Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration XIV

Life is a Journey to Eternity.
“Man shall go into the house of his eternity.” – Eccl. xii. 5.
Man is a Traveller on Earth.
Seeing that on this earth so many miscreants live in prosperity, and that so many saints live in tribulations, the very Gentiles, by the sole aid of the light of nature, have known this truth,—that, since there is a just God, there must be another life, in which the wicked are punished and the good rewarded. But what the Gentiles learned by the light of reason, we Christians know by faith. We have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come.1 This earth is not our country; it is for us a place of passage, from which we shall soon go to the house of eternity. “Man shall go into the house of his eternity.” The house, then, dear reader, which you inhabit, is not your house; it is a hospital, from which you will soon, and when you least expect, be dislodged. Remember that when the time of death has arrived, your dearest relatives will be the first to banish you from it; and what will be your true house? The house of your body will be a grave, in which it will remain till the day of judgment; but your soul will go to the house of eternity—either to heaven or to hell. St. Augustine tells you that you are a stranger, a traveller, a spectator.2 It would be foolishness in a traveller to spend all his patrimony in purchasing a villa or a house in a country through which he merely passes, and which he must leave in a few days. Reflect, says the saint, that in this world you are only on a journey; fix not your affections on what you see; look and pass on, and labor to procure a good house, in which you will have to dwell forever.
Happy you, if you save your soul! Oh! how delightful is heaven! All the princely palaces of this world are but stables compared with the city of paradise, which alone can be called the city of perfect beauty. There you will have nothing to desire; for you will be in the society of the saints, of the divine Mother, and of Jesus Christ, and will be free from all fear of evil; in a word, you will live in a sea of delights, and in unceasing joy, which will last forever. Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.3 This joy shall be so great, that at every moment for all eternity it will appear new. But unhappy you, if you are lost! You will be confined in a sea of fire and of torments, in despair, abandoned by all, and without God. And for how long? Perhaps, after the lapse of a hundred thousand years, your pains will have an end? A hundred and a thousand millions of years and ages will pass by, and your hell will always be at its commencement. What are a thousand years compared with eternity? Less than a day which is gone by. A thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday, which is past.4 Would you wish to know the house which will be your dwelling for eternity? It will be that which you merit, and which you choose for yourself by your works.
Affections and Prayers.
Then, O Lord! behold the house which I have deserved by the life which I led. Alas! it is hell, in which, from the first sin I have committed, I ought to dwell, abandoned by Thee, and without having it ever in my power to love Thee. Blessed forever be Thy mercy, which has waited for me, and which now gives me time to repair the evil I have done. O my God! I will no longer abuse Thy patience. I am sorry above all things for having offended Thee, not so much because I have merited hell, as because I have outraged Thy infinite goodness. Never more, my God! never more will I rebel against Thee; I desire death rather than offend Thee. O my Sovereign Good! were I now in hell, I could never love Thee, nor couldst Thou love me. I love Thee, and wish to be loved by Thee; this I do not deserve, but Jesus merits it, because he has offered himself to Thee in sacrifice on the cross, that Thou mightest be able to pardon and love me. Eternal Father! give me, then, for the sake of Thy Son, the grace to love Thee, and to love Thee intensely. I love Thee, O my Father! who hast given me Thy Son. I love Thee, O Son of God! who didst die for me. I love thee, O Mother of Jesus! who, by thy intercession, bast obtained for me time for repentance. O Mary! obtain for me sorrow for my sins, the love of God, and holy perseverance.
Man can Secure Eternal Happiness.
If the tree fall to the south or to the worth, in what place soever it shall fall there it shall be.5 Wheresoever the tree of your soul will fall at death, there will it remain forever. There is no medium; you will be forever a king in heaven, or a slave in hell; forever in bliss, in an ocean of delights, or forever in despair in a pit of torments. In contemplating the fate of the rich glutton, who was esteemed happy in this world because he was rich, but was afterward confined in hell; and the condition of Lazarus, who was regarded to be miserable because he was poor, but was afterward raised to the glory of heaven, St. John Chrysostom exclaimed: “O unhappy felicity, which dragged the rich man to eternal misery! O happy infelicity, which brought the poor Lazarus to the happiness of eternity!”6
Of what use is it to torture yourself, as some do, saying; Who knows whether I am among the predestined or not? When the tree is cut down, where does it fall? It falls on the side to which it inclines. Brother, to what side do you incline? What sort of life do you lead? Labor always to incline to the south; preserve your soul in the grace of God; fly from sin; and thus you will save your soul, and will be predestined. And in order to avoid sin, keep always before your eyes the thought of eternity, which St. Augustine calls “the great thought.”7 This thought has led so many young men to abandon the world, and to live in deserts, in order to attend only to the care of the soul; and they have secured eternal life. And, now that they are saved, they will rejoice for all eternity at having sought during life nothing but the salvation of their souls.
Father M. Avila converted a certain lady, who lived at a distance from God, by saying to her: “Madam, reflect on these two words—always and never.” In consequence of a thought which be had one day of eternity, Father Paul Segneri could not sleep for several nights; and from that day forward gave himself up to a more rigorous life. Drexelius relates that a certain bishop was encouraged to lead a holy life by the thought of eternity, and by repeating within himself, “I stand every moment at the gate of eternity.”8 A certain monk shut himself up in a cave, and did nothing else but exclaim, O eternity! O eternity! “He. who believes in eternity,” said Father Avila. “and does not become a saint, should be confined in a madhouse.”
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my God! have mercy on me. I know that in committing sin I condemned myself to an eternity of torments; and I have been content to resist Thy will, and to incur this punishment. Ah, my Lord! pardon me; I am sorry for my sins from the bottom of my heart. I do not wish ever more to oppose Thy holy will. How miserable should I be, hadst Thou taken me out of life during my career of sin! I should at this moment be condemned to remain forever in hell, to hate Thy will. But now I love it, and wish forever to love it. Teach me and give me strength henceforth to do Thy will. I will no longer resist Thee, O infinite Goodness! This grace only do I ask; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Enable me to do Thy will perfectly; and I ask nothing more. And what, O my God! dost Thou desire, but my welfare and my salvation? Ah, eternal Father! hear my prayer, for the love of Jesus Christ, who has taught me to pray continually to Thee. In his name I ask this grace—thy will be done, thy will be done. Happy me if I spend the remainder of my life and if I end my days doing Thy will. O Mary! happy thou, who hast always done the will of God perfectly! obtain for me, through thy intercession, the grace to do his will during the remainder of my life.
Man shall go into the House of his Eternity.
Man shall go into the house of his eternity.”9 The prophet says man shall go, to show that each shall go to the house to which he wishes to go: he shall not be carried to it, but will go of his own accord. It is certain that God wills the salvation of all men, but he will not save us by force. He has placed before each of us life and death; whichsoever we choose, will be given us.10 That which he shall choose, shall be given him.11 Jeremias likewise says, that the Lord has given us two ways in which to walk; one the way of heaven, the other the way of hell. Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.12 The choice rests with us. But, how will he who wishes to walk in the way of hell, be able to reach heaven? All sinners wish for salvation, and in the mean time they, by their own choice, condemn themselves to hell, with the hope of being afterward saved. But who, says St. Augustine, can be found so foolish as to take poison with the hope of escaping death?13 And still so many Christians, so many fools, kill their souls by sin, saying: I will hereafter think of a remedy. O delusion, which has sent so many souls to hell!
Let us not be so foolish; let us reflect that eternity is at stake. In erecting a house in which he expects to live for the remainder of his life, a man spares no trouble in seeking a healthful site, and submits to great toil and fatigue in endeavoring to make the house commodious and airy. And why are men so careless when there is question of the house in which they must dwell for eternity? The business for which we labor, says St. Eucherius, is eternity; there is not question of a house more or less commodious, more or less airy; but there is question of being in a place full of delights, among the friends of God, or in a pit of all torments, in the midst of an infamous crowd of abandoned miscreants. And for how long? Not for twenty nor forty years, but for all eternity. This is a great point; it is not a business of little moment; it is an affair of infinite importance. When Thomas More was condemned to die by Henry VIII, his wife Louisa went to him for the purpose of prevailing on him to yield to the wishes of the king. He said to her: “Tell me, Louisa, how many years could I, who am now so old, expect to live?” “You might,” answered Louisa, “live for twenty years, more.” “O foolish woman,” rejoined the holy man, “do you want me, for twenty years of life on this earth, to forfeit an eternity of happiness, and to condemn myself to an eternity of torments?” (Sander, Schism. angl.)
O God! give me light. If eternity were a doubtful matter, or only resting on a probable opinion, we ought to make every effort in our power to lead a good life, lest, should the doctrine of eternity be true, we should expose ourselves to the danger of being eternally miserable; but it is not doubtful, but infallibly certain; not a mere opinion, but a truth of faith. “Man shall go into the house of his eternity.” “Alas!” says St. Teresa, “the want of faith is the cause of so many sins, and of the damnation of so many Christians.” Let us then always enliven our faith, saying: “Credo in vitam æternam.” I believe that after this life there is another which never ends. And with this thought always before our eyes, let us adopt the means of securing eternal salvation. Let us frequent the sacraments; let us make meditation every day; and let us reflect on eternal life; let us fly from dangerous occasions. And, if necessary, let us leave the world; for, to make ourselves sure of eternal life, no security can be too great.
Affections and Prayers.
There is, then, my God! no medium; I must be forever happy, or forever miserable; either in a sea of joys. or in a sea of torments; either forever with Thee in heaven, or forever separated at a distance from Thee in hell. And this hell I know for certain I have so often deserved; but I also know for certain that Thou dost pardon all who repent, and that Thou rescuest from hell all who hope in Thee. Of this Thou assurest me. He shall cry to me . . . I will deliver him, and will glorify him.14 Pardon me, then. O Lord! pardon me immediately, and deliver me from hell. O Sovereign Good! I am sorry above all things for having offended Thee. Restore to me Thy grace as soon as possible, and give me Thy holy love. Were I now in hell, I could never more love Thee; I should have to hate Thee forever. Ah, my God! what evil hast Thou done to me that I should hate Thee? Thou hast loved me unto death. Thou art worthy of infinite love. O Lord! do not permit me to be ever separated from Thee. I love Thee, and will always love Thee. Who shall separate me from the charity of Christ?15 Ah, my Jesus! sin alone can separate me from Thee. Ah! through the blood which Thou didst shed for me, do not permit me to be ever separated from Thee. Strike me dead, rather than suffer me to lose Thy love. “Ne permittas me separari a te.” Mary, my queen and my Mother! assist me by thy prayers; obtain for me death and a thousand deaths, rather than that I should be separated from the love of thy Son.

1“Non habemus hic manentem civitatem, sed futuram inquirimus.” – Heb. xiii. 14.
2Hospes es, transis et vides.
3“Lætitia sempiterna super caput eorum.” – Isa. xxxv. 10.
4“Mille anni ante oculos tuos, tamquam dies hesterna quæ præteriit.” – Ps. lxxxix. 4.
5“Si ceciderit lignum ad austrum aut ad aquilonem, in quocumque loco ceciderit, ibi erit.” – Eccles. xi. 3.
6O infelix felicitas, quæ divitem ad æternam infelicitatem traxit! O felix infelicitas, quæ pauperem ad æternitatis felicitatem perduxit.
7Magna cogitatio.
8“Omni momento ad ostium æternitatis sto.” – De Damn. Rog. c. 10 § 3.
9“Ibit homo in domum æternitatis suæ.”
10Ante hominem vita et mors.
11“Quod placuerit ei, dabitur illi.” – Ecclus. xv. 18.
12“Ecce ego do coram vobis viam vitæ et viam mortis.” – Jer. xxi. 8.
13“Nemo vult sub spe salutis ægrotare.” – Ad Petr. De fid. c. 3.
14“Clamabit ad me . . . eripiam cum et glorificabo eum.” – Ps. xc. 15.
15“Quis ergo nos separabit a charitate Christi?” – Rom. viii. 35.


Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration XIII

The Vanity of the World.
“What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” – Matt. xvi. 26.
The Goods of this World are Useless.
An ancient philosopher called Aristippus was once shipwrecked, and lost all his goods. When he reached the shore, the people, through respect for his great learning, presented him with an equivalent of all he had lost. He wrote to his friends, exhorting them to imitate his example, and to seek only the goods which cannot be wrested from them by shipwreck. Now, our relatives and friends who are in eternity exhort us from the other world to attend only to the acquisition of goods which even death cannot take from us. Death is called the day of destruction.1 It is the day of destruction, because on that day we shall lose all the goods of this earth—its honors, riches, and pleasures. Hence, according to St. Ambrose, we cannot call the things of this life our goods, because we cannot take them with us to eternity. Our virtues alone accompany us to the next life.2
What then, says Jesus Christ, does it profit us to gain the whole world, if, at death, by losing the soul, we lose all? Ah! how many young men has this great maxim sent into the cloister! how many anchorets has it sent to the desert! and how many martyrs has it encouraged to give their life for Jesus Christ! By this maxim St. Ignatius of Loyola drew many souls to God, particularly the soul of St. Francis Xavier, who was then in Paris, attached to the things of the world. “Francis,” said the saint one day, “reflect that the world is a traitor, which promises but does not perform. And though it should fulfil all its promises, it can never content your heart. But let us grant that it did make you happy, how long will this happiness last? Can it last longer than your life; and after death what will you take with you to eternity? Where is the rich man that has ever brought with him a piece of money, or a servant to attend him? What king has ever carried with him a shred of the purple as a badge of royalty?” At these words St. Francis abandoned the world, followed St. Ignatius, and became a saint.
Solomon confessed that whatsoever his eyes desired he refused them not;3 but, after having indulged in all the pleasures of this earth, he called all the goods of the world vanity of vanities—“vanitas vanitatum.” Sister Margaret of St. Anne, a Discalced Carmelite, and daughter of the Emperor Rudolph the Second, used to say: “Of what use are kingdoms at the hour of death?” The saints tremble at the thought of the uncertainty of their eternal salvation. Father Paul Segneri trembled, and, full of terror, said to his confessor: “Father, what do you think—shall I be saved?” St. Andrew Avellino trembled, and, with a torrent of tears, said: “Who knows whether I shall be saved or lost?” St. Louis Bertrand was so much terrified by this thought, that, during the night, in a fit of terror, he sprang out of bed, saying: “Perhaps I shall be lost! And sinners, while they live in a state of damnation, sleep, and jest, and laugh!”
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, Jesus, my Redeemer! I thank Thee for making me see my folly and the evil I have done in turning my back on Thee who hast given Thy blood and Thy life for me. Thou didst not deserve to be treated by me as I have treated Thee. Behold! if death now came upon me, what should I find but sins and remorse of conscience, which would make me die with great disquietude! My Saviour! I confess that I have done evil, and committed a great error in leaving Thee, my Sovereign Good! for the miserable pleasures of this world. I am sorry from the bottom of my heart. Ah! through the sorrow which killed Thee on the Cross, give me a sorrow for my sins, which will make me weep during the remainder of my life over the injuries I have done Thee. My Jesus! pardon me; I promise to displease Thee no more, and to love Thee forever. I am not worthy of Thy love, which I have hitherto so much despised. But Thou hast said that Thou lovest him who loves Thee. I love Thee; love me, then, O Lord! I do not wish to be any longer in enmity with Thee. I renounce all the grandeurs and pleasures of the world, provided Thou lovest me. Hear me, O my God! for the love of Jesus Christ. He entreats Thee not to banish me from Thy heart. To Thee I consecrate my whole being; to Thee I consecrate my life, my pleasures, my senses, my soul, my body, my will, and my liberty. Accept me; reject not my offering, as I have deserved for having so often refused Thy friendship; cast me not away from Thy face. Most holy Virgin, my Mother, Mary! pray to Jesus for me. In thy intercession I place unbounded confidence.
The Goods of this World are Contemptible.
There is a deceitful balance in his hand.4 We must weigh things in the balance of God, and not in the deceitful balance of the world. The goods of this life are miserable goods; they do not content the heart; they soon end. My days have been swifter than a post: they have passed by as ships carrying fruits.5 The days of our life pass and fly away; and of all the pleasures of this earth, what remains? They have passed like a ship, which leaves no trace behind. As a ship that passeth through the waters, whereof, when it is gone by, the trace cannot be found.6 Ask so many of the rich and learned of the world, so many princes and emperors who are now in eternity, what they possess of all the pomps, and delights, and grandeur which they enjoyed in this life? They all answer, Nothing, nothing. “O man,” says St. Augustine, “you attend to what he had here; but attend to what he brings with him.”7 “You,” says the saint, “regard only the goods which the rich man possessed; but observe what he takes with him at death—a fetid body and a rag of a garment to rot with him.”
After death the great ones of the world are spoken of for a little while; but they are soon forgotten. Their memory hath perished with a noise.8 And if they have gone to hell, what do they do and say in that place of woe? They weep and say, What hath pride profited us, or what advantage hath the boasting of riches brought us? all those things are passed away like a shadow.9 What have our pomps and riches profited us, now that they are passed away like a shadow, and for us nothing remains but eternal torments, wailing and despair?
The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.10 How prudent are worldlings in earthly affairs! What toil do they endure in order to obtain a situation, or to acquire an estate? With what care do they attend to the preservation of bodily health! They adopt the safest means; they select the best physicians, the best remedies, and the purest air. But how careless are they about the concerns of the soul! And it is certain that health, situations, and possessions will one day end; but the soul and eternity are everlasting. What do not the unjust, the vindictive, and voluptuous endure in order to attain their wicked objects? And will they refuse to suffer anything for the soul? O God! by the light of the death-candle, at that time of truth, worldlings know and confess their folly. Then they say, Oh, that I had left the world and led a life of sanctity! Pope Leo XI said at the hour of death, It were better for me to have been porter in my convent than to be Pope.” Honorius III also said in his last illness, “It would have been better for me to have remained in the kitchen of my monastery to wash the plates than to be chosen head of the Church.” In his dying moments, Philip II, King of Spain, sent for his son, and throwing off his royal robes, showed him his breast eaten away by worms, and said to him, “Prince, behold how we die, and how the grandeurs of this world end. Oh,” he exclaimed, “that I had been a lay-brother in some religious community, and had hot been king!” He then ordered a cross to be fastened to his neck by means of a cord, and, having made all his arrangements for death, he said to his son: “I wished you to be present at this scene, that you may see how the world treats monarchs in the end. Their death is like that of the poorest peasant. In short, he who leads the most holy life is in the greatest favor with God.” This same son, who was afterward Philip III., dying at the age of forty-three years, said: “My subjects, in the sermon to be delivered at my funeral, preach nothing but this spectacle which you behold: say that to have been king serves at death but to excite regret and pain.” He then exclaimed, “Oh, that I had never been a king! Oh, that I had lived in a desert to serve God! I should now go with greater confidence to present myself at his tribunal, and should not now find myself in so much danger of being damned forever.” But these desires at the hour of death serve only to increase the anguish and despair of those who have not loved God. Then, says St. Teresa, “we should make no account of what ends with life; the true life consists in living in such a manner as not to have any reason to fear death.” If then we wish to see the true value of earthly things, let us look at them from the bed of death and say, These honors, these amusements, these revenues will one day have an end; we ought then to labor to become saints, and rich in goods which will accompany us to the other world, and which will make us content and happy for all eternity.
Affections and Prayers.
Ah. my Redeemer! Thou hast suffered so many pains and ignominies for my sake; and I have loved the pleasures and vanities of this earth to such an excess, that, for the sake of them. I have often trampled on Thy grace. But, since Thou didst not cease to seek after me when I despised Thee, I cannot, O my Jesus! fear that Thou wilt now cast me away, when I seek and love Thee with my whole heart, and am more sorry for having offended Thee than I should be for having suffered every other misfortune. O God of my soul! from this day forward I wish never to offend Thee, even by a venial fault. Make known to me what is displeasing to Thee. I will not, for any earthly good, do what I know to be offensive to Thee. Make known to me what I must do in order to please Thee. I am ready to do it. I wish to love Thee with a true love. I embrace, O Lord! all the pains and crosses which may come to me from Thy hands give me the resignation I stand in need of: here burn, here cut. Chastise me in this life, that in the next I may be able to love Thee for eternity. Mary, my Mother! to thee I recommend my soul! do not ever cease to pray to Jesus for me.
We must Work for Heaven.
The time is short: it remaineth that . . . they that use this world, be as if they used it not; for the fashion of this world passeth away.11 What is our life on this earth but a scene, which passes away and ends very soon? The fashion of this world passeth away.12 “The world,” says Cornelius à Lapide,” is like a stage; one generation passes away, another comes.” He who acts the part of a king, takes not the purple with him. Tell me, O villa, O house, how many masters have you had? When the comedy is over, the king is no longer king; the master ceases to be master. You at present are in possession of such a villa and palace; but death will come, and they will pass to other masters.
The affliction of an hour maketh one forget great delights.13 The gloomy hour of death brings to an end and makes us forget all the grandeur, nobility, and pomp of the world. Casimir, king of Poland, while he sat at a table with the nobles of his kingdom, died in the act of raising a cup to take a draught; and the scene ended for him. In seven days after his election, the Emperor Celsus was killed, and the scene closed for Celsus. Ladislaus, king of Poland, in his eighteenth year, while he was preparing for the reception of his bride, the daughter of the king of France, was suddenly seized with a violent pain, which soon deprived him of life. Couriers were instantly despatched to announce to her that the scene was over for Ladislaus, and that she might return to France. By meditating on the vanity of the world, Francis Borgia became a saint. At the sight of the Empress Isabella, who had died in the midst of worldly grandeur and in the flower of youth, he, as has been already said, resolved to give himself entirely to God. “Thus, then,” he said, “end the grandeurs and crowns of this world: I will henceforth serve a master who can never die.”
Let us endeavor to live in such a manner that what was said to the fool in the Gospel may not be said to us at the hour of death: Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee: and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?14 Hence, the Redeemer adds: So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.15 Again he tells you to acquire the riches, not of the world, but of God;—of virtues and merits, which are goods which shall remain with you for eternity in heaven. Lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither the rust nor the moth doth consume.16 Let us then labor to acquire the great treasure of divine love. “What,” says St. Augustine, “has the rich man, if he has not charity? What does the poor man want, if he has charity?”17 If a man had all the riches in the world, and has not God, he is the poorest of men. But the poor man who possesses, God, possesses all things. And who are they that possess God? He, says St. John, that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him.18
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my God! I do not wish that the devil should have any longer dominion over my soul: I wish that Thou alone be the lord and master of it. I will renounce all things in order to acquire Thy grace. I esteem it more than a thousand thrones and a thousand kingdoms. And whom shall I love but Thee, who art infinitely amiable, who art an infinite good, infinite beauty, bounty, and love? Hitherto I have abandoned Thee for the sake of creatures; this is, and always will be, to me a source of sorrow, which will pierce my heart with grief for having offended Thee, who hast loved me with so much tenderness. But since Thou hast favored me with so many graces, I can no longer bear to see myself without Thy love. O, my Lord! take possession of my whole will, and of all that I possess, and do with me what Thou pleasest. If I have hitherto been impatient under adversity, I ask pardon. O, my Lord! I will never complain of Thy arrangements; I know that they are all holy, all for my welfare. Treat me, O my God! as Thou wishest; I promise to be always content, always to thank Thee. Make me love Thee, and I ask no more. What goods, what honors, what world can I love? O God! O God! I wish only for God. Happy thou, O Mary! who didst love nothing in the world but God. Obtain for me the grace to imitate thee, at least during the remainder of my life. In thee I trust.

1“Dies perditionis.” – Deut. xxxii. 35.
2“Non nostra sunt, quæ non possumus auferre nobiscum; sola virtus comes est defunctorurn.” – in Luc. l. 7.
3“Omnia gum desideraverunt oculi mei, non negavi eis.” – Eccles. ii. 10.
4“In manu ejus statera dolosa.” – Osee, xii. 7.
5“Dies mei velociores fuerunt cursore; pertransierunt quasi naves poma portantes.” – Job, ix. 25.
6“Tanquam navis quæ pertransit fluctuantem aquam, cujus, cum præterierit, non est vestigium invenire.” – Wis. v. 10.
7“Quid hic habebat, attendis; quid secum fert, attende.” – Serm. 13.
8“Periit memoria eorum cum sonitu.” – Ps. ix. 7.
9“Quid nobis profuit superbia? aut divitiarum jactantia quid contulit nobis? transierunt omnia illa tanquam umbra.” – Wis. v. 8.
10“Filii hujus sæculi prudentiores filiis lucis sunt.” – Luke, xvi. 8.
11“Tempus breve est: qui utuntur hoc mundo, tanquam non utantur; præterit enim figura hujus mundi.” – 1 Cor. vii. 29.
12Est mundus instar scenæ: “Generatio præterit, et generatio advenit.”
13“Malitia horæ oblivionem facit luxurim magnæ.” – Ecclus. xi. 29.
14“Stulte, hac nocte animam tuam repetunt a te; quæ autem parasti, cujus erunt?” – Luke, xii. 20.
15“Sic est, qui sibi thesaurizat et non est in Deum dives.” – Ibid. 21.
16“Thesaurizate vobis thesauros in cœlo, ubi neque ærugo neque tinea demolitur.” – Matt. vi. 20.
17“Dives, si charitatem non habet, quid habet? Pauper, si charitatem habet, quid non habet?” – Serm. 112, E. B. app.
18“Qui manet in charitate, in Deo manet, et Deus in eo.” – I John, iv. 16.


Monday, 15 March 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration XII

The Importance of Salvation.
“But we entreat ye, brethren, . . . that you attend to your own business.” – I Thess. iv. 10,11.
Salvation is our own most important Affair.
The business of eternal salvation is to us the most important of all affairs; but it is also the most neglected by Christians. They are diligent, and lose no time in seeking to gain a lawsuit, or a situation of emolument. How many measures taken to attain these objects? How many means adopted? They neither eat nor sleep. And what efforts do they make to secure their eternal salvation? How do they live? To save their souls, the greater number of Christians do nothing; on the contrary, they do everything to bring their souls to perdition; they live as if death, judgment, hell, heaven, and eternity were not truths of faith, but fables invented by the poets. If a person lose a lawsuit, or a harvest crop, how great is his pain and distress of mind? With what zeal does he labor to repair the loss? If worldlings lose a horse, or a dog, with what diligence do they seek after it? But if they lose the grace of God, they sleep, and jest, and laugh. All blush at being told that they neglect their worldly affairs, but how few are ashamed to neglect the business of eternity, which is the most important of all. The worldling says that the saints were truly wise, because they sought only the salvation of their souls; and still he attends to all worldly business, but utterly neglects the concerns of the soul. Brethren, says St. Paul, let the great business of your eternal salvation be the sole object of all your care.1 This is to you the most important of all affairs. Let us then be persuaded that eternal salvation is for us the most important affair,—the only affair,—and that if once neglected it is an irreparable affair if we ever make a mistake.
It is the most important affair, because if the soul be lost, all is lost. We ought to set a higher value on the soul than on all the goods of the earth. “The soul,” says St. Chrysostom, “is more precious than the whole world!”2 To be convinced of this truth, it is enough to know that God himself has condemned his Son to death in order to save our souls. The Eternal Word has not refused to purchase them with his own blood.3 Hence a holy Father says that man appears to be of as much value as God.4 Hence Jesus Christ has asked: What exchange shall a man give for his soul?5 For God so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son.6 If then such is the value of the soul, for what earthly good shall a man exchange and lose it?
St. Philip Neri with reason could say that he who does not attend to the salvation of his soul is a fool. Were there on this earth two classes of men, one mortal and the other immortal, and were the former to see the latter seeking after the things of this world, its honors, goods, and amusements, they should certainly exclaim: O fools that you are! you have it in your power to acquire eternal riches, and do you fix your thoughts on those miserable and transitory things? Will you, for these, condemn yourselves, to an eternity of torments in the next life? Leave us, for whom all shall end at death, to seek after these earthly goods. But no; we are all immortal. How then does it happen that so many lose their souls for the miserable pleasures of this life? How does it come to pass, says Salvian, that Christians believe in judgment, hell, and eternity, and still live as if they feared them not?
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my God! how have I spent so many years, which Thou hast given me in order to secure my eternal salvation? Thou, my Redeemer, hast purchased my soul with Thy blood, and hast consigned it to me that I might attend to its salvation; and I have labored only for its perdition, by offending Thee who hast loved me so tenderly. I thank Thee for giving me time to be able to repair the great loss which I have suffered. I have lost my soul and Thy grace. Lord! I am sorry with my whole heart for my past offences, and I resolve, henceforth, to lose everything, even my life, rather than forfeit Thy friendship. I love Thee above all things, and I resolve always to love Thee, my Sovereign Good! who art worthy of infinite love. Assist me, my Jesus, that this purpose may not be like my past resolutions, to which I have been always unfaithful. Take me out of life rather than suffer me ever again to offend Thee, or ever to cease to love Thee. O Mary, my hope, after Jesus! save me by obtaining for me holy perseverance.
Salvation is our only Affair.
The affair of eternal salvation is not only the most important, but it is the only affair to which we have to attend in this life. One thing is necessary.7 St. Bernard weeps over the blindness of Christians, who call the occupations of children trifles, and their own employments business. If the amusements of children be trifles, the employments of men are still greater follies. What, says the Redeemer, will it profit us to gain the whole world if we lose our souls?8 My brother, if you save your soul, it will do you no harm to have lived here in poverty, afflictions, and contempt; for then you will have no more sorrows, and you will be happy for all eternity. But if you lose your soul, what will it profit you, in hell, to have indulged in all the amusements of the world, and to have enjoyed its riches and honors? If the soul be lost, amusements, riches, and honors, are lost—all is lost.
What answer will you give on the day of account? Were a king to send an ambassador to a city to transact some important business, and were the legate, instead of attending to the charge intrusted to him, to spend all his time in banquets, comedies, and festivities, and thus injure the rights of his master, what account would the sovereign demand of him at his return? But, O God! how strict must be the account which the Lord will exact of him who, after being placed in this world, not to indulge in amusements, nor to acquire wealth and dignity, but to save his soul, has attended to everything except to his own salvation? Worldlings think of the present, but not of the future. St. Philip Neri conversing one day in Rome with Francis Zazzera, a young man of talent, who was attached to the world, said to him: “You will realize a great fortune; you will be a prelate, afterward, perhaps, a cardinal, and perhaps even Pope. But what must follow? what must follow? Go,” said the saint, “and meditate on these last words.” Francis went home, and after reflecting on the words what must follow? what must follow? he abandoned his secular pursuits, left the world, entered into the Congregation of St. Philip, and began to attend only to God.
It is our only affair, because we have but one soul. A prince asked, through his ambassador, a favor of Benedict XII., which could not be granted without sin. In answer, the Pope said—“Tell the prince that if I had two souls, I might, perhaps, lose one of them for him, and reserve the other for myself; but since I have but one, I cannot and will not lose it.” St. Francis Xavier used to say that there is but one good and one evil in the world: the former consists in the salvation of the soul, the latter in its damnation. St. Teresa used frequently to say to her nuns—“One soul, one eternity.” As if she said—One soul; if this be lost, all is lost; one eternity—the soul, if lost once, is lost forever. Hence David said—One thing have I asked of the Lord: this I will seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord.9 Lord, I ask but one favor—save my soul, and I ask nothing else.
With fear and trembling work out your salvation.10 He that does not fear and tremble for his salvation will not be saved: to save the soul, it is necessary to labor, and to do violence to nature. The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.11 To obtain eternal glory, our life must be found at death conformable to the life of Jesus Christ. Hence we must be careful, on the one hand, to avoid the occasions of sin; and, on the other, to adopt the means necessary for the attainment of eternal life. All would wish to be saved without trouble. “The devil,” says St. Augustine, “sleeps not, but labors strenuously for your perdition: and will you slumber when your eternal happiness is at stake?”12
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my God! I thank Thee, for making me now remain at Thy feet and not in hell, which I have so often deserved. But of what use would the life which Thou hast preserved be to me, should I continue to live without Thy grace. Ah! may this never be! I have turned my back upon Thee; I have lost Thee, O my Sovereign Good! I am sorry for it with my whole heart. Oh, that I had died a thousand times, rather than have offended Thee! I have lost Thee; but the prophet tells me that Thou art all goodness, and that Thou art easily found by the soul that seeks Thee. If I have hitherto fled away from Thee, I now seek Thee, and seek nothing but Thee. I love Thee with all the affections of my heart. Accept me. Do not disdain to give Thy love to a soul that has at one time despised Thee. Teach me what I must do in order to please Thee; I am ready and willing to do it. Ah, my Jesus! save this soul for which Thou hast given Thy blood and Thy life; and, in order to save me, give me the grace always to love Thee in this and in the next life. This grace I hope for through Thy merits. For this I also hope, O Mary! through thy intercession.
A Failure in Saving One’s Soul is an Irremediable Evil.
Important affair! only affair! irreparable affair! No error, says St. Eucherius, can be compared with the error of neglecting eternal salvation. For all other errors there is a remedy: if you lose property in one way, you may recover it in another; if you lose a situation, there may be some means of afterwards regaining it; if you soon lose your life, provided your soul be saved, all is safe. But if you lose your soul the loss is irreparable. Death happens but once; the soul, if once lost, is lost forever. Nothing remains but to weep for eternity with the other miserable wretches in hell, where their greatest torment consists in the conviction, that the time of repairing their ruin is gone forever. The summer is over, and we are not saved.13 Ask the worldly wise who are now in the pit of fire, what are their present sentiments; ask them if, now that they are condemned to that eternal prison, they feel happy at having made a fortune in this life. Listen to their wailing and lamentation: We have erred.14 But of what use is it to know their error, now that there is no remedy for their eternal damnation? Should a man who could have preserved his palace at a small expense find it in ruins, how great would be his pain in reflecting on his own negligence, and on the impossibility of repairing the evil!
The greatest torment of the damned consists in the thought of having lost their soul, and of being damned through their own fault. Destruction is thy own, O Israel; thy help is only in me.15 St. Teresa says that if a person loses through his own fault a ring or even a trifle, his peace is disturbed; he neither eats nor sleeps. O God! how great will be the torture of the damned Christian when, on entering hell and finding himself shut up in that dungeon of torments, he reflects on his misfortune, and sees that for all eternity there will be no relief, no mitigation of pain! He will say, “I have lost my soul, paradise, and God; I have lost all forever! And why? Through my own fault.”
But you will say—If I commit this sin, why should I not expect to escape damnation? I may still be saved. Yes; but you may also be damned: and it is more likely that you will be lost, for the Scriptures menace eternal woes to all obstinate traitors, such as you are in your present dispositions. Woe to you, apostate children, saith the Lord.16 Woe to them, for they have departed from me.17 By committing this sin, you at least expose your eternal salvation to great danger. And is this an affair to be exposed to risk? There is not question of a house, of a villa, or of a situation: there is question, says St. John Chrysostom, of being sent into an eternity of torments, and of losing an eternity of glory. And will you risk on a perhaps this business of sovereign importance?
You say: Perhaps I shall not be lost: I hope that God will hereafter pardon me. But what happens in the mean time? You condemn yourself to hell. Tell me, would you cast yourself into a deep pool of water, saying, perhaps I shall not be drowned? Surely you would not: why then should you trust your eternal salvation to such a groundless hope, to a perhaps? Oh! how many has this accursed hope sent to hell! Do you not know that the hope of those who are obstinately determined to commit sin is not hope, but an illusion and presumption which move God not to mercy but to greater wrath? If you say that you are now unable to resist the temptation and passion to whose domination you submit, how will you resist them hereafter, when, by yielding to sin, your strength will not be increased, but greatly diminished? For, on the one hand, your own malice will render you more blind and obdurate; and, on the other, the divine helps will be withheld. Do you expect that the more you multiply sins and insults against God, the more abundantly he will pour upon you his lights and graces?
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my Jesus! remind me always of the death Thou hast suffered for me, and give me confidence. I tremble lest the devil should make me despair at death by bringing before my view the many acts of treason I have committed against Thee. How many promises have I made never more to offend Thee after the light Thou hast given me and, after all my promises, I have, with the hope of pardon, again turned my back upon Thee. Then, have I insulted Thee because Thou didst not chastise me? My Redeemer! give me a great sorrow for my sins before I leave this world. I am sorry, O Sovereign Good! for having offended Thee. I promised to die a thousand times rather than abandon Thee. But make me in the mean time feel that Thou hast said to me what Thou didst say to Magdalene—Thy sins are forgiven thee—by giving me, before death, a great sorrow for all my iniquities, otherwise I fear my death will be troubled and unhappy. Be not Thou a terror to me; Thou art my hope in the day of affliction.18 O my crucified Jesus! be not a terror to me in my last moments. If I die before I have wept over my sins and have loved Thee, Thy wounds and Thy blood will inspire me with fear rather than with confidence. I do not ask of Thee consolations and earthly goods during the remainder of my life; I ask of Thee sorrow and love. O my dear Saviour! hear my prayer for the sake of that love which made Thee offer Thy life in sacrifice for me on Calvary. Mary, my Mother! obtain for me these graces, along with holy perseverance till death.

1Rogamus vos . . . ut vestrum negotium agatis.
2“Anima est toto mundo pretiosior.” – In. 1 Cor. hom. 3.
3“Empti enim estis pretio magno.” – 1 Cor. vi. 20.
4“Tam copioso munere humana redemptio agitur, ut homo Deum valere videatur.” – De dilig. D. c. 6.
5“Quam dabit homo commutationem pro anima sua?” – Matt. xvi. 26.
6“Sic Deus dilexit mundum. ut Filium suurn unigertitum claret.” – John, iii. i6.
7“Porro unum est necessarium.” – Luke, x. 42.
8“Quid prodest homini, si mundum universum lucretur, animæ vero sum detrimentum patiatur?” – Matt. xvi. 26.
9“Unam petii a Domino, hanc requiram, ut inhabitem in domo Domini.” – Ps. xxvi. 4.
10“Cum metu et tremore vestram salutem operamini.” – Phil. ii. 12.
11“Regnum cœlorum vim patitur et violenti rapiunt illud.” – Matt. xi. 12.
12“Vigilat hostis, dormis tu?” – In Ps. 65.
13“Finita est æstas, et nos salvati non sumus.” – Jer. viii, 20.
14“Ergo erravimus.” – Wis. v. 6.
15“Perditio tua, Israel; tantummodo in me auxilium tuum.” – Osee, xiii. 9.
16“Væ, filii desertores, dicit Dominus.” – Isa. xxx. 1.
17“Væ eis, quoniam recesserunt.” – Osee, vii. 13.
18“Non sis tu mihi formidini, spes rnea tu in die afflictionis.” – Jer. xvii. 17.


Thursday, 4 March 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration XI

Value of Time.
“Son, observe the time.” – Ecclus. iv. 23.
Time is a Treasure of the Earth.
Son, says the Holy Ghost, be careful to preserve time, which is the greatest and the most precious gift which God can bestow upon you in this life. The very pagans knew the value of time. Seneca said that “no price is an equivalent for it.”1 But the saints have understood its value still better. According to St. Bernardine of Sienna, a moment of time is of as much value as God; because in each moment a man can, by acts of contrition or of love, acquire the grace of God and eternal glory.2
Time is a treasure which is found only in this life; it is not found in the next, either in hell or in heaven. In hell the damned exclaim with tears: Oh! that an hour was given to us!3 They would pay any price for an hour of time, in which they might repair their ruin: but this hour they will never have. In heaven there is no weeping; but, were the saints capable of weeping, all their tears would arise from the thought of having lost the time in which they could have acquired greater glory, and from the conviction that this time will never again be given to them. A deceased Benedictine nun appeared in glory to a certain person, and said that she was perfectly happy, but that if she could desire anything, it would be to return to life, and to suffer pains and privations in order to merit an increase of glory. She added, that, for the glory which corresponds to a single Ave Maria, she would be content to endure till the day of judgment the painful illness which caused her death.
My brother, how do you spend your time? Why do you always defer till to-morrow what you can do to-day? Remember that the time which is past is no longer yours: the future is not under your control: you have only the present for the performance of good works. “Why, O miserable man,” says St. Bernard, do you presume on the future, as if the Father had placed time in your power?”4 St. Augustine asks: “How can you, who are not sure of an hour, promise yourself to-morrow?”5 If then, says St. Teresa, you are not prepared for death today, tremble lest you die an unhappy death.
Affections and Prayers.
O my God! I thank Thee for the time which Thou givest me to repair the disorders of my past life, Were I to die at this moment, the remembrance of the time I have lost should be one of my greatest torments. Ah, my Lord! Thou hast given me time to love Thee, and I have spent it in offending Thee. I deserve to be sent to hell from the first moment in which I turned my back upon Thee; but Thou hast called me to repentance, and hast pardoned me. I promised to offend Thee no more; but how often have I returned to sin? how often hast Thou pardoned my ungrateful relapses? Blessed forever be Thy mercy! If It were not infinite, how couldst Thou have had so much patience with me? Who could have borne with me so long? Oh! how sorry do I feel for having offended so good a God! My Saviour! the patience alone with which Thou didst wait for me ought to enamour me of Thee. Ah! do not suffer me to live any longer ungrateful to the love Thou hast had for me. Detach me from every creature, and draw me entirely to Thyself. O my God! I will no longer dissipate the time Thou givest me to repair the evil that I have done; I will spend it all in serving and loving Thee. Give me holy perseverance. I love Thee, O infinite Goodness, and hope to love Thee for eternity. I thank thee, O Mary! by thy advocacy thou hast obtained for me this time which is given to me. Assist me now, and obtain for me the grace to spend it all in loving thy Son, my Redeemer, and in loving thee, my queen and my mother.
Neglect of Time.
There is nothing more precious than time; but there is nothing less esteemed and more despised by men of the world. This is what St. Bernard deplores when he says: “Nothing is more precious than time, but nothing is regarded more cheaply.”6 The same saint adds: “The days of salvation pass away, and no one reflects that the day which has passed away from him can never return.”7 You will see a gambler spend nights and days in play. If you ask him what he is doing, his answer is: I am passing the time. You will see others standing several hours in the street, looking at those who pass by, and speaking on obscene or on useless subjects. If you ask them what they are doing, they will say: We are passing the time. Poor blind sinners! who lose so many days; but days which never return.
O time despised during life! you will be ardently desired by worldlings at the hour of death. They will then wish for another year, another month, another day; but they will not obtain it: they will then be told that time shall be no longer. How much would they then pay for another week, or another day, to settle the accounts of their conscience? To obtain a single hour, they would, says St. Laurence Justinian, give all their wealth and worldly possessions.8 But this hour shall not be given. The assisting priest shall say to the dying sinner: Hasten, hasten your departure from this world; for your time is no more.
The prophet exhorts us to remember God, and to procure his friendship, before the light fails. Remember Thy Creator . . . before the sun and the light be darkened.9 How great the distress and misery of a traveler who, when the night has come, perceives that he has missed the way, and that there is no time to correct the mistake. Such at death will be the anguish of the sinner who has lived many years in the world, and has not spent them for God. The night cometh, when no man can work.10 For him, death shall be the night in which he will be able to do nothing. He hath called against me the time.11 Conscience will then remind the worldling of all the time that God gave him, and that he has spent in the destruction of his soul; of all the calls and graces that he has received from God for his sanctification, and that he has voluntarily abused. The sinner will then see that the way of salvation is closed forever. Hence he will weep and say: O fool that I have been! O time lost! O life misspent! O lost years, in which I could have, but have not, become a saint! And now the time of salvation is gone forever. But, of what use are these sighs and lamentations, when the scene is about to close,—the lamp on the point of being extinguished,—and when the dying sinner has reached that awful moment on which eternity depends?
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my Jesus! Thou hast spent Thy whole life for the salvation of my soul. There has not been a single moment of Thy life in which Thou hast not offered Thyself to the eternal Father to obtain for me pardon and eternal glory, I have been so many years in the world, and how many of them have I hitherto spent for Thee? Ah! all that I remember to have done produces remorse of conscience. The evil has been great, the good very little, and all full of imperfections and tepidity, of self-love and distractions. Ah, my Redeemer! all this has arisen from my forgetfulness of what Thou hast done for me. I have forgotten Thee, but Thou hast not forgotten me; when I fled from Thee, Thou didst follow me, and call me so often to Thy love. Behold me, O Jesus! I will resist no longer. Shall I wait till Thou abandon me? I am sorry, O Sovereign Good! for having separated myself from Thee by sin. I love Thee, O infinite Goodness! worthy of infinite love. Ah! do not permit me ever again to lose this time, which Thou in Thy mercy givest me. Ah! remind me always, O my beloved Saviour! of the love Thou hast borne me, and of the pains Thou hast endured for me. Make me forget all things, that, during the remainder of my life, I may think only of loving and pleasing Thee. I love Thee, my Jesus, my love, my all! I promise, whenever Thou remindest me, to make acts of love. Give me holy perseverance. I place all my confidence in the merits of Thy blood. I also trust in thy intercession, O my dear Mother, Mary!
We must Profit by the Time.
Walk whilst you have light.12 We must walk in the way of the Lord during life, now that we have light; for, at the hour of death this light is taken away. Death is not the time for preparing, but for finding ourselves prepared. Be ye ready. At the hour of death we can do nothing: what is then done is done. O God! were a person told that in a short time a trial should take place, on which would depend his life and his entire property, with what haste would he seek an able counsel to plead his cause! how little time would he lose in adopting every means of securing a favorable result! And what are we doing? We know for certain that the most important of all causes—the affair of eternal salvation—will soon be decided; the decision may take place every hour, and still we lose time.
Some may say: I am young; I will hereafter give myself to God. But remember that, as the Gospel remarks, the Lord cursed the fig-tree the first time he found it without fruit, although the season for figs had not arrived. By this Jesus Christ wished to signify that men should at all times, even in youth, bring forth fruits of good works; otherwise they will be accursed, and will never more bring forth fruit. May no man hereafter eat fruit of thee any more forever.13 Such the malediction of the Redeemer on the fruitless fig-tree, such is his malediction against all who resist his calls. Satan regards the whole time of our life as short, and, therefore, in tempting us he loses not a moment. The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time.14 Then the devil loses no time in seeking our perdition; and shall we lose the time given to us to secure our salvation?
Some will say, What evil am I doing? O God, is it not an evil to lose time in gaming, in useless conversations, which are unprofitable to the soul? Does God give you time, that you may squander it? No: the Holy Ghost says, Defraud not thyself of the good day, and let not the part of a good gift overpass thee.15 The workmen mentioned by St. Matthew, though they did no evil, but only lost time, were rebuked by the master of the vineyard. Why stand ye here all the day idle?16 On the day of judgment Jesus Christ will demand an account of every idle word. All the time that is not spent for God is lost time. “Believe,” says St. Bernard, “that you have lost all the time in which you have not thought of God.”17 Hence the Holy Ghost says, Whatsoever thy hand is able to do, do it earnestly, for neither work nor reason shall be in hell, whither thou art hastening.18 The Venerable Sister Jane of the Most Holy Trinity, of the Order of St. Teresa, used to say that, in the lives of the saints, there is no to-morrow. To-morrow is found in the lives of sinners, who always say, Hereafter, hereafter; and in this state they continue till death. Behold, now is the acceptable time.19 To-day, if you shall hear his voice, harden nor your hearts.20 If God call you to-day to do good, do it; for to-morrow it may happen that for you time will be no more, or that God will call you no more.
If you have hitherto spent the time in offending God, endeavor, like King Ezechias, to weep, during the remainder of your life, over your misspent years. I will recount to Thee all my years in the bitterness of my soul.21 God spares your life, that you may repair the time you have lost.22 In explaining this passage, St. Anselm says: “You will redeem the time if you do what you have neglected to do.”23 Of St. Paul, St. Jerome says that, though the last of the apostles, he was, on account of his great labors after he was called, the first in merits. Let us reflect that at each moment of time we may acquire new treasures of eternal riches. Were all the land round which you could walk, or all the money which you could count in a day, promised to you, would you not hasten to walk over the ground, or to count the money? At each moment you can acquire eternal treasures: will you, notwithstanding, squander your time? Say not what you can do to-day you will be able to do to-morrow; for this day will then be lost, and never return. When his companions spoke of the world, St. Francis Borgia conversed with God by holy affections; and so recollected was he, that when his opinion was asked on the subject of conversation, he knew not what to answer. Being corrected for this, he said: “I would rather be regarded stupid and unlearned, than lose time.”
Affections and Prayers.
No, my God, I will no longer lose the time which Thou in Thy mercy givest me. I should at this hour be in hell weeping without fruit. I thank Thee for having preserved my life: I wish during the remainder of my days to live only for Thee. Were I now in hell I should weep in despair, and without profit: I will now bewail the offences I have offered to Thee: and if I weep over them, I know for certain that Thou wilt pardon me. Of this the prophet assures me: Weeping, thou shalt not weep; He will surely have pity on thee.24 Were I in hell, I could never more love Thee; and now I love Thee, and hope always to love Thee. Were I in hell, I could ask no more graces; but now I hear Thee say: Ask, and ye shall receive. Since, then, I still have time to ask Thy graces, O God of my soul! I ask two graces: give me perseverance in Thy grace: give me Thy love; and then do with me what Thou pleasest; grant that in all the remaining moments of my life I may recommend myself to Thee, saying: Lord! assist me; have mercy on me; grant that I may never more offend Thee; make me love Thee. Most Holy Mary, my Mother! obtain for me the grace always to recommend myself to God, and to ask him for perseverance and for his holy love.

1“Nullum temporis pretium.” – De Brev. vit. c. 8.
2“Modico tempore potest homo lucrari gratiam et gloriam. Tempus tantum valet, quantum Deus, quippe tempore bene consumpto comparatur Deus.”
3“O,. si daretur hora!”
4“Quid de futuro, miser, præsumis, tamquam Pater tempora in tua posuerit potestate?” – De Cont. Mund. c. 16.
5Diem tenes, qui horam non tenes?
6Nihil pretiosius tempore sed nihil vilius æstimatur.
7Transeunt dies salutis, et nemo recogitat: nemo sibi non reditura momenta periisse causatur.” – De Cont. mundi, c. 16.
8“Mundi substantiam, honorem, voluptates, pro unius horæ spatio, commutarent.” – Dt Vit. sol. c. 10.
9“Memento Creatoris tui . . . antequam tenebrescat sol et lumen.” – Eccles. xii. 1.
10“Venit nox quando nemo potest operari.” – John, ix. 4.
11“Vocavit adversum me tempus.” – Lament. i. 15.
12Ambulate dum lucem habetis.” – John, xii. 35.
13“Jam non amplius in æternurn ex te fructum quisquam manducet.” – Mark, xi. 14.
14“Descendit diabolus ad vos habens iram magnam, sciens quod modicum tempus habet.” – Apoc, xii. 12.
15“Particula boni doni non te prxtereat.” – Ecclus. xiv. 14.
16“Quid hic statis iota die otiosi?” – Matt. xx. 6.
17Omne tempus in quo de Deo non cogitas, hoc te computes perdidisse.” – Medit., c. 6.
18“Quodcumque facere potest manus tua, instanter operate; quia nec opus, nec ratio . . . erunt apud inferos quo tu properas.” – Eccles. ix. 10.
19“Ecce nunc tempus acceptabile.” – 2 Cor. vi. 2.
20“Hodie si vocem ejus audieritis, nolite obdurare corda vestra.” – Ps. xciv. 8.
21“Recogitabo tibi omnes annos meos in amaritudine animæ meæ.” – Isa. xxxviii. 15.
22“Redimentes tempus quoniam dies mali sunt.” – Eph. v. 16.
23Tempus redimes, si, quæ facere neglexisti, facis.
24“Plorans nequaquam plorabis, miserans miserebitur tui.” – Isa. xxx. 19.


Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration X

Means of Preparing for Death.
“Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.” – Eccl. vii. 40.
Not to Wait till the Last Moment.
All confess that they must die, and die only once, and that nothing is of greater importance than to die well; because on death depends whether, we shall be forever in bliss or forever in despair. All know that our eternal happiness or our eternal unhappiness depends on leading a good or a bad life. How then does it happen that the greater part of Christians live as if they were never to die, or as if to die well or ill were of little moment! They live in sin because they do not think of death. Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.1 We must be persuaded that the hour of death is not fit for settling the accounts of the soul, and securing the great affair of eternal salvation. In worldly matters prudent men take measures in due time to secure temporal gain—to obtain a situation of emolument. To preserve or restore bodily health the necessary remedies are not deferred a single moment. What would you say of the man who should put off his preparation for a trial on which his life depended till the day of trial arrived? Would you not stigmatize as a fool the general who should not begin to lay in a supply of provisions and arms till the city is besieged? Would it not be folly in a pilot to neglect till the time of the tempest, to provide the vessel with an anchor and a helm? Such precisely is the folly of the Christian who neglects to tranquillize his conscience till death arrives.
When sudden calamity shall fall on you, and destruction, as a tempest, then shall they call upon me, and I will not hear. . . . Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way.2 The time of death is a time of storm and confusion. At that awful hour sinners call on God for assistance; but they invoke his aid through the fear of hell, which they see at hand, and not with true contrition of heart. It is for this reason that God is deaf to their cry; it is for this reason also that they will then taste the fruit of their wicked life. What they have sown they shall reap.3 Ah! it will not then be enough to receive the sacraments; it is necessary at death to hate sin, and to love God above all things. But how can he, then, hate forbidden pleasures, who has loved them till that moment? How can he love God above all things, who has till then loved creatures more than he has loved God?
The Lord called the virgins foolish who wished to prepare their lamps when the bridegroom was nigh. All have a horror of a sudden death, because there is no time to settle the accounts of conscience. All confess that the saints have been truly wise, because they prepared for death during life. And what are we doing? Shall we expose ourselves to the danger of preparing for death when it arrives? We ought to do at present what we shall then wish to have done. Oh! what pain will then arise from the remembrance of time lost, and still more from the remembrance of time spent in sin: time given by God to merit eternal life but now past, and never to return! What anguish will the sinner feel when he shall be told: You can be steward no longer!4 There is no more time for doing penance, for frequenting the sacraments, for hearing sermons, for visiting Jesus Christ in the Holy Sacrament, or for prayer. What is done is done. To make a good confession, to remove several grievous scruples, and thus tranquillize the conscience, would require a better state of mind and time more free from confusion and agitation. But time will be no more.5
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my God! had I died on one of the nights known to Thee, where should I be at present? I thank Thee for having waited for me; I thank Thee for all those moments which I should have spent in hell from the first moment that I offended Thee. Ah! give me light, and make me sensible of the great evil I have done Thee in voluntarily losing Thy grace, which Thou didst merit for me by the sacrifice of Thy life on the cross. Ah my Jesus, pardon me: I am sorry from the bottom of my heart, and above all things, for having despised Thee, who art infinite goodness. Ah! assist me, O my Saviour! that I may never lose Thee again. Alas, my Lord! if I return again to sin, after so many lights and graces which Thou hast bestowed upon me, I should deserve a hell to be made on purpose for myself. Through the merits of that blood which Thou hast shed for my sake, do not permit me ever more to offend Thee. Give me holy perseverance, give me Thy love. I love Thee, and I wilt never cease to love Thee till death. My God, have mercy on me for the love of Jesus Christ. O Mary, my hope! do thou too have pity on me; recommend me to God: thy recommendations are never rejected by that God who loves thee so tenderly.
Put Our Conscience in a Good State, and Regulate Our Lives.
Brother, since it is certain that you will die, go as soon as possible to the foot of the crucifix; thank your crucified Redeemer for the time which in his mercy he gives you to settle the affairs of your conscience; and then review all the irregularities of your past life, particularly of your youth. Cast a glance at the commandments of God: examine yourself on the duties of the state of life in which you have lived, and on the society you have frequented: mark down in writing the sins you have committed; make a general confession of your whole life; if you have not as yet made one. Oh! how much does a general confession contribute to regularity of life in a Christian! Consider that you have to settle accounts for eternity; and take care to adjust them as if you were on the point of rendering these accounts to Jesus Christ at judgment. Banish from your heart every sinful affection, and every sentiment of rancor; remove every ground of scruple on account of the injury done to the property or character of others, or of scanda1 to your neighbor; and resolve to fly from all those occasions in which you should be in danger of losing God. Remember that what now seems difficult will appear impossible at the hour of death.
It is still more important for you to resolve to practise the means of preserving your soul in the grace of God. These means are,—hearing Mass every day, the meditation on the eternal truths, the frequentation of the sacraments of penance and Eucharist at least every eight days, the visit every day to the Most Holy Sacrament, and to an image of the divine Mother, attendance at her confraternity, spiritual reading, examination of conscience every evening, some special devotion to the Blessed Virgin, along with fasting every Saturday in her honor. Above all, resolve to recommend yourself frequently to God and to the Blessed Virgin, and frequently to invoke, in the time of temptations, the sacred names of Jesus and Mary. These are the names by which you will be able to secure a happy death, and to obtain eternal life.
The practice of these means will be for you a great sign of your predestination. And as to the past, trust in the blood of Jesus Christ, who now gives you these lights, because he desires your salvation; and trust in the intercession of Mary, who obtains these lights for you. Oh! if you adopt this mode of life; and place great confidence in Jesus and Mary, what aid will you receive from God, and what strength will your soul acquire! Dearly beloved reader, give yourself then instantly to God, who invites you, and begin to enjoy that peace of which you have been hitherto deprived through your own fault. And what greater peace can a soul enjoy than to be able to say, in going to rest at night: Should death come this night, I hope to die in the grace of God! How happy the man who, amid the terrors of thunder or of, earthquakes, is prepared to accept death with resignation, should God be pleased to send it!
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my Lord! with what fervor do I thank Thee for the light which Thou gavest me! I have so often abandoned Thee and turned my back upon Thee; but Thou hast not abandoned me. Hadst Thou abandoned me I should now be blind, as I have hitherto wished to be; I should be obstinate In my sins, and should not have the desire either to renounce sin or to love Thee. I now feel a great sorrow for having offended Thee, a great desire to be in the state of grace. I feel a hatred of these accursed delights which have made me lose Thy friendship. These sentiments are all graces which come from thee, and make me hope that Thou wilt pardon and save me. Since, then; after all my sins, Thou hast not abandoned me—since Thou now wishest to save me, behold, O Lord! I give myself entirely to Thee. I am sorry, above all things, for having offended Thee; and I propose to lose life a thousand times rather than forfeit Thy grace. I love Thee, O my sovereign Good! I love Thee, O my Jesus! who hast died for me; and I hope in Thy blood, that Thou wilt not permit me to be ever again separated from Thee. O my Jesus! I will never more lose Thee. I wish to love Thee always during life. I wish to love Thee at death. I wish to love Thee for all eternity. Preserve me then, O Lord! at all times, and increase my love for Thee. This favor I ask through Thy merits. Mary, my hope! pray to Jesus for me.
We must Detach Ourselves from the World.
It is also necessary to endeavor to be at all times in the state in which we desire to be at death. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.6 St. Ambrose says that they die well who, at the hour of death, are found dead to the world; that is, detached from the goods from which death will separate us by force. We ought then, from this moment, to accept the spoliation of our goods, and the separation from relatives and from everything in this world. Unless we do it voluntarily during life, we shall have to do it through necessity at death, but with extreme pain and great danger of eternal perdition. Hence St. Augustine says, that to settle during life all temporal matters, and dispose by will of all the goods we shall have to bequeath, contribute greatly to a tranquil death; because when all worldly affairs are already adjusted, the soul may be entirely occupied in uniting itself to God. At that hour, we should think and speak only of God and of Paradise. These last moments are too precious to be squandered in earthly thoughts. At death is completed the crown of the elect; for it is then, perhaps, that they reap the greatest harvest of merits, by embracing, with resignation and love, death and all its pains.
But the Christian who has not been in the habit of exciting these sentiments during life, will not have them at the hour of death. Hence some devout souls, with great spiritual profit to themselves, are accustomed to renew every month, after being at confession and Communion, the Protestation of death along with the Christian acts, imagining themselves at the point of death, and to be near their departure from this world.7 Unless you do this during life you will find it very difficult to do it at death. In her last illness, that great servant of God, Sister Catharine of St. Alberts, of the order of St. Teresa, sent forth a sigh, and said, “Sisters, I do not sigh through fear of death, for I have lived for twenty-five years in expectation of it; but I sigh at the sight of so many deluded Christians, who spend their life in sin, and reduce themselves to the necessity of making peace with God at death, when I can scarcely pronounce the name of Jesus.”
Examine then, O my brother, if you are now attached to anything on this earth, to any person, to any honor, to your house, to your money, to conversations or amusements; and reflect that you are not immortal. You must one day, and perhaps very soon, take leave of them all. Why then do you cherish any attachment to them, and thus expose yourself to the risk of an unhappy death? Offer from this moment all to God: tell him you are ready to give up all things whenever he pleases to deprive you of them. If you wish to die with resignation you must from this moment resign yourself to all the contradictions and adversities which may happen to you, and must divest yourself of all affections to earthly things. Imagine yourself on the bed of death, and you will despise all things in this world. “He,” says Jerome, “who always thinks that he is to die, easily despises all things.”8
If you have not yet chosen a state of life, make choice of that state of life which at death you will wish to have selected, and which will make you die with greater peace. If you have already made choice of a state of life, do now what at death you will wish to have done in that stare. Spend every day as if it were the last of your life; and perform every action, every exercise of prayer, make every confession and Communion, as if they were the last of your life. Imagine yourself every hour at the point of death, stretched on a bed, and that you hear that Proficiscere de hoc mundo which announces your departure from this world. Oh! how powerfully will this thought assist you to walk in the way of God, and to detach your heart from this earth! Blessed is that servant whom, when his Lord shall come, he shall find him so doing.9 He who expects death every hour will die well, though death should come suddenly upon him.
Affections and Prayers.
Every Christian ought to be prepared to say at the moment the news of death is announced to him: Then, my God, only a few hours remain; during the short remainder of the present life. I wish to love Thee to the utmost of my power, that I may love Thee more perfectly in heaven. But little remains for me to offer to Thee. I offer Thee these pains, and the sacrifice of my life in union with the sacrifice which Jesus Christ offered for me on the Cross. Lord! the pains which I suffer are few and light compared with what I have deserved; such as they are, I embrace them as a mark of the love which I bear Thee. Provided I am to love Thee for eternity, I resign myself to all the punishments which Thou wishest to send me in this or the next life. Chastise me as much as Thou pleasest, but do not deprive me of Thy love. I know that, on account of having so often despised Thy love, I deserved never more to love Thee; but Thou canst not reject a penitent soul. I am sorry, O Sovereign Good! for having offended Thee. I love Thee with my whole heart, and place all my trust in Thee. Thy death, O my Redeemer! is my hope. To Thy wounded hands I recommend my soul. Into Thy hands I commend my spirit: Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, the God of Truth.10 O my Jesus, Thou hast given Thy blood for my salvation: do not suffer me to be separated from Thee. I love Thee, O eternal God, and hope to love Thee for eternity. Mary, my Mother, assist me at the awful moment of death. To thee I now consign my spirit; to thee I recommend myself. Deliver me from hell.

1“In omnibus operibus tuis memorare novissima tua, et in æternum non peccabis.” – Ecclus. vii. 40.
2“Cum . . . interitus quasi tempestas ingruerit . . ., tunc invocabunt me, et non exaudiam . . .; comedent fructus vim suæ.” – Prov. i. 27.
3“Quæ seminaverit homo, hæc et metet. “ – Gal. vi. 8.
4“Jam non poteris amplius villicare.” – Luke, xvi. 2.
5“Tempus non erit amplius.” – Apoc. x. 6.
6“Beati mortui qui in Domino moriuntur.” – Apoc. xiv. 13.
7The formula of this PROTESTATION is to be found in the post "A Christian’s Rule of Life - Chapter 4."
8“Facile contemnit omnia, qui se semper cogitat esse moriturum.” – Ep. ad Paulin.
9“Beatus ille servus, quem, cum venerit Dominus ejus, invenerit sic facientem.” – Matt. xxiv. 46.
10“In manus tuas commendo, spiritum meum; redemisti me, Domine Deus veritatis.” – Ps. xxx. 6.


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