Friday, August 3, 2007

A Holy Death

1. Now and again it is useful for Christians to dedicate a day to meditation on the subject of death. It is useful because it is easy to regard our own death as something theoretical and remote, whereas in fact we ought always to be prepared to die since it is at an hour that you do not expect the Son of Man is coming. (Luke 12:40) It may be at the hour when we are least expecting it that Godwill come to take us, and it will be on our spiritual state at this hour that our eternity will depend.

We know neither when nor where death will surprise us. It may be to-day, it may be in a few years. It may come suddenly, or maybe after a long illness. We may be in bed or in the middle of a street, in hospital or at home. Finally, we may be resigned, comforted by the presence of a priest and by the reception of the last sacraments, or we may be alone and deprived of these consolations.

It is essential, therefore, to be always prepared, fortified by faith, charity and good works. If we are really prepared, it will not matter when, where, or how death comes, for it will be to us like the good Sister Death of St. Francis of Assisi. It will release us from this corrupt mortal flesh and open to us the gates of everlasting happiness. Then we shall fly joyfully into the arms of our Creator and Redeemer Whom we have tried hard to love and serve.

But if we are not prepared, what then? How bitter it will be to have to leave the world to which we have become so attached. What remorse we shall feel at the remembrance of our innumerable sins, badly confessed and never attoned for, and at the realisation that we have failed to do so much good which we could have done, whereas now we shall have to appear before the Eternal judge with nothing to offer.

2. When we meditate on death, then, we should resolve to remain always prepared. Besides this, we should make an act of perfect resignation to the will of God, accepting from Him whatever illnesses He may ask us to endure and whatever kind of death He has destined for us. We should promise to accept everything as long as He will allow us to die in the state of grace.

We should frequently offer to God, as a guarantee of our love and as satisfaction for our sins and negligences, the sufferings with which we shall be afflicted during our last illness. We shall be comforted in our final hours by the remembrance of thistotal offering of ourselves which we have so often repeated. Like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, we shall be able to pray: Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me; yet not as I will, but as thou willest. (Mt. 26:39)

3. During our meditation on death we should seize the opportunity of asking God for the favour of dying with the consolation of the last sacraments. Let us pray that in our final moments we may be comforted and reassured by the sacramental absolution and blessing of the priest at our bedside, and that Jesus may visit us once more in the Blessed Eucharist to revive our faith, hope, and love, and to strengthen us for our journey into eternity. Finally, let us pray that, before we have lost consciousness, Extreme Unction may heal our spiritual scars, make us worthy to see God, and assist us to pass peacefully from this vale of tears into everlasting happiness.