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Imitation of Christ Wk 2 of 10

December 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

The Imitation of Christ Week 2 of 10

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On Death

When you rise in the morning, think that you will not see evening; and when evening comes, do not be too certain that you will rise in the morning. Be always ready, therefore, and so live that death may not find you unprepared. For many, death comes suddenly and unexpectedly; the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. When your final hour arrives you will view your past life very differently, and your sorrow will be great for having been so easygoing and lackadaisical.

good portion picture1Wise and blessed is he, who, during life, strives to be what he would like to be when death finds him. Yes, you can be assured of a happy death if you wholeheartedly despise this world, earnestly desire to advance in virtue, love discipline, dwell in repentance, show prompt obedience, exercise self-denial, and patiently bear all trials for love of Christ. – The Imitation of Christ, p. 34 (Book I, Chapter 23)

Be always ready…words we have heard for some 2000 years, particularly during the Advent season. But these words never ring more true than after a horrific crime like that which took place in Newtown, CT this past Friday morning. How could any of those precious souls have possibly been prepared? As innocent victims they began what they expected to be a school day like any other – an ordinary day, in an ordinary town, with their ordinary routines. Neither they nor any of us could have even conceived of the tragedy that took place.

Our prayers are certainly with all those in Newtown, and many of us have been holding our own loved ones more closely in the wake of this evil. But the truth is that events like this serve as a grave means of reminding each of us to be prepared at every moment for the coming of our Lord – whether at the end of the world, or at the end of our own lives.

Will I be ready? When I read the above passage, I was particularly intrigued by the idea of reminding myself both when I wake and when I go to bed that these moments might be my last. This is very practical advice when rushing into daily activities risks an attachment to this world that would not provide for a “happy” death. Invocations to Divine Mercy throughout the day have helped me remember that it is God’s will alone that I seek – Jesus, I trust in You…Jesus, I trust in You…Jesus, I trust in You… In those frequent moments when I nearly lose myself in the chaos of this world, these words immediately envelop me in the arms of my Lord – gently reminding me that this life is not about ME – or MY will. Without those constant words – which serve as a beacon, directing me away from the danger of earthly worries and attachments, and back to the realization that this is NOT my REAL home – I easily forget. I get bogged down and I begin to live as though THIS life were an end in itself.

Growing up as a Protestant, I thought I had to make the decision to trust Christ with my life ONCE, and then I was saved! But that would imply that I trusted Him from then on, without question.  After eighteen years as a Catholic, I KNOW my original understanding was flawed, because too often I’m NOT Trusting in Him. I’m ensnared in one trap or another I’ve set for myself in this world – whether that attachment is physical, intellectual or emotional, it’s so easy to forget all about that commitment – and in those moments, I’m no longer living as a follower of Christ.

Sure, that initial commitment is important – but true commitment is made over and over again, day after day. Would my earthly spouse believe I was committed to him if I vowed devotion on my wedding day and then spent the next 50 years busy with career, children, friends and personal projects without giving him but a passing thought or comment as I rushed from one activity to another? Of course not. If my earthly spouse wants more from me, what then should my heavenly (eternal) spouse expect?!  As Father Larry Richards says – Our Heavenly Father loves us and He wants us to be happy for all eternity. When we die, He will give us what we love the most.

So what do I love most?  Do I love my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ…or do I love something else?  My life will reveal the truth more than my words ever could.

I'll give the last word to St. Francis de Sales, who addresses this subject poignantly in his Introduction to the Devout Life:

Consider that then the world is at an end, so far as regards you; there is none any more for you. Everything will then be reversed, all pleasures, vanities, worldly joys, and vain attachments will then appear as mere phantoms and vapors. Woe is me, for what delusive trifles have I offended my God! Then will you discover that you have forsaken God for nothing! On the other hand, how beautiful and desirable will good works and devotion then appear; why have you not followed on that holy and blessed road? Truly at that hour sins which before seemed as trifles will wax great as the mountains, and how faint, how weak, will your devotion then appear!

Consider the painful and final farewell which your soul must take of this lower world. It must take leave of wealth, of vanities and vain society, of pleasure, of amusements, of friends and neighbors, of parents and children, of husband and wife, in short of everything earthly. Last of all it must take leave of the body, which it will leave pale and sunken, forsaken, hideous, and vile.

Consider the haste with which that body will be hidden beneath the ground, and when that is done the world will scarcely bestow another thought upon you. You will in your turn be forgotten, as you have forgotten others. God rest his soul, will be said, and no more. O death, how unsparing, how pitiless thou art!

Consider that when the soul quits the body, it must go either to the left hand or the right. Whither will yours go? Which will be its path? Even such as it has chosen whilst on earth.


Discussion Questions:

1. How do you attempt to ensure that you will “be always ready” for death?

2.  Open discussion: Feel free to comment on any topic from this past week's reading.


Reading Assignment:

Week 3: Book 2 Ch. 1-12


Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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