What will be the feelings of the worldling when he is told that death is at hand? What pain will he feel in hearing these words: Your illness is mortal. It is necessary to receive the Last Sacraments, to unite yourself to God, to prepare to bid farewell to the world. What! exclaims the sick man, must I leave all? Yes, you must leave all! Thou shalt die and not live!
I. 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, want of breath and cold perspirations; his reason so impaired that he feels but little, understands little, and can speak but 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 the sickness and the pains which will soon put an end to life. "They are unable to have any other thought than of themselves," says St. Laurence Justinian, speaking of the condition of negligent Christians at the hour of death. 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 will then have no other interest that that of my eternal salvation, and will all help me to die well.
But though he is not admonished of his approaching end, the poor sick man, seeing the family in disorder, the medical consultations repeated, the remedies multiplied, and frequent and violent, is filled with confusion and terror. Assaulted by fears, remorse and distrust, he says within himself: Perhaps the end of my days has arrived! But what will be his feelings when at last he is told that death is at hand? Take order with thy house; for thou shalt die and shalt not live (Is. xxxviii. 1). What pain will he feel in hearing these words: Your illness is mortal. It is necessary to receive the Last Sacraments, to unite yourself to God, and to prepare to bid farewell to this world. What! exclaims the sick man; must I take leave of all — of my house, my villa, my relatives, friends, conversations, games and amusements? Yes, you must take leave of all. The lawyer is already come, and writes this last farewell: "I bequeath." And what does he take away with him? Nothing but a miserable rag, which will soon rot with him in the grave.
If it were at this moment announced to me, O Lord, that my death was at hand, such would be the painful sentiments that 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 a 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 committed it. My Jesus, I am sorry for all my sins.
II. Oh, with what melancholy and agitation will the dying man be seized at the sight of the tears of servants, at the silence of his friends, who have not courage to speak in his presence. But his greatest anguish will arise from the remorse of his conscience, which in that tempest will be rendered more terrible by the remembrance of the disorderly life he has until then led, in spite 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 will then say: O unhappy me! I have had so many lights from God, so much time to settle my conscience, and have not done so. Behold, I have 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, so very little! But, though it should have cost me much pain and labour, I aught to have submitted to every inconvenience to save my soul, which is of more importance to me than all the goods of this world. Oh, if I had put into execution the good resolutions I made on such an occasion! If I had continued the good works which I began at such a time, how happy I should 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.
O my Jesus, 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 proofs of my love. From this moment I accept all the infirmities, crosses, insults, and offences 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.
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