Each disciple of Christ is called in some way to participate in the work of redemption. As a Lay Dominican, I take the persons of Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine of Siena as guiding lights in fulfilling my call. These saints were motivated to do this work by, among other reasons, the desire that souls be saved from the danger of hell. Saint Dominic would spend his nights in prayer, making reparation. “God gave him the singular gift of weeping for sinners, the wretched, and the afflicted, whose sufferings he felt within his compassionate heart, which poured out its hidden feelings in a shower of tears.”[i] He would pray, “O Lord, have mercy on Thy people … what is to become of sinners?”[ii] Saint Catherine, good daughter of Dominic that she was, taught that it is God who fills his servants with love and sadness “over the damnation of souls,” that they might intercede for their salvation.[iii] And both let the love and sorrow of their hearts overflow into their call to preach the gospel. Without complacency or hypocrisy, but burning with divine love, they were motivated by the Christian doctrine of hell.
This article is a response to Dr. Brett Salkeld’s article, “Hell is Good News,” published in Church Life Journal in November of 2020. In it, Salkeld makes an able defence of the doctrine of hell, and laudably situates it within the context of the purifying encounter with Christ. In Christ, the love of God frees us from judgmentalism, complacency, and self-justification, leading us to continual self-examination and repentance. Any truly Christian motivation to evangelize should proceed from this interiorly-renewed state.
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[ii] William A. Hinnebusch, Dominican Spirituality: Principles and Practice (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 1965, 2014), 31. See also 1 Peter 4:18.
[iii] Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue, trans. Suzanne Noffke (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1980), no. 4.