In the year
1707, St. Francis of Jerome was preaching, as was his want, in the neighborhood of the
city of Naples. He was speaking of hell and the awful chastisements that await obstinate
sinners. A brazen courtesan who lived there, troubled by a discourse which aroused her remorse, sought to hinder it by jests and shouts, accompanied by noisy instruments. As she was standing close to the window, the Saint cried out:
"Beware, my daughter, of
resisting grace; before eight days God will punish you."
The unhappy creature grew only
more boisterous. Eight days elapsed, and the holy preacher happened to be again before the same house. This time she was silent, the windows were shut. The hearers, with dismay on their faces, told the Saint that Catherine -- that was the name of the bad woman
-- had a few hours before died suddenly.
"Died!" he repeated,
"Well, let her tell us now
what she has gained by laughing at hell. Let us ask her."
He uttered these words in an
inspired tone, and every one expected a miracle. Followed by an immense crowd, he went
up to the death chamber, and there, after having prayed for an instant, he uncovers the
face of the corpse, and says in a loud voice,
"Catherine, tell us where art thou now."
At this summons, the dead woman lifts her head, while opening her wild eyes, her face
borrows color, her features assume an expression of horrible despair, and in a mournful
voice, she pronounces these words:
"In hell;For All eternity, without hope,without any end, forever and ever till the stars burn out; I am in hell."
Her visage, eyes gray an ashen, her skin shrunken tight like leather around her skull; frame a face whose expression is one of sheer terror. Without warning Catherine's jaw creaks open unnaturally wide and from it, slowly at first, then building shrill and high, accompanied by lesser sounds; rips a mournful wale torn from the deepest pit of hell.
"I'm in HELL! Oh my GOD why didn't I listen? Why didn't I answer the call of Christ? Better that I was never born..."