Servant of God Sister Lúcia recalls how the vision of hell impacted her cousin, St. Jacinta.
“But the vision of hell obsessed her, and she would ask anxiously again and again, ‘What are the sins those people commit to go to hell?’ “‘I do not know,’ I would respond. ‘Perhaps the sins of not going to Mass on Sunday, of stealing, of saying ugly words, of cursing, of swearing.’
“‘And only for a simple word do they go to hell?’
“‘Well, it’s a sin.”
“‘It wouldn’t be hard for them to have been silent or to have gone to Mass, would it? I am so sorry for poor sinners. If only I could show hell to them!’
“Also she would suddenly get hold of me and say, ‘I’m going to heaven, but you are staying here. If Our Lady lets you, tell everybody what hell is like, so that they will not commit any more sins, and will not go there. So many people falling into hell! So many people in hell!’
“‘Don’t be afraid. You are going to heaven.’
“‘True. But I want all those people to go to heaven, too.’
“When, to mortify herself, she would refuse to eat, I would say, ‘Come, Jacinta, eat something now.’
“‘No,’ she would reply, ‘I want to offer this sacrifice for sinners who eat too much.’”
During Jacinta’s illness, when Lúcia went to Mass on weekdays, she would say to her, “Jacinta, don’t come. You can’t—today is not Sunday.”
Jacinta would answer immediately, “It doesn’t matter. I want to go for sinners who do not go even on Sunday.”
Whenever she heard an ugly word, she covered her face with her hands and said, “Oh, my God, don’t these people really know that they can go to hell for saying those things? Forgive them, my Jesus, and convert them. They certainly don’t know that they offend God. What a pity, my Jesus! I pray for them.” And then she would repeat the prayer taught by Our Lady, “Oh, my Jesus, forgive them. . . .”
This is the secret of the mortified life which Jacinta and her companions led. The vision of hell had horrified her to such an extent that all penances and mortifications seemed as nothing if they could save some souls from it. That vision of hell, and the memory of the torments of the damned in that abode of sorrow and pain, gave her in her suffering such a heroic courage that it frightens our softened generation. The horror provoked by the vision of hell, and the salutary effect produced in the soul of the seers, is no more than a repetition of what has taken place in the lives of some saints. For example, one day Our Lord showed to Saint Teresa of Jesus, the great reformer of the Carmelites, the place which had been reserved for her in hell had she not corresponded to a certain grace.