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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Happiness of the Religious at Death

(By St. Alphonsus de Ligouri)


“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” (Apocalypse 14:13). And who are thoseblessed dead who die in the Lord, but the religious, who at the end of their lives are foundalready dead to the world, having already detached themselves by their holy vows from theworld and all its goods?Consider, my brother, how content you will feel if, following your vocation, it will beyour good fortune to die in the house of God. The devil will certainly represent to you that if youretire into the house of God you may perhaps afterwards repent of having left your own houseand your own country, and deprived your parents of the help that they might have expected fromyou. But say to yourself: Shall I at the point of death repent of having put my resolution intoexecution, or shall I be content? I beseech you therefore to imagine yourself now already at thepoint of death, about to appear before the tribunal of Jesus Christ. Reflect what then, reduced tothat state, you would wish to have done. Perhaps to have contented your parents, to have workedfor your own family and your country, and then to die surrounded by brothers and nephews andrelatives, after having lived in your own house, with the title of a pastor, of a canon, of a bishop,of a member of the cabinet, and after having done your own will? Or rather, to die in the houseof God, assisted by your good brethren in religion, who encourage you on the great passage toeternity, after having lived many years in religion, humbled, mortified, poor, far from parents,deprived of your own will, and under obedience, and detached from everything of the world, allthese things render death sweet and agreeable? “He who has been accustomed to deprive himself of the delights of the world will not regret doing so when he has to leave it,” says St. Bernard.Pope Honorius II, when dying, wished that he had remained in his monastery, occupied inwashing the plates, and had not been Pope. Philip II wished at his death that he had been a laybrother in some religious Order, intent on serving God, and had he not been a king. Philip III,also king of Spain, said when he was dying: “Oh, that I had been in a desert, there to serve God,and that I had never been a monarch, for had such been the case, I should now appear with moreconfidence before the tribunal of Jesus Christ.” 

When, then, hell tempts you about your vocation, think of the hour of death, and setbefore your eyes that all important moment “upon which eternity depends.” Thus you willovercome all temptations, you will be faithful to God, and certainly you will not repent of it atthe point of death, but will give thanks to the Lord, and die contented. Gerard, brother of St.Bernard, died singing, at the very thought of dying in the house of God.Father Suarez, of the Society of Jesus, felt at his death so great consolation and sweetnessat dying in religion, that he said: “I never thought it was so sweet to die.” Another goodreligious, of the same Society, when at the point of death, laughed; and being asked why helaughed, answered: “And why should I not laugh? Has not Jesus Christ himself promisedparadise to him who leaves everything for His sake? Was it not He who said: “Every one thathath left house, or brethren, or father, etc. shall receive a hundredfold, and shall possess lifeeverlasting”? (Matthew 19:29) I have left all for God; God is faithful; He cannot fail to fulfill Hispromises; and so he said: Why should I not rejoice and laugh, seeing myself assured of paradise?”A certain lay brother who died some years ago was asked at his death in which house hewould rather be. He answered: “I desire nothing but to die and to be united with God.”Father Januarius Sarnelli, a short time before his death, when conversing with God,uttered the following words: “O Lord, Thou knowest that all I have done, all I have thought, hasbeen for Thy glory; now I wish to go to see Thee face to face, if it please Thee so;” then he said:“Come, I will begin a sweet agony,” and began to converse affectionately with God; and shortlyafter placidly expired, preserving the smile on his lips, and the body began to give forth a sweetodor, which, as they attested, was perceived for several days in the room in which he had died.St. Bernard, speaking of the happy state of religious, had then good reason to exclaim: “Osecure life, in which death is expected without fear, aye, sweetly desired and devoutly accepted!”

Prayer

O my Lord Jesus Christ, who, in order to obtain a happy death for me, hast chosen sobitter a death for Thyself; since Thou hast loved me to such an extent as to have chosen me tofollow more closely Thy holy life, to have me thus more intimately united with Thy loving heart,bind me, I beseech Thee, wholly to Thee with the sweet cords of Thy love, that I may no moreseparate myself from Thee. O my beloved Redeemer, I wish to be grateful to Thee, and tocorrespond with Thy grace, but I fear my weakness may render me unfaithful; O my Jesus, donot permit this. Let me die rather than abandon Thee, or forget the peculiar affection that Thouhast shown me. I love Thee, O my dear Saviour Thou art and shalt always be the only Lord of my heart and of my soul. I leave all and choose Thee alone for my treasure, O most pure Lambof God! O my most ardent lover. “My beloved is white and ruddy, chosen out of thousands”(Canticles 5:10). Begone, ye creatures! My only good is my God: He is my love, my all. I loveThee, O my Jesus, and in loving Thee I will spend the remainder of my life, be it short or be itlong. I embrace Thee, I press Thee to my heart, and I wish to die united with Thee. I wishnothing else. Make me to live always burning with Thy love, and when I shall have arrived at theend of my life, make me to expire in an ardent act of love towards Thee. Immaculate VirginMary, obtain thou this grace for me; I hope it from thee.


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