On a Good Death.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On a Good Death.
Imagine yourself dangerously ill, lying on your bed, near unto death, holding clasped in your hands the image of Jesus crucified, whose love for man formed the subject of yesterday’s meditation. In a few short moments you will have to appear before Him, and give account of the use you have made of the love He has shown you. What would your feelings be in such a case? You are a Priest, a Religious. The world, when it hears of your death, will say with a sigh: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord,” (Acts xiv. 13) “as that man doubtless died.” Yes, they are indeed blessed who die in the Lord, but the privilege of a death blessed in the Lord is only the portion of those whose life has been blessed in the Lord. This alone renders those things easy which generally render death hard and difficult.
1st. Consider that it is an easy matter for the Christian to take leave of this world. As a Christian, as one who lived in the Lord, his heart never clung closely to the world; he only regarded it as a place of exile, as a valley of tears and of suffering. He owned none of its good things, the loss of which would now grieve him; he shared in none of its pleasures, the cessation of which he would now regret; what he had that appertained to it he possessed as though he possessed it not. Happy he when the hour of his death comes. It is no grief to him, but joy, real happiness to bid farewell to the world; death is a messenger come to release him from the land of his banishment, where he ever felt himself ill at ease and an alien.
Ask yourself, my soul, what are your sentiments in this respect? Are these words applicable to you? If not, if you are conscious that you would feel very differently if you were now called upon to depart this life, see that from henceforth you follow more closely the counsel of the Imitation of Christ: “Keep thyself as a pilgrim and a stranger upon earth, to whom the affairs of this world do not at all belong. Keep thy heart free and raised upwards towards God, because thou hast here no abiding city.”
2d. Consider how for those who die in the Lord the separation from relatives and friends is easy. . . even as regards his natural affection for those who are united to him by the ties of blood or of friendship, death will be a matter of rejoicing, since he thinks and hopes that if he die in the Lord, he will after death be more than ever able to be of service to them and obtain blessings for them. Perhaps many prayers which he as a sinful man sent up to God on their behalf were not answered; perhaps the strenuous efforts he made for their spiritual welfare produced no effect, but when he stands in the immediate presence of God, in blissful union with Him, his prayers will not be fruitless, his intercession will not be in vain. Then indeed will many a seed that has lain long in the earth, that was thought to be dead, spring up and bear fruit. That will be the reward of one who for the love of God has sacrificed his natural love of his relatives; now the sight of them does not make death difficult, but easy. Do you, my soul, enter into these feelings, or would your experience be otherwise were you now to die? It seems that you . . . are not yet entirely dead to the world. David says: “My soul hath thirsted after the strong, living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God?” (Ps. xli. 3.) . . .
3d. Consider that to those who live in the Lord the separation of soul and body will not be hard. Whereas for those who have not thus lived, when the moment comes for soul and body to part, a severe and painful struggle ensues; whereas the soul of the carnally minded clings tenaciously to the body in which it has taken delight, whose slave that unhappy soul has been, on the other hand this separation is for the soul of the good Priest, the mortified Religious, the devout Christian only the striking off of the fetters that still bind it to earth. As a dove, caged in some sunless place, if it be set at liberty by a kindly hand, spreads its wings in gladsome flight, so the soul of one who has lived in the Lord willingly detaches herself from the body. She has long regarded that body only as an adversary and an antagonist; she has separated herself from it as far as possible by austerities and mortifications; and by this very hostility she has shown herself its best friend, for now after a short period of suffering it will be made participator of her eternal rest. Now ask yourself, my soul, would it be so in your case, if you were now to die? If not, oh shake yourself more than ever free from the bonds of the flesh, which you have hitherto treated too tenderly. Imitate our holy Father St. Francis, who regarded his body merely as a prison-house; chastise it, as he did his, that you may, like him, quit it with perfect facility. Remember a Priest, a Religious, who has not learnt how to die, who cannot lie down to rest at night without trembling at the thought that death may perhaps overtake him in his sleep, has not lived up to his vocation. Wherefore let your resolution to-day be to follow more closely this precious admonition, so that when death comes to you you may die blessed in the Lord: “In the morning think thou wilt not come to evening; and at evening dare not promise thyself the morning. Be therefore always ready, and live in such wise that death may never find thee unprepared.” (Imit. B. i. ch. 23.) Reflect upon this truth: That Religious is a perfect Religious who when asked, What art thou? answers: A dying man.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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