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


By Ven. Mother Mary Potter


Chapter 4

 This was the prayer of the Heart of Jesus. Think of it. Meditate upon it. Offer it. Unite your own desires with the desires of the Sacred Heart, and pray the one especial prayer it has asked of you. Pray that there may soon come those noble servants of Mary whom the Saints have foretold are to do such great work for the Church. Pray for those who are to renew Mary's life on earth and draw renewed mercy from God's glorious throne. You can make no better prayer, if you wish to save souls, than to ask for Saints, Saints formed by Mary.

   It was Mary, first of all, who brought us this mercy, the greatest mercy God could show us, and wooed the Son of God from His repose in the bosom of the Father to commence His life of suffering and labor upon this sinful earth. Ever will it be thus. Surely we need great mercy in the present age. Souls are steeped and sunk in sin; souls who were once beautiful, beautiful by the grace derived from the Sacraments of Holy Church. Fearful are the temptations now attacking all who are striving to serve God. Those are more terribly attacked who best are serving God. Sad indeed it is to see so many sinking in these temptations. Think of them, I pray you, you who are devoted to the work of saving souls. Pray that those who are now dying outside of the Church, Mother Church-----that had one time bestowed with such a liberal hand wondrous gifts upon them-----may even at their last hour be reconciled to her and die within her bosom, and thus hinder from being lost forever those wonderful graces they have received-----graces most precious because earned for these souls by the Precious Blood of Jesus.

   What will best obtain from the mercy of God the gift of His Holy Spirit for these poor deluded souls? As I have said, God's greatest mercy was shown by Mary, and if in the present age we have need to implore God not to take vengeance on our manifold offenses but to have pity, to have mercy, and to give us help in this time of need, let us turn our eyes to Mary. Let us take refuge in her Mother's heart that we may not fall, as others have fallen; and likewise, let us unite our own poor prayers and desires with the grand prayer and desire of the Mother of the Church. Let us labor in that harvest field that produced the Heart of Mary. Let us labor in the vineyard that produced the Immortal Wine of the elect, the Precious Blood of Jesus.

    O Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ's children, at this time of need thy children turn to thee and cry aloud: "We are tempted and sorely tried; do then have pity upon us; help us and assist us!" And our Mother's voice will answer us, and a message from Heaven will direct us. Our Mother, opening her breast, will discover to us the heart that is burning and beating with love for the human race and, pointing to that sweet Motherly heart, will call to us, saying, "Come to me, all; I am your Mother."

      Happy those who listen to her voice and attach themselves to that heart as to a secure anchor! "Happy those who enter into Mary as into the ark of Noah! The waters of the deluge of sin which drown so great a portion of the world shall do no harm to them."

     To you, then, who have been touched by God's Spirit to desire to save your fellow-creatures, I would remind you that your desire is not so great as Mary's. And remember, if while reading this little work you have felt a desire rise within you to assist those in their death agony and thus save souls, remember, I repeat, it was the Voice of God whispering to you. And I entreat you not to neglect that inspiration of the Holy Ghost; if you would ensure its not being lost, commend it to Mary.

     Think of the anxiety of an ordinary good mother at the hour of her child's death. What would not a mother do to procure ease of body and soul for her child in its final agony, though she sees but dimly the awful risk it is running at that momentous hour?

     Ah, then, what would not Mary do? O you who love Mary, help her; do the work she would have you do; take her place at her children's deathbed, and greatly will she reward you. Can you think of any work that would better please her? Her devoted servant, St. Alphonsus, tells us that there is no greater act of charity than to assist the dying. As I have said, those who can should be present in person; a person in the grace of God has God with him in a way that few but the Saints realize. The dear Martyr, St. Ignatius of Antioch, called himself "Theophorus," that is, "one who carries God with him"; and "Christoferi," or the "bearers of Christ," was a name commonly given to Christians in the early Church. Therefore, a good person, by his presence and prayers, has great power in defending the dying from the attacks of the enemy.

   You may have heard the old belief, which, coming as it does from the Land of Faith [Ireland], may have a certain truth which would show it to be not altogether a superstition, viz., that people die hard when there are Protestants in the room. Protestants, worldly people, bad people, should not be present with the dying. Bad people especially seem to carry a bad atmosphere with them.

[No wonder St. John rushed from the bath when he found there was a heretic in it.] Those who live much engrossed in the material things of this world are not so susceptible to spiritual influences, or they might perceive that, in frequenting the company of heretics, for instance, they may possibly find themselves attacked by a temptation against the Faith, though the conversation they have with them be not upon the Faith at all.

People may often, too, in certain company, in certain places, feel a chill come upon them, their spirits dampen, and they know not why.

   I remember myself being taken when young to a place of resort at a seaside town. I began to be grieved and unhappy, and begging to go away, began to cry, though a child not used to crying. It was a place frequented by noted bad characters. Years after I heard of it and could then account for my childish exhibition. [NOTE]

   To return to the subject of the dying and of the great advantage a good person is in assisting those who are in their final agony: It is incalculable and should make all who desire to help in this good work of saving souls at their last hour be most careful to keep themselves in the grace of God. Ah, if those who commit mortal sin and remain in it without going, as they should, as soon as possible to Confession, knew the harm they do in the world, they would surely have remorse! Know this, you who are often out of the grace of God, that as in the case of those who are in the state of grace, God's Spirit dwells with them, so too those without the grace of God, those in mortal sin, carry an evil spirit about with them; and their very presence brings evil, does mischief to others.

   There are some people, likewise, who strive to keep from mortal sin, and who are anxious about their own soul and the souls of their children or those under their care, and yet, if unhappily they fall into mortal sin, will remain for weeks in that state and are in not the slightest hurry to go to Confession. It is strange that anyone who has faith can sleep night after night at enmity with God and not rather take the first opportunity of being reconciled to Him.

   I well remember hearing the case of a priest being surprised one night, after his duties of the day were over, by a boy coming and earnestly requesting to have his Confession heard and stating, by way of explanation for his coming at such an unwonted hour, that having committed a mortal sin, he had gone to bed as usual, but the thought of what he had once heard kept coming to his mind, viz., that you should never go to sleep in mortal sin. At last, not being able to sleep, yielding to an impulse of grace, he had gotten up and come to the priest, hoping that he would hear him, though it was so late. The priest, of course, complied, spoke kindly to him, heard his Confession and, having blessed him, dismissed him. The boy returned home and was found the next morning dead in his bed.

    I was, as you may suppose, much struck with the account. We see from it not only the danger of sleeping in mortal sin, but the danger also which we incur when we neglect an inspiration of grace. If the boy had not yielded to the good impulse and put himself to some trouble to obey it, what in all probability would have been the fate of his soul? You who so constantly neglect the warning voice of God should fear lest He withdraw and cease even to reproach you. It is not so light a matter as you think to turn a deaf ear to the gentle whisper of God's Holy Spirit.

   We generally do not think of this eloquent pleading of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, of His continual entreaty with the souls of men, and the continual affronts, or cold neglect, He receives in return from them. Those who devote themselves to the work of saving souls should earnestly strive to increase their love for the Holy Ghost, remembering that it is His whisper to the soul of the sinner that produces the efficacious act of perfect contrition that cleanses that soul from the sins, however great it may have committed, even before the Sacrament of Penance has been received, and constrains the Three Persons of the most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, whose voice produced the marvelous change, to take up their abode with exceeding love in that now most beautiful soul.

   It is that same Holy Spirit whom I would have you invoke by your presence and prayers at the bed of death. Ah, but you will say to me, "I am too unworthy to do such good," and it is true! But turn to Mary, ask her to be with you, hide your own unworthiness under cover of her beautiful dispositions, and then plead as Mary pleads. By what does Mary plead in order to touch the Spirit of God? By the Precious Blood shed upon the Cross for that soul whom you are now watching in its death agony. Unite yourself to this sweet Mother's heart, breaking at the foot of the Cross with the anguish and grief caused by the anguish, grief and death agony of Jesus.

   Look upon that dying man by whose bed you are standing, remember that he is a member of the Mystical Body of Jesus; ask Mary to show you what she would do, what she would have you do, and you will feel yourself assisted in this great act of charity, the act of charity which will render you inexpressibly dear to your Mother, for you will be imitating her on Calvary, imitating her in the work of love she so loved, while on earth, to perform for the early Christians. As I have said, the one thing which induced her to leave the retirement in which she lived after the death of Jesus was to be present at His death again in the person of His members, and to perform the Motherly offices for them which it would so have solaced her afflicted heart if she could have performed for Him.

   Happy those who are drawn by God's Holy Spirit to imitate Mary in her work of love at the bed of death. Glorious vocation, given yet to few! O God, breathe Thy wish into the hearts of those chosen ones of this earth, Mary's own; inspire them to go forth imbued with her spirit, possessing her heart, to make the chamber of death another Calvary-----giving glory unspeakable to Thee, O most Holy Trinity, Who livest and reignest for endless ages in peace unspeakable . . . blissful, loving, and resplendent . . . Who created the souls of all that they might rest with Thee for ever and ever. Amen.

NOTE: St. Francis de Sales says that the presentiment of evil and uneasiness of mind we sometimes feel without any cause is caused by the holy Angels giving us notice of some threatened evil, that we may pray and avert it. This is a very important piece of knowledge in the spiritual life, which all would do well to remember carefully and take advantage of the proffered warning.