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


By Ven. Mother Mary Potter


Chapter 3, Part 1

We shall learn from Mary to seek nothing but the will of God, to regard ourselves not as belonging to ourselves, but as belonging to God, ever ready for any employment He may appoint, be it high or low. We may not know now what our future is to be. We should pray to do God's will in that unknown future, but we should not be over-anxious to know what it is. You are doing God's will now if you are seeking to cooperate with Him in the salvation of mankind. Is it not a grand work we are allowed to do? Nay, commanded, by the law of loving our neighbor as ourselves.

   I might startle you if I used a word that is nevertheless used by theologians and said that you are to be "co-redemptors" with Jesus. Yes, even you, who know yourself to have been deserving of the eternal fires of Hell, are nevertheless, by the Divine Will of God, appointed to a certain work in imitation of Jesus: a work for the good of souls. You the members must work in union with your Head, with Jesus.

    Do I repeat it to you too often? Ah, but it is necessary. Once get rid of the proprietorship you now feel for yourself and your good works, and then will God, seeing in you so good a disposition for receiving grace, pour forth graces upon you which you will take as not meant for yourself alone, as so many do. There are many who would say as Peter said before he was St. Peter, "Lord, it is good for us to be here," when God leads them to Mount labor, and they forget that it is not there they can be like Jesus and that it is not good to wish to remain there, but that it is good, from the glimpses that God gives them of His glory, to wish that others, too, may see and feel as they feel.

   Yes, it is good when we feel God's love poured out upon us and we have a brighter view, though the brightest view of Him on earth is dim. And as His incomprehensible beauty dawns clearer upon our minds, ah, then it is good to come away from that Mount of labor, to which God in His goodness took us, with a resolution of following Jesus along the way of the Cross. It is good to grieve over those who do not know the good, the infinitely good God; over those too who have known, but have forgotten Him; over those who are so very near, and yet so very far from Him!-----sinners dying in sin, dying and so near losing Him, not for the brief space that we call time, but for that vast futurity unapproachable for the human mind to enter into and to understand while on earth.

   Souls are dying and losing God for eternity. "For eternity:' You read the words; you cannot comprehend them. But let fall the book you hold. It falls, the leaves close, you distinguish no more what is written. It was done in an instant, and that instant is an image to bring before your mind how the whole volume of time from the Creation to the Day of Doom is but as a book that has fallen in the midst of eternity.

   Natural feeling, we might think, would prompt people to help their fellow-creatures who are in such great need of help, who are in such fearful danger of losing eternal life. How often we hear of heroic deeds done by men and women, and even children, to save the life of the body!-----only the body, the mortal life which some time or other must die! A man will jump into the water at risk to himself to save a drowning person, will venture into a cage where some wild beast is pounding its keeper to death. A woman will throw herself between a couple of combatants and receive the blow or wound that the one intended for the other. A child will venture to enter into a burning hut, not once or twice, but even thrice, to rescue from the flames its little brothers and sisters. You know these are instances from real life. The Royal Humane Society's records would give instances of many more, or you may have known of such self-devotion in your own domestic circle.

    Natural feeling prompts these heroic acts in many cases. Should not supernatural feeling prompt heroic supernatural acts for immortal souls in danger of eternal death? And yet, take it to heart and ask yourselves, ye who read this, how many times in your lives have you heard it  said, "So-and-so has met with a bad accident and is not expected to live." You know the person to be thoroughly worldly, utterly unprepared to appear before God, and you, what did you do? Did you besiege Heaven with your prayers that that soul might be saved even at that eleventh hour? Did you lovingly complain to your Lord: "O Jesus, You died for that soul; will You not save it?" Did you cry to Our Lady: "Mary, never was it known that anyone appealed to you and was not heard!" Did you [speaking metaphorically] bring that person to the foot of the Cross, and with the reverential familiarity that God so loves that we may say it is irresistible with Him, placing that dying creature in His sight, in the sight of Jesus crucified, speak to Him and ask Him, "Why should this soul not be saved?"

    Too well you know in your heart that the answer would be that he had not come to Jesus that he might be saved. He had not come to receive upon his soul the Precious Blood that would have cleansed it from the sin which will keep it from God's sight forever, unless it be washed away. Did you, growing bolder, notwithstanding the seeming rejection of your prayer, urge with Our Lord that this soul did not come, but that you have brought it? Did you, as you watched the great drops trickling from the Wounds of Jesus, exclaim more boldly still, "The very inanimate earth, O Lord, receives Thy Precious Blood; It is trickling upon the ground; shall not this living, immortal soul receive one drop?"

God will love you if you exercise such charity, but have you done it? Have you heard of sudden illness, of people stricken suddenly in the midst of a well-known sinful life? They are unconscious, you are told, and will probably die without recovering the use of reason; and you have heard the news carelessly, and without a thought how, for eternity, God will be deprived of the glory that soul might give Him in Heaven; how the Passion of Our Lord will have been of no avail for it except to mitigate in some degree the severity of the fearful pain that soul will eternally endure if it dies in that state of sin, if it dies without the return of that reason which it is necessary it should have in order to acknowledge, ere it die, its God, and, beg His forgiveness for those unforgiven sins that now defile it. You not only have not prayed, as I have said, but a single "Hail Mary" has not even passed your lips, so little concern has it been to you that one of your fellow creatures has such need of your charity, that the last of his time has come, that the last chance is about to pass away for that dying man for whom Christ died.

   At all hours, souls are dying and in need of our assistance. We are employed in various ways, and reckon not of what is going on around us. I make a short extract from Fr. Faber [Mary at the Foot of the Cross]:

   "Who could live, if he realized what Hell is, and that every moment immortal souls are entering there upon their eternity of most shocking and  repulsive punishment? We smell a sweet flower, and just then a soul has been condemned. We watch with trembling love the elevation of the Host and Chalice, and meanwhile the gates of that fiery dungeon have closed on many souls. We lie down upon the grass, and look up at the white clouds dipping through the blue sky as if either had waves, and catching the sun on their snowy shapes, and all the while Hell is underneath that grass, within the measurable diameter of the earth, living, populous, unutterable, its roaring flames and countless sounds of agony muffled by the soil that covers the uneasily-riveted crust of the earth. What agony would this be if our minds were equal to it, or co-extensive with its reality: nay, if we realized it, as sometimes for a moment we do realize it, we could not survive many hours, even if we did not die upon the spot."

     To think of this will not cause you to be melancholy and sad; that would be contrary to God's will. Exercising charity to others brings Jesus nearer to us, and the presence of Jesus makes us happy. Charity brings joy and peace along with it. Charity is the first-fruit of the Holy Ghost; the others follow in its train. You must think of these things to enkindle in your heart a burning desire to save the souls that are in such imminent danger. You are not required to alter your special devotion in order to do so.