PREPARATION FOR DEATH
ST. ALPHONSUS MARIA DE LIGUORI
Doctor of the Church
PREPARATION FOR DEATH.
CONSIDERATIONS ON THE ETERNAL TRUTHS.
I. portrait of a man who has recently gone into the
The body on the death bed. The body in the grave. Let us labor to save our souls.
II. with death all ends
Death deprives us of everything. Glory and power on the death-bed. Let us hasten to give ourselves to God.
III. shortness of life
Death comes quickly. The lighted candle at death. Importance of the last moment.
IV. the certainty of death
All must die. Every moment we approach death. We should think continually of death.
V. uncertainty of THE hour of death
The moment is fixed, but it is unknown. We should make up our accounts. We must always be ready.
VI. the death of the sinner
The sinner will seek God at death, but be will not find him. Anguish of the dying sinner. We must seek God when we can find him.
VII. sentiments of a dying christian, who has been careless about the duties of religion, and
has thought but little of death .
Sad state of the worldling at death. Desire of the
worldling at death. Tardy regrets of a dying person.
VIII. the death of the just
The death of the just is a rest. The death of the just is a victory. The death of the just is the entrance to life.
IX. peace of the just at the hour of death
The just have nothing to fear at the hour of death. The just die in a sweet peace. The just in dying have a foretaste of celestial joy.
X. means of preparing for death
Not to wait till the last moment. Put our conscience in a good state, and regulate our lives, in. We must detach ourselves from the world.
XI, value of time...
Time is a treasure of the earth. Neglect of time. We must profit by the time.
XII. the importance of salvation
Salvation is our own most important affair. Salvation is our only affair. Failure in saving our soul is an irremediable evil.
XIII. the vanity of the world
The goods of this world are useless. The goods of this world are contemptible. We must work for heaven.
XIV. life is a journey to eternity .
Man is a traveller on earth. Man can secure eternal happiness. Man shall go into the house of eternity.
XV. the malice of mortal sin
The sinner insults God. The sinner dishonors God. The sinner afflicts God.
XVI. the mercy of god
God waits for the sinner. God calls the sinner. God receives the sinner with kindness.
XVII. abuse of divine mercy
God is merciful, but he is also just. The sinner abandoned by God. Unfortunate is he who allows the time of mercy to pass by.
XVIII. the number of sins
The measure is determined for each one. The
measure is not the same for all. We must always fear.
XIX. the state of grace and of disgrace with god. Dignity to which the grace of God raises us. Advantages that the grace of God procures for us. Enmity with God.
XX. the folly of the sinner
The large number of fools. Great folly.
XXI. unhappy life of the sinner; and happy life of
HIM WHO LOVES GOD.
The world cannot make us happy. Interior tor-
ments of the sinner. Happiness of the just
XXII. the habit of sin
The habit of sin blinds the soul. The habit of sin hardens the heart. The habit of sin leads to final impenitence.
XXIII. the delusions which the devil puts into the
minds of sinners
I will go to confession.—I cannot resist. God is merciful. I am young.—Perhaps.
XXIV. the particular judgment
The guilty soul before its judge. Nothing will remain hidden. The sentence.
XXV. the general judgment. .,
The general resurrection. The valley of Josaphat. The eternal sentence.
XXVI. the pains of hell
The pain of sense. The fire of hell. The pain of loss.
XXVII. the eternity of hell
Hell is eternal. The weight of eternity. Eternity is unchangeable.
XXVIII. the remorse of the damned
The little for which the damned are lost. The little that was required for their salvation. The great good that the damned have lost.
Entrance of a soul into Paradise. Happiness of Heaven. Heaven is eternal.
Efficacy of prayer. Necessity of prayer.
Conditions of prayer.
XXXI. perseverance ,
Necessity of perseverance.—Means of defence against the devil. We must conquer the world. We must struggle against the flesh.
XXXII. confidence in the patronage of mary
Power of Mary. Mercy of Mary. Charity
XXXIII. the love of God
Love and goodness shown by God to man. God has given himself to us. Love that Jesus Christ has shown in his Passion.
XXXIV. holy communion
The Eucharist is a precious gift. The Eucharist is a gift of love. How much Jesus Christ desires to unite himself to us.
XXXV. dwelling of jesus on our altars
Jesus makes himself accessible to every one. Jesus gives audience to all at all times. Jesus only wishes to bestow his graces.
XXXVI. the conformity to the will ok god
Excellence of this virtue. In what we should conform to God's will. Happiness derived from conformity to God's will.
admonitions to persons of all states who desire to be
protestation for a happy death
hymn: Mary our Hope
To Mary Immaculate Ever Virgin,
to her who is full of grace, and blessed among all the
children of adam:
to the dove, the turtle, the beloved of god:
honor of the human race, delight of the most holy trinity.
house of love, example of humility:
mirror of all virtues: mother of fair love, mother of holy hope, and mother of mercy:
advocate of the miserable, defence oF the weak, light of the blind, physician of the sick:
gate of heaven: anchor of confidence, city of refuge, ark of life, rainbow
of peace, haven of salvation:
star of the sea, and sea of sweetness:
advocate of sinners, hope of those who are in despair, help
of the abandoned: comforter of the afflicted, consolation of the dying, and
joy of the world:
her affectionate and loving, though vile and unworthy servant, humbly dedicates this work.
AIM OF THE WORK.
(THIS SHOULD BE READ.)
some persons asked me to write a book on the Eternal Maxims, for the use of those who desire to establish themselves in virtue and to advance in a spiritual life. Others requested me to prepare a collection of matter for the sermons of the missions and of the spiritual exercises. Not to multiply books, labor, and expense, I resolved to compose the work in the present form, with the hope that it might answer both purposes. To render it useful as a book of meditations for seculars, I have divided the considerations into three points. Each point will serve for one meditation, and therefore I have annexed to each point affections and prayers. I entreat my readers not to grow weary, if, in those prayers, they always find petitions for the grace of perseverance and of divine love. For us, these are the two graces most necessary for the attainment of eternal salvation.
The grace of divine love is, according to St. Francis de Sales, the grace which contains in itself all graces: because the virtue of charity toward God brings with it all other virtues. Now all good things come to me together with her (Wisd. VII, II) He who loves God is humble, chaste, obedient, and mortified; in a word, he possesses all virtues. " Love," says St. Augustine, " and do what you wish" (Ama, et fac quod vis). They who love God labor to avoid whatever is offensive to him, and seek to please him in all things.
The grace of perseverance is that grace by which we obtain the eternal crown. St. Bernard says that Paradise is promised to those who begin a good life, but is only given to those who persevere. " To beginners a reward is promised, but to him who perseveres it is given;." (De modo bene vivere, s. 6) But this gift of perseverance is, as the Fathers teach, given only to those who ask it. Hence St. Thomas asserts that to enter heaven continual prayer is necessary. And our Redeemer said: We ought always to pray, and not to faint. (Luke XIII, 1) It is because they do not pray for the gift of perseverance that so many miserable sinners, after having obtained pardon, lose again the grace of God. Their sins are forgiven; but because they afterward neglect to ask of God the grace of perseverance, particularly in the time of temptations, they relapse into sin. And although the grace of final perseverance is altogether gratuitous, and cannot be merited by good works; still Suarez teaches that it can be infallibly obtained by prayer: and according to St. Augustine, it may be merited by humble supplication.(De Dono persev. C. 6)
This necessity of prayer I have demonstrated at length in another little work, entitled The Great Means of Prayer. This book, though small, has cost me a great deal of labor. I consider it to be of extreme utility to all sorts of persons; and I unhesitatingly assert that, among all spiritual treatises, there is none, and there can be none, more necessary than that which treats on prayer as a means of obtaining eternal salvation.
To render these considerations useful to preachers who have but few books or little time for reading, I have furnished these considerations with texts of Scripture and passages from the Fathers, which are short, but strong and animated, as they ought to be in sermons. The three points of each consideration will supply matter for one sermon. I have endeavored to collect from many authors the sentiments which appeared to me best suited to move the will, and have inserted several of them expressed briefly, that the reader may select and extend at pleasure those that please him most. May all tend to the glory of God !
I pray my reader to recommend me to Jesus Christ, whether I am living or dead (Now that St. Alphonsus Liguori is a canonized Saint we ask for his intercession); and I promise to do the same for all those who perform this act of charity toward me. Live Jesus, our love, and Mary, our hope !
PREPARATION FOR DEATH;
Considerations on the Eternal Truths.
USEFUL TO ALL AS MEDITATIONS. SERVICEABLE TO PRIESTS FOR SERMONS.
Portrait of a Man who has recently gone into the Other World.
“ Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” — Gen. iii. 19.
The Body on the Death-bed.
consider that you are dust, and that you shall return to dust. A day will come when you shall die, and rot in a grave, where worms shall be your covering (Isai., xiv, 11). The same lot awaits all, the nobleman and the peasant, the prince and the vassal. The moment the soul leaves the body, it shall go to eternity, and the body shall return to dust. Thou shalt send forth their breath, and they shall fail and shall return to their dust (Ps. ciii, 29).
Imagine that you behold a person who has just expired. Look at that body still laid on the bed, the head fallen on the chest, the hair in disorder and still bathed in the sweat of death, the eyes sunk, the cheeks hollow, the face the color of ashes, the lips and tongue like iron, the body cold and heavy. The beholders grow pale and tremble. How many, at the sight of a deceased relative or friend, have changed their life and retired from the world!
Still greater horror will be excited when the body begins to putrefy. Twenty-four hours have not elapsed since the death of that young man, and his body has already begun to exhale an offensive smell. The windows must be opened; a great quantity of incense must be used; and, to prevent the communication of disease to the entire family, he must soon be transferred to the church, and buried in the earth. “ If he has been one of the rich or nobles of the earth, his body shall send forth a more intolerable stench,” («Gravius foetent divitum corpora» In Hexamer. 1. 6, c. 8) says Saint Ambrose.
Behold the end of that proud, of that lewd and voluptuous man! Before death desired and sought after in conversations, now become an object of horror and disgust to all who behold him. His relatives are in haste to remove him from the house; they hire men to shut him up in a coffin, to carry him to the church-yard and throw him into a grave. During life, the fame of his wit, of his politeness, of the elegance of his manners, and of his facetiousness, was spread abroad; but after death he is soon forgotten. Their memory hath perished with a noise (Ps. ix, 7).
On hearing the news of his death, some say, He was an honor to his family; others say, He has provided well for his children. Some regret his death because he had done them some service during life; others rejoice at it because it is an advantage to them. But in a little time no one speaks of him. In the beginning, his nearest relatives feel unwilling to hear his name, through fear of renewing their grief. In the visits of condolence, all are careful to make no mention of the deceased; and should any happen to speak of him, the relatives exclaim, For God's sake, do not mention his name!
Consider that as you have acted on the occasion of the death of friends and relatives, so others will act on the occasion of your death. The living take part in the scene. They occupy the possessions and offices of the deceased; but the dead are no longer remembered— their name is scarcely ever mentioned. In the beginning, their relatives are afflicted for a short time; but they will soon be consoled by the share of the property of the deceased which falls to them.
Thus in a short time your death will be rather a source of joy; and in the very room in which you have breathed forth your soul, and in which you have been judged by Jesus Christ, others will dance, and eat, and play, and laugh as before. And where will your soul then be ?
Affections and Prayers.
O Jesus, my Redeemer! I thank Thee for not having taken me out of life when I was Thy enemy. For how many years have I deserved to be in hell! Had I died on such a day or such a night, what should be my lot for all eternity? Lord, I thank Thee; I accept my death in satisfaction for my sins, and I accept it in the manner in which Thou shalt be pleased to send it. But since Thou hast borne with me until now, wait for me a little longer. Suffer me, therefore, that I may lament my sorrow a little! (Job x, 20). Give me time to bewail, before Thou judgest me, the offences I have offered to Thee. I will no longer resist Thy calls. Who knows but the words which I have just read may be the last call for me ? I acknowledge that I am unworthy of mercy. Thou hast so often pardoned me, and I have ungratefully offended Thee again. A contrite and humble heart, O God! Thou wilt not despise? Since, O Lord, Thou knowest not how to despise a contrite and humble heart, behold the penitent traitor who has recourse to Thee. For Thy mercy's sake, cast me not away from Thy face. Thou bast said: Him that cometh to me I will not cast out (John vi, 37). It is true that I have outraged Thee more than others, because I have been favored more than others with Thy lights and graces. But the blood Thou hast shed for me encourages me, and offers me pardon if I repent. My Sovereign Good! I am sorry with my whole soul for having insulted Thee. Pardon me, and give me grace to love Thee for the future. I have offended Thee sufficiently. The remainder of my life I wish to spend, not in offending Thee, but only in weeping unceasingly over the insults I have offered to Thee, and in loving with my whole heart a God worthy of infinite love. O Mary, my hope ! pray to Jesus for me.
The Body in the Grave.
But, Christian soul, that you may see more clearly what you are, follow the advice of St. Chrysostom: “Go to the grave; contemplate dust, ashes, worms; and sigh.” 2 Behold how that corpse first turns yellow, and then black. Afterwards, the entire body is covered with a white, disgusting mould; then comes forth a clammy, fetid slime, which flows to the earth. In that putrid mass is generated a great multitude of worms, which feed on the flesh. Rats come to feast on the body; some attack it on the outside; others enter into the mouth and bowels. The cheeks, the lips, and the hair fall off. The ribs are first laid bare, and then the arms and legs. The worms, after having consumed all the flesh, devour one another; and, in the end, nothing remains but a fetid skeleton, which in the course of time falls to pieces; the bones separate from one another and the head separates from the body. They became like the chaff of a summer's threshing-floor, and they were carried away by the wind. Behold what man is: he is a little dust on the threshing-floor, which is blown away by the wind.
Behold a young nobleman, who was called the life and soul of conversation: where is he now? Enter into his apartment: he is no longer there. If you look for his bed, his robes, or his armor, you will find that they have passed into the hands of others. If you wish to see him, turn to the grave, where he is changed into corruption and withered bones. O God! that body, pampered with so many delicacies, clothed with so much pomp, and attended by so many servants, to what is it now reduced? O ye saints! who knew how to mortify your bodies for the love of that God whom alone you loved on this earth, you well understood the end of all human greatness, of all earthly delights; now your bones are honored as sacred relics, and preserved in shrines of gold, and your souls are happy in the enjoyment of God, expecting the last day, on which your bodies shall be made partners of your glory, as they have been partakers of your cross in this life. The true love for the body consists in treating it here with rigor and contempt, that it may be happy for eternity; and in refusing it all pleasures, which might make it miserable forever.
Affections and Prayers.
Behold, then, O my God ! to what my body, by which I have so much offended Thee, must be reduced ! to worms and rottenness. This does not afflict me; on the contrary, I rejoice that this flesh of mine, which has made me lose Thee, my Sovereign Good, will one day rot and be consumed. What grieves me is, that, to indulge in these wretched pleasures, I have given so much displeasure to Thee. But I will not despair of Thy mercy. Thou hast waited for me in order to pardon me. The Lord waiteth, that He may have mercy on you (Isa., xxx, 18). Thou wilt forgive me if I repent. O Infinite Goodness, I repent with my whole heart of having despised Thee. I will say with St. Catharine of Genoa, “ My Jesus, no more sins! no more sins!” I will no longer abuse Thy patience. O my crucified Love, I will not wait till the confessor places the crucifix in my hands at the hour of death. From this moment I embrace Thee; from this moment I recommend my soul to Thee. Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit (Ps., xxx, 6). My soul has been so many years in the world, and has not loved Thee. Give me light and strength to love Thee during the remainder of my life: I will not wait to love Thee at the hour of death. From this moment I love Thee; I embrace Thee, and unite myself to Thee ; and I promise never more to depart from Thee, O most holy Virgin ! bind me to Jesus Christ, and obtain for me the grace never to lose him more.
Let us Labor to Save our Souls.
My brother, in this picture of death behold yourself and what you must one day become. “Remember that dust thou art, and unto dust thou shall return.” Consider that in a few years, and perhaps in a few months or days, you will become rottenness and worms. By this thought Job became a saint. I have said to rottenness: Thou art my father: to worms, my mother, and my sister (Job, xvii, 14).
All must end; and if, after death, you lose your soul all will be lost for you. Consider yourself already dead, says St. Laurence Justinian, since you know that you must necessarily die (Lign. Vit. De hum. C. 4). If you were already dead, what would you not desire to have done ? Now that you have life, reflect that you will one day be among the dead. St. Bonaventure says, that, to guide the vessel safely, the pilot must remain at the helm; and in like manner, to lead a good life, a man should always imagine himself at the hour of death. Says St. Bernard, “ Look to the sins of your youth, and be covered with shame”. “Remember the sins of manhood and weep.” “Look to the present disorders of your life; tremble”, and hasten to apply a remedy.
When St. Camillus de Lellis saw the graves of the dead, he said within himself: If these return to life, what would they not do for eternal glory ? And what do I do for my soul, who have time? This the Saint said through humility. But my brother, you, perhaps, have reason to fear that you are the fruitless fig-tree of which the Lord said: Behold, for these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and I find none (Luke, xiii, 7) You have been in this world for more than three years; what fruit have you produced ? Remember, says St. Bernard, that the Lord seeks not only flowers, but fruits; that is, not only good desires and resolutions, but also holy works. Learn then to profit of the time which God in his mercy gives you: do not wait until you desire time to do good, when time shall be no more. Do not wait till you are told, Time shall be no longer; depart; (Apoc., x,6) the time for leaving this world has arrived; what is done, is done.
Affections and Prayers.
Behold me, O my God ! I am that tree which deserved for so many years to hear from Thee, Cut it down—why cumbereth it the ground?1 Yes; for so many years during which I have been in the world, I have brought forth no other fruit than the briers and thorns of sin. But, O Lord ! Thou dost not wish that I despair. Thou hast said to all, that he who seeks Thee shall tind Thee. Seek and you shall find? I seek Thee, O my God! and wish for Thy grace. For all the offences I have offered to Thee I am sorry with my whole heart; I would wish to die of sorrow for them. Hitherto I have fled from Thee; but now I prefer Thy friendship to the possession of all the kingdoms of the earth. I will no longer resist Thy invitations. Dost Thou wish me to be all Thine? I give Thee my whole being without reserve. Thou gavest Thyself entirely to me on the Cross. I give myself entirely to Thee.
Thou hast said : If you shall ask me anything in my name, that I will do (John, xiv, 14). My Jesus, trusting in this great promise, I ask, in Thy name and through Thy merits, Thy grace and Thy love. Grant that Thy grace and Thy holy love may abound in my soul, in which sin has abounded. I thank Thee for having given me grace to make this petition by inspiring the prayer, Thou showest that Thou dost intend to hear it. Hear me, O my Jesus; give me a great love for Thee; give me a great desire to please Thee, and give me strength to do Thy will. O Mary, my great advocate ! do thou also listen to my cry, and pray to Jesus for me.