A SHORT INSTRUCTION ON THE MANNER TO PREPARE ONE'S SELF FOR DEATH
No one knows when, where, or how he will die; death, says Jesus, cometh like a thief in the night. Yet on the moment of death depends our eternal happiness. As the man dies, so he goes into eternity, is there judged and sentenced without ever being able to alter the sentence. In consideration of this uncertainty of death, and of the importance of the moment, all men to whom the salvation of their souls became matter of importance have been earnest in preparing for death. This preparation is the work of every day as it passes: the state of thy soul should be such that daily or hourly thou shouldst be prepared to die without fear or anxiety. It is dangerous to put off the preparation for death till we are laid on a bed of sickness, though as soon as sickness comes there is no better means than to resign ourselves to God's will, and to prepare for a holy death. Therefore, in the first place, set thy conscience in order, heartily bewail thy sins, and beg of Jesus that He may supply what is wanting to thy repentance. In satisfaction for thy sins offer to God the pains of thy sickness and all at thou hast suffered through life, unite thy sufferings with the sufferings of Jesus and of His Saints, and in this way offer them to the heavenly Father. But particularly strive to unite thy will entirely to the will of God, and to cast thyself entirely into His arms. Often repeat: "My God and Father! if my poor offering does not please Thee and Thou wilt not accept it for the salvation of my soul, but desirest to punish me in this world or the next for my sins, behold me ready to suffer as much and as long in Thine honor and for love of Thee as Thy justice requires."
With this perfect resignation to God's will unite a firm confidence in God's goodness and mercy. If even the Apostle St. Paul says it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, reflect, nevertheless, that this same God is also thy loving Father,---Who loved mankind so much that He gave His Only begotten Son that no one should be lost; yea, He even swore by Himself that He desired not the death of a sinner, but that he should be converted and live. Therefore hold fast by the thought that it is not possible that God should damn thee, although thou hast deserved it; His boundless love forbids it. If thou hast this confidence in Him, God will assuredly take pity on thee and not reject thee, as our Lord once revealed to St. Mechtildis in the words: "It is impossible that man should not obtain what he believes and hopes for. I tell thee the truth, it is well pleasing to Me when a man hopes great things of Me and has firm confidence in Me." Only then will God abandon thee in death, when thou turnest away from Him. As St. Mechtildis was one day praying for a soul that God might not abandon her in death, He spoke to her thus: "Who would throwaway and lose a treasure which he had himself acquired with trouble, and which was dear to him?"
And at another time when the Saint was praying for a similar grace for another soul, Christ said to her: "Where will you find the sea-captain who, after having brought his goods in peace and security over the sea, will throw them back again into the sea, when he reaches the shore? Neither will I abandon this soul whom I have guarded from youth upwards, now that she is about to step on shore: she will not perish."
Never then let your confidence falter, and unite with it a most heartfelt thanksgiving towards God for all the goodness which thou hast received from His hand during life. For certainly it would hardly be praiseworthy if, when about to depart, thou didst neglect to thank Him Who for so many years had shown thee hospitality and maintained thee so well. Then recommend thyself to the protection and intercession of the holy Mother of God, Mary, and to that of those Saints who had a hard death-struggle to undergo. But above all, offer thy death to Jesus as a victim and a holocaust, and accept death from His hand, as Isaac was about to do from the hand of Abraham. Even as Isaac did not refuse to be slaughtered by the hand of his father, do not thou refuse to accept death from the hand of God, for such is His will, and it is done in His honor. It is also a most important point, that thou shouldst diligently practice love: For Christ said expressly to St. Mechtildis, that to those who love Him he would appear at the hour of death, with a countenance so full of mercy and tenderness that they should repent from the bottom of their hearts that they had ever offended Him during life, and this contrition should be so perfect as to lead them straight to bliss. (B. iii. ch. 30, v. 20.) May our dear Jesus grant that by the merits of His bitter sufferings and by the intercession of His holy servants, Gertrude and Mechtildis, such a love may be ours in death, that we may attain eternal bliss.
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