man; it penetrates him with an inner feeling of his baseness and his wretchedness. Penance brings light to the soul. It consumes and causes to disappear all in it that is purely material. It raises him higher and higher above the earth, making him taste of delights hitherto unknown and pure.”
– Jesus to Conchita (Diary, Sept. 24, 1895)
To profit from the many truths necessary for our salvation- most of which are relatively unknown- make the commitment to engage in frequent prayer and spiritual reading, of which St. Alphonsus says: “St. Bernard says reading instructs us at once in prayer, and in the practice of virtue. Hence he concluded that spiritual reading and prayer are the arms by which hell is conquered and Paradise won… spiritual reading serves to make us see the stains that infect the soul, and helps us to remove them… The Apostle prescribed spiritual reading to Timothy. Attend unto reading (1 Tim. 4:13).” – St. Alphonsus (** See the bottom of this post for some book recommendations**)
“We must be alert on the road to salvation. Only the fervent succeed in reaching it, never the tepid or those who sleep.” – St. Padre Pio
But “do not be afraid”, says Jesus. Give yourself to Him completely, every day…
“… now that you have resolved to love Him and please Him with all your strength, your only fear should be to fear God too much and to place too little confidence in Him.” – St. Alphonsus
“My dove, that place [Hell] is made for those only who refuse to adhere to My will, and who will neither love nor obey.”
– Jesus to Jeanne Benigna Gojos
May we recognise God’s call to holiness, and respond while we can, because “… After death, free will can never return, for the will is fixed as it was at the moment of death.” (St. Catherine of Genoa)
What is Heaven like?
Many Saints had visions of Heaven. Although we must remember that a vision of Heaven cannot possibly compare to Heaven itself, we will profit from considering the joys that await those who do God’s perfect, adorable will, which “is love and mercy itself” (Jesus to St. Faustina).
Among those who have had visions of Heaven, we may include: St. John the Apostle, St. Bridget, St. Monica, St. Hildegard, St. Padre Pio, St. Faustina, St. Bridget, St. Catherine, St. Gertrude, St. Mechtilde, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, St. Lydwine of Schiedam, St. Christina the Astonishing, Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich, Bl. Alexandrina, Sr. Josefa Menendez, and others.
One revelation shall suffice:
“…I was in heaven and I saw its inconceivable beauties and the happiness that awaits us after death. I saw how all creatures give ceaseless praise and glory to God. I saw how great is happiness in God, which spreads to all creatures, making them happy; and than all the glory and praise which springs from this happiness returns to its source; and they enter into the depths of God, contemplating the inner life of God… This source of happiness is unchanging in its essence, but it is always new, gushing forth happiness for all creatures.”
– (Diary 777).
Consider this. If the Saints (such as St. Bernardine and St. Catherine of Genoa) are able to say, in truth, that the souls in Purgatory experience a joy unlike any joy that exists on earth, how much more could be said for those in Heaven! Similarly, if the Saints enjoyed raptures of ecstatic love whilst in their earthly bodies, how great will be their pleasure in Heaven! How good God is! He is truly the source of all good things: beauty, joy, love, peace. God desires to give Himself to us at every moment!
“Eternal joy, beatific love, is ineffable. If here on earth we are enchanted by the reflection of divine perfection in creatures, by the enchantments of the visible world, by the harmony of colors and sounds, by the immensity of the ocean, by the splendor of the starry heavens, and still more by the spiritual splendors revealed in the lives of the saints, what joy shall we feel when we see God, this creative center of life and of love, this infinite plenitude, eternally self-existent, from whom proceeds the life of creation! … The elect in heaven belong to the family of God. The Blessed Trinity, seen clearly and loved sovereignly, dwells in them as in a living tabernacle, as in a temple of glory, endowed with knowledge and love.” – Fr. Garrigou Lagrange
“I see that as far as God is concerned, paradise has no gates, but he who will may enter. For God is all mercy, and his open arms are ever extended to receive us into his glory.” – St. Catherine of Genoa
Heaven is open to all. Never despair of God’s mercy. “In heaven, the most beautiful souls are those that have sinned the most and repented. But they made use of their miseries like manure around the base of the tree.” – Bl. Mariam Baouardy
Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata: “Benigna, I cannot make thee a saint unless thou give me the key of thy will; but if thou give it to me, I can make thee not only a saint but a great saint.”
A Valuable Lesson.
“A certain sinner once said to Mary, ‘Show thyself a mother;’ but the Virgin answered him, ‘Show thyself a son.’ Another, one day, invoked this divine mother, calling her mother of mercy. But Mary said to him, ‘When you sinners wish me to aid you, you call me mother of mercy, and yet by your sins make me the mother of misery and grief.’” – St. Alphonsus
The lesson here is that Jesus, like Mary, expects- and deserves- our love in return for all the mercy He has shown us. If we wish to receive His mercy, we must not cling to our sins. “Do not let sin grow old in thee”, said Our Lord to St. Gertrude. In other words, do not delay repentance. Rather, do as St. Padre Pio did: “Abandon yourself blindly into the hands of this Heavenly Father Who loves you better and more than you love yourself.” The fact that we choose to do something so dangerous and displeasing as sin is sufficient to prove the truth of these words!
God loves us so tenderly, so intimately, that I pray, dear reader, that one day we will meet in Paradise, where together we may praise God for all eternity!
“Knowest thou the shortest way to arrive at Heaven? It is that of confidence in My merits and fidelity to grace.”
– Jesus to Sr. Benigna (March 15, 1905)
“But Josefa, do you not long to possess Me and enjoy Me without end? … I, on My part, long for you! I glory in those who do My will always and in all things… The winter of this life is about to end… I am your Beatitude.”
** Here are some excellent, very balanced spiritual books that might be instrumental in leading us to Heaven: ‘Introduction to The Devout Life’ by St. Francis de Sales, ‘Treatise on The Love of God’ by St. Francis de Sales, ‘Christ: The Life of the Soul’ by Bl. Dom Marmion, ‘The Life of Christ’ by Fulton Sheen, ‘The Ways of Mental Prayer’ by Dom Vital Lehodey, ‘The Diary of St. Faustina’, ‘The Way of Divine Love’ by Sr. Josefa Menendez, ‘The Glories of Mary’ by St. Alphonsus, ‘Uniformity With God’s Will’ by St. Alphonsus, and many others.
I could recommend many other excellent books, but instead I repeat what the Saints say: be careful that you read orthodox books by holy authors i.e. books in keeping with Christian Tradition.
May God bless you and your loved ones!