Thursday, November 2, 2017

All Souls' Day

By Fr. Eugenio Escribano
(Priestly Meditations, 1954)
A day will arrive -- who will dare to doubt it? -- when I myself shall be the one who is seriously ill, the one past recovery, the one dying, with people around me beginning to worry about preparations for my burial.
Do you think these details are somewhat ludicrous, unworthy of the seriousness of a meditation? Apply them to yourself, and perhaps they will have the effect of plunging you into deep thought. If the thought of death does not impress me or deter me from evil, as the Scriptures promise it will, it is because I think of someone else's death, not my own.
My God, frankly, I have never really given a thought to my own death, I have hardly believed in it, despite the fact that I see the face of death daily and almost feel its icy breath.
When my time comes, everything and everywhere around me will echo that respónsum mortis of which St. Paul speaks. God forbid that I should be the only one deaf to its challenge!
Let us picture the scene: The priest comes to hear your last confession; the tinkling bell heralds your Viaticum; then follow the Last Anointings, the prayers for the recommendation of the soul, and the low mumblings, drawn faces, and silent tears of relatives and friends standing round your bed --if indeed there is anyone at all to weep your departure!-- Your whole body is in a cold sweat, there is a gradual stiffening of your features, a twitching of your rigid fingers as if trying to clutch at something, the cold impression of the crucifix on your livid half-open lips; and the shadows of death crowd upon you thicker and thicker, and your eyes acquire that fixed look as if pursuing sights that vanish from you...
My Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who for love of me didst submit to the anguish of dying, do not fail me Thou when everything and everyone else forsakes me!
At long last, your soul will quit the body, leaving it a repulsive heap of lifeless matter.
The bells you so often heard toll for others will now toll for you. The funeral service that you so often heard chanted for others is now to be chanted for you. And there will be a burial, your very own; and the officiating priest, while your body sinks into the earth, will seal your disappearance from this world with a last supplication wherein you will lose even your name:
Anima ejus et ánimæ ómnium fidélium defunctórum, per misericórdiam Dei requiéscant in pace. Amen.
And then, what will this world have to offer you? What will become of those material goods that you seemed to have fused with your inmost soul, so deeply had you buried them within your heart's affections?
A Prayer for a Good Death

Lord Jesus, God of goodness, and Father of mercy, I prostrate myself before Thee with a contrite and humble heart, and commend to Thee my last hour, and what thereafter awaits me.

When my feet, motionless, shall warn me that my course in this world is approaching its end, O loving Jesus, have mercy on me.

When my hands, cold and shaking, shall no longer be able to keep holding the crucifix presented to me, and I shall be obliged to let it drop on my bed of sorrow, O loving Jesus, have mercy on me.

When my eyes, cloudy, and turned aside, through dread of imminent death, shall cast upon Thy image languid and dying looks, O loving Jesus, have mercy on me.

When my lips, cold and trembling, shall utter for the last time Thy adored name, O loving Jesus, have mercy on me.

When my cheeks, pale and livid, shall inspire compassion and grief in the bystanders, and my hair, moistened by the cold sweat of death, shall announce that my end is come, O loving Jesus, have mercy on me.

When my ears, ready to be shut for ever to the discourses of men, shall open to listen to Thy voice, uttering the irrevocable sentence that fixes my everlasting doom, O loving Jesus, have mercy on me.

When my fancy, disturbed by painful and dreadful imaginations, shall be plunged into sadness, and my spirit, troubled by the sight of my iniquities and by the dread of Thy justice, shall struggle with the spirit of darkness who would turn away my eyes from Thy soothing mercies, and throw me into despair, O loving Jesus, have mercy on me.

When my feeble heart, torn by the pangs of illness, shall be assailed by the dread of death, and exhausted by the efforts it shall have made against the enemies of my salvation, O loving Jesus, have mercy on me.

When I shall shed the last tears, symptoms of my imminent dissolution, receive them, O Lord, as a sacrifice of expiation, and grant that I may breathe my last as victim of penance; and in that terrible moment, O loving Jesus, have mercy on me.

When my relatives and friends, standing by me, shall sympathize with my miserable state, and pray for me, O loving Jesus, have mercy on me.

When I shall have lost the use of my senses, and the whole world shall disappear from me, and I shall sigh in the anguish of agony and the struggles of death, O loving Jesus, have mercy on me.

When the last sighs of my heart shall compel my soul to leave the body, receive them, O Lord, as signs of a holy longing to fly to Thee; and then, O loving Jesus, have mercy on me.

When my soul, from the door of my lips shall go out of this world forever, and shall leave my body pale, cold, and lifeless, accept, O Lord, the dissolution of my being as a homage, which I offer to Thy divine majesty; and then, O loving Jesus, have mercy on me.

Lastly, when my soul shall appear before Thee, and shall behold for the first time the immortal splendor of Thy majesty, O Lord, pray, do not reject it from Thee; deign to receive my poor soul in the arms of Thy mercy, that it may sing Thy praises forever.

O God, who, condemning us to death, didst conceal the moment and the hour of it, grant that, walking in the paths of justice and holiness, we may deserve to depart from this world in Thy holy love, through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.

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