Composition of Place – Imagine you see a man who is over fond of this world, over anxious for money, whose ambition is to receive high honors, a title before his name, and public distinctions, who gives himself over to gluttony and all kinds of amusement and pleasures of the flesh, who is unmindful of God and His law and of the holy Sacraments. At an hour least expected he is a victim of a mishap, and he hears a voice saying, "Prepare yourself, for tomorrow you will die."
Alas! What panic! He sees himself surrounded by devils. Some are showing him the money he must leave behind. Others show him a picture of the woman he loves, whom he must leave. Others are waiting for him to breathe his last so that they can see him off to his grave and to hell, like the glutton in the Gospel.
As soon as he breathes his last, Jesus appears before him to judge him according to his works. Finally, Jesus issues the sentence of condemnation.
Prayer of Petition – O Immaculate Virgin Mary, Holy Mother of God, pray for menow and at the hour of my death. Obtain for me the grace to learn from the bad example of reprobates, so that I will not live like a sinner and so that my death will not be like theirs. Amen.
To die in sin – to die an enemy of God! What a dreadful disaster! What a terrible calamity! To be at the point of death with a conscience burdened with sin! What terror, O my soul! Oh, the unspeakable distress! The past, the present, and the future will torment the sinner in that moment which decides his eternal fate.
Before him is a very vivid display of all his evil ways in all their ugliness. What a horror to see oneself burdened down with bad habits! What a nightmare to perceive oneself plunged down in a fathomless water hole of sin! His past sacrileges distress him; the hatreds he has entertained now torment him; and the unclean pleasures of his life bring on great despondency as he sees that they have wrecked his soul. The anguish reaches even the marrow of his bones. Then the sinner remembers with unspeakable bitterness the times he has violated Holy Days, the bad confessions he has made, and his unworthy Communions. If he has cheated people by usury, theft, or robbery, these things he remembers. He recalls the times when his sins of grumbling, detraction, lying, have taken away the good reputation of his fellow man. He remembers his blasphemies, his acts of revenge, his impure talk, and all the evil and scandal with which he has ruined many souls. Before his mind is a woman whom he scandalized, the girl that was corrupted, the little boy whom he lured into sins he would not have committed had he not taught him. Before his eyes are the duties he should have fulfilled and did not, the donations he should have made to charitable causes but did not, and the other good works he ought to have done and did not. In a word, at the hour of his death the sinner very plainly sees all the good he should have done and did not do and all the evil things he did which he was bound to avoid.
What grief! What distress he will experience! What a painful torment the recollection of his past will inflict! "O ye days I have wasted! Ye graces I have forfeited! And the calls, the lights and inspirations from God, which I have disregarded! What great distress you cause me! My life has ended. My fun is over. My pleasures are finished. Other people will enjoy my belongings. Others will live in my house. The grave alone remains for me. Of what use now are the lands I bought, the homes I built, the offices I held, if I am going to give them all up with one stroke as I surrender my life? Therefore I have lost everything – meaning everything on earth. It is cut off with a bitter death." This is the result that the sinner will achieve at the hour of death. In this way his past will torment him.
(1) Act of Candor – What does it profit a man to possess everything in the world, to have every dignity and honor, and to give his body over to every pleasure, if in the end he loses his soul? (Mt. 16:26) Alas! For a passing delight one undergoes an eternal punishment! While such a person has life and health, he does not think of death nor does he want to think about it. But the door is not closed by this unmindfulness. That hour, when least expected, arrives. It puts an end to the days of the sinner and confronts him with an eternity of torments.
(2) Exhortation – In all your works be mindful of your death, of the judgment, of hell and of glory; and in this way you will never sin; ("In all thy works, remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin." Ecclus. 7:40) for then you will live an upright life and will be saved. Otherwise, your death will be an unhappy one; it will be disastrous; and you will be damned. Perhaps you will say that you do not believe these things. Well then, that admission is a telling argument for your eternal damnation; for Jesus Christ says that he who does not believe will be condemned. (Mk 16:16)
And now, alas! the pains are increasing. The dying man's energies are playing out; his afflictions are great and he is suffering a mortal anguish. His friends make their departure. The household servants withdraw. His relatives are taking their leave. His children are weeping and his wife breaks into tears. The physician can offer no remedy. Nor can all the dying man's influence in the world alleviate him; even less can his money help him. Death is at the threshold and cannot be turned back. He is horrified, terrified, that he must undergo it. What will the sinner do in this state? He will gaze over to one side, and the multitude of his sins appear, declaring: "You have made us; you have not wept over us; therefore, we must accompany you into eternity in order to provide your everlasting wages." He will turn his eyes to the other side, and his frantic gaze will find nothing but frightening specters and horrible demons ready to bury him in the depths of hell. He will raise his eyes above, and the wrath of the Supreme Judge will appear, Who will declare the terrible sentence of condemnation against him. He will look downward, and confront a dreadful grave full of filth, corruption and worms, in which he will remain until the end of the world. O my soul! What will the sinner do in a moment so critical? Can the rich man not escape by paying several thousand gold pieces? No. Can the powerful, influential man not escape by means of some of his resourceful schemes? Can the prince not summon all his army? The army will be of no use. Can the valiant man not engage his valor and outmatch the stroke of death? No, no, no.
(1) Resolution – From now on I choose to put no stock in things that will be of no use at the hour of death, such as riches, honors, pleasures. I will only strive for things which, in that hour, will console me and offer me good company. And these will be good works, alms giving, mortification, partaking in the Sacraments, Mass, and devotions.
(2) Amendment – I know that it has been decreed that a man die only once. (Heb. 9:27). If one could die twice, in preparation for his second death he could amend what was wrong at his first death. But since we cannot do this, what, then, is the remedy? What indeed? It is to correct now what you wish you had corrected before, at the hour of your death, and do now what you would then wish you had done. Reflect well on this. Meditate seriously on it, and carry out the task, saying to yourself: I must die, and I must be judged then and there. Do I believe that this is so? I cannot doubt it. Faith declares it; reason confirms it; and experience makes it obvious. God has given me the being I have and the life which I live. God gives me time in this life minute by minute, in such wise that I cannot rely on having more than the present minute. Thus I no longer have the time that has passed, and the time that is to come I do not have either, nor do I know if the Lord will give it to me. And if He does not, no time will be left for me and I will die, just as all those who have died up to now. I am convinced that I am to die. This is quite certain – that I am to die and be judged.
But when will I die? I do not know. I do not know what year it will be, nor the month, nor day, nor hour. I only know that I am to die, and I have no idea at what hour. I know that in that hour the Lord will come to judge me, as He tells me in His holy Gospel.
Where will I die? I do not know that either. I know where I was born, but not where I will die. I do not know if it will be indoors or outdoors, nor do I know if it will be at sea or on land. I know nothing about this. I only know that God has jurisdiction and power everywhere and that the life which I enjoy is His property. I know that He can take it from me anywhere, and that He will ask of me a reckoning of how I have spent it.
How will I die? I am likewise ignorant of this. I do not know if it will be a sudden death or a foreseen, well-prepared ebbing away – a natural death, or a violent death. I do not know if I will die from a thunderbolt, or at the hands of a murderer; whether it will be from poison, from a fall, from apoplexy or from some lung disease. I just do not know. I only know with certainty that I am to die, that I am to be judged, that I will be either saved or damned for all eternity. Oh, what an alarming reality! How undeniable this truth is! – How impossible for us to withstand it!
Third PointWhat is the sinner to do? Suppose he seeks refuge in some thoughts of the future. The future indeed? He only approaches a future full of pains. Oh, the thought of eternity! It is a frightening thought for a dying sinner. To forsake property, office, amusements, is very painful to a sinner fond of these. To forsake friends, relatives and children is even more painful for one who put all his hope and reliance in flesh and blood. To give up extravagant clothes, a soft bed, pleasures and delights of the body, in order to surrender that body to a horrible burial, to become food for unclean animals, is a very painful thing for a man who had been treating his belly as his god and thought about nothing but pleasing himself. To enter eternity with a conscience burdened with sins is an affliction that has no equal. "Ah! I am dying, and I am dying without having done penance, without having made a good confession. My sins are countless. My conscience is greatly entangled in confusion and difficulties. I have wicked habits and my passions have chained me down to the service of the devil.
This infernal dragon, who during my life assured me that salvation would be an easy matter by telling me that God is Infinite Mercy, now tells me that God is Infinitely Just and therefore can do nothing but pass the sentence of my damnation. I want to turn to the protection of the angels and saints, and the devil tells me that there are no angels and saints for one who has despised them, cursed them and blasphemed them by word and deed. I endeavor to turn to the protection of the Blessed Virgin, and the infernal spirit whispers into my ear that Mary is Mother of repentant sinners who turn to Her kindness at a suitable time, but that She is not a Mother to wicked persons like myself, who have wickedly put things off until there is no remedy. To bring some relief to my afflicted heart I want to find refuge in the Blood of Jesus. But Lucifer closes the door to me, persuading me that I will find no mercy from a Lord Whom I have so much offended and Whose Wounds I have renewed with great impiety. Alas for me!
I believed the devil and not God's ministers, and now I am receiving my due. The priests used to tell me not to wait until death to reform my life, for I would put my salvation in obvious peril. The devil used to persuade me otherwise, saying that by an act of sorrow at the time of death, everything would be set right. I heeded the devil and not the priests. Now, as just punishment, I find myself in the hands of the wicked dragon, who crushes my spirit with sentiments of despair, anguish and remorse.
"Oh, cursed be the time that I lent my ear to my worst enemy! Oh, cursed be the hour I made light of the warnings from the pulpit! Oh, cursed be the day I rejected God's inspirations and calls! What a comfort it would be to me now if I had cooperated with the graces that were offered me for a genuine conversion! But I did not choose to do so. And now – for me there is no God, no Blessed Virgin, no angels, nor saints, but only room for devils, for panic and despair. Farewell children, property, homeland! Farewell to Heaven, to glory, to that blessed Mount Sion! I am damned and I am damned forever beyond all remedy. Come, O devils, and snatch me from this world. Come, Lucifer, and take possession of my wretched soul. Come, cruel dragon, take this obstinate sinner away as your captive. Quickly torment me, tear me asunder with your claws. Quickly break my bones and bury me in hell, to burn continuously forever!"
In this way, with anguish, agony and frenzy, the sinner ends his miserable days. As soon as his body has been taken to the grave, even his best friends soon forget him, while his heirs enjoy his property. In the meantime he has not a single drop of water with which to relieve his tongue in those burning flames. So ends all the glory of this world, O my soul. So perishes all its vanity and pride. So vanishes all its glitter. So it comes to pass that the sinner's end is a wretched one and his death in every way a disaster.
(1) Repentance – I know, O Lord, that it is sin that makes one's death a bad one. I now hate my sins and I am sorry for having offended Thee. I appeal to Thee, O my Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, my Creator, Father and Redeemer. Because Thou art what Thou art, Infinite Goodness, I am sorry for having sinned and I resolve, with the help of Thy Divine Grace, to avoid sin in the future; and I promise to go to confession and fulfill the penance which is imposed upon me. I offer Thee my life, my toils and my hardships in satisfaction for all my sins. Even as I make this appeal to you, I trust that Thou will forgive me and grant me grace to amend my ways and to persevere in Thy Grace until the end of my life. Amen.
(2) Prayer of Petition – O Mary, Mother of sinners who choose to reform, pray for me that I will do penance and sin no more.
Pray one Our Father and one Hail Mary.