Quotes from Preparation for Death by Alphonsus Liguori
CONSIDERATION I: Portrait of a Man who has recently gone into the Other World
SECOND POINT: The Body in the Grave
The true love for the body consists in treating it here with rigor and contempt, that it may be happy for eternity; and in refusing it all pleasures, which might make it miserable forever.
THIRD POINT: Let us Labor to Save our Souls
Look to the sins of your youth, and be covered with shame. Remember the sins of manhood and weep. Look to the present disorders of your life; trembleSt. Bernard
…St. Alphonsus adds: and hasten to apply a remedy.
Remember, that the Lord seeks not only flowers, but fruits; that is, not only good desires and resolutions, but also holy works. Learn then to profit of the time which God in his mercy gives you: do not wait until you desire time to do good, when time shall be no more.St. Bernard
CONSIDERATION II: With Death all Ends
FIRST POINT: Death Deprives us of Everything
The brother of that great servant of God, Thomas a Kempis, took delight in speaking of a beautiful house which he had built for himself: a friend told him that it had one great defect. “What is it?” said he. “It is,” answered the other, “ that you have made a door in it.” “What,” rejoined the brother of a Kempis, “ is a door a defect?” “Yes,” answered the friend; “for through this door you must be one day carried dead, and must leave the house and all things.
SECOND POINT: Glory and Power on the Death-bed
…at death, men of the world shall find their understanding weak and darkened, and their heart hardened by the bad habits which they have contracted. Their temptations will then be more violent; how can they resist at death who were almost always accustomed to yield to temptations during life, and to be conquered by them? To change their heart a most powerful grace would be then necessary. But is God obliged to give them such a grace ? Have they merited such a grace by the scandalous and disorderly life which they have led? And on that last hour depends their happiness or misery for eternity. How is it possible that he who reflects on this, and believes the truths of faith, does not leave all to give himself to God, who will judge us all according to our works.
THIRD POINT: Let us Hasten to Give Ourselves to God
And why are there so many unhappy lovers of this world? It is because they do not think of death.
Whatsoever thy hand is able to do, do it earnestly: (Eccles. Ix, 10). What you can do to-day, defer not till tomorrow; for a day once passed never returns, and tomorrow death may come, and prevent you from ever more being able to do good.
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. (Apoc. xiv, 13). Happy they who at death are already dead to all attachment to this world. They fear not, but desire death, and embrace it with joy; for, instead of separating them from the good which they love, it unites them to the Supreme Good, who is the sole object of their affections, and who will render them happy for eternity.
CONSIDERATION III: Shortness of Life
FIRST POINT: Death Comes Quickly
All know that they must die; but the delusion of many is, that they imagine death as far off as if it were never to arrive.
During the time I write, I draw near to death.St. Jerome
We all die, and like the waters that return no more, we fall into the earth (2 Kings, xiv, 14). Behold how the stream flows to the sea, and the passing waters never return!
Ah! at that hour all earthly goods are viewed only with pain by those who have had an attachment for them. And this pain will serve only to increase the danger of their eternal salvation; for we see by experience, that persons attached to the world wish at death to speak only of their sickness, of the physicians to be called to attend them, and of the remedies which may restore their health. When any one speaks of the state of the soul, they soon grow weary, and beg to be allowed repose. They complain of headache, and say that it pains them to hear any one speak. And if they sometimes answer, they are confused, and know not what to say. It often happens that the confessor gives them absolution, not because he knows that they are disposed for the sacrament, but because it is dangerous to defer it. Such is the death of those who think but little of death.
SECOND POINT: The Lighted Candle at Death
Great secret of death! It makes us see what the lovers of this world do not see.
Let us then persuade ourselves that the proper time for repairing the disorders of the soul is not the hour of death, but the time of health.
THIRD POINT: Importance of the Last Moment
Give yourself up to prayer, frequent the Sacraments, avoid all dangerous occasions, and, if necessary, leave the world, secure to yourself eternal salvation, and be persuaded that to secure eternal life no precaution can be too great.
CONSIDERATION IV: The Certainty of Death
FIRST POINT: All Must Die
Who is the man that shall live and not see death ? (Ps. lxxxviii, 49). The sentence has been already passed. There never has been a man so foolish as to flatter himself that he will not have to die.
Tell me, where are the lovers of the world? Of them nothing remains save ashes and worms.St. Bernard
THIRD POINT: We should Think Continually of Death
If after this life there were neither hell nor heaven, could they think less of it than they do at present? It is this forgetfulness that makes them lead so wicked a life.
What you are, I was; and what I am, you shall be.Venerable P. Juvenal Ancina, Bishop of Saluzzo, had this motto written on a skull
All the goods of this earth are lent to us: it is folly to set our heart on what we must soon quit. Death shall strip us of them all.
CONSIDERATION V: Uncertainty of the hour of Death
FIRST POINT: The Moment is Fixed, but it is Unknown.
God has already fixed the year, the month, the day, the hour, and the moment when I and you are to leave this earth and go into eternity; but the time is unknown to us.
All know that they must die: but the misfortune is, that many view death at such a distance, that they lose sight of it. Even the old, the most decrepit, and the most sickly, flatter themselves that they will live three or four years longer.
Christian soul, the devil tempts you to sin by saying, Tomorrow you will go to confession, let your answer be, How do I know but this will be the last day of my life?
so men are taken in the evil time (Eccles. Ix, 12). The evil time is that in which the sinner actually offends God. The devil tells you that this misfortune will not happen to you; but you should say to him, in answer: If it should happen to me, what will become of me for all eternity?
SECOND POINT: We Should Make up Our Accounts
THIRD POINT: We Must Always be Ready
If the tree fall to the south or to the north, in which place soever it shall fall, there shall it lie (Eccles. xi, 3). If, when death comes, we are found in the grace of God, oh! with what joy shall we say: I have secured all; I can never again lose God; I shall be happy forever. But, if death finds the soul in sin, with what despair will it exclaim, “Ergo erravimus!”—therefore have I erred; and for my error there will be no remedy for all eternity.
CONSIDERATION VI: The Death of the Sinner
FIRST POINT: The Sinner will Seek God at Death, but He will not find Him
Trouble shall come upon trouble. The news of death, which has been already announced, the thought of being obliged to take leave of everything in this world, the remorse 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 will form a horrible tempest, which will confuse the mind, will increase his apprehensions; and thus, full of confusion and distrust, the dying sinner will pass to the other world.
To conquer bad habits, St. Augustine had to fight against them for twelve years.
I say sincerely, because it is not enough to say and to promise with the tongue: it is necessary to promise with the heart.
SECOND POINT: Anguish of the Dying Sinner
The dying man will be tempted, not by one, but by innumerable devils, who will labor for his damnation. Their houses shall be filled with serpents (Isa. xiii, 21). One will say: Fear not; you will recover. Another: You have been deaf to the inspirations of God for so many years, and do you now expect that he will have mercy on you ? Another will ask: How can you make satisfaction for all the injuries you have done to the property and character of your neighbors ? Another: Do you not see that your confessions have been null, that they have been made without sorrow or a purpose of amendment ? How will you now be able to repair them ?
The dying man will then wish to shake off such enemies; but, to get rid of them, he must detest them, he must return sincerely to God. His mind is darkened, and his heart hardened. A hard heart shall fare evil at the last; and he that loveth danger shall perish in it (Ecclus, iii, 27).
He who is abandoned by sin before he abandons it, will scarcely detest it as he ought; because what he will then do will be done through necessity.St. Augustine (paraphrased)
THIRD POINT: We Must Seek God when we can Find Him
Weight and balance are the judgments of the Lord (Prov. xvi, 11). We keep no account of the graces which God bestows upon us; but he keeps an account of them, he measures them; and when he sees them despised to a certain degree, he then abandons the sinner in his sin, and takes him out of life in that unhappy state.
St. Augustine says: “The repentance which is sought from a sick man is infirm.” (Serm. 255, E.B. App). St. Jerome teaches, that of a hundred thousand sinners who continue in sin till death, scarcely one will be saved (In Ep. Eus. Ad Dam.) St. Vincent Ferrer writes that it is a greater miracle to bring such sinners to salvation, than to raise the dead to life (De Nat, V, S. 1).
By a just chastisement the sinner who has forgotten God during life shall forget himself at death.St. Augustine, S. 257 E.B. App
CONSIDERATION VII: Sentiments of a Dying Christian, who has been Careless about the Duties of Religion and has thought but little of Death
FIRST POINT: Sad State of the Worldling at Death
Behold, I am now arrived at the gate of death. What would it have cost me to have avoided such an occasion of sin, to have broken off such a friendship, to have frequented the tribunal of penance?
SECOND POINT: Desire of the Worldling at Death
Oh, how clearly are the truths of faith seen at the hour of death. But then they only serve to increase the anguish of the dying Christian who has led a bad life, particularly if he has been consecrated to God, and has had greater facilities for serving him, more time for exercises of piety, more good examples and more inspirations.
What remorse will he feel in thinking that with the lights which he had received from God a pagan would become a saint!
Alas! during this life, these fools love their folly; but at death they open their eyes, and confess that they have been fools.
CONSIDERATION VIII: The Death of the Just
FIRST POINT: The Death of the Just is a Rest
Man, says Job, born of a woman, living for a short time, is filled with many miseries (Job, xiv, 1).
What, says Seneca, do worldlings, who desire a long life, seek, but a continuation of torments ? (Ep. ci).
What, says St. Augustine, is a prolongation of life, but a prolongation of suffering? (Serm. 84, E.B.).
Yes; for, as St. Ambrose tells us, the present life is given us, not for repose, but that we may labor, and by our toils merit eternal glory. (Serm. 42).
Hence Tertullian has justly said, that when God abridges life he abridges pain.
The souls of the just are in the hands of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them.Wisdom Iii, 1
The just man is not afflicted at the thought of being obliged to take leave of the goods of the earth, for he has always kept his heart detached from them.
The Saint is not afflicted at bidding an eternal farewell to honors, for he always hated them, and considered them to be what they really are—smoke and vanity. He is not afflicted in leaving relatives, for he loved them only in God, and at death he recommends them to his heavenly Father, who loves them more than he does; and having a secure confidence of salvation, he expects to be better able to assist them from heaven than on this earth. In a word, he who has constantly said during life, My God and my all, continues to repeat it with greater consolation and greater tenderness at the hour of death.
With affection and peace he offers to God these last moments of life, and feels consoled in uniting the sacrifice of his death to the sacrifice which Jesus Christ offered for him on the Cross to his eternal Father.
SECOND POINT: The Death of the Just is a Victory
In this life everything menaces the ruin of the soul; the world, hell, the passions, the rebellious senses, all draw us to sin and eternal death.
In taking a soul while it is in the state of grace out of this world, where it may change its will and lose his friendship, God bestows on it a great favor. He was taken away lest wickedness should alter his understanding (Wis. iv, 11).
Moreover, it is impossible in this life to avoid all venial sins. For, says the Holy Ghost, a just man shall fall seven times (Prov. xxiv, 16).
For, what is death but the burial of vices?St. Ambrose
THIRD POINT: The Death of the Just is the Entrance to Life
While the soul is united to the body, it is at a distance from the vision of God, as if in a strange land, and excluded from its true country. Hence, according to St. Bruno, the departure of the soul from the body should not be called death, but the beginning of life.” (De Virginit.)
To the just, death is only a passage to eternal life.St. Athanasius
When Pionius, the Martyr, was brought to the stake, he was asked by those who conducted him, how he could go to death with so much joy. ” You err,” replied the Saint: ” I go not to death, but to life.” (Ap Eus. 1, iv, c. 14). Thus, also, the mother of the youthful St. Symphorian exhorted him to martyrdom. “My son,” said she, “life is not taken away from you; it is only exchanged for a better one.”
CONSIDERATION IX: Peace of the Just at the Hour Death
FIRST POINT: The Just have nothing to fear at the Hour of Death
It is true that hell does not cease to tempt and attack even the Saints at the hour of death; but it also true that God does not cease to assist, and to multiply helps to his faithful servants, whenever their danger is increased.
The devil will come to tempt the dying Christian; but his angel-guardian will come to strengthen him: his holy advocates will come—St. Michael, whom God has appointed to defend his faithful servants in their last combat with hell, will come; the divine Mother will come to chase away the devils, and to: protect her servant; above all, Jesus Christ will come to: guard against every temptation of hell, the innocent or penitent sheep for whose salvation he has given his life. He will give that confidence and strength of which the soul shall stand in need in that last struggle with its enemies.
God is more solicitous for our salvation than the devil is for our perdition; for the Lord loves our souls far more than the devil hates them.Origen, In Num. Hom. 20
But you will say: Many Saints have died with great fear of being lost, I answer: We have but few examples of persons who, after leading a holy life, died with fears for their eternal salvation.
St. Bernard trembled through fear of judgment, and was tempted to despair. But thinking of the merits of Jesus Christ, he drove away all fear, saying to his Saviour: Thy wounds are my merits.As told by St. Antonine
He who detests sin, can rest secure of having obtained pardon from God The heart of man cannot exist without loving some object; it must love creatures or God. If it loves not creatures, it loves God. And who are they that love God ? All who observe his commands. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me (John, xiv, 21).
SECOND POINT: The Just Die in a Sweet Peace
The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die;…but they are in peace (Wis. iii, 1). In the eyes of the unwise the servants of God appear to die, as worldlings do, in sorrow and with reluctance. But God knows well how to console his children in their last moments; and even in the midst of the pains of death he infuses into their souls certain sweetnesses, as foretastes of Paradise, which he will soon bestow upon them. As they who die in sin begin to experience on the bed of death certain foretastes of hell, certain remorse, terrors, and fits of despair…
“Between me and God there is nothing but the wall of this body. I now see that my flesh is falling off—that the prison will soon be destroyed, and that I shall go to see my God. It is for this reason that I rejoice and sing.” –Liguori quotes Father Granada’s account of a hermit leper’s reply to a sportsman who found him near death
THIRD POINT: The Just in Dying have a Foretaste of Celestial Joy
What special consolation will the just man receive at the hour of death from the devotions performed in honor of the Mother of God, from the Rosaries he has recited, from his visits to her image, from his fasts on Saturdays, from his frequent attendance at her Confraternities!
A certain person devoted to the Most Holy Virgin said in his last moments to Father Binetti: “Father, you cannot conceive the consolation which the thought of having served Mary infuses at the hour of death. O my Father! if you knew the happiness I feel on account of having served this Mother. I am not able to express it.”
How great will be the joy of him who has loved Jesus Christ—who has often visited him in the Most Adorable Sacrament, and has often received him in the Holy Communion, when he sees his Lord entering his room in the Most Holy Viaticum, and coming to accompany him in his passage to eternity! Happy he who will then be able, with St. Philip Neri, to say to his Saviour: ” Behold my love! Behold my love ! Give me my love.”
We should then fear sin only, and not death.
And let us be persuaded that they who offer their death to God, make the most perfect act of divine love which it is in their power to perform; because, by cheerfully embracing that kind of death which God is pleased to send, and at the time and in the manner in which God sends it, they render themselves like the holy martyrs.
CONSIDERATION X: Means of preparing for Death
FIRST POINT: Not to Wait till the Last Moment
What would you say of the man who should put off his preparation for a trial on which his life depended till the day of trial arrived?
“When sudden calamity shall fall on you, and destruction, as a tempest, then shall they call upon me, and I will not hear. …Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way,” (Prov. I, 27). The time of death is a time of storm and confusion. At that awful hour sinners call on God for assistance; but they invoke his aid through the fear of hell, which they see at hand, and not with true contrition of heart.
SECOND POINT: Put Our Conscience in a Good State, and Regulate Our Lives
Make a General Confession
Cast a glance at the commandments of God: examine yourself on the duties of the State of life in which you have lived, and on the society you have frequented: mark down in writing the sins you have committed; make a general confession of your whole life, if you have not as yet made one.
Change your life
Banish from your heart every sinful affection, and every sentiment of rancor ; remove every ground of scruple on account of the injury done to the property or character of others, or of scandal to your neighbor; and resolve to fly from all those occasions in which you should be in danger of losing God. Remember that what now seems difficult will appear impossible at the hour of death.
Practices to stay in a state of Grace
It is still more important for you to resolve to practice the means of preserving your soul in the grace of God. These means are—
- hearing Mass every day
- the meditation on the eternal truths
- the frequentation of the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist at least every eight days
- the visit every day to the Most Holy Sacrament, and to an image of the divine Mother, attendance at her confraternity
- spiritual reading
- examination of conscience every evening
- some special devotion to the Blessed Virgin
- along with fasting every Saturday in her honor
- Above all, resolve to recommend yourself frequently to God and to the Blessed Virgin, and frequently to invoke, in the time of temptations, the sacred names of Jesus and Mary. These are the names by which you will be able to secure a happy death, and to obtain eternal life.
…The practice of these means will be for you a great sign of your predestination.
THIRD POINT: We must Detach Ourselves from the World
It is also necessary to endeavor to be at all times in the state in which we desire to be at death.
Offer from this moment all to God: tell him you are ready to give up all things whenever he pleases to deprive you of them. If you wish to die with resignation you must from this moment resign yourself to all the contradictions and adversities which may happen to you, and must divest yourself of all affections to earthly things. Imagine yourself on the bed of death, and you will despise all things in this world.
Spend every day as if it were the last of your life; and perform every action, every exercise of prayer, make every confession and Communion, as if they were the last of your life.
CONSIDERATION XI: Value of Time
FIRST POINT: Time is a Treasure of the Earth
“Son, observe the time.”—Ecclus. iv. 23. Son, says the Holy Ghost, be careful to preserve time, which is the greatest and the most precious gift which God can bestow upon you in this life.
In heaven there is no weeping; but, were the saints capable of weeping, all their tears would arise from the thought of having lost the time in which they could have acquired greater glory, and from the conviction that this time will never again be given to them.
Remember that the time which is past is no longer yours : the future is not under your control: you have only the present for the performance of good works.
If then you are not prepared for death today, tremble lest you die an unhappy death.St. Teresa of Avila
SECOND POINT: Neglect of Time
You will see others standing several hours in the street, looking at those who pass by, and speaking on obscene or on useless subjects. If you ask them what they are doing, they will say: We are passing the time. Poor blind sinners ! who lose so many days; but days which never return.
THIRD POINT: We must Profit by the Time
Does God give you time, that you may squander it ? No: the Holy Ghost says, Defraud not thyself of the good day, and let not the part of a good gift overpass thee (Ecclus. xiv, 14).
“Believe that you have lost all the time in which you have not thought of God.” – St. Bernard (Medit. c. 6). Hence the Holy Ghost says, Whatsoever thy hand is able to do, do it earnestly, for neither work nor reason shall be in hell, whither thou art hastening (Eccles. ix, 10).
In the lives of the Saints, there is no tomorrow.Venerable Sister Jane of the Most Holy Trinity
Tomorrow is found in the lives of sinners, who always say, Hereafter, hereafter; and in this state they continue till death.
Behold, now is the acceptable time (2 Cor. vi, 2). Today, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts (Ps. xciv, 8). If God call you today to do good, do it; for tomorrow it may happen that for you time will be no more, or that God will call you no more.
You will redeem the time if you do what you have neglected to do.St. Anselm (Eph. V, 16).
Let us reflect that at each moment of time we may acquire new treasures of eternal riches.
No, my God, I will no longer lose the time which Thou in Thy mercy givest me. I should at this hour be in hell weeping without fruit. I thank Thee for having preserved my life: I wish during the remainder of my days to live only for Thee.From Liguori’s prayer at the end of this section
CONSIDERATION XII: The Importance of Salvation
FIRST POINT: Salvation is our own most important Affair
The business of eternal salvation is to us the most important of all affairs; but it is also the most neglected by Christians.
SECOND POINT: Salvation is our only Affair
One thing have I asked of the Lord: this I will seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord (Ps. xxvi, 4). Lord, I ask but one favor—save my soul, and I ask nothing else.
With fear and trembling work out your salvation (Phil. ii, 12). He that does not fear and tremble for his salvation will not be saved: to save the soul, it is necessary to labor, and to do violence to nature.
The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away (Matt. xi, 12). To obtain eternal glory, our life must be found at death conformable to the life of Jesus Christ.
THIRD POINT: A Failure in Saving One’s Soul is an Irremediable Evil
The greatest torment of the damned consists in the thought of having lost their soul, and of being damned through their own fault. Destruction is thy own, O Israel; thy help is only in me (Osee xiii,9).
CONSIDERATION XIII: The Vanity of the World
FIRST POINT: The Goods of this World are Useless
Death is called the day of destruction (Deut. xxxii, 35). It is the day of destruction, because on that day we shall lose all the goods of this earth—its honors, riches, and pleasures. Hence, according to St. Ambrose, we cannot call the things of this life our goods, because we cannot take them with us to eternity.
[From Ligori’s prayer at the end of this section]I confess that I have done evil, and committed a great error in leaving Thee, my Sovereign Good! for the miserable pleasures of this world. I am sorry from the bottom of my heart.
SECOND POINT: The Goods of this World are Contemptible
There is a deceitful balance in his hand (Osee, xii, 7). We must weigh things in the balance of God, and not in the deceitful balance of the world. The goods of this life are miserable goods; they do not content the heart; they soon end.
The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light (Luke, xvi, 8). How prudent are worldlings in earthly affairs! What toil do they endure in order to obtain a situation, or to acquire an estate? With what care do they attend to the preservation of bodily health ! They adopt the safest means; they select the best physicians, the best remedies, and the purest air. But how careless are they about the concerns of the soul!
Oh, that I had never been a king! Oh, that I had lived in a desert to serve God ! I should now go with greater confidence to present myself at his tribunal, and should not now find myself in so much danger of being damned forever.Philip III, King of Spain
THIRD POINT: We must Work for Heaven
If a man had all the riches in the world, and has not God, he is the poorest of men. But the poor man who possesses God, possesses all things. And who are they that possess God ? He, says St. John, that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in Him (John iv, 16).
CONSIDERATION XIV: Life is a Journey to Eternity
FIRST POINT: Man is a Traveller on Earth
SECOND POINT: Man can Secure Eternal Happiness
If the tree fall to the south or to the north, in what place soever it shall fall there it shall be (Eccles. xi, 3). Wheresoever the tree of your soul will fall at death, there Will it remain forever.
Of what use is it to torture yourself, as some do, saying: Who knows whether I am among the predestined or not ? When the tree is cut down, where does it fall ? It falls on the side to which it inclines. Brother, to what side do you incline ? What sort of life do you lead? Labor always to incline to the south; preserve your soul in the grace of God; fly from sin, and thus you will save your soul, and will be predestined. And in order to avoid sin, keep always before your eyes the thought of eternity, which St. Augustine calls “the great thought”.
Father M. Avila converted a certain lady, who lived at a distance from God, by saying to her: “Madam, reflect on these two words—always and never.”
Drexelius relates that a certain bishop was encouraged to lead a holy life by the thought of eternity, and by repeating within himself, “I stand every moment at the gate of eternity.” (De Damn. Reg. c. 10, # 3)
THIRD POINT: Man shall go into the House of his Eternity
CONSIDERATION XV: The Malice of Mortal Sin
FIRST POINT: The Sinner Insults God
Who is God ? He is Lord of Lords, and King of kings (Apoc. xvii, 14). He is a being of infinite majesty, before whom all the princes of the earth and all the saints and angels are less than an atom of sand. As a drop of a bucket . . . as a little dust (Isa. xl, 15).
The Prophet Osee adds, that compared with the greatness of God, all creatures are as insignificant as if they did not exist. All nations, he says, are before Him as if they had no being at all (Isa. xl, 17).
SECOND POINT: The Sinner Dishonors God
…By offending God for the sake of his pleasure, the sinner makes that pleasure his god, by making it his last end. St. Jerome says: “What a person desires, if he worships it, is to him a god. A vice in the heart is an idol on the altar.” (In Ps. lxxx). Hence St. Thomas says “If you love delights, delights are your god.”‘ And according to St. Cyprian, “Whatever man prefers to God, that he makes a god to himself.” (De Dup. Mart.).
THIRD POINT: The Sinner Afflicts God
God comes to dwell forever in the soul; he never departs from it, unless he is driven away. According to the Council of Trent, “He deserts not the soul, unless he is deserted.” (Sess. 6, cap. 11).
And through the very door by which God leaves the sou!, the devil enters. Then he goeth and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there (Matt. xii, 45).
Yes; for the soul, by receiving the grace of God, becomes his temple. Know you not, that you are the temple of God ? (1 Cor. iii, 16). But, in consenting to sin, man does the very contrary: he says to God, who is in his soul: “Go out from me, O Lord, make room for the devil.”
CONSIDERATION XVI: The Mercy of God
Mercy exalteth itself above judgment.James, ii. 13
FIRST POINT: God Waits for the Sinner
To punish is, according to Isaias, a work opposed to the inclination of God. He shall be angry…that he may do His work, His strange work: His work is strange to Him (Isa. xxviii, 21). And when the Lord chastises in this life, he does it in order to show mercy in the next.
St. Thomas says, that all creatures, fire, the earth, air, water, by a natural instinct, would wish to punish and to take vengeance on the injuries done to their Creator (Wisd. Xvi, 24). But God in his mercy restrains them.
“We sin,” continues the holy Doctor, “we adhere to sin.” Some make peace with sin, and sleep in sin for months and years. “Gaudemus de peccato”—We rejoice at sin; others go so far as to boast of their wickedness; and Thou art appeased? We provoke Thee to anger—Thou invitest us to mercy. We appear to be engaged with God in a contest in which we labor to provoke him to chastise our guilt; and he invites us to pardon.
SECOND POINT: God Calls the Sinner.
When Adam rebelled against the Lord, and hid himself from his face, behold, God, having lost Adam, goes in search of him, and calls him as it were with tears. Adam, where art thou? (Gen. iii, 9). “These,” says Father Pereira in his commentary on this passage, “are the words of a father seeking a lost son.”
Speaking of you, Jesus appears to say I have labored with crying: my jaws are become hoarse (Ps. lxviii, 4).
When man commits a mortal sin, he banishes God from his soul. The wicked have said to God, Depart from us (Job, xxi, 14). But what does God do? He places himself at the door of that ungrateful heart. Behold, I stand at the gate and knock (Apoc. iii, 20). He even appears to entreat the soul to allow him to enter. Open to Me, my sister (Cant. v. 2). He grows weary praying for admission. I am weary of entreating thee (Jer. xv, 6). Yes, says St. Denis, the Areopagite, God follows sinners like a despised lover, entreating them not to destroy their souls (Ad Demoph.).
THIRD POINT: God Receives the Sinner with Kindness.
The Lord promises that, if sinners repent, he will even forget their sins, as if they had never offended him. If the wicked do penance…living he shall live….I will not remember all his iniquities that he hath done (Ezek. xviii, 21). He even goes so far as to say, Come and accuse Me, saith the Lord; if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow (Isa. i, 18). As if he said: Sinners, come and accuse Me; if I do not pardon you, reprove me, upbraid me with having been unfaithful to my promises.
CONSIDERATION XVII: Abuse of Divine Mercy
FIRST POINT: God is Merciful, but He is also Just
God shows mercy to those who fear him, but not to those who avail themselves of his mercy to banish the fear of God from their hearts.
Say not, says the Lord, that the mercies of God are great; that however enormous your sins may be, you will obtain pardon by an act of contrition. And say not: The mercy of the Lord is great: He will have mercy on the multitude of my sins (Ecclus. v, 6). Say it not, says the Lord; and why? For mercy and wrath quickly come from Him, and His wrath looketh upon sinners (Ibid.). The mercy of God is infinite; but the acts of his mercy, or his mercies are finite. God is merciful, but he is also just.
…God bears, but he does not bear forever. Were God to bear forever with sinners, no one would be damned: but the most common opinion is that the greater part of adults, even among Christians, are lost. Wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are that go in thereat (Matt. vii, 13).
The hope of sinners after sin is pleasing to God, when it is accompanied with repentance; but the hope of the obstinate is an abomination to the Lord (Job, xi, 20).
SECOND POINT: The Sinner Abandoned by God
And how does God abandon sinners? He either sends them a sudden death, and makes them die in sin, or he deprives them of his abundant graces, and leaves them with the sufficient grace, with which they can, but will not, save their souls. The blindness of their understanding, the hardness of their heart, the evil habits which they have contracted, will render their salvation morally impossible; and thus they will be, if not absolutely, at least morally abandoned. I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be wasted (Isa. v, 5).…he takes away the hedge of holy fear, and of remorse of conscience, and leaves it in darkness.
And the sinner, abandoned in that obscurity, will despise the grace of God, heaven, admonitions, and excommunications; and will make a jest of his own damnation. The wicked man, when he is come into the depth of sins, contemneth (Prov. xviii, 3).
Oh! what a chastisement is it when God abandons the sinner into the hands of his sins, and appears not to demand any further account of them! According to the multitude of his wrath he will not seek him. (Ps. ix, 4). God appears not to be enraged against sinners. My jealousy shall depart from you, and I will cease and be angry no more. (Ezek. xvi, 42).—He appears to allow them all that they desire in this life. I let them go according to the desires of their heart (Ps. lxxx, 13).
THIRD POINT: Unfortunate is he who allows the Time of Mercy to pass by
As long as you wish to sin, regard yourself as damned…
Listen, then, to the admonition of St. Augustine: “O fruitless tree! the axe is deferred; be not secure: you will be cut down. (Serm. 110, E.B.).
CONSIDERATION XVIII: The Number of Sins
FIRST POINT: The Measure is Determined for Each One.
God waits up to a certain number, and afterwards abandons;Eusebius of Caesarea
All the men who have tempted Me ten times shall not see the land.Numbers xiv, 22
SECOND POINT: The Measure is not the Same for All
How many has the Lord condemned to eternal misery after the first sin? St. Gregory (Dial. 1, 4, c. 18) relates that a child of five years, for uttering a blasphemy was condemned to hell. The Most Holy Virgin revealed to that great servant of God, Benedicta of Florence, that a girl twelve years old was damned after her first sin. A boy of eight years died after his first sin, and was lost.
THIRD POINT: We Must Always Fear
I do not say absolutely that after another sin there will be no more forgiveness for you; for this I do not know: but I say that it may happen. Hence, when you are tempted, say within yourself: Perhaps God will pardon me no more, and I shall be lost.
What just reason have you to believe that God will not strike you dead in the very act of sin, or that, after your sin, he will not abandon you?
CONSIDERATION XIX: The State of Grace and of Disgrace with God
FIRST POINT: Dignity to which the Grace of God raises us
Whosoever, then, is in the state of grace is the friend of God. He also becomes the son of God: You are gods, and the sons of the Most High (Ps. lxxxi, 6). This is the great gift which we have received from the divine love through Jesus Christ. Behold, says St. John, what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us—that we should be called, and should be, the sons of God (1 John, iii, 1). Moreover, the soul in the state of grace is the spouse of God. I will espouse thee to me in faith (Osee, ii, 20).
SECOND POINT: Advantages that the Grace of God Procures for us
The gift of grace surpasses every gift that a creature can receive, since it is a participation of the divine nature.St. Thomas Aquinas (I, 2, q. 112, a. 1)
“that by these ye may be made partakers of the divine nature”2 Peter i, 4
He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit1 Corinthians vi, 17
The Redeemer has said that in a soul that loves God, the Three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity dwell. If any one love Me, my Father mill love him, and we will come to him, and we will make our abode with him (John, xiv, 23).
So great is the beauty of a soul in the state of grace, that God himself extols it. How beautiful art thou! how beautiful art thou! (Cant. iv, 1). The Lord appears never to take his eyes off the soul that loves him, nor to close his ears to its petitions. The eyes of the Lord are upon the just: and His ears unto their prayers. (Ps. xxxiii, 16).
THIRD POINT: Enmity with God
God does not hate any of his creatures; he does not hate the wild beast, the viper, or the toad. Thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things which Thou hast made (Wis. xi, 25). But he cannot refrain from hating sinners. Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity (Ps. v, 7). Yes; God cannot but hate sin, which is diametrically opposed to his will; and in hating sin he must necessarily hate the sinner who is united to his sin. But to God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike (Wis. xiv, 9).
Moreover, the soul that is at enmity with God has lost all its merits. Should a man be equal in merit to St. Paul the Hermit, who lived forty-eight years in a cave; to St. Francis Xavier, who gained ten millions of souls to God; or to St. Paul the Apostle, who, according to St. Jerome, surpassed in merit all the other apostles—that man, if he commit a single mortal sin, loses all. All his justices which he hath done shall not be remembered (Ezek. xviii, 24).
CONSIDERATION XX: The folly of the Sinner
FIRST POINT: The Large Number of Fools
The number of fools is infinite (Eccles. i, 15). Some are foolish through love of honors; some for the sake of pleasures; and others from attachment to the miserable goods of this earth. And great as their folly is, they have the temerity to call the saints fools, because they despise the goods of this life in order to gain eternal salvation and the possession of God, who is the true and supreme good. They deem it folly to embrace contempt, and to pardon injuries; folly to abstain from sensual pleasures, and to practice mortification; folly to renounce honors and riches, to love solitude and an humble and hidden life. But they never reflect that the Lord has called their wisdom folly. For, says the apostle, the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God (1 Cor.iii, 19).
How great then the folly of sinners, who, for a worthless gain, for a little smoke, for a transient delight, lose the grace of God!
SECOND POINT: Great Folly
To be a man is, to be rational—that is, to act according to reason, and not according to the sensual appetite.
Henry VIII knew how to preserve his throne by rebelling against the Church; but seeing at death that he lost his soul, he exclaimed: We have lost all.
THIRD POINT: True Wisdom
Let us be persuaded that the truly wise are they who know how to acquire the divine grace, and the kingdom of heaven; and let us incessantly implore the Lord to give us the science of the saints, which he gives to all who ask it from him (Wis. x, 10).
If we know all things, and know not how to save our souls, our knowledge will be unprofitable to us, and we shall be forever miserable: but on the other hand, though we should be ignorant of all things, we shall be happy for eternity, if we know how to love God. “Blessed is the man,” says St. Augustine, “who knows Thee though he be ignorant of other things.” (Conf. 1, 5, c.5).
The grave is the school in which we may see the vanity of earthly goods, and in which we may learn the science of the Saints.
CONSIDERATION XXI: Unhappy Life of the Sinner: and happy Life of him who loves God
FIRST POINT: The World cannot make us Happy
No; the world with all its goods cannot content the heart of man: for he was created not for them, but for God alone: hence God alone can make him happy and content. Brute animals, that have been made for sensual delights, find peace in earthly goods. Give to an ox a bundle of hay, and to a dog a piece of flesh, and they are content, they desire nothing more. But the soul that has been created for no other end than to love God, and to live in union with him, will never be able to find peace or happiness in sensual enjoyments: God alone can make it perfectly content.
St. Bernard writes, that he saw different classes of fools laboring under different species of folly. All had a great thirst for happiness: some were satiated with the goods of the earth, which is a figure of the avaricious; others with wind, the figure of the ambitious, who seek after empty honors: others seated round a furnace, swallowing the sparks that were thrown from it; these were the passionate and vindictive: others, in fine, drank putrid waters from a fetid lake: and these were the voluptuous and unchaste. Hence, turning to them, the Saint exclaims: O fools! do you not see that these things increase, rather than diminish your thirst!
You have eaten, but have not had enough.Aggeus (Agg. i, 6)
Hence, the more the avaricious man possesses, the more he seeks to acquire.
The possession of great wealth, does not close, but rather extends, the jaws of avarice.St. Augustine (Serm. 50, E.B.)
The more the unchaste man wallows in the mire of impurity, the greater is his disgust, and, at the same time, his desire for such beastly pleasures; and how can dung and carnal filthiness content the heart?
Solomon tells us that he refused no indulgence to his senses. Whatsoever my eyes desired, I refused them not. (Eccles. ii, 10). But after all his sensual enjoyments what did he say ? Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity (Ibid. i, 2). That is, everything in this world is mere vanity, a pure lie, pure folly.
SECOND POINT: Interior Torments of the Sinner
according to Solomon, the goods of this world not only do not content the heart, but they are even a source of pain and affliction of spirit. And behold all is vanity and affliction of spirit (Eccles. i, 14). Poor sinners ! they seek for happiness in their sins, but they find nothing but bitterness and remorse. Destruction and happinness in their ways, and the way of peace they have not known (Ps. xiii, 3). What peace ? What peace? There is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord (Isa. xlviii, 22)
he wicked man fleeth when no man pursueth.Proverbs xxviii, 1
Such is the state of a man who lives in the enjoyment of worldly goods, but without God: his soul is as it were turned upside down. He may eat and drink and dance, he may wear costly apparel, and may acquire honors, dignities, and possessions; but he never will have peace. There is no peace to the wicked. God alone imparts peace; but he gives it to his friends, not to his enemies.
He who loves God resigns himself to the divine will in adversity, and enjoys peace; but he who lives in opposition to the divine will, cannot conform to it, and therefore he has no means of tranquillizing the soul.
What is a soul without God ? The Holy Ghost compares it to a sea agitated by the tempest. The wicked are like the raging sea, which cannot rest.Isaiah lvii, 20
Because thou didst not serve the Lord thy God with joy and gladness, thou shalt serve the enemy in hunger, and thirst, and nakedness, and in want of all things.Deuteronomy xxviii, 47, 48
THIRD POINT: Happiness of the Just on Earth
The heart of man is always in search of goods that will make him happy. He enjoys riches, pleasures, honors, and he is not content; for these are finite goods, and he was created for an infinite good.
While he was in sin, David went to his gardens, and indulged in the pleasures of the table and all other royal entertainments; but the table, the gardens, and the creatures in which he took delight, said to him: David, do you expect that we shall make you happy ? It is not in our power to content your heart. Where is your God? Go and find your God; he alone can satisfy the cravings of your soul. Hence, in the midst of all his enjoyments, David wept continually. My tears have been my bread day and night, while it is said to me daily: Where is thy God? (Ps. xli, 4).
When St. Philip Neri left all things, he used, after going to rest, to receive so much consolation from God, that he would say: O my Jesus, allow me to sleep.
What then do we seek after? Let us go to Jesus Christ, who calls us, saying: Come to Me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.Matthew xi, 28
We see the cross,” says St. Bernard, “but not the unction.” We behold only the mortifications which the lovers of God endure, and the pleasures from which they abstain; but we do not see the spiritual delights with which the Lord consoles them.
CONSIDERATION XXII: The habit of Sin
FIRST POINT: The Habit of Sin Blinds the Soul
The evil inclination to sin is one of the greatest injuries that we have received from the sin of Adam. This made the Apostle weep when he saw himself impelled by concupiscence to the very evil which he abhorred. I see another law in my members…captivating me in the law of sin (Rom. vii, 23).
First, a bad habit blinds the understanding. Why do the saints always implore light from God, and tremble lest they should become the greatest sinners in the world? Because they know that if they lose God’s light they may commit the greatest crimes.
How does it happen that so many Christians live obstinately in sin until they are lost in the end ? Their own malice blinded them (Wis. ii, 21). Sin blinds them, and thus they are lost.
Every sin produces blindness; the more sins are multiplied, the greater the blindness they produce.
God is our light; and therefore, the farther the soul is removed from God, the more blind it becomes. His bones, says Job, shall be filled with the vices of his youth (Job, xx, 11).
The very habit of sin, says St. Augustine, does not allow them to see the evil which they do (Serm. 98, E.B.). Hence they live as if they no longer believed in the existence of God, of heaven, hell, or eternity.
St. Anselm says that the devil acts toward certain sinners like a person who fastens a cord to a bird: he allows it to fly away; but, whenever he pleases, draws it back to the earth. These are, according to the Saint, habitual sinners.
The wicked man, when he is come into the depth of sins contemneth. (Prov. xviii, 3). This passage St. Chrysostom explains of habitual sinners, who, sunk in an abyss of darkness, despise corrections, sermons, censures, hell, and God…
Father Recupito relates that a man condemned to death, even when going to the place of execution, raised his eyes, saw a young female, and consented to a bad thought.
Father Gisolfo relates that a blasphemer, who had been likewise condemned to death, when thrown off the scaffold, broke out into a blasphemy.
St. Bernard goes so far as to say that it is almost useless to pray for habitual sinners,—that we must weep over them as lost forever. If they no longer see their danger, how can they escape the precipice?
SECOND POINT: The Habit of Sin Hardens the Heart
According to St. Augustine, God hardens the sinner by not showing mercy (De Div. Quaest. Ad Simpl. n. 15). It is not that God directly hardens habitual sinners, but he subtracts his graces in punishment of their ingratitude for past favors, and thus their heart becomes hard like a stone. “His heart shall be as hard as a stone, and as firm as a smith’s anvil.” (Job, xli, 15).
I see another law in my members . . .captivating me in the law of sin.Romans vii, 23
…on “the pains of the damned or on the Passion of Jesus Christ, the habitual sinner remains unmoved, he speaks and listens to others speaking on these subjects with as much indifference as if they did not concern him; and thus these sermons will serve to render him more obdurate.
An evil habit gradually takes away all remorse of conscience: to the habitual sinner crimes the most enormous appear trifling.
THIRD POINT: The Habit of Sin Leads to Final Impenitence
The just continue to walk in the straight path. The path of the just is right to walk in (Isa. xxvi, 7). But habitual sinners always walk round about (Ps. xi, 9). They give up sin for a little, and afterward return to it.
A young man, says the Holy Ghost, according to his way, even when he is old, he will not depart from it (Prov. xxii, 6).
The soul deprived of grace cannot abstain from committing new sins.St. Thomas of Villanova
But would it not be the extreme of folly to play for, and voluntarily to lose, all your property, with the hope of winning it back in the last game? Such is the folly of the man who continues to live in the midst of sins, and hopes at the last moment of life to repair all the evil he has done.
The habitual sinner may say: Is my salvation then hopeless? No; you are not beyond hope: if you wish to apply it, there is still a remedy for the past. But a certain author says, that in grievous maladies very severe remedies are necessary.
But if you wish to recover from your illness, there is a remedy for you; however, you must not expect a miracle of grace. You must on your part labor hard to take away the occasions of sin, to avoid bad company, to resist temptations by recommending yourself to God as soon as you perceive them: you must adopt the means of salvation, by going frequently to confession, by reading a spiritual book every day, by practicing devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and continually imploring her to obtain for you strength not to relapse into sin.
CONSIDERATION XXIII: Thee Delusions which the Devil Puts into the Minds of Sinners
FIRST POINT: I will Go to Confession.—I cannot Resist
I do not wish to damn myself, I wish to be saved: If I commit this sin, I will afterward confess it. Behold the first delusion of the devil! Then you say that you will afterward confess it; but in the mean time you lose your soul.
You hold in your hand the precious jewel of your soul, which Jesus Christ has purchased with his blood, and you voluntarily cast it into hell (for in punishment of every mortal sin, you are condemned to eternal fire), and say; I hope to recover it by a good confession.
Be assured that by this delusion—I will afterward go to confession—the devil has brought thousands and thousands of Christians to hell.
At present I cannot resist this temptation. Behold the second delusion of the devil, who makes it appear to you that at present you have not strength to resist your passions.
…it is necessary to know that, as the Apostle says, God is faithful, and never permits us to be tempted above our strength (1 Cor. x, 13).
You say: God will give me his aid. But this aid he gives you at present. Why, then, do you not correspond with his grace and conquer your passion?
If at present you wish for greater help and strength, why do you not ask them from God ? Ask, and it shall be given you (John, xvi, 24). God cannot violate his promise. Have recourse to him, and he will give you the strength which you require in order to resist every temptation. God does not command impossibilities; but by his commands he admonishes us to do what we can with the actual aid which he gives us; and when this aid is not sufficient to enable us to resist temptations, he exhorts us to ask additional help, which he gives whenever we pray for it.
SECOND POINT: God is Merciful
God is merciful. Behold the third delusion of sinners by which an immense number are lost! A learned author says, that the mercy of God sends more souls to hell than his justice; for sinners are induced, by a rash confidence in the divine mercy, to continue in sin, and thus are lost.
God is merciful: but he is also just; and therefore he is obliged to punish those who offend him. He shows mercy; but to whom? To them who fear him. He hath strengthened His mercy toward them that fear Him. As a father hath compassion on his children, so hath the Lord compassion on them that fear Him (Ps. cii, 11, 13).
God pardons sin; but he cannot pardon the will or the determination to sin.
But as God has shown me to many mercies hitherto, so I hope he will treat me with mercy hereafter. Behold the fourth delusion!
the greater have been his mercies to you, the more you have reason to fear that, if you offend him again, he will pardon you no more, but will take vengeance on your sins. Say not: I have sinned, and what harm hath befallen me for the Most High is a patient rewarder (Ecclus. v, 4).
When, the number of mercies which he has resolved to show to the sinner is exhausted, he then punishes all his sins together. And the longer God has waited for his repentance, the more severe will be his punishment, says St. Gregory. (In Evang. Hom. 13).
If then, O my brother, you see that you have, often offended God, and that he has not sent you to hell you should say; The mercies of the Lord that we are not consumed (Lam. iii, 22).
THIRD POINT: I am Young—Perhaps
But I am young. God compassionates youth. I will hereafter give myself to God. We are now at the fifth delusion.
But do you not know that God counts, not the years, but the sins of each individual?
And do you not know that God has fixed the number and measure of sins which he will pardon each ? The Lord waiteth patiently, says Holy Scripture, that when the day of judgment shall come, He may punish them in the fullness of their sins (2 Mach. vi, 44). That is, God has patience, and waits for a certain time; but when the measure of the sins which he has resolved to pardon is filled up, he pardons no more, but chastises the sinner by sending him a sudden death while in the state of damnation, or he abandons him in his sin—a chastisement worse than death. I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be wasted (Isa. v, 5).
If you continue to offend him, you will gradually lose remorse of conscience—you will cease to think of eternity, or of the salvation of your soul—you will lose all light and fear: behold the hedge taken away: behold your soul already abandoned by God.
Let us come to the last delusion. You say: It is true that if I commit this sin, I shall lose the grace of God, and shall be condemned to hell; it may be that in punishment of it I shall be damned; but it may also happen that I shall afterward make a good confession, and save my soul. Yes, it may, I admit, happen that you will be saved; for I am not a prophet, and therefore I cannot say for certain, that, if you commit this sin, God will show you no more mercy. But you cannot deny that, if, after the great graces God has bestowed upon you, you offend him again, you will expose yourself to very great danger of being lost forever.
Attend to the language of Scripture. A hard heart shall fare evil at the last (Ecclus. iii, 27). Evil-doers shall be cut off (Ps. xxxvi, 9). The wicked will in the end be cut off by divine justice. What things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap (Gal. vi, 8). He that sows sins, will reap nothing but pains and torments. I called and you refused…I will laugh in your destruction, and will mock when that shall come to you which you feared (Prov. i, 24). I have called you, says the Lord, and you have mocked me; but I will mock you at the hour of death. Revenge is mine, and I will repay them in due time (Deut. xxxii, 35). To me belongs the punishment due to sins: I will inflict it when the time of vengeance arrives…Such are the threats of the Scriptures against obstinate sinners; such is the chastisement which reason and justice demand.
CONSIDERATION XXIV: The Particular Judgment
FIRST POINT: The Guilty Soul before its Judge
it is the common opinion of theologians, that the particular judgment takes place at the very moment of death; and that on the very spot where the soul is separated from the body, it is judged by Jesus Christ, who will not send, but will come himself to judge it according to its works.
He will,” says St. Augustine, “come in love to the good, in terror to the wicked.” (Serm. 181, E.B.). Oh ! how great will be the terror of the soul the first time it sees the Redeemer, and sees his countenance full of wrath ! Who, says the prophet Nahum, shall stand before the face of His indignation ? (Nahum, i, 6).
The sight of the wrath of the Judge will announce the sentence. The wrath of the King is as messengers of death (Prov. xvi, 14).
St. Bernard says that the soul will suffer more in seeing the indignation of Jesus Christ, than in hell itself.
Oh, how much greater will be the pain and confusion of the soul when it beholds Jesus Christ enraged against it for the insults which it offered to him during life! They shall look upon me whom they have pierced (John, xix, 37). The soul will see in wrath the Lamb that bore with it so patiently during life, and that there is no hope of appeasing his anger.
CONSIDERATION XXVI: The pains of Hell
FIRST POINT: The Pain of Sense
In committing sin, the sinner does two evils. He abandons God, the Sovereign Good, and turns to creatures. For My people have done two evils. They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, and have digged to themselves cisterns—broken cisterns—that can hold no water (Jer. ii, 13).
Since, then, by turning to creatures the sinner offends God, he will be justly tortured in hell by the same creatures by fire, and by devils: in this punishment consists the pain of sense.
What is this hell? It is what the glutton who was damned called a place of torments. (Luke, xvi, 28). A place of torments, where all the senses and powers of the damned will have their proper torment, and where, the more a person has offended God by any sense, the more he will be tortured in that sense. By what things a man sinneth, by the same also he is tormented (Wis. xi, 17).
Hell is a dungeon closed up on every side, into which a ray of the sun, or of any other light, shall never enter. He shall never see the light (Ps. xlviii, 20).
The voice of the Lord divided the fire (Ps. xxviii, 7). In explaining these words, St. Basil says, that the Lord will separate the light from the fire, so that this fire will burn, but will not illuminate.
The very smoke that issues from that fire shall form a storm of darkness which, according to St. Jude, will blind the damned. To whom the storm of darkness is reserved forever (Jud. 13).
St. Thomas teaches that the damned have only the light which serves to increase their torments. In that glimmering light they will see the deformity of their associates, and of the devils, who will assume horrible forms in order to increase the terrors of the damned.
Out of their carcasses, says the Prophet Isaias, shall rise a stink (Isa. xxxiv, 3). The damned must remain in the midst of so many millions of the reprobate, who, though forever alive to pain, are called carcasses on account of the stench which they send forth.
the greater the number of the damned in hell, the more insufferable will be their torments.
In hell, they will be one over the other, like sheep gathered together in the winter. They are, said David, laid in hell like sheep (Ps. xlviii, 15). They will be even like grapes pressed under the wine-press of God’ s wrath. And he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of God the Almighty (Apoc. xix, 15). From this will arise the pain of immobility. Let them become immovable as a stone (Exod. xv, 16). Thus, in whatsoever position the damned will fall into hell after the last day, in that they must remain, without ever changing their posture, and without ever being able to move hand or foot, as long as God will be God.
The devils will torment the damned by continual noises. The sound of dread is always in his ears (Job, xv, 21).
The damned will be tormented by a ravenous hunger. They shall suffer hunger like dogs (Ps. lviii, 15). But they never will have a morsel of bread. Their thirst will be so great that all the waters of the ocean will not be able to quench it; but they will never be allowed a single drop. The rich glutton asked for a drop of water; but he has not as yet had it, and he never, never will have it.
SECOND POINT: The Fire of Hell
The pain which most severely torments the senses of the damned arises from the fire of hell, which tortures the sense of touch.
Hence, in passing sentence, the Lord makes special mention of it. Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire (Matt. xxv, 41). Even in this life, the pain of fire is the greatest of all torments; but according to St. Augustine, our fire, compared with the fire of hell, is but painted fire.
They will live in fire, like a fish in water. But this fire will not only surround the damned, but will also enter into their very bowels to torment them. Their bodies will become all fire.
Thou shaft make them as a furnace of fire.Psalms xx, 10
The powers of the soul will also have their proper torment.
The damned will be tormented in the memory by the remembrance of the time which was given to them in this life, that they might save their souls, and which they spent in procuring their own damnation
They will be tormented in the understanding by thinking of the great good which they have lost in losing heaven and God, and that this loss is forever irreparable.
In the will, by seeing that they will be refused whatsoever they ask. The desire of the wicked shall perish.Psalms cxi, 10
In this fire the damned will suffer even the pain of cold. Let him, says Job, pass from the snow waters to excessive heat (Job, xxiv, 19). But we must always keep in mind, that all the torments of this earth are, as St. Chrysostom says, but the shadow of the pains of hell.
The damned will be tormented in the memory by the remembrance of the time which was given to them in this life, that they might save their souls, and which they spent in procuring their own damnation; by the remembrance of the graces which they have received from God, and of which they have not profited. They will be tormented in the understanding by thinking of the great good which they have lost in losing heaven and God, and that this loss is forever irreparable. In the will, by seeing that they will be refused whatsoever they ask.
THIRD POINT: The Pain of Loss
This pain is dreaded only by the saints. St. Ignatius of Loyola used to say: Lord, I am willing to bear every pain, but not the pain of being deprived of Thee.
At its separation from the body, the soul is naturally drawn to God, but sin drags it away and sends it to hell, at a distance from him. Your iniquities, says the Prophet Isaias, have divided between you and your God (Isa. lix, 2).
The damned will hate and curse God; and in cursing God, they will also curse the benefits he has conferred upon them; they will curse the benefits of creation, of redemption, of the sacraments, particularly the sacraments of baptism and penance, and, above all, the most holy sacrament of the altar. They will hate all the angels and saints, but especially their angel guardians and their holy advocates, and above all the divine Mother. But they will principally hate the Three Divine Persons, and among them they will hate in a special manner the Son of God, who once died for their salvation; they will curse his wounds, his blood, his pains, and his death.
CONSIDERATION XXVII: The Eternity of Hell
FIRST POINT: Hell is Eternal
Every one shall be salted with fire (Mark, ix, 48). As salt prevents putrefaction, so the fire of hell, while it tortures the damned, performs the office of salt by preserving their life.
The saints then had reason, as long as they were on this earth, and in danger of being lost, to weep and tremble. Blessed Isaias, even while he lived in the desert in fasting and penitential rigors wept and said: Ah! unhappy me, who am not as yet free from the danger of losing my soul.
SECOND POINT: The Weight of Eternity
As long as the sinner remains on this earth, he may hope to reverse the sentence of his damnation; but as soon as death overtakes him in sin, all his hopes are at an end forever. When the wicked man is dead, there shall be no hope any more (Prov. xi, 7).
And may not the damned at least say: Who knows but I shall one day escape from this prison ? and thus delude himself with this false hope. No: in hell there is no hope, whether true or false; there is no perhaps. I will set before thy face (Ps. xlix, 21). The unhappy damned will always see the sentence of their reprobation written before their eyes. In it they will read, that they will weep forever in that pit of torments. And many shall awake: some unto life everlasting, and others unto reproach, to see it always (Dan. xii, 2).
The Psalmist says: “The voice of thy thunder in a wheel.” A wheel is a figure of eternity, which has no end.
St. Thomas says that, even in human judgments, the punishment of crime is measured, not from its duration, but from its malice. “In every mortal sin,” says St. Bernardine of Sienna, “an infinite insult is offered to God; but an infinite injury merits infinite punishment.”
But, because, says St. Thomas, a creature is not capable of suffering pain infinite in point of intensity, God inflicts punishment infinite in extension or duration.(T. ii, s. 12, a. 2, c. 2).
THIRD POINT: Eternity is Unchangeable
Another devil was asked how long it was since he had been sent to hell. He answered, Yesterday. ” How,” said the person who asked him, ” could it be yesterday, when you are damned for more than five thousand years ? He replied: Oh! if you knew what is meant by eternity, you would easily conceive how a thousand years, compared with it, are butFrom “The Spiritual Exercises of Father Paul Segneri” by Muratori
CONSIDERATION XXVIII: The Remorse of the Damned
FIRST POINT: The Little for which the Damned are lost
SECOND POINT: The Little that was Required for their Salvation
A person who was damned appeared to St. Humbert, and said to him that the most excruciating pain which he suffered in hell was caused by the thought of the trifles for which he was lost, and of the little which he required to do in order to save his soul. The unhappy soul will then say: Had I mortified myself by not looking at such an object; had I overcome human respect at such a time; had I avoided such an occasion of sin, such a companion, such a conversation, I should not now be damned. If I had gone to confession every week; if I had frequented the confraternity; if I had read every day a spiritual book; if I had recommended myself to Jesus Christ and to Mary, I should not have relapsed into sin. I have so often purposed to do these things, but have either neglected my resolutions, or after having begun to practise these exercises, I gave them up, and therefore I am lost.
THIRD POINT: The Great Good that the Damned have Lost
Before man is life and death; …. that which he shall choose shall be given him.Ecclesiasticus xv, 18
Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.Ecclesiasticus vii, 40
O Mary, O advocate of sinners! obtain for me the grace to make peace with God, and afterward keep me under thy protection, that I may never more lose him.From Liguori’s prayer at the end of this section
CONSIDERATION XXIX: Heaven
FIRST POINT: Entrance of a Soul into Paradise
The delights of heaven are secret words, which it is not granted to man to utter (2 Cor. xiii, 4). They are so great that they only who enjoy them are able to comprehend them. Ah! that I can say of them, says the Apostle, is, that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared fort hem that love Him (1 Cor. ii,9). No man living has ever seen, or heard, or conceived the beauty, the harmony, the delights which God has prepared for those who love him.
But far different are the delights of heaven. To form some imperfect idea of them, let us reflect that in heaven is an all-powerful God, who has pledged himself to make the soul that loves him happy.
Behold, the soul now passes beyond the clouds, the spheres, the stars, and enters into heaven. O God! what
will be her feelings on first setting her foot in this happy country, and beholding, for the first time, this city of delights! The angels and the saints will come to meet her, and will receive her with a joyous welcome. What shall be her consolation in rejoining there her relatives or friends, who have been already admitted into heaven, and in meeting her holy advocates!
SECOND POINT: Happiness of Heaven
There are no fears; because the soul, being confirmed in grace, can no longer sin nor lose her God.
St. Francis de Sales says that, as the singing of the nightingale surpasses that of all other birds, so the voice of Mary is far superior to that of all the other saints.
Yet in this life we do not see God as he is; we see him only in the dark. We now see through a glass in a dark manner: but then face to face (1 Cor. xiii, 10).
THIRD POINT: Heaven is Eternal
In this life, the greatest pain which afflicts souls that are in desolation and love God, arises from the fear of not loving him, and of not being loved by him.
In seeing God face to face, and in embracing its Sovereign Good, the soul will be so inebriated with love that it will happily lose itself in God—that is, it will entirely forget itself, and will think only of loving, of praising, and of blessing the infinite Good which it possesses.
CONSIDERATION XXX: Prayer
FIRST POINT: Efficacy of Prayer
“Call upon me, and I will deliver you from all dangers.”Psalm xlix, 15
St. Bernard says that when we pray, the Lord will give either the grace we ask, or one that is more useful to us (In
Quadr. s. 5).
St. John Climacus used to say that prayer in a certain manner forces God to grant us whatsoever we ask of him. “Prayer piously offers violence to God.” (Scala spir. gr. 28). But it is, as St. Tertullian says, a violence which is dear to him, and which he desires from us (Apolog. c. 39). Yes; for, as St. Augustine says, God has a greater desire to give us his graces, than we have to receive them (Serm. 105, E.B.).
SECOND POINT: Necessity of Prayer
on the one hand, it is impossible for us to observe the divine commands, and save our souls, without the actual assistance of God; and on the other, ordinarily speaking, God will not give us his graces unless we ask them from him.
He who prays, is certainly saved; he who does not pray, is certainly lost.
THIRD POINT: Conditions of Prayer
To pray well, it is necessary, in the first place, to pray with humility Secondly, it is necessary to pray with
St. Thomas says that the efficacy of prayer to obtain graces depends, not on our merits, but on the divine mercy (2, 2, q. 178, a. 2). Every one, says Jesus Christ, that asketh receiveth;
But it is necessary to know that this promise does not extend to temporal favors, such as health, goods of fortune, and the like; for God often justly refuses these graces, because he sees that they would be injurious to our salvation.
But spiritual graces, such as pardon of sins, perseverance, divine love, and the like, should be asked absolutely, and with a firm confidence of obtaining them. If,
Above all, perseverance in prayer is necessary.
CONSIDERATION XXXI: Perseverance
FIRST POINT: Necessity of Perseverance.—Means of Defence against the Devil
Saul, Judas, Tertullian, began well, but ended badly, because they did not persevere in grace.
But do not imagine that, now that you have begun to serve God, there is as it were an end, or a lack of temptations: listen to the advice of the Holy Ghost. Son, when thou comest to the service of God . . . prepare thy soul for temptation (Ecclus. ii, 1). Remember that now more than ever you must prepare yourself for conflicts, because your enemies, the world, the devil, and the flesh, will arm themselves now more than ever to fight against you in order to deprive you of all that you have acquired. Denis the Carthusian says, that the more a soul gives itself to God, the more strenuously hell labors to destroy it.
SECOND POINT: We must Conquer the World
Let us now see how we must conquer the world. The devil is a great enemy of our salvation, but the world is worse.
The wicked, says the Holy Ghost, loathe them that are in the right way (Prov. xxix, 27).
the maxims of the world are diametrically opposed to the maxims of Jesus Christ. What the world esteems, Jesus Christ has called folly. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (1 Cor. iii, 19). And the world regards as folly what Jesus Christ has strongly recommended,—such as crosses, pains, and contempts. For the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness (1 Cor. iii, 18).
Let us, then, leave sinners to say what they please, and let us continue to please God, who is grateful and faithful to all who serve him.
When the wicked treat us with derision, let us recommend them to the Lord, let us thank him for giving us light, which he does not give to these miserable men, and let us continue our journey. Let us not be ashamed to appear like Christians; for, if we are ashamed of Jesus Christ, he protests that he will be ashamed of us on the day of judgment.
If we wish to save our souls, we must resolve to suffer, and to do violence to ourselves.
He who does not violence to himself, will not be saved. There is no remedy. If we wish to do good, we must act in opposition to our rebellious nature. In the beginning, it is particularly necessary to do violence to ourselves in order to root out bad habits, and to acquire habits of virtue.
Remember, says St. Bernard, that if you have the misfortune of relapsing into sin, your relapse will be more disastrous than all your falls (In Cant. s. 54).
THIRD POINT: We must Struggle against the Flesh.—Recapitulation
the third enemy—that is, the flesh, which is the worst of all
Being compelled by exorcisms, the devil once confessed that of all sermons, that which displeased him most was the sermon on avoiding the occasions of sin
The neglect of avoiding the occasions of sin was the cause of the fall of our first parents. God had forbidden them even to touch the forbidden fruit.
But through want of caution she saw, took, and ate it. She first began to look at the apple, she afterward took it in her hand, and then ate it. He who voluntarily exposes himself to danger, will perish in it (Ecclus. iii, 27).
He, then, who wishes to be saved must forsake not only all sin, but the occasions of sin—that is, the companions, the house, the connections which lead to sin.
It is thus the devil acts: he makes the temptations appear dead; and when the soul exposes itself to the occasions of sin, he excites the temptation, which devours it.
It is related in ecclesiastical history, that a holy matron, who devoted herself to the pious work of burying the martyrs, found one of them not dead. She brought him to her house: he recovered. What happened ? By the proximate occasion, these two saints, as they might be called, first lost the grace of God, and afterward lost the faith.
Flee from sins as from the face of a serpent.Ecclesiasticus xxi, 2
St. Francis of Assisi says, that the devil tempts spiritual souls, who have given themselves to God, in a way different from that in which he tempts the wicked. In the beginning he does not seek to bind them with a chain; he is content to hold them by a single hair: he then binds them with a slender thread; afterward with a cord; then with a chain; and thus drags them to sin.
The first means is, to avoid the occasions of sin; of this we have already spoken…The second is, to frequent the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist…The third means is meditation, or mental prayer.
to those who frequently eat this bread, is promised eternal life. If any man eat of this bread he shall live forever (John, vi, 52). Hence the Council of Trent calls the Communion a medicine which delivers us from venial, and preserves us from mortal sins (Sess. 13, cap. 2)
It is necessary then to adopt the means of salvation, and to lead a life of order and regularity. It is necessary, after rising in the morning, to make the Christian acts of thanksgiving, love, oblation, and a purpose of avoiding sin, along with a prayer to Jesus and Mary that they may preserve you from sin during the day: you should afterward make your meditation, and hear Mass. During the day you ought to make a spiritual reading, visit the Blessed Sacrament and an image of the divine Mother. In the evening, say the Rosary, and make an examination of conscience. Go to Communion several times in the week, according as your director may advise: you should ordinarily go to confession to the same confessor. It would also be very profitable to make the spiritual exercises in some religious house. It is likewise necessary to honor the Most Holy Mary by some special devotion—such as by fasting on Saturdays.
Above all, it is necessary to ask of God holy perseverance, and especially in the time of temptation, invoking then more frequently the names of Jesus and Mary as long as the temptation continues. If you act in this manner, you will certainly be saved; if not, you will certainly be lost.