Sign Up for our Free Daily Email Updates / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Certainty of Death

February 21, 2015 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Death and Dying, Lent, Meditations, Preparation for Death


“It is appointed unto men once to die.”
Hebrews 9:27

The sentence of death has been written against all men; you are a man: you must die. “Our other goods and evils,” says St. Augustine, “are uncertain; death alone is certain.” It is uncertain whether the infant that is just born shall be poor or rich, whether he shall have good or bad health, whether he shall die in youth or in old age. But it is certain that he shall die. The stroke of death shall fall on all the nobles and monarchs of the earth. When death comes, there is no earthly power able to resist it. Fire, water, the sword, and the power of princes, may be resisted; but death cannot be resisted. “Resistitur,” says St. Augustine, “ignibus, undis, ferro, resistitur regibus; venit mors: quis ei resistit?” (cf Psalm 49]. Belluacensis relates that, at the end of his life, a certain king of France said, “Behold, with all my power, I cannot induce death to wait for me a single hour longer.” When the term of life arrives, it is not deferred a single moment. “Thou hast appointed his bounds, which cannot be passed” (Job 14:5).

BorsosWidow_DeathDying1853Dearly beloved reader, though you should live as many years as you expect, a day shall come, and on that day an hour, which shall be the last for you. For me, who am now writing, and for you, who read this little book, has been decreed the day and the moment when I shall no longer write, and you shall no longer read. “Who is the man that shall live, and not see death?” (Psalm 89:49). The sentence has already been passed. There never has been a man so foolish as to flatter himself that he should never die. What has happened to your forefathers shall also happen to you. Of the immense numbers that lived in this country in the beginning of the last century, there is not one now living. Even the princes and monarchs of the earth have changed their country; of them nothing now remains but a marble mausoleum and an elegant epitaph, which only serve to teach us, that of the great ones of this world nothing is left but a little dust shut up within a few stones. “Tell me,” says Bernard, “where are the lovers of the world? Of them nothing has remained but ashes and worms.”

Since our souls shall be eternal, we ought to procure, not a fortune which soon ends, but one which will be everlasting. What would it profit you to be happy here (if it were possible for a soul to be happy without God), if thereafter you should be miserable for all eternity? You have had great satisfaction in the house which you have built; but remember that you must soon leave it, and must go to rot in a grave. You have obtained a dignity which raises you above others; but death will come and reduce you to an equality with the poorest peasant.

Affections and Prayers

Ah! Unhappy me, who have spent so many years only in offending thee, O God of my soul. Behold, these years are already past: death is perhaps at hand; and what do I find but pains and remorse of conscience! O that I had always served thee, O my Lord! Fool that I have been! I have lived so many years on this earth, and, instead of acquiring merits for heaven, I have loaded my soul with debts to the divine justice. Ah, my dear Redeemer, give me light and strength now to adjust my accounts. Death is perhaps not far off. I wish to prepare for that great moment, which will decide my eternal happiness or misery. I thank thee for having waited for me till now; and since thou hast given me time to repair the past, behold me, O my God; tell me what I am to do for thee. Dost thou wish me to weep over the offenses I have offered to thee? I am sorry for them, and detest them with my whole soul. Dost thou wish me to spend the remaining years and days of my life in loving thee? I desire to do so, O God; I have even hitherto frequently resolved to do it; but I have violated my promises. O my Jesus, I will be no longer ungrateful for the great graces thou hast bestowed upon me. If I do not now change my life, how shall I be able at death to hope for pardon and for paradise? Behold, I now firmly resolve to begin to serve thee in earnest. But give me strength; do not abandon me. Thou didst not abandon me when I offended thee; I therefore hope more confidently for thy aid, now that I purpose to renounce all things in order to please thee. Accept me, then, as one of thy lovers, O God, worthy of infinite love. Receive the traitor that now casts himself with sorrow at thy feet–that loves thee and asks thy mercy. I love thee, O my Jesus; I love thee with my whole heart: I love thee more than myself. Behold, I am thine; dispose of me, and of all that I possess, as thou pleasest. Give me perseverance in obeying thy commands give me thy love; and then do with me whatsoever thou wishest. Mary, my mother, my hope, my refuge, to thee I recommend myself, to thee I consign my soul; pray to Jesus for me.

Editor’s Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death” (1758).

Art: Az özvegy [Widow], József Borsos, 1853, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

please consider supporting our mission with a donation!

  • ThirstforTruth

    This is certainly humble food for thought. Praise be to God for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our hope is in your mercy!

  • Patricia

    Yes, Death is certain…..but so is Resurrection!
    ” But God would not allow the bitter pains of death to touch him. He raised him to life again–and indeed there was nothing by which death could hold such a man. When David speaks about him he says, ‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; moreover my flesh will alsorest in hope, because you will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will you allow your holy one to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of joy in your presence.’ Acts 2:23-28

    • LizEst

      Ah yes! The quote from Acts refers to Psalm 16, prayed by the Church in the Liturgy of the Hours every Thursday during Night Prayer. I love it! Thank you for that Patricia.

  • Serenity

    If we would keep the thought of our own death and the eternity waiting for us after we all change our way to live and treat others . Praise the Lord Jesus.

    • LizEst

      Correct! …and these meditations are helpful in bringing that to mind. Praise be the Lord forever!

      • Serenity

        Amen !

  • SnowCherryBlossoms

    ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints’. Psalms 116. I may be nuts and I do love life, but I for one can not wait to meet Jesus and Mary and all of the saints in Heaven and spend Eternity loving God. Every day I love God (by His grace) more and every day I realize I am one day closer!

    • Serenity

      You are not nuts , our life here on this planet is just temporary so we can do our best to get to Jesus , but you and I and everyone are needed here to spread His Word and love our brothers and sisters in need , there are so many that need to know about Jesus and His Love and Mercy.

Skip to toolbar