Reflecting on the horrors of hell 
can help us to avoid ending 
up there
What are we to make of the vision of hell which was seen
 by the Fatima children on July 13, 1917?
The vision was revealed in Sister Lucia’s Third Memoir
 – which was written in the summer of 1941 – when she
 stated that she was going to reveal the first two parts 
of the Fatima secret, and that the first part of this 
secret was the vision of hell.
This is how she describes it:
“Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed
 to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons 
and souls in human form, like transparent burning 
embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating 
about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by 
the flames that issued from within themselves together
 with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every 
side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or 
equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and
 despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with 
fear. The demons could be distinguished by their
 terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and 
unknown animals, all black and transparent.”
After this horrifying vision, Sister Lucia went on to say:
“This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever 
be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who
 had already prepared us by promising, in the first
 Apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think
 we would have died of fear and terror.”
Clearly, this vision was very brief, but very powerful 
and indeed terrifying. Sr Lucia then says:
“We then looked up at Our Lady, who said to us so kindly
 and so sadly: ‘You have seen hell where the souls of
 poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish
 in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what
 I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there
 will be peace.’ ”
Our Lady then went on to outline what needed to be done
 if souls would indeed be saved and peace given to the
 world – that is the second part of the secret.
The first point to make about this vision is that it strongly 
affirms the existence of hell, a fact which has been 
downplayed by some Catholics in recent years; the vision
 seen by the children, though, and the whole of Catholic
 tradition are opposed to that type of thinking. And in 
addition, Jesus mentions hell a number of times in 
the New Testament, and in quite graphic terms.
For example, in St Mark’s Gospel, after describing 
various sins that would make a person worthy of going 
to hell, such as corrupting little children, or using 
parts of the body for sinful purposes, he says: “And if
 your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for
 you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than 
with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm
 does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:42-48)
In St Matthew’s Gospel, in the parable of the sower, Jesus
 uses the weeds and the wheat of the parable as symbolic of
 the lost and the saved, saying: “Gather the weeds first and
 bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the
 wheat into my barn” (Matthew 13:30).
There is a reference to the traditional concept of hell
 here in the fact that the weeds are burned.
Later on, Jesus explained the meaning of this parable to
 his disciples, saying:
“Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, 
so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will 
send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom
 all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into
 the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their
 teeth.” (Matt 13:40-42)
So from these and other scriptural passages we get a 
general picture of hell as a place of eternal punishment, 
a punishment involving fire, a never-ending fire, and 
also as a place of remorse and despair.
Thus the thought of hell is meant to be a sobering one 
for us, and one we should take seriously. The vision of 
hell certainly made a very strong impression on the 
Fatima seers, and particularly on Jacinta, as Sister 
Lucia further relates:
“The vision of hell filled her with horror to such a degree,
 that every penance and mortification was as nothing 
in her eyes, if it could only prevent souls from going there.”
In fact, hell became a preoccupation of young Jacinta. 
One time she exclaimed:
“Oh, hell! hell! How sorry I am for the souls who go to
 hell! And the people down there, burning alive, like 
wood in the fire!”
Lucia tells us that, she would then kneel down with 
her hands joined, and recite the prayer that Our
 Lady had taught them: “O my Jesus! Forgive 
us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls 
to heaven, especially those who are most in need.”
At other times, she asked her cousin: “Why 
doesn’t Our Lady show hell to sinners? If they 
saw it, they would not sin, so as to avoid going 
there! You must tell Our Lady to show hell to 
all the people. You’ll see how they will be
Before she died, Jacinta spent some time at an orphanag
in Lisbon. The Sister in charge, who was known as 
Mother Godinho, was able to talk to Jacinta. In 
some cases, it seems that the things Jacinta spoke 
of came from Our Lady, but in others they resulted from
 the infused wisdom with which the little girl was g
ifted. In fact, Mother Godinho asked Jacinta about 
this, saying, ‘Who taught you these things?’ to which
 she responded, ‘Our Lady, but some of them 
I thought myself. I love to think.’
Jacinta reportedly told Mother Godinho that many
 people went to hell because of “sins of the flesh”.
 She also apparently said that certain fashions 
would be introduced which would be very offensive
 to Our Lord.
Clearly we are living in a time when sexual immorality
 and immodest fashions are widespread, so these
 points very much apply to our age.
We are not likely to see either heaven or hell in this 
life, but in the first part of the Fatima secret 
we have been given a clear reiteration of hell’s 
existence and horror. Like Jacinta, we need 
to mediate on hell – in our case so as to ensure
 that we don’t end up going there.

Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related web site at He has also a written a time-travel/adventure book for young people