The great woman Doctor of the Church who lived with an invisible stigma, who was spiritual director to priests, Bishops, even the Pope, Saint Catherine of Siena made this powerful assertion: “The two most important moments in our life are: Now and at the hour of our death.” Sound familiar? Of course—the last part of the Hail Mary!
This being the truth we should do all in our power to attain the grace of a holy and a happy death which will determine for all eternity our eternal destiny—either heaven or hell; there is no other possibility! And of course lifting our heart, mind, and gaze to Our Lady is key for us attaining eternal union with her Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
We will offer ten short suggestions on how we can all attain the grace of all graces—the grace of a holy and happy death. Indeed, this is the grace of all graces—to die in God’s grace so as to be with Him for all eternity. May Our Lady intercede for us so as to attain this most sublime goal!
1. Time is of the Essence! All of us should imitate the saints and strive to live each day of our lives as if it were the very last day of our life. The fact is that none of us have moral certainty that we will live beyond this day; better yet, beyond even this hour, even this second! Our life on earth is both uncertain and very precarious. On a daily basis news is brought to our attention of untimely deaths, sometimes individuals, other times, huge numbers of individuals, as in the case of the Tsunamis! Many of the saints indeed tried to live each day as if it were their very last; may we do the same!
2. Identify to mortal enemies. We should identify, off the bat, what major obstacles or road blocks that can prevent us from arriving at our purpose in life—a holy and happy death! Mortal enemy number one is mortal sin, which deprives our soul of sanctifying grace and God’s loving Friendship. However, there is something even worse and that is to die in the state of mortal sin! If we commit a mortal sin, we should run to the confessional and bathe ourselves in God’s infinite love immediately; never allow the sun to go down on our soul spiritually dead. If we were to take poison into our bodies, we would call an ambulance immediately. We should care even more about our immortal soul. Indeed, the spiritual life prevails over the physical and bodily life!
3. Prayer. Saint Alphonsus Liguori, another Doctor of the Church, is quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the extreme importance of prayer for the salvation of our immortal soul. These are his words: “He who prays much will be saved; he who does not pray will be damned; he who prays little places his salvation in jeopardy.” In other words, our eternal salvation is directly related to our prayer life. “What air is to the lungs, so prayer is to the soul.” Prayer is the soul’s life breath!
4. Live in God’s presence. The saints have another common practice—namely, to live constantly in the loving and all-abiding presence of God. Saint Teresa of Avila, still another Doctor of the Church, observed that we sin when we become oblivious to the Presence of God. Children are less prone to be mischievous when they are under the gazing eye of their mother; so it is in our spiritual life. We simply behave better when we are keenly aware of our loving Father’s gaze upon us!
5. Think often of heaven. The most famous prayer in the world is the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father. In this prayer that came from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we start out with “Our Father, who art in heaven…”A day should not transpire in which we have failed to think about Heaven and its glory, greatness, and eternal joy! “As the deer yearns for the running streams so my soul longs for you, O Lord, my God.” So should we be constantly yearning for God and heaven!
6. Eternity. Another common-ground of the saints is that they have in mind the concept of eternity. My friends, life indeed is very short. Saint Peter reminds us of this fact:“In the eyes of God, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like one day.” The Psalmist reiterates the same theme: “Our life on earth is like the flower of the field that rises in the morning and wilts and dies as the sun goes down.” Saint Augustine, a Father of the Church and Doctor of Grace, succinctly expresses this truth in these words: “Our life in comparison with eternity is a mere blink of an eye.” Indeed, eternity means this: forever and ever and ever without end… May the concept of eternity help us to be prepared for a holy and happy death.
7. Bread of Life. For Catholics, the key that will open up for us the gates of Heaven is union with Jesus Himself. Jesus is in heaven with His Glorified Body. However, He is also on earth in His Mystical Body the Church. At the very heart of the Mystical Body are the Sacraments, and the greatest of all of the Sacraments is Jesus Himself in the most Holy Eucharist—the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. A holy and happy death can be attained by receiving Jesus in Holy Communion frequently, fervently and filled with faith! We should most ardently desire that our last meal on earth will be to nourish our souls with the Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion. Remember the words of Jesus Himself: “Whoever eats my Body and drinks my Blood will have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.”(Bread of Life Discourse—Jn. 6)
8. Live a life of love and giving. We are called not to focus on ourselves but rather on God and serving God in our brothers and sisters who are reflections of God Himself. Jesus said: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.” Once again the saints have a burning love for God, but also a fervent love for their neighbor. Try to put into practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. (Read and meditate upon Mt 25:,31-46). Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, possibly the most famous woman in the 20thcentury, challenges us with these words: “We must give until it hurts.
9. Beware of modern idols and distraction. In the time of Moses, the danger with respect to idolatry was that of bowing down to the golden calf. Today there are countless golden calves that we can define as idols: drugs, sex, porn, money, power, vanity, pleasure, the god of self, and many more. This point must be accentuated because it is very easy to be sidetracked, duped, enslaved by the world and all its empty promises. For that reason, Saint Louis de Montfort in his classic “True Devotion to Mary” insists on the necessity of emptying our hearts of the world before we can give ourselves fully to Jesus and Mary.
10. Die in the arms of Our Lady. As mentioned earlier, a love for Our Lady is essential so as to attain a holy and happy death. One of Our Lady’s greatest desires is for all of us to attain heaven and glorify the Blessed Trinity with her for all eternity. Indeed, if we pray the Holy Rosary every day, then we are preparing ourselves for a holy and happy death 50 times every day! How? Very simple! The Rosary is composed of 50 Hail Marys in which we say:“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. May Our Lady attain for us the grace of all graces: the grace of a holy and happy death. Amen!