Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration VIII

The Death of the Just.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” – Ps. cxv. 15.
The Death of the Just is a Rest.
Viewed according to the senses, death excites fear and terror; but viewed with the eyes of faith, it is consoling and desirable. To sinners it appears full of terror; but to the saints it is amiable and precious. “It is precious.” says St. Bernard, “as the end of labors, the consummation of victory, the gate of life.”1 It is the end of toils and labor. Man, says Job, born of a woman, living for a short time, is filled with many miseries.2 Behold a picture of our life: it is short and all full of miseries, of infirmities, of fears, and of passions. What, says Seneca, do worldlings, who desire a long life, seek, but a continuation of torments?3 What, says St. Augustine, is a prolongation of life, but a prolongation of suffering?4 Yes; for, as St. Ambrose tells us, the present life is given us, not for repose, but that we may labor, and by our toils merit eternal glory.5 Hence Tertullian has justly said, that when God abridges life he abridges pain.6 Hence, though man has been condemned to death in punishment of sin, still the miseries of this life are so great, that, according to St. Ambrose, death appears to be a remedy and relief, rather than a chastisement.7 God pronounces happy all who die in his grace, because they terminate their labors and go to repose. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. From henceforth now saith the spirit, that they may rest from their labors.8
The torments which afflict sinners at death do not disturb the peace of the saints. The souls of the just are in the hands of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them.9 That proficiscere which is so full of terror to worldlings does not alarm the saints. The just man is not afflicted at the thought of being obliged to take leave of the goods of the earth, for he has always kept his heart detached from them. During life he has constantly said to the Lord: Thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion forever.10 Happy you, said the Apostle to his disciples, who have been robbed of your goods for the sake of Jesus Christ. You took with joy the being stripped of your goods, knowing that you had a better and a lasting substance.11 The saint is not afflicted at bidding an eternal farewell to honors, for he always hated them, and considered them to be what they really are—smoke and vanity. He is not afflicted in leaving relatives, for he loved them only in God, and at death he recommends them to his heavenly Father, who loves them more than he does; and having a secure confidence of salvation, he expects to be better able to assist them from heaven than on this earth. In a word, he who has constantly said during life, My God and my all, continues to repeat it with greater consolation and greater tenderness at the hour of death.
He who dies loving God, is not disturbed by the pains of death; but, seeing that he is now at the end of life, and that he has no more time to suffer for God, or to offer him other proofs of his love, he accepts these pains with joy. With affection and peace he offers to God these last moments of life, and feels consoled in uniting the sacrifice of his death to the sacrifice which Jesus Christ offered for him on the Cross to his eternal Father. Thus he dies happily, saying; In peace in the self-same I will sleep and I will rest.12 Oh! how great the peace of the Christian who dies abandoned and reposing in the arms of Jesus Christ, who has loved us to death, and has condescended to suffer so cruel a death in order to obtain for us a death full of sweetness and consolation.
Affections and Prayers.
O my beloved Jesus! who, to obtain for me a happy death, hast freely submitted to so painful a death on Calvary, when shall I see Thee? The first time I shall behold Thee, I shall see Thee as my judge in the very place in which I shall expire. What shall I then say? What wilt Thou say to me? I will not wait till that moment to think of what I shall say: I will meditate on it now. I will say to Thee: My Redeemer! Thou art the God who hast died for me. I have hitherto offended Thee; I have been ungrateful to Thee; I did not deserve pardon, but afterward, assisted by Thy grace, I have entered into myself, and, during the remainder of my life, I have bewailed my sins, and Thou hast pardoned me. Pardon me again, now that I am at Thy feet, and give me a general absolution of all my sins. I did not deserve ever again to love Thee, because I have despised Thy love; but Thou in Thy mercy hast drawn my heart to Thee, so that if I have not loved Thee as Thou deservest, I have at least loved Thee above all things, and have left all to please Thee. I see that Paradise and the possession of Thy divinity in Thy kingdom is too much for me; but I cannot live at a distance from Thee, now, especially, after Thou hast shown me Thy amiable and beautiful countenance. I therefore ask for Paradise, not to enjoy greater delights, but to love Thee more perfectly. Send me to Purgatory as long as Thou pleasest. Defiled as I am at present, I do not wish to enter into the land of purity, and to see myself among those pure souls. Send me to be purified; but do not banish. me forever from Thy presence. I shall be content to be one day, whenever Thou pleasest, called to Paradise to sing Thy mercies for all eternity. Ah. my beloved Judge! raise Thy hand and bless me; tell me that I am Thine, and that Thou art and shalt be forever mine. I will always love Thee, and Thou wilt forever love me. Behold, I go to a distance from Thee; I go into fire: but I go in peace, because I go to love Thee, my Redeemer, my God, my all! I am content to go; but during my absence from Thee, I go, O Lord! to count the moments that will elapse before Thou callest me. Have mercy on a soul that loves Thee with all its power, and that sighs to see Thee, that it may love Thee better.
This I hope, O my Jesus! to say to Thee at death. I entreat Thee to give me the grace to live in such a manner that I may then say to Thee what I have now thought. Give me holy perseverance, give me Thy love. Assist me, O Mary! Mother of God, pray to Jesus for me.
The Death of the Just is a Victory.
God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and death shall be no more.13 Then, at death the Lord will wipe away from the eyes of his servants all the tears that they have shed in this world, where they live in the midst of pains, of fears, of dangers, and of combats with hell. The greatest consolation which a soul that has loved God will experience in hearing the news of death, will arise from the thought that it will soon be delivered from the many dangers of offending God, to which it is exposed in this life, from so many troubles of conscience, and from so many temptations of the devil. The present life is an unceasing warfare with hell, in which we are in continual danger of losing our souls and God. St. Ambrose says that in this life we walk among snares: we walk continually amid the snares of enemies, who lie in wait to deprive us of the life of grace. It was this danger that made St. Peter of Alcantara say at death to a religious who, in attending the saint, accidentally touched him: “Brother, remove, remove from me; for I am still alive, and am still in danger of being lost.” The thought of being freed by death from the danger of sin consoled St. Teresa, and made her rejoice as often as she heard the clock strike, that another hour of the combat was passed. Hence she would say: “In each moment of life I may sin and lose God.” Hence, the news of approaching death filled the saints with consolation; because they knew that their struggles and dangers were soon to have an end, and that they would soon be in secure possession of that happy lot in which they could never more lose God.
It is related in the lives of the Fathers, that one of them who was very old, when dying, smiled while the others wept. Being asked why he smiled, he said, “Why do you weep at seeing me go to rest?”14 Likewise St. Catharine of Sienna in her last moments said: “Rejoice with me; for I quit this land of pains, and go to a place of peace.” If, says St. Cyprian, you lived in a house whose walls, and roof, and floors were tottering, and threatened destruction, how ardently would you desire to fly from it! In this life everything menaces the ruin of the soul; the world, hell, the passions, the rebellious senses, all draw us to sin and eternal death. Who, exclaimed the Apostle, shall deliver me from the body of this death?15 Oh! how great will be the joy of the soul in hearing these words: “Come, my spouse, depart from that land of tears, from the dens of lions who seek to devour you, and to rob you of the divine grace.”16 Hence, St. Paul, sighing for death said that Jesus Christ was his only life; and therefore he esteemed death his greatest gain, because by death he acquired that life which never ends. To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.17
In taking a soul while it is in the state of grace out of this world, where it may change its will and lose his friendship, God bestows on it a great favor. He was taken away lest wickedness should alter his understanding.18 Happy in this life is the man that lives in union with God; but, as the sailor is not secure until he has arrived at the port and escaped the tempest, so the soul cannot enjoy complete happiness until it has left this world in the grace of God. “Praise,” says St. Maximus, “the felicity of the sailor: but not until he has reached the port.”19 Now, if at his approach to the port the sailor rejoices, how much greater ought to be the joy and gladness of a Christian who is at the point of securing eternal salvation?
Moreover, it is impossible in this life to avoid all venial sins. For, says the Holy Ghost, a just man shall fall seven times.20 He who quits this life ceases to offend God. “For,” says St. Ambrose, what is death but the burial of vices?”21 This consideration makes the souls that love God long for death. The Venerable Vincent Caraffa consoled himself at death, saying: “By ceasing to live, I cease forever to offend God.” And St. Ambrose said: “Why do we desire this life, in which, the longer we live, the more we are loaded with sins?”22 He who dies In the grace of God can never more offend him, says the same holy doctor.23 Hence, the Lord praises the dead more than any man living, though he be a saint.24 A certain spiritual man gave directions that the person who should bring him the news of death, should say: “Console yourself; for the time has arrived when you will no longer offend God.”
Affections and Prayers.
Into Thy hands,I commend my spirit; Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth.25 Ah, my sweet Redeemer! what should become of me if Thou hadst deprived me of life when I was far from Thee? I should now be in hell, where I could never love Thee. I thank Thee for not having abandoned me, and for having bestowed on me so many great graces in order to gain my heart. I am sorry for having offended Thee. I love Thee above all things. Ah! I entreat Thee to make me always sensible of the evil I have done in despising Thee, and of the love which Thy infinite goodness merits. I love Thee: and I desire to die soon, if such be Thy will, that I may be freed from the danger of ever again losing Thy grace, and that I may be secure of loving Thee forever. Ah, my beloved Jesus! during these remaining years of my life, give me strength to do something for Thee before I die. Give me strength against all temptations, and against my passions, but particularly against the passion which has hitherto most violently drawn me to sin. Give me patience in all infirmities, and under all the injuries which I may receive from men. I now, for the love of Thee, pardon all who have shown me any contempt, and I beg of Thee to bestow upon them the graces which they stand in need of. Give me strength to be more diligent in avoiding even venial faults, about which I have been hitherto negligent. My Saviour! assist me. I hope for all graces through Thy merits. O Mary, my Mother, and my hope! I place unbounded confidence in thee.
The Death of the just is the Entrance to Life.
Death is not only the end of labors, but it is also the gate of life, says St. Bernard.26 He who wishes to see God must necessarily pass through this gate. This is the gate of the Lord; the just shall enter into it.27 St. Jerome entreated death to open its gates to him. “Death, my sister, if you do not open the door to me, I cannot enter to enjoy my Lord.”28 Seeing in his house a picture which represented a skeleton with a scythe in the hand, St. Charles Borromeo sent for a painter, and ordered him to erase the scythe, and to paint a golden key, in order that he might be more and more inflamed with a desire of death, which opens Paradise, and admits us to the vision of God.
If, says St. John Chrysostom, a king had prepared for one of his subjects apartments in his own palace, but for the present obliged him to live in a tent, how ardently would the vassal sigh for the day on which he should leave the tent to enter into the palace! In this life the soul, being in the body, is as it were confined in a prison, which it must leave in order to enter the celestial palace. Hence, David prayed to the Lord to bring his soul out of prison.29 When the holy Simeon held the infant Jesus in his arms, he asked no other grace than to be delivered from the prison of the present life. “Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord.”30 “As if detained by necessity, he,” says St. Ambrose, “begs to be dismissed.” The Apostle desired the same grace when he said: I am straitened, having a desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ.31
How great was the joy of the cup-bearer of Pharaoh when he heard from Joseph that he should soon be rescued from the prison and restored to his situation! And will not a soul that loves God exult with gladness at hearing that it will soon be released from the prison of this earth, and go to enjoy God? “While we are in the body, we are absent from the Lord.32 While the soul is united to the body, it is at a distance from the vision of God, as if in a strange land, and excluded from its true country. Hence, according to St. Bruno, the departure of the soul from the body should not be called death, but the beginning of life.33
Hence, the death of the saints is called their birthday; because at death they are born to that life of bliss which will never end. St. Athanasius says: “To the just, death is only a passage to eternal life.”34 “O amiable death,” says St. Augustine, “who will not desire thee, who art the end of evils, the close of toils, the beginning of everlasting repose?”35 Hence the holy Doctor frequently prayed for death, that he might see God.36
The sinner, as St. Cyprian says, has just reason to fear death; because he will pass from temporal to eternal death.37 But he who is in the state of grace, and hopes to pass from death to life, fears not death. In the life of St. John the Almoner, we read that a certain rich man recommended to the prayers of the saint an only son, and gave the saint a large sum of Money to be distributed in alms, for the purpose of obtaining from God a long life for his son. The son died soon after; but when the father complained of his death, God sent an angel to say to him: “You sought for your son a long life: he now enjoys eternal life in heaven,” This is, as was promised by the Prophet Osee, the grace which Jesus Christ merited for us. O death, I shall be thy death.38 By dying for us, Jesus has changed death into life. When Pionius, the Martyr, was brought to the stake, he was asked by those who conducted him, how he could go to death with so much joy. “You err,” replied the saint: “I go not to death, but to life.”39 Thus, also, the mother of the youthful St. Symphorian exhorted him to martyrdom. “My son,” said she, “life is not taken away from you; it is only exchanged for a better one.”
Affections and Prayers.
O God of my soul! I have hitherto dishonored Thee by turning my back upon Thee; but Thy Son has honored Thee by offering to Thee the sacrifice of his life on the cross. Through the honor which Thy beloved Son has given Thee, pardon the dishonor which I have done Thee. I am sorry. O Sovereign Good! for having offended Thee; and I promise henceforth to love nothing but Thee. From Thee I hope for salvation: whatever good is in me at present is the fruit of Thy grace; to Thee I ascribe it all. By the grace of God, I am what I am.40 If I have hitherto dishonored Thee, I hope to honor Thee for eternity by blessing and praising Thy mercy forever. I feel a great desire to love Thee. This Thou hast given me: I thank Thee for it, O my love! Continue, continue the aid which Thou hast begun to give me. I hope to be henceforth Thine, and entirely Thine. And what greater pleasure can I enjoy than that of pleasing Thee, my Lord! who art so amiable, and who hast loved me so tenderly! O my God! I ask only love, love, love; and hope always to ask of Thee, love, love, until, dying in Thy love, I reach the kingdom of love, where, without evermore asking it, I shall be full of love, and never for a single moment cease to love Thee for all eternity, and with all my strength. Mary, my mother! who lovest thy God so intensely, and who desirest so vehemently to see him loved, obtain for me the grace to love him ardently in this life, that I may love him ardently forever in the next.

1Pretiosa mors, tanquam finis laborum, victoriæ consummatio, vitæ janua.” – In Trans. Mal. s. 1.
2“Homo natus de muliere, brevi vivens tempore, repletur multis miseriis.” – Job, xiv. 1.
3“Tanquam vita petitur supplicii mora.” – Ep. ci.
4“Quid est diu vivere, nisi diu torqueri.” – Serm. 84. E. B.
5“Hæc vita homini non ad quietem data est sed ad laborem.” – Serm 42.
6Longum Deus adimit tormentum, cum vitam concedit brevem.
7“Ut mors remedium videatur esse, non pœna.” – De Cain et Ab. l. 2, c. 10.
8“Beati mortui, qui in Domino moriuntur. Amodo jam dicit spiritus, ut requiescant a laboribus suis.” – Apoc. xiv. 13.
9“Justorum animæ in manu Dei sunt, et non tanget illos tormentum mortis.” – Wis. iii. 1.
10“Deus cordis mei, et pars mea, Deus, in æternum.” – Ps.lxxii. 26.
11“Rapinam bonorum vestrorum cum gaudio suscepistis, cognoscentes vos habere meliorem et manentem substantiam..” – Heb. x. 34.
12“In pace in idipsum dormiam et requiescam.” – Ps. iv. 9.
13Absterget Deus omnem lacrymam ab oculis eorum, et mors ultra non erit.” – Apoc. xxi. 4.
14“Ex labore ad requiem vado, et vos ploratis?” – Lib. 5, l. 11, n. 52.
15“Quis me liberatit de corpore mortis hujus?” – Rom. vii. 24.
16“Veni de Libano sponsa mea, veni de cubilibus leonum.” – Cant. iv. 8.
17“Mihi vivere Christus est et mori lucrum.” – Phil. i. 21.
18“Raptus est ne malitia mutaret intellectum ejus.” – Wis iv. 11.
19“Lauda navigantis, felicitatem sed cum pervenit ad portum.” – In Nativ. D. Eus. hom. 2.
20“Septies enim cadet justus.” – Prov. xxiv. 16.
21“Quid est mors, nisi sepultura vitiorum?” – De bon, mort. c. 4.
22“Quid vitam istam desideramus, in qua quanto diutius quis fuerit, tanto majori oneratur sarcina peccatorum?” – Ibid. c. 2.
23“Mortuus descivit peccare.” – In Ps. cxviii. s. 18.
24“Laudavi magis mortuos quam viventes.” – Eceles. iv. 2.
25“In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum; redemisti me, Domine Deus veritatis.” – Ps. xxx. 6.
26Finis laborum, vitæ janua.
27“Hæc porta Domini, justi intrabunt in eam.” – Ps.cxvii. 20.
28“Aperi mihi, dulcis soror.” – In Ep. Eus. ad Dam.
29“Educ de custodia animam meam.” – Ps. cxli. 8.
30“Nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine.” – Luke, ii. 29.
31“Desiderium habens dissolvi, et esse cum Christo.” – Phil. i. 23.
32“Dum sumus in corpore. peregrinamur a Domino.” – 2 Cor. v. 6.
33“Mors dicenda non est, sed vitæ principium.” – De Virginit.
34Non est justis mors, sed translatio.
35“O mors desiderabilis malorum finis, laboris clausula, quietis principium.” – De Vis. inf., l. 1, c. 6.
36“Eja moriar Domine ut te videam.” – Sol. an. an. D. c. 1.
37“Mori timeat qui ad secundam mortem, de hac morte transibit.” – De Mortal.
38“Ero mors tua, o mors!” – Osee, xiii. 41.
39“Erratis, non ad mortem, sed ad vitam contendo.” – Ap Eus. l. iv. c. 14.
40“Gratia Dei sum id quod sum.” – 1 Cor. xv. 10.


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.


Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration VI

The Death of the Sinner.
“When distress cometh upon them, they will seek for peace, and there shall be none. Trouble shall come upon trouble.” – Ezek. vii. 25.
The Sinner will Seek God at Death, but He will not Find Him.
At present sinners banish the remembrance and thought of death; and thus they seek after peace, though they never find it, in the sinful life which they lead. But when they are found in the straits of death, on the point of entering into eternity, they shall seek peace, and there shall be none.1 Then they will not be able to fly from the torture of their sinful conscience. They will seek peace; but what peace can be found by a soul loaded with sins that sting it like so many vipers? What peace can the sinner enjoy when he sees that he must in a few moments appear before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ, whose law and friendship he has till then despised? Trouble shall come upon trouble.2 The news of death, which has been already announced, the thought of being obliged to take leave of everything in this world, the remorse of conscience, the time lost, the want of time at present, the rigor of the divine judgment, the unhappy eternity which awaits sinners—all these things will form a horrible tempest, which will confuse the mind, will increase his apprehensions; and thus, full of confusion and distrust, the dying sinner will pass to the other world.
Trusting in the divine promise, Abraham, with great merit, hoped in God, against human hope.3 But sinners, with great demerit, hope falsely and to their own perdition, not only against hope but also against faith; because they despise the menaces of God against all who are obstinate in sin. They are afraid of a bad death, but they fear not to lead a wicked life. But who has assured them that they will not suddenly be deprived of life by a thunderbolt, by apoplexy, or by the bursting of a blood-vessel? And were they at death even allowed time for repentance, who assures them that they will sincerely return to God? To conquer bad habits, St. Augustine had to fight against them for twelve years. How will the dying man, who has always lived in sin, be able, in the midst of the pains, the stupefaction, and the confusion of death, to repent sincerely of all his past iniquities? I say sincerely, because it is not enough to say and to promise with the tongue: it is necessary to promise with the heart. O God! what terror and confusion will seize the unhappy Christian who has led a careless life, when he finds himself overwhelmed with sins, with the fears of judgment, of hell, and of eternity! Oh! what confusion will these thoughts produce when the dying sinner will find his reason gone, his mind darkened, and his whole frame assailed by the pains of approaching death. He will make his confession; he will promise, weep, and seek mercy from God, but without understanding what he does; and in this tempest of agitation, of remorse, of pains and terrors, he will pass to the other life. The people shall be troubled, and they shall pass.4 A certain author says that the prayers, the wailings, and promises of dying sinners are like the tears and promises of a man assailed by an enemy who points a dagger to his throat to take away his life. Miserable the man who takes to his bed at enmity with God, and passes from the bed of sickness to eternity.
Affections and Prayers.
O wounds of Jesus! you are my hope. I should despair of the pardon of my sins, and of my eternal salvation, did I not behold you, the fountains of mercy and grace, through which a God has shed all his blood, to wash my soul from the sins which I have committed. I adore you, then, O holy wounds! and trust in you. I detest a thousand times, and curse those vile pleasures by which I have displeased my Redeemer, and have miserably lost his friendship. Looking then at Thee, I raise up my hopes, and turn my affections to Thee. My dear Jesus, Thou deservest to be loved by all men, and to be loved with their whole heart. I have so grievously offended Thee, I have despised Thy love; but, notwithstanding my sinfulness, Thou hast borne with me so long, and invited me to pardon with so much mercy. Ah, my Saviour, do not permit me evermore to offend Thee, and to merit my own damnation. O God! what torture should I feel in hell at the sight of Thy blood and of the great mercies Thou hast shown me. I love Thee, and will always love Thee. Give me holy perseverance. Detach my heart from all love which is not for Thee, and confirm in me a true desire, a true resolution henceforth, to love only Thee, my sovereign good. O Mary, my Mother draw me to God, and obtain for me the grace to belong entirely to him before I die.
Anguish of the Dying Sinner.
The poor dying sinner will be assailed, not by one, but by many causes of distress and anguish. On the one hand, the devils will torment him. At death these horrid enemies exert all their strength to secure the perdition of the soul that is about to leave this world. They know that they have but little time to gain it, and that if they lose it at death, they shall lose it forever. The Devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time.5 The dying man will be tempted, not by one, but by innumerable devils, who will labor for his damnation. Their houses shall be filled with serpents.6 One will say: Fear not; you will recover. Another You have been deaf to the inspirations of God for so many years, and do you now expect that he will have mercy on you? Another will ask: How can you make satisfaction for all the injuries you have done to the property and character of your neighbors? Another: Do you not see that your confessions have been null, that they have been made without sorrow or a purpose of amendment? How will you now be able to repair them?
On the other hand, the dying man will see himself surrounded by his sins. Evils, says David, shall catch the unjust man unto destruction.7 These sins, says St. Bernard, like so many satellites, shall keep him in chains, and shall say unto him: “We are your works; we shall not desert you.”8 We are your offspring; we will not leave you; we will accompany you to the other world, and will present ourselves with you to the Eternal Judge. The dying man will then wish to shake off such enemies; but, to get rid of them, he must detest them, he must return sincerely to God. His mind is darkened, and his heart hardened. A hard heart shall fare evil at the last; and he that loveth danger shall perish in it.9 St. Bernard says that the man who has been obstinate in sin during life, will make efforts, but without success, to get out of the state of damnation; and that, overwhelmed by his own malice, he will end his life in the same unhappy state. Having loved sin till death, he has also loved the danger of damnation. Hence the Lord will justly permit him to perish in that danger in which he has voluntarily lived till the end of his life. St. Augustine says that he who is abandoned by sin before he abandons it, will scarcely detest it as he ought; because what he will then do will be done through necessity.10
Miserable the sinner that hardens his heart and resists the divine calls: His heart shall be as hard as a stone and as firm as a smith’s anvil.11 Instead of yielding to the graces and inspirations of God, and being softened by them, the unhappy man becomes more obdurate, as the anvil is hardened by repeated strokes of the hammer. In punishment of his resistance to the divine calls, he will find his heart in the same miserable state at the very hour of death, at the moment of passing into eternity. A hard heart shall fare evil at the last.12 Sinners, says the Lord, you have, for the love of creatures, turned your back upon me. They have turned their back upon me, and not their face; and in the time of their affliction they will say: Arise, and deliver us. Where are the gods thou hast made thee? Let them arise and deliver thee.13 They will have recourse to God at death; but he will say to them: Why do you invoke me now? Call on creatures to assist you; for they have been your gods. The Lord will address them in this manner, because, in seeking him, they do not sincerely wish to be converted. St. Jerome says that he holds, and that he has learned from experience, that they who have to the end led a bad life, will never die a good death.14
Affections and Prayers.
My dear Saviour! assist me; do not abandon me. I see my whole soul covered with the wounds of sin, my passions attack me violently, my bad habits weigh me down. I cast myself at Thy feet; have pity on me and deliver me from so many evils. In Thee, O Lord! I have hoped; may I not be confounded forever.15 Do not suffer a soul that trusts in Thee, to be lost. Deliver not up to beasts the souls that confess to Thee.16 I am sorry for having offended Thee, O infinite Goodness. I have done evil, I confess my guilt. I wish to amend my life, whatsoever it may cost me. But if Thou dost not help me by Thy grace, I am lost. Receive, O my Jesus! the rebel who has so grievously outraged Thy majesty. Remember that I have been purchased by Thy blood and Thy life. Through the merits then of Thy Passion and death, receive me into Thy arms, and give me holy perseverance. I was lost, Thou hast called me back: I will resist no longer: to Thee I consecrate myself; bind me to Thy love, and do not permit me evermore to lose Thee by losing Thy grace again. My Jesus! do not permit it. Mary, my queen! do not permit it: obtain for me death, and a thousand deaths, rather than that I should again forfeit the grace of thy Son.
We Must Seek God when we can Find Him.
It is a marvellous thing that God unceasingly threatens sinners with an unhappy death. Then they shall call upon me, and I will not hear.17 Will God hear his cry when distress shall come upon him?18 I also will laugh in your destruction, and will mock.19 According to St. Gregory, God laughs when he is unwilling to show mercy.20 Revenge is mine, and I will repay them in due time.21
The Lord pronounces the same threats in so many other places: and sinners live in peace as securely as if God had certainly promised to give them, at death, pardon and paradise. It is true that at whatsoever hour the sinner is converted God promises to pardon him. But he has not promised that sinners will be converted at death: on the contrary, he has often protested that they who live in sin shall die in sin. You shall die in your sins.22 He has declared that they who seek him at death shall not find him.23 You shall seek me, and shall not find me.24 We must, therefore, seek God while he may be found.25 A time shall come when it will not be in our power to find him. Poor blind sinners! they put off their conversion till death, when there will be no more time for repentance. “The wicked,” says Oleaster, “have never learned to do good unless when the time for doing good is no more.”26 God wills the salvation of all: but he takes vengeance on obstinate sinners.
Should any man in a state of sin be seized with apoplexy and be deprived of his senses, what sentiments of compassion would be excited in all who should see him die without the sacraments and without signs of repentance! And how great should be their delight, if he recovered the use of his senses, asked for absolution, and wade acts of sorrow for his sins! But is not he a fool who has time to repent and prefers to continue in sin? or who returns to sin, and exposes himself to the danger of being cut off by death without the sacraments, and without repentance? A sudden death excites terror in all; and still how many expose themselves to the danger of dying suddenly, and of dying in sin?
Weight and balance are the judgments of the Lord.27 We keep no account of the graces which God bestows upon us; but he keeps an account of them, he measures them; and when he sees them despised to a certain degree, he then abandons the sinner in his sin, and takes him out of life in that unhappy state. Miserable the man who defers his conversion till death. St. Augustine says: “The repentance which is sought from a sick man is infirm.”28 St. Jerome teaches, that of a hundred thousand sinners who continue in sin till death, scarcely one will be saved.29 St. Vincent Ferrer writes that it is a greater miracle to bring such sinners to salvation, than to raise the dead to life.30
What sorrow, what repentance, can be expected at death from the man who has loved sin till that moment? Bellarmine relates that when he exhorted to contrition a certain person whom he assisted at death, the dying man said that he did not know what was meant by contrition. The holy Bishop endeavored to explain it to him; but he said: Father, I do not understand you; these things are too high for me. He died in that state, leaving, as the venerable Cardinal has written, sufficiently evident signs of his damnation. St. Augustine says that by a just chastisement the sinner who has forgotten God during life shall forget himself at death.31
Be not deceived, says the Apostle, God is not mocked. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall he reap corruption.32 It would be a mockery of God to live in contempt of his laws, and afterward to reap remuneration and eternal glory. But God is not mocked. What we sow in this life, we reap in the next. For him who sows the forbidden pleasures of the flesh, nothing remains but corruption, misery, and eternal death.
Beloved Christian, what is said for others is also applicable to you. Tell me: if you were at the point of death, given over by the physicians, deprived of your senses, and in your last agony, with what fervor would you ask of God another month or week to settle the accounts of your conscience! God at present gives you this time: thank him for it, and apply an immediate remedy to the evil you have done; adopt all the means of finding yourself in the grace of God when death comes; for then there will be no more time to acquire his friendship.
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my God! who would have borne with me so patiently as Thou hast? If Thy goodness were not infinite, I would despair of pardon. But I have to deal with a God who has died for my salvation. Thou commandest me to hope, and I will hope. If my sins terrify and condemn me, Thy merits and Thy promises encourage me. Thou hast promised the life of Thy grace to all who return to Thee. Return ye and live.33 Thou hast promised to embrace him who is converted to Thee. Turn ye to me, and will turn to you.34 Thou hast said that Thou knowest not how to despise a contrite and humble heart.35 Behold me, O Lord; I return to Thee; I acknowledge that I deserve a thousand hells; I am sorry for having offended Thee. I firmly promise never again to offend Thee voluntarily, and to love Thee forever. Ah! do not suffer me any longer to be ungrateful to such unbounded goodness. O eternal Father, through the merits of the obedience of Jesus Christ, who died to obey Thee, grant that I may till death be obedient to all Thy wishes. I love Thee, O Sovereign Good! and through the love which I bear Thee, I desire to obey Thee. Give me holy perseverance, give me Thy love; I ask nothing more. Mary, my Mother! intercede for me.

1Angustia superveniente, pacem requirent, et non erit.
2Conturbatio super conturbationem veniet.
3“Contra spem in spem credidit.” – Rom. iv. 18.
4“Turbabuntur populi et pertransibunt.” – Job, xxxiv. 20.
5“Descendit diabolus ad vos habens iram magnam, sciens quod modicum tempus est.” – Apoc. xii. 12.
6“Replebuntur domus eorum draconibus.” – Isa. xiii. 21.
7“Virum injustum mala capient in interitu.” – Ps. cxxxix. 12.
8“Opera tua sumus, non te deseremus.” – Medit. c. 2.
9“Cor durum habebit male in novissimo; et qui amat periculum, in illo peribit.” – Ecelus. iii. 27.
10“Qui prius a peccato relinquitur quam ipse relinquat, non libere sed quasi ex necessitate condemnat.” – De vera pœnit. c. 17.
11“Cor ejus indurabitur quasi lapis, et stringetur quasi malleatoris incus.” – Job, xli. 15.
12Cor durum habebit male in novissimo.
13“Verterunt ad me tergum, et non faciem, et tempore afflictionis suæ dicent: Surge, et libera nos. Ubi sunt dii tui, quos fecisti tibi? Surgant, et liberent te.” – Jer. ii. 27.
14“Hoc teneo, hoc multiplici experientia didici, quod ei non bonus finis, cui mala semper vita fuit.” – In Epis. Euseb. ad Dam.
15“In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in æternum.” – Ps. xxx. 6.
16“Ne tradas bestiis animas confitentium tibi.” – Ps. lxxiii. 19.
17“Tunc invocabunt me, et non exaudiam.” – Prov. i. 28.
18“Numquid Deus audiet clamorem ejus, cum venerit super eum angustia?” – Job, xxvii. 9.
19“In interitu vestro ridebo et subsannabo.” – Prov. i. 26.
20“Ridere Dei est nolle misereri.” – Mor. l. 9, c. 20.
21“Mea est ultio, et ego retribuam in tempore, ut labatur pes eorum.” – Deut. xxii. 35.
22“In peccato vestro moriemini.” – John, viii. 21, 24.
23“Moriemini in peccatis vestris.” – Ibid. 24.
24“Quæretis me, et non invenietis.” – John, vii. 34.
25“Quærite Dominum dum inveniri potest.” – Isa. lv. 6.
26Impii nusquam didicerunt bene facere, nisi cum non est tempus bene faciendi.
27“Pondus et statera judicia Domini sunt.” – Prov. xvi. ii.
28“Pœnitentia quæ ab infirmo petitur infirma est.” – Serm. 255, E. B. App.
29“Viz de centum millibus quorum mala vita fuit, meretur in morte a Deo habere indulgentiam unus.” – In Ep. Eus. ad Dam.
30“Majus miraculum est quod male viventes facient bonum finem, quam suscitare mortuos.” – De Nat. V. S. 1.
31“Æquissime percutitur peccator ut moriens obliviscatur sui qui vivens oblitus est Dei.” – S. 257 E. B. App.
32“Nolite errare, Deus non irridetur; quæ enim seminaverit homo, hæc et metet: qui seminat in carne sua, de carne et metet corruptionem.” – Gal. vi. 7.
33“Revertimini et vivite.” Ezek. xviii. 32.
34“Convertimini ad me et ego convertar ad vos.” – Zach. i. 3.
35“Cor contritum et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies.” – Ps. l. 19.


Sunday, 7 February 2010

A Christian’s Rule of Life - Chapter 4

Addressed to Persons of all States who Desire to be Saved.1
God wishes us all to be saved: Who will have all Men saved.2 “And he is ready to give to all the help necessary for salvation; but he grants it only to those that ask him, as St. Augustine says: “He gives only to those who ask.”3 Hence, it is a common opinion of theologians and of the holy Fathers, that prayer is necessary for adults as a means of salvation; that is to say, that a person who does not pray, and neglects to ask of God the help requisite for overcoming temptations, and for preserving grace already received, cannot be saved.
On the other hand, our Lord cannot refuse to give graces to those who ask for them, because he has promised to do so: Cry to Me, and I will hear thee.4 Have recourse to me, and I will not fail to hear you. Ask of me all you desire, and you shall attain it: Ask, and it shall be given to you.5 These promises, however, are not to be understood with reference to temporal goods, because God only gives these when they are for the good of the soul; but he has promised absolutely to give spiritual graces to any one who asks him; and having promised it, he is obliged to give them to us: “By his promise, he has made himself our debtor,” says St. Augustine.
It should also be observed, that on God’s part prayer is a promise, and on our part a binding precept: Ask, and it shall he given you.6 We ought always to pray.7 These words, “ask, we ought,” convey, as St. Thomas teaches, a grave precept, which is binding for our whole life; but especially when a man is in danger of death, of falling into sin; because if he does not then have recourse to God, he will certainly be overcome. And he who has already fallen under God’s displeasure commits a fresh sin when he does not turn to God for help to rise out of his miserable state. But will God then hear him while he is yet his enemy? Yes, he does hear, if the sinner humbles himself, and prays for pardon from his heart; since it is written in the Gospel: For every one that asketh, receiveth.8 It says that God has promised to hear all that pray to him, whether they are just or sinners. In another place God says, Call upon Me . . . and I will deliver Thee.9 Call upon Me, and I will deliver thee from hell, to which thou dost stand condemned.
No, there will be no excuse in the day of judgment for any one who dies in mortal sin. It will be of no use for him to say that he had not the strength to resist the temptation which troubled him; because Jesus Christ will answer: If you had not the strength, why did you not ask it of me, and I should certainly have given it you? If you fell into sin, why did you not have recourse to me, that I might have delivered you from it?
You see, then, that if you desire to be saved, and would keep yourself in the grace of God, you must often pray to him, that he would keep his hand over you. The Council of Trent declares that for a man to persevere in the grace of God, it is not enough that he should have only that general aid which he gives to all; but he must also have that special assistance which can only be obtained by prayer. For this reason all the Doctors of the Church say, that each one is bound, under grievous sin, to recommend himself often to God, and to ask for the grace of holy perseverance at least once a month. And any one who finds himself in the midst of many dangerous occasions is under the obligation of asking more frequently for the grace of perseverance.
It is besides most useful to keep up some particular devotion to the Mother of God, who is called the Mother of perseverance, in order to obtain this grace; and a person who has not this special devotion to the Blessed Virgin will find it very difficult to persevere; for as St. Bernard says, all divine graces, and especially this one of perseverance, which is the greatest of all, come to us by means of Mary.
Would to God that preachers were more mindful in putting before their hearers this great means of prayer! Some even in the whole course of their Lenten sermons scarcely mention it more than once or twice in passing: while they ought often to make it their chief subject, besides speaking of it in every discourse; if they omit to do so, they will have to render a severe account for it to God. Thus also many confessors are particular merely about the resolution their penitents make not to offend God again, and few take the trouble to inculcate that they must pray when they are tempted again to fall; but we must be well persuaded, that when a temptation is violent, if the penitent does not beg for God’s assistance; all his resolutions will avail him little; prayer alone can save him. It is certain that he who prays is saved; he who prays not is damned.
Therefore, I repeat, if you wish to be saved, pray continually to the Lord that he would give you light and strength not to fall into sin. Thus we must be importunate with God, in asking him for his grace. “This importunity with God is our opportunity,” says St. Jerome. Every morning we must beseech him to keep us from sin during that day. And when any bad thought or occasion of sin presents itself to your mind or you are tempted by some dangerous occasion, immediately have recourse to Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin, and say, “My Jesus, help me! Most Blessed Virgin, come to my aid.” It is enough at such a time to pronounce the names of Jesus and Mary, and the temptation will vanish; but should the temptation continue, persevere in invoking the assistance of Jesus and Mary, and you will be victorious.
My God, prostrate in Thy presence, I adore Thee; and I intend to make the following protestations, as if I were on the point of passing from, this life to eternity:
My Lord, because Thou art infallible truth, and hast revealed it to the holy Church, I believe in the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; three Persons, but only one God, who eternally rewards the just with heaven, and punishes sinners with hell. I believe that the second Person—that is, the Son of God —became man and died for the salvation of men; and I believe all that the holy Church believes. I thank Thee for having made me a Christian; and I protest that in this holy faith I wish to live and die.
My God, my hope, trusting in Thy promises, I hope from Thy mercy, not through my merits, but through the merits of Jesus Christ, for the pardon of my sins, perseverance in Thy grace, and, after this miserable life, for the glory of heaven. And should the devil, at death, tempt me to despair at the sight of my sins, I protest that I wish always to hope in Thee, my Lord, and that I wish to die in the loving arms of Thy goodness.
O God, worthy of infinite love! I love Thee with my whole heart, and more than I love myself; and I protest that I wish to die making an act of love, that thus I may continue to love Thee for eternity in heaven; which, for this purpose, I ask and desire from Thee. And if, O Lord! instead of loving Thee, I have hitherto despised Thy infinite Goodness. I am sorry for it with my whole heart, and I protest that I wish to die bewailing and detesting forever the offences I have offered to Thee. I purpose, for the future, to die rather than commit another sin. And, for the love of Thee, I pardon all who have offended me.
O my God! I accept death, and all the pains that will accompany my death. I unite them to the sorrows and to the death of Jesus Christ, and offer them in honor of Thy supreme dominion, and in satisfaction for my sins. O Lord! for the sake of the great sacrifice of himself which Thy divine Son offered on the altar of the cross, accept this sacrifice of my life, which I offer to Thee. I now, for the moment of my death, resign myself entirely to Thy divine will, protesting that I wish to die, saying: O Lord! Thy will be always done.
Most holy Virgin Mary, my advocate and my mother, thou, after God, art and shalt be my hope and consolation at the hour of death. I now invoke thee, and pray thee to assist me in that great passage. My dear queen, do not abandon me at that last moment. Come, then, and take my soul, and present it to thy Son. From this moment I expect thee, and hope to die under thy protection and prostrate at thy feet. My protector, St. Joseph, St. Michael the archangel, my angel-guardian, my holy advocates, come all, and assist me in that last battle with hell.
And Thou, my crucified Love—Thou, my Jesus, who, to obtain for me a good death, hast voluntarily chosen so painful a death, remember at that hour that I am one of the sheep which Thou hast purchased with Thy blood. O my Saviour, who alone can console me and save me at that hour when every one on this earth will have abandoned me, and when no friend will be able to assist me! make me then worthy to receive Thee for my Viaticum. Do not permit me to lose Thee forever, and to go forever to remain at a distance from Thee. No, my beloved Saviour, since I now embrace Thee, receive me then into Thy holy wounds. At my last breath I intend to breathe forth my soul into the loving wound in Thy side, saying now, for that moment: Jesus and Mary, I give Thee my heart and my soul: Jesus and Mary, I give Thee my heart and my soul.
Happy suffering, to suffer for God! Happy death, to die in the Lord!
I embrace Thee, my good Redeemer, that I may die in Thy embraces. If, O my soul! at your departure from this world, Mary assists you, and Jesus receives you, death will be for you not death, but sweet repose.
 ‘Tis blessed to suffer, Creator most kind;
   ‘Tis blessed to die, and to suffer for Thee.
 I embrace Thee, O Crucified! hoping to find
   Thine arms everlasting in death circling me.
 So it will not be death, but ineffable rest.
   That shall close at the last on these earth-wearied eyes,
 When my forehead by Mary is soothingly prest,
   And Jesus receives my last penitent sighs.
A Short Prayer to be said every day to Jesus crucified, and to our Lady of Sorrows, to obtain the grace of a happy death.
My Lord Jesus Christ, by that bitterness which Thou didst endure on the cross, when Thy blessed soul was separated from Thy most sacred body, have pity on my sinful soul, when it leaves my miserable body to enter into eternity.
O Mary! by that grief which thou didst experience on Calvary in seeing Jesus expire on the cross before thine eyes, obtain for me a good death, that loving Jesus and thee, my Mother, in this life, I may attain heaven, where I shall love thee for all eternity.
Latin Prayer for the Same Object.
Domine Jesu Christe, per illam amaritudinem quam sustinuit nobilissima anima tua, quando egressa est de benedicto corpore tuo, miserere animæ mæ peccatricis, quando egredietur de corpore meo. Amen.
Mary our Hope.
Mary, thou art hope the brightest,
  Love most pure and sweet;
Life and peace I find reposing
  At thy blessed feet!
When I call on thee, O Mary!
  When I think on thee,
Joy and pleasure all entrancing
  Fill my heart with glee.
If anon the clouds of sadness
  Rise within my heart,
When they hear thy name, O Mary!
  Straightway they depart.
Like a star on life’s dark ocean,
  Shining o’er the wave,
Thou canst guide my bark to harbor
  Thou my soul canst save.
Under thy protecting mantle,
  Queen belov’d, I fly;
There I wish to live securely,
  There I hope to die.
If I chance my life to finish
  Mary, loving thee,
Then I also know, dear Lady,
  Heaven is for me.
Cast thy gentle bonds around me,
  And my heart enchain;
Prisoner of love forever,
  Safe will I remain.
Thus my heart, O sweetest Mary!
  Is not mine, but thine:
Take it; give it all to Jesus;
  Ne’er shall it be mine.

1These admonitions on the necessity of prayer and on the devotion to the Blessed Virgin were written or dictated by Saint Alphonsus when he was nearly eighty years of age. See Tannoia, Book 4, ch. 18. – ED.
2“Omnes homines vult salvos fieri.” – 1 Tim. ii. 4.
3Non dat, nisi petenti. – In Ps. cii.
4“Clama ad me, et exaudiam te.” – Jer. xxxiii. 3.
5“Quodcumque volueritism petetis, et fiet vobis.” – John, xv. 7.
6“Petite, et dabitur vobis.” – Matt. vii. 7.
7“Oportet semper orare.” – Luke, xviii. 1.
8“Omnis enim qui petit, accipit.” – Luke, xi. 10.
9“Invoca me; . . . eruam te.” – Ps. xlix. 15.


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