Saint Alphonsus, whose feast day it is today, has a book on Preparation for Death – in other words, preparation to make the last leg of the journey to the Church of Heaven. Let it be said in advance that I like this little book. We want to avoid hell. We want to love Jesus, now and for eternity. This little book is wonderful for that.
Actually, I think it’s wonderful for that both individually-personally and communally-personally. Towards the beginning of the meditations in the book, my father Alphonsus writes about Scripture indicating that, for one whose life has been lived away from God, at the moment of death, conversion is more difficult. He adds,
Reason tells us the same; for, at death, men of the world shall find their understanding weak and darkened, and their heart hardened by the bad habits which they have contracted. Their temptations will then be more violent; how can they resist at death who were almost always accustomed to yield to temptations during life? To change their heart a most powerful grace would be then necessary. But is God obliged to give them such a grace? Have they merited such a grace by the scandalous and disorderly life which they have led? And on that last hour depends their happiness or misery for eternity. How is it possible that he who reflects on this, and believes the truths of faith, does not leave all to give himself to God, who will judge us all according to our works.
And to this I say a great AMEN. I agree with every word here spoken by this Doctor of the Church. And I agree with the parts he left unsaid, too, but which are really, truly contained within the words he wrote.
There are sinners, up to their heart, their neck, their very breath, in sin. “To change their heart a most powerful grace would be then necessary… Have they merited such a grace by the scandalous and disorderly life which they have led?” No? Then, let us “merit” it for them. Let us go to the Cross with Jesus and, upon Calvary with him, offer everything we have to God and merit the most powerful graces to be used by divine providence at the right time and in the right way for the passing of all: that none, especially those we know, may die in the absolute horror of mortal sin and be deprived of the light of God’s face. Oh yes, it is difficult. The “most powerful graces” are needed. It is arduous. It is hard. It takes blood. But it is what is asked of us.
“How is it possible that he who reflects on this, and believes the truths of faith” – which include the fact that God desires all to be saved (1 Tim 2:4), that Jesus came to seek and save those who were lost (Lk 19:10) – “does not leave all to give himself to God…” Indeed, how is it possible to abandon one’s neighbour? to declare that there are people (especially any we know) in hell? to give up? Just how is it possible? When one sits down and digests what that would mean, then one gets up and says, “I am nothing, my Jesus. But my brothers and sisters cannot be allowed to become nothing. Do with me what you will. Anything, everything. Please, for the salvation of the world depends on the Church giving herself and her merits for the arduous cause that is so dear to you: the salvation of all, the seeking and saving of the lost. Whatever you wish, Lord, whatever you wish; just accomplish your will. May those powerful graces somehow, somehow, be merited. We ask you to look on the infinite merits of Jesus, who wills all to be saved. This is what counts, for you have revealed it to be your will.”
Some related posts:
- The Curious Situation of our Knowledge about Hell and Mortal Sin
- What Can Limit Our Hope?
- The Rejoicing of the Church of Heaven