My Father Alphonsus, I’m Not Sure of Your Logic

In his book on Preparation for Death, Saint Alphonsus tells us that a dying sinner has a great fight: the devils will torment him, exerting “all their strength to secure the perdition of the soul that is about to leave this world”; he will also see himself surrounded by his sins; indeed, “having loved sin until death, he has also loved the danger of damnation.” The description is vivid. In detail we have the reasons to avoid such a state for ourselves and for others. We know this is not what we want for ourselves and for others. We can, through Saint Alphonsus’ words, almost smell the horror of the nearby devils, hungry to consume a soul in its last moments, employing the past and present to their gain. Conversion of heart is important. God, do not let us be in such dire straits!

What my father Alphonsus says next, though, is surprising:

Hence the Lord will justly permit him to perish in that danger in which is has voluntarily lived until the end of his life.

And:

We keep no account of the graces which God bestows upon us; but he keeps an account of them, he measures them; and when he sees them despised to a certain degree, he then abandons the sinner in his sin, and takes him out of life in that unhappy state.

And:

Saint Vincent Ferrer writes that it is a greater miracle to bring such sinners to salvation than to raise the dead to life.

What to say? All I can think to say is, “My father Alphonsus, I’m not sure of your logic.”

What is so debatable in this logic of my father Saint Alphonsus? Quite simply that he says that the dying sinner, the one in deep and mortal sin, which has cut his life off from the overflowing fountain which is Jesus’ blood, is in a tough situation. Why, Alphonsus tells us that the sinner is weak and in trouble! He tells us that to help him is a great miracle. And then he says that God is under no obligation to help.

Van and his "sister"No, my father! Have you not learned at the school of Saint Bernard, Saint Thérèse, and Little Văn? God loves the weak. God loves the weak so much that, because he has permitted weakness, he justly condescends all the more to it. Some weakness may be of our own doing, such as committing sins, to be sure. But it is weakness. And where we are weak, God comes down. All that is necessary is the tiniest yes from us. The teeniest, tiniest yes, for God is the great one. He abounds in graces all the more. Weakness is compelling to God. He loves to manifest himself through it. That is his Justice, for his Justice is Love.

Here, in the death of sinners, we have on display their weakness, their languishing. My father Saint Alphonsus himself lists details: the devils, the haunting memories, the presence of sin. In reality, what will a God who is compelled by his own inner Justice and Love to help sinners, going out of himself to love and overwhelm in love, do?

Since when has God refused a miracle which would save? And the greater the miracle, such the Incarnation, the more it is loveable to God, is it not?

When the fight is greater, does God withdraw all the more?

The truth is that, where there is weakness and horror, God comes down to save us. We may still refuse. But he comes down. He beckons. “Daddy,” say the children of the Father. “Over there, on that bed, is dying a man who doesn’t know you. He is surrounded by devils in his last hour. We have been praying to Mother Mary everyday to pray for us in the hour of our death, and we have meant the whole world. This is a great need! You love the little ones! You love to come down and shock those very same devils in your philanthropy. Daddy, please, take the poor merits we have now, use them; even more, we put before you the infinite merits of Jesus. Save the sinner! Save us all! Special need is for you special reason to lift us up, for we can do so little by ourselves. Your limitless love is your majesty. We ask for fish for us all, and we know you do not give us snakes instead. A miracle which will save is always a fish. Daddy, in your providence, govern all. Take it all, all, into your hand.”

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