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Death of the Sinner

February 24, 2015 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Death and Dying, Lent, Meditations, Preparation for Death


“When distress cometh upon them, they will seek for peace, and there shall be none.
Trouble shall come upon trouble.”

Ezekiel 7:25-26

At present sinners banish the remembrance and thought of death; and thus they seek after peace, though they never find it, in the sinful life which they lead. But when they shall be found in the straits of death, on the point of entering into eternity, “they shall seek peace, and there shall be none.” Then they shall not be able to fly from the torture of their sinful conscience. They shall seek peace; but what peace can be found by a soul loaded with sins which devour her like so many vipers? What peace can the sinner enjoy when he sees that he must in a few moments appear before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ, whose law and friendship he has till then despised? “Trouble shall come upon trouble.” The news of death, which has been already announced, the thought of being obliged to take leave of every thing in this world, the remorses of conscience, the time lost, the want of time at present, the rigor of the divine judgment, the unhappy eternity which awaits sinners–all these things shall form a horrible tempest, which shall confuse the mind, shall increase diffidence; and thus, full of confusion and distrust, the dying sinner shall pass to the other world.

VernetLeSoirLaTempeteDetail(TempestDeath)Trusting in the divine promise, Abraham, with great merit, hoped in God against human hope. “Who against hope believed in hope” (cf Romans 4:18). But sinners, with great demerit, hope falsely and to their own perdition, not only against hope, but also faith; because they despise the menaces of God against all who are obstinate in sin. They are afraid of a bad death, but they fear not to lead a wicked life. But who has assured them that they shall not be suddenly deprived of life by a thunderbolt, by apoplexy, or by the bursting of a blood-vessel? And were they at death even allowed time for repentance, who assures them that they shall sincerely return to God? To conquer bad habits, St. Augustine had to fight against them for twelve years. How shall the dying man, who has always lived in sin, be able, in the midst of the pains, the stupefaction, and the confusion of death, to repent sincerely of all his past iniquities? I say sincerely because it is not enough to say and to promise with the tongue; it is necessary to promise with the heart. O God! What terror and confusion shall seize the unhappy Christian who has led a careless life, when he shall find himself overwhelmed with sins, with the fears of judgment, of hell, and of eternity! O, what confusion shall these thoughts produce when the dying sinner shall find his reason gone, his mind darkened, and his whole frame assailed by the pains of approaching death! He will make his confession; he will promise, weep and seek mercy from God, but without understanding what he does; and in this tempest of agitation, of remorses, of pains and terrors, he shall pass to the other life. “The people shall be troubled, and they shall pass”(cf Job 34:20 Douay). A certain author says that the prayers, the wailings, and the promises of dying sinners, are like the tears and promises of a man assailed by an enemy who points a dagger to his throat to take away his life. Miserable the man who takes to his bed in enmity with God, and passes from the bed of sickness to eternity.

Affections and Prayers

O wounds of Jesus, you are my hope. I should despair of the pardon of my sins, and of my eternal salvation, did I not behold you, the fountains of mercy and grace, through which a God has shed all his blood, to wash my soul from the sins which I have committed. I adore you, then, O holy wounds, and trust in you. I detest a thousand times, and curse those evil pleasures by which I have displeased my Redeemer, and have miserably lost his friendship. Looking then at you, I raise up my hopes, and turn my affection to you. My dear Jesus, thou dost deserve to be loved by all men, and to be loved with their whole heart. I have so grievously offended thee, I have despised thy love; but not withstanding my sinfulness, thou hast borne with me so long, and invited me to pardon with so much mercy. Ah my Savior, do not permit me ever more to offend thee, and to merit my own damnation. O God! What torture should I feel in hell at the sight of thy blood and of the great mercies thou hast shown me. I love thee, and will always love thee. Give me holy perseverance. Detach my heart from all love which is not for thee, and confirm in me a true desire, a true resolution henceforth to love only thee, my sovereign good. O Mary, my mother, draw me to God, and obtain for me the grace to belong entirely to him before I die.

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

Art: Le soir ou La Tempête (The Evening or The Tempest), Claude Joseph Vernet, between 1734 and 1753, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.

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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.

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  • Joan

    “O Mary, my mother, draw me to God, and obtain for me the grace to belong entirely to him before I die.” These are powerful posts, uncomfortable and challenging. Slowly helping me to see things differently. God bless you Dan.

  • Patricia

    From St. Faustina’s Diary:

    “God’s mercy sometimes touches the sinner at the last moment in a wondrous and mysterious way. Outwardly, it seems as if everything were lost, but it is not so. The soul, illumined by a ray of God’s powerful final grace, turns to God in the last moment with such a power of love that, in an instant, it receives from God absolution of sins and remission of punishment, while outwardly it shows no sign either of repentance or of contrition, because souls [at that stage] no longer react to external things. Oh, how beyond comprehension is God’s mercy! But – horror! – There are also souls who voluntarily and consciously reject and scorn this grace! Although a person is at the point of death, the merciful God gives the soul that interior vivid moment, so that if the soul is willing, it has the possibility of retsurning to God. But sometimes, the obduracy in souls is so great that consciously they choose hell; they [thus] make useless all the prayers that other souls offer to God for them and even the efforts of God Himself…” (Diary, 1698).

    • Joan

      Thank you Patricia for sharing this. This is really beautiful and I had not read this before about God’s mercy at the last moment. God is so good.

      • Joan, there are also Three insightful and consoling Conversations of the Merciful God to Dying Souls in Nos.1485 – 1489 : with a Sinful Soul, with a Despairing Soul, with a Suffering Soul and with a Soul Striving after Perfection, respectively. By the Merciful Grace of God, this old gal and most of us fall into the first Conversation… the reason why we should always pray for one another. May I recommend you get yourself a copy of St. Faustina’s Diary – Divine Mercy in My Soul. You will be truly enriched by this very holy Saint’s life and times with our Merciful Saviour

        • Joan

          Thank you Mary@42, I really appreciate this and I will get myself a copy, thank you.

    • SnowCherryBlossoms

      Oh, I love The Divine Mercy and St. Faustina! It is a truly beautiful prayer, I pray it daily for the Holy Souls and sinners and offer it to the Blessed Virgin for her intentions. (well I do try and do my best..but sometimes life has this habit of interfering 🙂 God’s Mercy has completely changed my life. Thank you so much for posting this!
      Padre Pio once told a secret about time and death… I don’t recall which book it is in, sorry, but he said what you are saying, that there is no time with God and so prayers said for the dying are used by God for their good at the hour of their death. I found this so incredibly comforting and was amazed at how loving and merciful our Father is!

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