Devotion for the Dying  [and the Holy Souls in Purgatory]


By Ven. Mother Mary Potter


Chapter 2, Part 3

Oh, the joy with which God welcomes back to His loving embrace the child that has strayed from Him! O God, good God! And we may do this work for Thee and yet we do it not! We know that there are souls in danger of eternal separation from Thee, and we breathe not a prayer for them, and yet Thou hast measured our love for Thee by the love we show to others; and we say that we love Thee, while souls, immortal souls, are being lost forever. They are in the agonies of death, they are as drowning people surrounded on all sides by waters threatening to engulf them. They rise for a few minutes before they finally sink and are seen no more. So those who have watched the dying, who have witnessed the death struggle which is so hard with some, have seen how they seem to sink and then to come to life again and many, who for years have lost the faculties of their mind, regain at the last the use of reason, purposely, as Divine Providence has designed in numberless cases, to give the soul an opportunity of making good use of the last of the time allotted to it.

       Oh, that the prayer of some charitable soul may bring a grace at that moment! There may be no time to send for a priest, but an act of perfect contrition will save that soul and restore to it God's grace, if unhappily it has lost it. God treats the sinner who repents with an exceeding goodness, as I have already shown to you, and lavishes on him grace upon grace. We know that to all who use one grace well, another is given, and another upon that, and so on; that thus a chain, as it were, of graces is formed, one linked to the other, reaching to eternity, and that one grace lost is a chain of graces lost. But the graces that God gives to the returning sinner make our hearts burn within us as we think of it.

May we make use of another homely comparison to bring this a little more clearly before us, that so we may love God better and be more anxious to obtain from Him that first grace, the grace of contrition for dying sinners, which is the foundation upon which He will afterwards erect as wonderful a building-----processes of sanctification commenced even at the hour of death and rapidly developing and ripening-----as we see in the case of the penitent thief? Let me, then, make a comparison that most people will recognize as true.

   If a good-hearted person has been injured by a friend, either by angry words or in some other of the various ways by which charity is broken, and the friend, afterwards feeling grieved for the wrong he has done and for having ruptured the friendship that before existed, comes openly and says so and begs earnestly to be forgiven and asks that what has passed may be forgotten and that they may be to one another what they were before, what, I ask, would a person of good disposition do in such a case? He would not only readily forgive, but he would be demonstrative in showing it, he would strive in numberless ways to show how entirely he condoned the offense, whatever it might have been. He would, before others, be particularly kind to his friend, and most delicate in never referring to what had passed, carefully avoiding any topic of conversation likely to bring it to the other's mind. There would be a new kind of friendship between the one who forgave and the one who had been forgiven, which had not been before. There would be a link not easily broken. This is but a poor comparison after all, but we may increase our confidence in God by thinking that it is thus He acts toward those who are sorry for having offended Him, reflecting, while we do so, on the marvelous condescension of the great God-----the Creator of all things, who hates intensely, infinitely, the least sin, in whose sight the heavens are not pure-----in receiving the sinner back, without a word of reproach, but with the promise that He will remember no more his iniquities, that He will cast his sins into the bottom of the sea, and that though they were as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow.

   The wonderful graces God pours upon the truly penitent soul, but lately, as it were, received back into His favor, make us exclaim in loving admiration, Quis sicut Dominus?-----"Who is like unto the Lord?" And the soul upon whom these graces are bestowed, humbled, like St. Peter, could exclaim, "Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man"; but, grateful beyond measure for the love with which it feels itself encompassed and surrounded, murmurs with broken voice to Him Who it knows is listening to its humble though bold and loving whisper, "I have found Him Whom my soul loveth; I hold Him fast, nor will I ever let Him go." Happy soul, if it dies in that act of love.

   God grant such happiness to us, to you and to me, to the soul now stricken down, with but few hours to live. Let us hasten with our prayers to that soul in danger. Let us be bold with God.

Let us prostrate ourselves in spirit upon that soul unprepared to appear before its God, and cry
out to Him, "If Thy hand of justice is about to strike this soul, it must first strike me! Thou hast commanded that I should love my neighbor as myself: I do but fulfill Thy command."

   Could we but see the look of love which Jesus casts upon the soul when thus, unmindful of self, it prays for the salvation of its neighbor, we would indeed try to earn for ourselves that look of love.

We would make a compact with God that whenever we looked upon a crucifix, we would breathe a sigh for a dying sinner, that whenever we entered a Church, we would go to the Sacred Heart  of Jesus enclosed in the Tabernacle and knock and pray and beseech Him that one drop of Blood from that Sacred Heart may fall upon some dying sinner and that the Sacred Heart to which we have come may, even whilst we are in Its Presence, speak comforting words to a soul that died while we were praying, died contrite by the grace our prayers had gained for it and has received the promise of eternal happiness through the merits of that Precious Blood of Jesus.

    Animate yourself by your love for Jesus to pray for those whom He desires to love for all eternity. Give yourself to this work of love by applying to it whatever most moves you to zeal in God's service. oWe all have some special devotion, but devotion to the sufferings of Our Lord and desire to save souls for whom those sufferings were endured must be above all devotions. Others must lead to that. As God's Spirit guides you, dwell at Bethlehem, at Nazareth, in Jerusalem, or on Calvary. In all places Jesus suffered in body, in all places was His soul athirst with desire to save souls.

    So must it be with you. Kneel in the cave at Bethlehem, go up to Mary's knee and in silent worship gaze upon the Babe whom she holds in her arms, whose eyes she turns toward you. Well may you be silent. Words cannot speak what your soul feels. One look into the incomprehensible eternity of the ever. blessed Trinity, one thought of the ineffable repose of the Eternal Word in the bosom of the Father, and your gaze remains still upon the Virgin Mother and the Child Divine. Scripture thoughts well up in your mind as you recollect the cry that the Saints of old sent up to Heaven, "Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just one." The heavens have dropped down dew, the clouds have rained the Just One. "Let the earth be opened, and bud forth a Saviour." The earth has opened, a Saviour has sprung forth. "Mercy and Truth have met together: Justice and Peace have kissed each other." "Truth is sprung out of the earth; and Justice hath looked down from Heaven."

Truly the mercy of God and the truth of His justice have met together in that Infant upon Whom we are now looking. Wonderfully have His awful justice, His unspeakable peace, embraced and kissed each other in that Child, that Holy One of God lying upon Mary's arm. God is truth, and truth has sprung out of the earth. God is just, and His justice hath looked down from Heaven and exclaimed with ineffable complacency of Him who fulfilled all justice, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him!"

   "For the Lord shall put forth His goodness, and our land shall yield her fruit." And God put forth His goodness, He sent forth His Holy Spirit upon our land, upon our own Mother, upon Mary, and she brought forth her Fruit, even Jesus.

   "He shall judge the world with equity; and the people with His truth." Blessed be our God for His infinite compassion and love. Truly will the world be judged with equity, with perfect justice. But the satisfaction of that justice has been laid upon Jesus, and Jesus the Word, Truth, Incarnate Truth, will judge the world. He will judge the people with His truth.

   "Let all the Angels of Heaven adore Him"; thus went forth the decree of the Most High God: "Adore Him, all ye His Angels." Zion heard and was glad. Bending in lowliest adoration, clustering round Mary in wondering love, these majestic, these most beautiful spirits who in Heaven, before the throne of the ever-blessed Trinity, unceasingly exclaim, "Holy, Holy, Holy," now offer on earth, before the throne of Mary their Queen, worship to their Creator, their God, the new-born Babe, whom they had ever seen in the bosom of His Father in Heaven, whom now they saw and adored, resting on the bosom of Mary, His Mother on earth. "How shall I extol thee, O Holy Mother of God," you exclaim, "for He whom the heavens cannot contain rests, thy Babe, upon thy bosom." Well may you look from the face of the Infant Jesus into the face of Mary His Mother and cry with the Angels, Quae est ista?-----"Who is this?" She is not God; she is a creature of God, and yet His Mother. She is of pure human nature; she is of our nature, but immaculate, and yet she is Queen of the Angels.

    Look again upon her as she holds her God in her arms, as the Angels worship and pay their adoration for the first time to their God in human form. They are filled with ecstatic joy; they cannot feel sorrow. We love these beautiful spirits, and they, too, love us. We are ever near them; they are ever watching over and caring for us. They are ministering spirits. They, too, are looking upon the face of Mary their Queen, wondering at her super-eminent prerogatives, rejoicing in them, praising God for them. "Wonderful is God in His Saints!" Yes, but how much more wonderful is God in Mary the Queen of Saints.

   These and many other thoughts pass unconsciously through our minds as in spirit we visit Bethlehem. Thoughts of love, too, for the dear St. Joseph, mingling with our love for the holy Angels, distract not our mind from the Mother and the Child. Inexpressible happiness beams on the face of Mary; or rather, the beatitude of the blessed seems to radiate from her. The very joy of God is suffused through her whole being. He who is the source of all joy is in her arms. She holds Jesus, the precious pearl of the Most Holy Trinity, and possessing Him, possesses all. Mary's thoughts are too far removed; they are raised too far into a region above our comprehension for us to think to follow them; but one thing we do know-----they were not centered in her own happiness. She forgot not why Jesus had come. She knew that God had been mindful of His mercy and that He had done as He had spoken to her fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever. He had come, the Desired of all Nations. He had come not for her alone; He had come to save mankind.

   She offered her Jesus, as heretofore she had offered herself, and though she knew that that offering involved suffering, ignominy, death, yet Mary's love for God, Mary's love for us, were one; and the will of God that Jesus should die to save us from our sins was met by Mary without a single conflicting thought or wish. His will was her will; she could not will aught but what He willed.

   How different are we from Mary! We struggle over our sacrifices; grace upon grace goes forth before we give ourselves up to its gentle influence, and a greater part of our religion, our prayers, our Communions, are a worship of self. We use God's gifts and graces, not as He intends we should-----to benefit the souls of others as well as our own-----but as the man did the talent in the parable; we hide them away, make no use of them as far as others' spiritual good is concerned, and i they will not profit us in the way or to the extent they might.

     How shall we learn to be unselfish? We must learn it from Mary. We must study Mary. We must beg of her her spirit. We must give ourselves entirely to her, and from her we shall learn to say, Ecce ancilla Domini!-----"Behold the handmaid of the Lord!" And as the eyes of the handmaid are on the hands of her mistress, so will our eyes be unto the Lord our God.


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