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.”
cf Isaiah 38:1
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 sweats; his reason so impaired, that he feels but little, understands little, and can but speak 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, he fixes all his thoughts on physicians, on the remedies by which he may be rescued from sickness, and from the pains which shall soon put an end to life. “Nihil aliud quam de se cogitare sufficiunt,” says St. Lawrence 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 shall then have no other interest than that of my eternal salvation, and shall 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, remorses, and diffidences, he says within himself, ”Perhaps the end of my days has arrived.” But what shall be his feelings when he shall be told that death is at hand! “Take order with thy house; for thou shalt die, and shalt not live.” What pain shall he feel in hearing Father Such-a-one say to him, “Your illness is mortal; it is necessary to receive the last sacraments, to unite yourself with 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, plays and amusements?” “Yes, you must take leave of all.” “The scrivener is already come, and pens this last farewell–I bequeath such a thing and such a thing, etc. And what does he bring with himself? Nothing but a miserable rag, which shall soon rot with him in the grave.
O, with what melancholy and agitation shall the dying man be seized at the sight of the tears of the domestics, at the silence of his friends, who have not courage to speak in his presence! But this greatest anguish shall arise from the remorses of his conscience, which in the tempest shall be rendered more sensible by the remembrance of the disorderly life he has till then led, inspite 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 afterwards neglected. He shall then say, “O, unhappy me! I have had so many lights from God, so much time to tranquilize my conscience, and have not done it. 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 should have 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. O, if I had put into execution the good resolutions which I had made on such an occasion, if I had continued the good works which I commenced 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, behold the painful sentiments which 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 offenses, which I shall 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.
Editor’s Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death” (1758).
Art: Death Comes to the Banquet Table (Memento Mori), Giovanni Martinelli, c. 1635, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.