Monday, 22 February 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration VII

Sentiments of a Dying Christian, who has been Careless about the Duties of Religion and has thought but little of Death.
“Take order with thy house; for thou shalt die, and shalt not live.” – Isa. xxxviii. 1.
Sad State of the Worldling at Death.
Imagine yourself at the bedside of a negligent Christian, who is overpowered by sickness, and has but a few hours to live. Behold him oppressed by pains, by swoons, by suffocation, by want of breath, by cold perspirations, his reason so impaired, that he feels but little, understands little, and can speak but little. The greatest of all his miseries is, that though at the point of death, instead of thinking of his soul and of preparing accounts for eternity, be fixes all his thoughts. on physicians, on the remedies by which he may be rescued from sickness, and from the pains which will soon put an end to life. “They are unable to have any other thought of themselves,”1 says St. Laurence Justinian, speaking of the condition of negligent Christians at the hour of death. They can think only of themselves. Surely his relatives and friends will admonish the dying Christian of his danger? No; there is not one among all his relatives and friends who has the courage to announce to him the news of death, and to advise him to receive the last sacraments. Through fear of offending him, they all refuse to inform him of his danger.—O my God! from this moment I thank Thee, that at death I shall, through Thy grace, be assisted by my beloved brothers of my Congregation, who will then have no other interest than that of my eternal salvation, and will all help me to die well.
But though he is not admonished of his approaching death, the poor sick man, seeing the family in disorder, the medical consultations repeated, the remedies multiplied, frequent, and violent, is filled with confusion and terror. Assaulted by fears, remorse, and distrust, he says within himself: Perhaps the end of my days has arrived. But what will be his feelings when he is told that death is at hand? “Take order with thy house: for thou shalt die, and shalt not live.”2 What pain will he feel in hearing these words: Your illness is mortal: it is necessary to receive the last sacraments, to unite yourself to God, and to prepare to bid farewell to the world. What! exclaims the sick man; must I take leave of all—of my house, my villa, my relatives, friends, conversations, games, and amusements? Yes, you must take leave of all. The lawyer is already come, and writes this last farewell: I bequeath such-a-thing and such-a-thing, etc. And what does he take away with him? Nothing but a miserable rag, which will soon rot with him in the grave.
Oh! with what melancholy and agitation will the dying man be seized at the sight of the tears of the servants, at the silence of his friends, who have not courage to speak in his presence. But his greatest anguish will arise from the remorse of his conscience, which in that tempest will be rendered more sensible by the remembrance of the disorderly life he has until then led, in spite of so many calls and lights from God, of so many admonitions from spiritual Fathers, and of so many resolutions made, but never executed, or afterward neglected. He will then say: O unhappy me! I have had so many lights from God, so much time to tranquillize my conscience, and have not done so. Behold, I am now arrived at the gate of death. What would it have cost me to have avoided such an occasion of sin, to have broken off such a friendship, to have frequented the tribunal of penance? Ah, very little; but, though they had cost me much pain and labor, I ought to have submitted to every inconvenience in order to save my soul, which is of more importance to me than all the goods of this world. Oh! if I had put into execution the good resolutions which I made on such an occasion; if I had continued the good works which I began at such a time, how happy should I now feel! But these things I have not done, and now there is no more time to do them. The sentiments of dying sinners who have neglected the care of their souls during life, are like those of the damned who mourn in hell over their sins as the cause, of their sufferings, but mourn without fruit and without remedy.
Affections and Prayers.
Lord! if it were at this moment announced to me that my death was at hand, such would be the painful sentiments that would torture my soul. I thank Thee for giving me this light, and for giving me time to enter into myself. O my God! I will no longer fly from Thee. Thou hast sought after me long enough. I have just reason to fear that Thou wilt abandon me, if I now refuse to give myself to Thee, and continue to resist Thy calls. Thou hast given me a heart to love Thee, and I have made so bad use of it. I have loved creatures and have not loved Thee, my Creator and Redeemer! who hast given Thy life for the love of me. Instead of loving Thee, how often have I offended, how often have I despised Thee, and turned my back upon Thee? I knew that by such a sin I insulted Thee, and still I have committed it. My Jesus! I am sorry for all my sins; they displease me above all things. I wish to change my life. I renounce all the pleasures of the world in order to love and please Thee. O God of my soul! Thou hast given me strong proofs of Thy love. I too would wish before death to give Thee some proof of my love. From this moment I accept all the infirmities, crosses, insults, and offences that I receive from men; give me strength to submit to them with peace. I wish to bear them all for the love of Thee. I love Thee. O infinite goodness! I love Thee above every good. increase my love, give me holy perseverance. Mary, my hope! pray to Jesus for me.
Desire of the Worldling at Death.
Oh, how clearly are the truths of faith seen at the hour of death! But then they only serve to increase the anguish of the dying Christian who has led a bad life, particularly if he has been consecrated to God, and has had greater facilities for serving him, more time for exercises of piety, more good examples and more inspirations. O God! what torture will he feel in thinking and saying: I have admonished others, and my life has been worse than theirs. I have left the world, and have cherished attachment to worldly pleasures and vanities. What remorse will he feel in thinking that with the lights which he had received from God a pagan would become a saint! With what pain will his soul be racked when he remembers that he ridiculed in others certain practices of piety, as if they were weaknesses of mind; and that he praised certain worldly maxims of self-esteem, or of self-love, such as: It is necessary to seek our own advancement; We ought to avoid suffering, and indulge in every amusement within our reach.
The desire of the wicked shall perish.3 How ardently shall we desire at death the time which we now squander away? In his dialogues, St. Gregory relates that a certain rich man, called Crisorius, who had led a wicked life, seeing at death the devils who came to carry him off, exclaimed: Give me time, give me time until to-morrow. They replied: O fool! do you now seek for time? You have had so much time, but: have wasted it and have spent it in committing sin; and now you seek for time. Time is now no more. The unhappy man continued to cry out and call for assistance. To his son Maximus, a monk, who was present, he said: O my son, assist me! O Maximus, come to my aid! With his face on fire, he flung himself furiously from one side of the bed to the other; and in that state of agitation, screaming aloud, like one in despair, he breathed forth his unhappy soul.
Alas! during this life, these fools love their folly; but at death they open their eyes, and confess that they have been fools. But this only serves to increase their fear of repairing past evils; and dying in this state, they leave their salvation very uncertain. My brother, now that you are reading this point, I imagine that you too say: This is indeed true. But if this is true, your folly and misfortune will be still greater, if after knowing these truths during life, you neglect to apply a remedy in time. This very point which you have read will be a sword of sorrow for you at death.
Since, then, you now have time to avoid a death so full of terror, begin instantly to repair the past; do not wait for that time in which you can make but little preparation for judgment. Do not wait for another month, nor for another week. Perhaps this light which God in his mercy gives you now may be the last light and the last call for you. It is folly to be unwilling to think of death, which is certain, and on which eternity depends; but it would be still greater folly to reflect on it, and not prepare for judgment. Make now the reflections and resolutions which you would then make; they may be made now with profit—then without fruit now, with confidence of saving your soul—then, with diffidence as to your salvation. A gentleman who was about to take leave of the court of Charles the Fifth, to live only to God, was asked by the Emperor why he thought of quitting the court. The gentleman answered: To secure salvation, it is necessary that some time spent in penitential works should intervene between a disorderly life and death.
Affections and Prayers.
O my God! I will no longer abuse Thy mercy. I thank Thee for the light Thou now givest me, and I promise to change my life. I see that Thou canst not bear with me any longer. I will not wait until Thou either dost send me to hell, or dost abandon me to a wicked life, which would be a greater punishment than death itself. Behold, I cast myself at Thy feet; receive me into favor. I do not deserve Thy grace: but Thou hast said: The wickedness of the wicked shall not hurt him in whatsoever day he shall turn from his wickedness.4 If then, O my Jesus! I have hitherto offended Thy infinite goodness, I now repent with my whole heart, and hope for pardon. I will say with St. Anselm: “Ah! since Thou hast redeemed me by Thy blood, do not permit me to be lost on account of my sins.” Look not on my ingratitude; but have regard to the love which made Thee die for me. If I have lost Thy grace. Thou hast not lost the power of restoring it to me. Have mercy on me then, O my dear Redeemer! Pardon me, and give me grace to love Thee: for I purpose henceforth to love nothing but Thee. Among so many possible creatures. Thou hast chosen me to love Thee. I make choice of Thee, O Sovereign Good! to love Thee above every good. Thou goest before me with Thy cross; I am willing to follow Thee with the cross which Thou wilt give me to carry. I embrace every mortification and every pain that comes from Thee. Do not deprive me of Thy grace, and I am content. Mary, my hope! obtain for me from God perseverance and the grace to love him; and I ask nothing more.
Tardy Regrets of a Diving Person.
The dying man who has neglected the salvation of his soul, will find thorns in everything that is presented to him—thorns in the remembrance of past amusements, rivalries overcome and pomps displayed; thorns in the friends who will visit him, and in whatever their presence shall bring before his mind; thorns in the spiritual Fathers who assist him in turn; thorns in the Sacraments of Penance, Eucharist, and Extreme Unction, which he must receive; thorns even in the crucifix which is placed before him. In that sacred image he will read his want of correspondence to the love of a God who died for his salvation.
O fool that I have been! the poor sick man will say, with the lights and opportunities that God has given me, I could have become a saint. I could have led a life of happiness in the grace of God; and after so many years that he gave me, what do I find but torments, distrust, fears, remorse of conscience, and accounts to render to God? I shall scarcely save my soul. And when will he say this? When the oil in the lamp is on the point of being consumed, and the scene of this world is about to close forever; when he finds himself in view of two eternities, one happy, the other miserable; when he is near that last gasp on which depends his everlasting bliss or eternal despair, as long as God shall be God. What would he then give for another year, month, or even another week, with the perfect use of his faculties? In the stupefaction, oppression of the chest, and difficulty of breathing, under which he then labors, he can do nothing; he is incapable of reflection, or of applying his mind to the performance of any good act: he is, as it were, shut up in a dark pit of confusion, where he can see nothing but the ruin which threatens him, and which he feels himself unable to avert. He would wish for time; but the assisting priest shall say to him, Proficiscere; adjust your accounts as well as you can in the few moments that remain, and depart. Do you not know that death waits for no one, respects no one? Oh! with what dismay will he then think and say: This morning I am alive; this evening I shall probably be dead! To-day I am in this room; to-morrow I shall be in the grave! and where will my soul be found? With what terror will he be seized when he sees the death candle prepared? When he hears his relatives ordered to withdraw from his apartment, and to return to it no more? When his sight begins to grow dim? Finally, how great will be his alarm and confusion when he sees that, because death is at hand, the candle is lighted? O candle, O candle, how many truths will you then unfold! How different will you make things appear then from what they appear at present! O how clearly will you show the dying sinner that all the goods of this world are vanities, folly, and lies? But of what use is it to understand these truths when the time is past of profiting by them?
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my God! Thou wilt not my death, but that I be converted and live. I thank Thee for having waited for me till now, and I thank Thee for the light which Thou givest me at this moment. I know the error I have committed in preferring to Thy friendship the vile and miserable goods for which I have despised Thee. I repent, and am sorry with my whole heart for having done Thee so great an injury. Ah! do not cease, during the remainder of my life, to assist me by Thy light and grace to know and to do all that I ought to do in order to amend my life. What shall it profit me to know these truths when I shall be deprived of the time in which they may be reduced to practice? Deliver not up to beasts the souls that confess to Thee.5 When the devil tempts me to offend Thee again, ah! I entreat Thee, my Jesus, through the merits of Thy Passion, to stretch forth Thy hand and to preserve me from falling into sin, and from becoming again the slave of my enemies. Grant that in all temptations I may have recourse to Thee, and that I may not cease to recommend myself to Thee as long as the temptations continue. Thy blood is my hope, and Thy goodness is my love. I love Thee, my God, worthy of infinite love; grant that I may always love Thee. Make known to me the things from which I ought to detach my heart, that I may be entirely Thine: I wish to detach my heart from them: but give me strength to execute this desire. O Queen of heaven! O Mother of God! pray for me, a sinner. Obtain for me the grace that in all temptations I may never omit to have recourse to Jesus and to thee, who, by thy intercession, preserves from falling into sin all who invoke thee.

1“Nihil aliud quam de se cogitare sufficiunt.” – De Cont. Mundi, c. 15.
2Dispone domui tua, quia morieris tu, et non vives.
3“Desiderium peccatorum peribit.” – Ps. cxi. 10.
4“Impietas impii non nocebit ei, in quacumque die conversus fuerit.” – Ezek. xxxiii. 12.
5“Ne tradas bestiis animas confitentes tibi.” – Ps. lxxiii. 19.

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