Thursday, 29 July 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration XXVIII

The Remorse of the Damned.
“Their worm dieth not.” – Mark, ix. 47.
The Little for which the Damned are Lost.
According to St. Thomas, this worm which dieth not is to be understood of remorse of conscience, which will eternally torment the damned in hell. The remorse which will gnaw the hearts of the reprobate will be many; but the most excruciating will be, first, the thought of the trifles for which they are damned; secondly, the thought of the little which they required to do in order to save their souls; and thirdly, the thought of the great good which they have lost. After Esau had eaten the pottage of lentils for which he had sold his birthright, the Scripture says that, through sorrow and remorse for the loss, he began to roar aloud.1 Oh! how will the damned howl and roar at the thought of having, for a few momentary poisoned pleasures, lost an eternal kingdom of delights, and of having condemned themselves forever to a continual death! Hence they will weep far more bitterly than Jonathan did when he saw himself condemned to death by his father for having eaten a little honey. I did but taste a little honey, and behold I must die.2 O God! what torture will each of the damned feel in thinking that he was the cause of his own damnation! At present our past life appears to us but a dream, a moment. But what will he who is in hell think of the fifty or sixty years which he spent on this earth, when he will be in the abyss of eternity, and, after the lapse of a hundred and a thousand millions of years, will see that his hell only begins? But were these fifty or sixty years all years of pleasure? Perhaps a sinner living without God, always feels happy in his sins! How long do the pleasures of sin last? Only for a few moments. All the remaining hours of the man who lives at enmity with God are full of pain and bitterness. But what will these moments of pleasure appear to the unhappy damned? How will he view that last sin in particular, by which he brought himself to perdition? Then he will say: For a miserable brutal pleasure, which lasted but a moment, and which was scarcely indulged when it vanished like air, I must burn in this fire, in despair, and abandoned by all, as long as God will be God—for all eternity.
Affections and Prayers.
Lord! enlighten me, that I may feel the injustice which I have done Thee, and the eternal chastisements I have deserved, by offending Thee. My God! I feel a great remorse for having offended Thee; but this pain consoles me. Hadst Thou sent me to hell, as I deserved, the thought of the trifle for which I was damned should be the hell of my hell. But now this remorse, I say, consoles me; because it encourages me to hope for pardon from Thee, who hast promised to pardon all who repent. Yes, my Lord! I repent of having outraged Thee. I embrace this sweet pain of remorse. I even entreat Thee to increase it, and to preserve it in my heart till death, that I may always weep bitterly over the offences I have offered to Thee. My Jesus! pardon me. O my Redeemer! who, to procure mercy for me, hadst not mercy on Thyself, but condemnedst Thyself to die through pain in order to deliver me from hell, have mercy on me. Grant that my remorse for having offended Thee may keep me always sorrowful, and, at the same time, inflame my whole soul with love for Thee, who hast loved me so tenderly, who hast borne with me so patiently, and who now, instead of chastising me, enrichest me with Thy lights and graces. I thank Thee, O my Jesus! and I love Thee. I love Thee more than myself. I love Thee with my whole heart. Thou knowest not how to despise a soul that loves Thee. I love Thee. Do not banish me from Thy face. Receive me, then, into Thy friendship, and do not permit me ever more to lose Thee. Mary, my Mother! accept me for thy servant, and bind me to Jesus, thy Son. Ask him to pardon me, to give me his love and the grace of perseverance till death.
The Little that was Required for their Salvation.
St. Thomas says that the principal pain of the reprobate will consist in seeing that they are damned for nothing, and that, if they wished, they could with so much facility acquire for themselves the glory of Paradise.3 The second remorse of conscience, then, will arise from the thought of the little that was necessary to be done for the attainment of salvation. A person who was damned appeared to St. Humbert, and said to him that the most excruciating pain which he suffered in hell was caused by the thought of the trifles for which he was lost, and of the little which he required to do in order to save his soul. The unhappy soul will then say: Had I mortified myself by not looking at such an object; had I overcome human respect at such a time; had I avoided such an occasion of sin, such a companion, such a conversation, I should not now be damned. If I had gone to confession every week; if I had frequented the confraternity; if I had read every day a spiritual book; if I had recommended myself to Jesus Christ and to Mary, I should not have relapsed into sin. I have so often purposed to do these things, but have either neglected my resolutions, or after having begun to practise these exercises, I gave them up, and therefore I am lost.
The torture of this remorse will be increased by the good examples of virtuous friends and companions, which the reprobate has witnessed; and still more by the gifts which God has given him for the salvation of his soul; gifts of nature, such as good health; gifts of fortune, which were so many talents which the Lord had given him, that he might make a good use of them, and become a saint; gifts of grace; so many lights, inspirations, calls, and so many years given to him that he might repair the evil which he had done. But he will see that, in the miserable state to which he is reduced, there is no remedy. He will hear the angel of the Lord proclaiming and protesting that time shall be no more. And the angel whom I saw standing . . . swore by Him that liveth forever and ever . . . that time shall be no longer.4 Oh! what cruel swords will all these gifts and graces be to the heart of the unhappy reprobate, when he sees that the time in which he could repair his eternal ruin is already past! With tears and despair he and his companions will say: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.5 He will say: if the fatigues to which I had submitted for my damnation had been borne for God, I should have become a great saint; and now what advantage do I derive from them but pain and remorse, which will torment me for eternity? Ah! the thought that it was in his power to be forever happy, and that he must be forever miserable, will torture the damned more than the fire and all the other torments of hell.
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my Jesus! how hast Thou been able to bear with me? I have so often turned my back upon Thee, and Thou hast not ceased to seek after me. I have so often offended Thee, and Thou hast pardoned me. Ah! impart to me a portion of that sorrow which Thou didst feel in the Garden of Gethsemane for my sins, and which made Thee there sweat blood. I am sorry, O my Redeemer! for having so badly repaid Thy love. O accursed pleasures! I detest and curse you. You have made me lose the grace of my Lord. My Beloved Jesus! I now love Thee above all things, and I renounce all unlawful gratifications, and purpose to die a thousand times, rather than ever more offend Thee. Ah! through that affection with which Thou dost love me on the cross, and offered for me Thy divine life, give me light and strength to resist temptations, and to have recourse to Thy aid whenever I shall be tempted. O Mary, my hope! thou art all-powerful with God; obtain for me holy perseverance, obtain for me the grace never more to be separated from his holy love.
The Great Good that the Damned have Lost.
The third remorse of the damned shall arise from seeing the great good which they have lost. St. John Chrysostom says that the reprobate will be tormented more by the loss of paradise than by the pains of hell!6 A certain princess once said: If God gives me a reign of forty years, I will renounce paradise. The unhappy princess reigned for forty years; but now that her soul has departed from this world, what does she say? Certainly she has changed her sentiments. Oh! how great at present must be her affliction and despair at the thought of having, for the enjoyment of an earthly reign of forty years, lost for eternity the kingdom of heaven!
But the torment which will most grievously torture the damned for eternity will arise from the conviction that they have lost heaven and God, their sovereign good, not by any unlucky accident, nor by the malevolence of others, but by their own fault. They will see that they have been created for paradise, and that God placed in their hands the choice of procuring for themselves eternal life or eternal death. Before man is life and death; . . . that which he shall choose shall be given him.7 Thus they will see that they had it in their power, if they wished, to be eternally happy, and that they have voluntarily precipitated themselves into that pit of torments, from which they can never escape, and from which no one will ever deliver them. They will see among the elect many of their companions, who were placed in the same, or perhaps in greater, danger of sinning, and who saved their souls because they restrained their passions by recommending themselves to God, or, if they fell into sin, soon repented and gave themselves to God. But because they would not give up sin, they have in the end unhappily gone to hell—they have fallen into that sea of torments without any hope of remedy for all eternity.
Brother, if you too have been so foolish as, by your own free acts, to lose paradise and God for a miserable pleasure, endeavor as soon as possible to apply a remedy, now that you have time. Do not voluntarily continue in your foolishness. Tremble lest you should have to weep over your folly for all eternity. Who knows but this consideration which you now read is the last call which God will give you? Perhaps, if you do not now change your life, if you commit another mortal sin, the Lord will abandon you, and, in punishment of that sin, send you to suffer forever among that crowd of fools who are now in hell, and confess their error (therefore we have erred), but confess it with despair, because they see that it is forever irreparable. When the devil tempts you again to sin, remember hell, have recourse to God and to the Most Holy Virgin. The thought of hell will preserve you from hell, because it will make you have recourse to God. Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.8
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my Sovereign Good! how often have I lost Thee for nothing! how often have I deserved to lose Thee forever! But I am consoled by the words of Thy prophet: Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.9 I must not, then, despair of finding Thee again, O my God! if I sincerely seek Thee. Yes, my God! I now sigh for Thy grace more than for any other good. I am content to be deprived of all things, even of life, rather than see myself deprived of Thy love. I love Thee, O my Creator! above all things; and, because I love Thee, I am sorry for having offended Thee. O my God! whom I have lost and despised, pardon me immediately, and enable me to find Thee again; for I wish never more to lose Thee. If Thou dost admit me again to Thy friendship, I will leave all things, and will seek to love Thee alone. I hope to do so through Thy mercy, Eternal Father! Hear me for the love of Jesus Christ: pardon me, and give me the grace never more to be separated from Thee. If I voluntarily lose Thee again, I ought to fear that Thou wilt abandon me. O Mary, O advocate of sinners! obtain for me the grace to make peace with God, and afterward keep me under thy protection, that I may never more lose him.

1“Irrugiit clamore magno.” – Gen. xxvii. 34.
2“Gustans gustavi paululum mellis, et ecce morior.” – 1 Kings, xiv. 43.
3Principaliter dolebunt quod pro nihilo damnati sunt. et facillime vitam poterant consequi sempiternam.
4“Et angelus quem vidi stantem . . . juravit per viventem in sæecula sæculorum . . . quia tempus non erit amplius.” – Apoc. x. 5.
5“Transiit messis, finita est æstas, et nos salvati non sumus.” – Jer. viii. 20.
6Plus cœlo torquentur, quam gehenna.
7“Ante hominem vita et mors, bonum et malum: quod placuerit ei, dabitur illi.” – Ecclus. xv. 18.
8“Memorare novissima tua. et in æternum non peccabis.” – Ecclus. vii. 40.
9“Lætetu r cor quærentium Dominum.” – Ps. civ. 3.

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