Saint Alphonsus, Please Make Clint Eastwood's Day For Him
by Thomas A. Droleskey
The devil loves to mock the Holy Faith. One of his chosen instruments for doing so has long been that true engine of grief and deception known as the motion picture industry based in and around Hollywood section of the City of Los Angeles, California. The producers of Hollywood motion pictures, many of whom are, of course, men and women who hate the Catholic Faith as they deny the Sacred Divinity of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, have an almost preternatural ability to employ their creative abilities in the service of the devil.
Indeed, a friend of mine who was active in my 1998 primary election campaign against then United States Senator Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-New York) in the Right to Life Party of the State of New York told me that he was in the offices of a major studio's chief executive, brokering some kind of financial deal. The executive led him to a room room that was lit very dimly. The trace of light was provided by a candle in a red lamp. There was enough light from this red lamp to illumine a portrait of the devil, hanging above an altar that had been erected in his honor. (My wife Sharon reminded me of these details when she was reading the text of this article.) How's that for truth in advertising? I certainly did not need any kind of convincing prior to being told this story (and then reminded of its full details) about the influence of the adversary in Hollywood. The anecdote does, however, display the boldness of those who are consciously in league with the fallen angel who prowls around the world seeking the ruin of souls.
The ways in which Hollywood producers and screenwriters have sought to undermine the Catholic Faith are multitudinous.
To wit, numerous motion pictures have been produced to "mainstream" various evils, including abortion and adultery and perversity.
Some motion pictures have simply mocked the whole concept of the Holy Priesthood while others have portrayed Holy Mother Church herself to be little more than a corrupt criminal enterprise.
One recent motion picture, The Nativity Story, which had its world premiere in the Paul VI Audience Hall on Sunday, November 26, 2006, which meant that it had the personal blessing of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, blasphemed Our Lady by portraying her to be a sulky, moody, rebellious teenager, thereby denying the Perfect Integrity that was hers as a doctrinal effect of her Immaculate Conception. The motion picture, produced by Protestants, also mocked her Divine Maternity and the miraculous nature of the Nativity of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (See Easy for Blasphemers to Endorse Blasphemy, Preserved from All Sin, Filled with All Grace, and Conciliarism's Blindness Inducing Acid.) Millions of Catholics were thus deceived by this motion picture because it was endorsed by the man almost everyone except a very tiny handful of Catholics, many of whom make war upon each other much more than they do upon the blasphemers and apostates in the Vatican at this time, believe is a true and legitimate Successor of Saint Peter.
It was, however, our next-to-last true and legitimate Successor of Saint Peter to date, Pope Pius XI, who reigned from February 6, 1922, to February 10, 1939, who warned us as early as June 29, 1936, about the dangerous uses to which motion picture technology can be used:
Recreation, in its manifold varieties, has become a necessity for people who work under the fatiguing conditions of modern industry, but it must be worthy of the rational nature of man and therefore must be morally healthy. It must be elevated to the rank of a positive factor for good and must seek to arouse noble sentiments. A people who, in time of repose, give themselves to diversions which violate decency, honour, or morality, to recreations which, especially to the young, constitute occasions of sin, are in grave danger of losing their greatness and even their national power.
It admits of no discussion that the motion picture has achieved these last years a position of universal importance among modern means of diversion.
There is no need to point out the fact that millions of people go to the motion pictures every day; that motion picture theatres are being opened in ever increasing number in civilized and semi-civilized countries; that the motion picture has become the most popular form of diversion which is offered for the leisure hours not only of the rich but of all classes of society.
At the same time, there does not exist today a means of influencing the masses more potent than the cinema. The reason for this is to be sought for in the very nature of the pictures projected upon the screen, in the popularity of motion picture plays, and in the circumstances which accompany them.
The power of the motion picture consists in this, that it speaks by means of vivid and concrete imagery which the mind takes in with enjoyment and without fatigue. Even the crudest and most primitive minds which have neither the capacity nor the desire to make the efforts necessary for abstraction or deductive reasoning are captivated by the cinema. In place of the effort which reading or listening demands, there is the continued pleasure of a succession of concrete and, so to speak, living pictures.
This power is still greater in the talking picture for the reason that interpretation becomes even easier and the charm of music is added to the action of the drama. Dances and variety acts which are sometimes introduced between the films serve to increase the stimulation of the passions.
It must be Elevated
Since then the cinema is in reality a sort of object lesson which, for good or for evil, teaches the majority of men more effectively than abstract reasoning, it must be elevated to conformity with the aims of a Christian conscience and saved from depraving and demoralizing effects.
Everyone knows what damage is done to the soul by bad motion pictures. They are occasions of sin; they seduce young people along the ways of evil by glorifying the passions; they show life under a false light; they cloud ideals; they destroy pure love, respect for marriage, affection for the family. They are capable also of creating prejudices among individuals and misunderstandings among nations, among social classes, among entire races.
On the other hand, good motion pictures are capable of exercising a profoundly moral influence upon those who see them. In addition to affording recreation, they are able to arouse noble ideals of life, to communicate valuable conceptions, to impart a better knowledge of the history and the beauties of the Fatherland and of other countries, to present truth and virtue under attractive forms, to create, or at least to favour understanding among nations, social classes, and races, to champion the cause of justice, to give new life to the claims of virtue, and to contribute positively to the genesis of a just social order in the world.
It Speaks not to Individuals but to Multitudes
These considerations take on greater seriousness from the fact that the cinema speaks not to individuals but to multitudes, and that it does so in circumstances of time and place and surroundings which are most apt to arouse unusual enthusiasm for the good as well as for the bad and to conduce to that collective exaltation which, as experience teaches us, may assume the most morbid forms.
The motion picture is viewed by people who are seated in a dark theatre and whose faculties, mental, physical, and often spiritual, are relaxed. One does not need to go far in search of these theatres: they are close to the home, to the church, and to the school and they thus bring the cinema into the very centre of popular life.
Moreover, stories and actions are presented, through the cinema, by men and women whose natural gifts are increased by training and embellished by every known art, in a manner which may possibly become an additional source of corruption, especially to the young. Further, the motion picture has enlisted in its service luxurious appointments, pleasing music, the vigour of realism, every form of whim and fancy. For this very reason, it attracts and fascinates particularly the young, the adolescent, and even the child. Thus at the very age when the moral sense is being formed and when the notions and sentiments of justice and rectitude, of duty and obligation and of ideals of life are being developed, the motion picture with its direct propaganda assumes a position of commanding influence.
It is unfortunate that, in the present state of affairs, this influence is frequently exerted for evil. So much so that when one thinks of the havoc wrought in the souls of youth and of childhood, of the loss of innocence so often suffered in the motion picture theatres, there comes to mind the terrible condemnation pronounced by Our Lord upon the corrupters of little ones: "whosoever shall scandalize one of these little ones who believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone be hanged about his neck and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea". (Pope Pius XI, Vigilanti Cura, June 29, 1936.)
The advent of what is referred to today in the United States of America as the "golden age of television" in the 1950s (little about the 1950s was actually all that "golden," including the state of the Church as will be discussed yet again in an upcoming article that will serve as a sequel to one posted on January 3, 2009,
We're Not in Kansas Any More) prompted our last true pope to date, Pope Pius XII, to make many of the same points as had been made by his immediate predecessor on the Throne of Saint Peter over two decades earlier:
62. Yet it must be noticed that, in exercising control in this area, the sound training and education of spectators, of which We have spoken, is not in itself sufficient. Each of the shows must be suited and adapted to the intelligence of each age-group, the strength of their emotional and imaginative response, and the condition of their morals.
63. This, indeed, assumes a very great importance because radio and television shows, since they easily penetrate into the domestic circle, threaten to undermine the protective barriers by which the education of the young must be kept safe and sound until such time as advancing age gives the strength necessary to enable them to overcome the buffeting of the world.
64. For this reason, three years ago We wrote to the bishops of Italy: "Should we not shudder when we reflect attentively that through television shows all can inhale, even within the home, the poisoned air of those 'materialistic' doctrines which diffuse empty pleasures and desires of all kinds, just as was done over and over again in motion-picture theaters?" (Pope Pius XII, Miranda Prorsus, September 8, 1957.)
We know only too well that many of the "bishops" and presbyters in the counterfeit church of conciliarism have endorsed motion pictures and television programs that have propagated various evils. Remember, my few and vanishing readers, that one of the currently reigning false "pope's" first major appointees to a vacant see in the United States of America was of George Niederauer to replace William Levada in San Francisco, who, of course, was Ratzinger/Benedict's own handpicked choice to succeed himself as the prefect of the conciliar Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. "Archbishop" Niederauer, who distributed what he believes to be Holy Communion to infamous cross dressers three years ago (see Rome's Forbearance With Sacrilege, Tone Deaf, and Yet Another Conciliar Shell Game) praised the propaganda film in behalf of perversity entitled Brokeback Mountain (see New San Francisco Archbishop Thinks Gay Propaganda Film Brokeback Mountain is 'Very Powerful'). And as has been documented on this site a lot in the past year or so, the semi-official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, has become an instrument of given a de facto Vatican imprimatur to some of the most wretched pieces of crudity and filth imaginable (see
Ever L'Osservatore Di Tutte le Cose Grezze, part 2010).
It is thus much more difficult than in the past for many Catholics, especially for those who are attached to the sacramentally barren structures of the counterfeit church of conciliarism, to resist the tide of cultural rot that befouls the very air that we breathe as it pollutes our eyes with images that are contrary to the eternal good of our immortal souls and thus detrimental even to the pursuit of the common temporal good, which must be undertaken in light of the pursuit of man's Last End: the possession of the glory of the Beatific Vision of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost for all eternity.
The devil hates us as we are made in the image and the likeness of the One he hates, God. He knows that he cannot destroy God. He tried that in Heaven, only to be thwarted by Saint Michael the Archangel and the other faithful angels. Having failed in his desire to overthrow God, his own Creator, the devil desires to destroy us, body and soul, so that we can be thrown into the fiery furnace of Hell for all eternity to be tormented by him and his demons, who mock the damned for the foolishness that they exhibited in following them to the point of their eternal perdition and thus forsaking the very end for which God had created them. And it is to advance this wretched end of deception that the devil has used his minions in the motion picture industry in Hollywood and elsewhere in the world to convince men that anything and everything except Catholicism is true and good.
We should not underestimate the success of the adversary in this regard. Perhaps some of your own relatives are convinced that a certain motion picture, such as the one directed and co-produced the octogenarian by the name of Clint Eastwood, Hereafter, has the "truth" to explain what happens to human beings after they die. The very same people who get red in the face and might even froth at the mouth when you attempt to discuss the truths of the Holy Faith to them trust mere mortals, contingent beings whose bodies are destined one day for the corruption of the grave until the General Resurrection of the dead on the Last Day, to tell them the absolute truth that must be believed without question. Indeed, it is those of us who question the insanity of productions such as Hereafter who must be considered crazy. We are the followers of some kind of bizarre cult. They consider themselves to be perfectly sane.
Clinton Eastwood, Jr., turned eighty years old on May 31, 2010. He is going to face his own Particular Judgment sooner rather than later, a Particular Judgment that will have nothing at all to do with the "new age" fiction he has produced and directed that has deceived so many so far. As the Poor Souls in the Church Suffering in Purgatory whose relief we seek every day of the year by means of the Masses we have offered for them and the prayers that we say for the, especially on this day, the Commemoration of All Souls, November 2, 2010, know so very well, the moment of the Particular Judgment has nothing to with the fiction produced presented in motion pictures.
This is why we need to call upon Saint Alphonsus de Liguori to go ahead and, if you will pardon this turn of a phrase, make Mr. Eastwood's day by presenting to him the actual reality of what happens to those who think themselves of some account in this world after they have died:
When one of the great of this world is in the full enjoyment of the riches and honours which he has acquired, death shall come, and he shall be told: "Take order with thy house; for thou shalt die, and not live"--Isa., xxxviii. 1.Oh! what doleful tidings! The unhappy man must then say: Farewell, O world! farewell, O villa! farewell, O grotto! farewell, relatives! farewell, friends! farewell, sports! farewell, balls! farewell, comedies! farewell, banquets! farewell, honours! all is over for me. "For when he shall die, he shall take nothing away; nor shall his glory descend with him"--Ps., xlviii. 18. St. Bernard says that death produces a horrible separation of the soul from the body and from all the things of this Earth. "Opus mortis horrendum divortium"-serm. xxvi., in Cant. To the great of this world, whom worldlings regard as the most fortunate of mortals, the bare name of death is so full of bitterness that they are unwilling even to hear it mentioned; for their entire concern is to find peace in their Earthly goods. "O death!" says Ecclesiasticus, "how bitter is the remembrance of thee to a man that hath peace in his possessions"--Eccl., xli. 1. But, how much greater bitterness shall death itself cause, when it actually comes! Miserable the man who is attached to the goods of this world! Every separation produces pain. Hence, when the soul shall be separated by the stroke of death from the goods on which she had fixed all her affections, the pain must be excruciating. It was this that made king Agag exclaim, when the news of approaching death was announced to him: "Doth bitter death separate me in this manner?"--I. Kings., xv. 32. The great misfortune of worldlings is, that when they are on the point of being summoned to judgment, instead of endeavouring to adjust the accounts of their soul, they direct all their attention to Earthly things. But, says St. John Chrysostom, the punishment which awaits sinners, on account of having forgotten God during life, is that they forget themselves at the hour of death. "hac animadversione percutitur impius, ut moriens oliviscatur sui, qui vivens oblitus est Dei.". . .
Men know well, and believe firmly, that they shall die; but they imagine death as far off as if it were never to arrive. But Job tells us that the life of man is short. "Man born of a woman, living for a short time, is filled with many miseries. Who cometh forth like a flower and is destroyed"--Job., xiv. 2. At present the health of men is so much impaired, that, as we see by experience, the greater number of them die before they attain the age of seventy. And what, says St. James, is our life, but a vapour, which a blast of wind, a fever, a stroke of apoplexy, a puncture, an attack of the chest, causes to disappear, and which is seen no more? "For what is your life? It is a vapour which appeareth for a little while"--St. James, iv. 15. "We all die", said the woman of Thecua to David, "and like waters that return no more, we fall down into the earth"---II. Kings, xiv. 14. She spoke the truth;--as all rivers and streams run to the sea, and as the gliding waters return no more, so our days pass away, and we approach to death.
They pass; they pass quickly. "My days", says Job, "have been swifter than a post"--Job, ix. 25. Death comes to meet us, and runs more swiftly than a post; so that every step we make, every breath we draw, we approach to death. St. Jerome felt, that even while he was writing, he was drawing nearer to death. Hence he said: 'What I write is taken away from my life". "Quod scribo de mea vita tollitur". Let us, then, say with Job: Years pass by, and with them pleasures, honours, pomps, and all things in this world pass away, "and only the rave remaineth for me"--Job, xvii. 1. In a word, all the glory of the labours we have undergone in this world, in order to acquire a large income, a high character for valour, for learning and genius, shall end in our being thrown into a pit to become the food of worms. The miserable worldling then shall say at death: My house, my garden, my fashionable furniture, my pictures and rich apparel, shall, in a short time, belong no more to me; "and only the grave remaineth for me".
But, how much soever the worldling may be distracted by his worldly affairs and by his pleasures--how much soever he may be entangled in them, St. Chrysostom says, that, when the fear of death, which sets fire to all things of the present life, begins to enter the soul, it will compel him to think and to be solicitous about his lot after death. "Cum pulsare animam incipit metus mortis (ignis instar praesentis vitae omnia succendens) philosophari eam cogit, et futura solicita mente versari" serm. in II. tim.--Isa., xxxv. 5. Then indeed shall be opened the eyes of those blind worldlings who have employed their whole life in acquiring Earthly goods, and have paid but little attention to the interests of the soul. In all these shall be verified what Jesus Christ has told them--that death shall come when they least expect it. "At what hour you think not, the Son of Man will come"--Luke, xii.--40. Thus, on these unhappy men death always comes unexpectedly. Hence, because the lovers of the world are not usually warned of their approaching dissolution till it is very near, they must, in the last few days of life, adjust the accounts of their soul for the fifty or sixty years which they lived on this Earth. They will then desire another month, or another week, to settle their accounts, and to tranquilize their conscience. But, "they will seek for peace, and there shall be none:--Ezec., vii. 25. The time which they desire is refused. The assisting priest reads the divine command to depart instantly from this world: "Proficiscere anima Christiana de hoc mundo." Depart, Christian soul, from this world. Oh! how dangerous the entrance of worldlings into eternity, dying, as they do, amid so much darkness and confusion, in consequences of the disorderly state of the accounts of their souls. . . .
All things in this world--acquisitions, applause, grandeur--must, as we have said, all end, and end very soon. "the fashion of this world passeth away"--I. Cor., vii. 31. The scene of this life passes away: happy they who, in this scene, act their part well, and save their souls, preferring the eternal interests of the soul to all the temporal interests of the body. "He that hateth his life in his world, keepeth it unto life eternal"--John, xii. 26. Worldlings say: Happy the man who hoards up money! happy they who acquire the esteem of the world, and enjoy the pleasures of this life! O folly! Happy he who loves God and saves his soul! The salvation of his soul and was the only favour which king David asked of God. "One thing have I asked of the Lord, this will I seek after"--Ps., xxvi. 4. And St. Paul said, that to acquire the race of Jesus Christ, which contains eternal life, he despised as dung all worldly goods. "I count all things as loss.......and I count them as dung, that I may gain Christ"--Phil., iii. 8.
But certain fathers of families will say: I do not labour so much for myself as for my children, whom I wish to leave in comfortable circumstances. But I answer: If you dissipate the goods which you possess, and leave our children in poverty, you do wrong, and are guilty of sin. But will you lose your soul in order to leave your children comfortable? If you fall into Hell, perhaps they will come and release you from it? O folly! Listen to what David said: "I have not seen the just man forsaken, nor his seed seeking bread"--Ps., xxxvi. 25. Attend to the service of God; act according to justice; the Lord will provide for the wants of your children; and you shall save your souls, and shall lay up that eternal treasure of happiness which can never be taken from you--a treasure not like Earthly possessions, of which you may be deprived by robbers, and which you shall certainly lose at death. This is the advice which the Lord gives you--"But lay up to yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither the rust nor the moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal"--Matt., vi. 20. In conclusion, attend to the beautiful admonition which St. Gregory gives to all who wish to live well and to gain eternal life. "Sit nobis in intentione aeternitas, in usu temporalitats". Let the end of all our actions in this life be, the acquisition of eternal goods; and let us use temporal things only to preserve life for the little time we have to remain on this Earth. The saint continues: "Sicut nulla est proportio inter aeternitatem et nostrae vitae tempus, ita nulla debet esse proportio inter aeternitatis, et hujus, vitae curas". As this is an infinite distance between eternity and the time of our life, so there ought to be, according to our mode of understanding, an infinite distance between the attention which we should pay to the goods of eternity, which shall be enjoyed for ever, and the care we take of the goods of this life, which death shall soon take away from us. (Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost: All Ends And Soon Ends.)
Saint Alphonsus de Liguori has some sobering words that poor Mr. Eastwood might like to consider concerning the moment of the Particular Judgment, a moment that bears no resemblance to the fiction of his new motion picture, about which we have learned from fallen away Catholics who are quite taken by its falsehoods:
SERMON XXXVII. EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST. - ON THE PARTICULAR JUDGMENT.
“Give an account of thy stewardship." LUKE xvi. 2.
BELOVED Christians, of all the goods of nature, of fortune, and of grace, which we have received from God, we are not the masters, neither can we dispose of them as we please; we are but the administrators of them; and therefore we should employ them according to the will of God, who is our Lord. Hence, at the hour of death, we must render a strict account of them to Jesus Christ, our Judge. ”For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body as he hath done, whether it be good or evil." (2 Cor. v. 10.) This is the precise meaning of that”give an account of thy stewardship," in the gospel of this day. ”You are not," says St. Bonaventure, in his comment on these words, ”a master, but a steward over the things committed to you; and therefore you are to render an account of them." I will place before your eyes Today the rigour of this judgment, which shall be passed on each of us on the last day of our life. Let us consider the terror of the soul, first, when we shall be presented to the Judge; secondly, when she shall be examined; and thirdly, when she shall be condemned.
First Point. Terror of the soul when she shall be presented to the Judge.
1. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment." (Heb. ix. 27.) It is of faith that we shall die, and that after death a judgment shall be passed on all the actions of our life. Now, what shall be the terror of each of us when we shall be at the point of death, and shall have before our eyes the judgment which must take place the very moment the soul departs from the body? Then shall be decided our doom to eternal life, or to eternal death. At the time of the passage of their souls from this life to eternity, the sight of their past sins, the rigour of God’s judgment, and the uncertainty of their eternal salvation, have made the saints tremble. St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzia trembled in her sickness, through the fear of judgment; and to her confessor, when he endeavoured to give her courage, she said: "Ah! father, it is a terrible thing to appear before Christ in judgment." After spending so many years in penance in the desert, St. Agatho trembled at the hour of death, and said: ”What shall become of me when I shall be judged ?" The venerable Father Louis da Ponte was seized with such a fit of trembling at the thought of the account which he should render to God, that he shook the room in which he lay. The thought of judgment inspired the venerable Juvenal Ancina, Priest of the Oratory, and afterwards Bishop of Saluzzo, with the determination to leave the world. Hearing the Dies Iræ sung, and considering the terror of the soul when presented before Jesus Christ, the Judge, he took, and afterwards executed, the resolution of giving himself entirely to God.
2. It is the common opinion of theologians, that at the very moment and in the very place in which the soul departs from the body, the divine tribunal is erected, the accusation is read, and the sentence is passed by Jesus Christ, the Judge. At this terrible tribunal each of us shall be presented to give an account of all our thoughts, of all our words, and of all our actions. "For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil." ( 2 Cor. v. 10.) When presented before an earthly judge criminals have been seen to fall into a cold sweat through fear. It is related of Piso, that so great and insufferable was the confusion, which he felt at the thought of appearing as a criminal before the senate that he killed himself. How great is the pain of a vassal, or of a son, in appearing before an angry prince or an enraged father, to account for some crime which he has committed! Oh! how much greater shall be the pain and confusion of the soul in standing, before Jesus Christ enraged against her for having despised him during her life! Speaking of judgment, St. Luke says: "Then you shall see the Son of Man." (Luke xxi. 27.) They shall see Jesus Christ as man, with the same wounds with which he ascended into heaven. "Great joy of the beholders!" says Robert the Abbot, "a great terror of those who are in expectation!" These wounds shall console the just, and shall terrify the wicked. In them sinners shall see the Redeemer’s love for themselves, and their ingratitude to him.
3. "Who," says the Prophet Nahum, "can stand before the face of his indignation ?" (i. 6.) How great, then, shall be the terror of a soul that finds herself in sin before this Judge, the first time she shall see him, and see him full of wrath! St. Basil says that she shall be tortured more by her shame and confusion than by the very fire of hell. ”Horridior quam ignis, erit pudor." Philip the Second rebuked one of his domestics for having told him a lie. ”Is it thus," said the king to him, ”you deceive me?" The domestic, after having returned home, died of grief. The Scripture tells us, that when Joseph reproved his brethren, saying: ”I am Joseph, whom you sold," they were unable to answer through fear, and remained silent. ”His brethren could not answer him, being struck with exceeding great fear." (Gen. xlv. 3.) Now what answer shall sinners make to Jesus Christ when he shall say to them: I am your Redeemer and your Judge, whom you have so much despised. Where shall the miserable beings fly, says St. Augustine, when they shall see an angry Judge above, hell open below, on one side their own sins accusing them, and on the other the devils dragging them to punishment, and their conscience burning them within? “Above shall be an enraged Judge below, a horrid chaos on the right, sins accusing him on the left, demons dragging him to punishment within, a burning conscience! Whither shall a sinner, beset in this manner, fly ?"Perhaps he will cry for mercy? But how, asks Eusebius Emissenus, can he dare to implore mercy, when he must first render an account of his contempt for the mercy which Jesus Christ has shown to him?”With what face will you, who are to be first judged for contempt of mercy, ask for mercy?" But let us come to the rendering of the accounts.
Second Point. Terror of the soul when she shall be examined.
4. As soon as the soul shall be presented before the tribunal of Jesus Christ, he will say to her: ”Give an account of thy stewardship:" render instantly an account of thy entire life. The Apostle tells us, that to be worthy of eternal glory our lives must be found conformable to the life of Jesus Christ. ”For whom he foreknew, he also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of his son ;...them he also glorified." (Rom. viii. 29, 30.) Hence St. Peter has said, that in the judgment of Jesus Christ, the just man who has observed the divine law, has pardoned enemies, has respected the saints, has practised chastity, meekness, and other virtues, shall scarcely be saved. ”The just man shall scarcely be saved." The Apostle adds: "Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear ?" (1 Pet. iv. 18.) What shall become of the vindictive and the unchaste, of blasphemers and slanderers? What shall become of those whose entire life is opposed to the life of Jesus Christ?
5. In the first place, the Judge shall demand of sinners an account of all the blessings and graces which he bestowed on them in order to bring them to salvation, and which they have rendered fruitless. He will demand an account of the years granted to them that they might serve God, and which they have spent in offending him. "He hath called against me the time." (Lam. i. 15.) He will then demand an account of their sins. Sinners commit sins, and afterwards forget them; but Jesus Christ does not forget them: he keeps, as Job says, all our iniquities numbered, as it were in a bag. “Thou hast sealed up my iniquities, as it were in a bag." (Job xiv. 17.) And he tells us that, on the day of accounts, he will take a lamp to scrutinize all the actions of our life. ”And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with lamps." (Soph. i. 12.) The lamp, says Mendoza on this passage, penetrates all the corners of the house that is, God will discover all the defects of our conscience, great and small. According to St. Anselm, an account shall be demanded of every glance of the eyes. ”Exigitur usque ad ictum oculi." And, according to St. Matthew, of every idle word. ”Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it on the day of judgment." (Matt. xii. 36.)
6. The Prophet Malachy says, that as gold is refined by taking away the dross, so on the day of judgment all our actions shall be examined, and every defect which may be discovered shall be punished. ”He shall purify the sons of Levi, and shall refine them as gold." (Mal. iii. 3.) Even our justices that is, our good works, confessions, communions, and prayers shall be examined. "When I shall take a time, I will judge justices." (Ps. Ixxiv. 3.) But if every glance, every idle word, and even good works, shall be judged, with what rigour shall immodest expressions, blasphemies, grievous detractions, thefts, and sacrileges be judged? Alas! on that day every soul shall, as St. Jerome says, see, to her own confusion, all the evils which she has done. ”Videbit unusquisque quod fecit."
7. ”Weight and balance are judgments of the Lord. ”(Prov. xvi. 11.) In the balance of the Lord a holy life and good works make the scale descend; but nobility, wealth, and science have no weight. Hence, if found innocent, the peasant, the poor, and the ignorant shall be rewarded. But the man of rank, of wealth, or of learning, if found guilty, shall be condemned. "Thou art weighed in the balance," said Daniel to Belthassar, ”and art found wanting." (Dan. v. 27.)”Neither his gold nor his wealth," says Father Alvares, ”but the king alone was weighed."
8. At the divine tribunal the poor sinner shall see himself accused by the devil, who, according to St. Augustine, ”will recite the words of our profession, and will charge us before our face with all that we have done, will state the day and hour in which we sinned." (Con. Jud., tom. 6.)”He will recite the words of our profession" that is, he will enumerate the promises which we have made to God, and which we afterwards violated. ”He will charge us before our face ;" he will upbraid us with all our wicked deeds, pointing to the day and hour in which they were committed. And he will, as the same saint says, conclude his accusation by saying: "I have suffered neither stripes nor scourges for this man." Lord, I have suffered nothing for this ungrateful sinner, and to make himself my slave he has turned his back on thee who has endured so much for his salvation. He, therefore, justly belongs to me. Even his angel-guardian will, according to Origen, come forward to accuse him, and will say: "I have laboured so many years for his salvation; but he has despised all my admonitions." "Unusquisque angelorum perhibet testimonium, quot annis circa eum laboraverit, sed ille monita sprevit." (Hom. lxvi.) Thus, even friends shall treat with contempt the guilty soul. ”All her friends have despised her." (Lamen. i. 2.) Her very sins shall, says St. Bernard, accuse her. “And they shall say: You have made us; we are your work; we shall not desert you." (Lib. Medit, cap. ii.) We are your offspring; we shall not leave you: we shall be your companions in hell for all eternity.
9. Let us now examine the excuses which the sinner will be able to advance. He will say, that the evil inclinations of nature had drawn him into sin. But he shall be told that, if concupiscence impelled him to sins, it did not oblige him to commit them; and that, if he had recourse to God, he should have received from him grace to resist every temptation. For this purpose Jesus Christ has left us the sacraments: but when we do not make use of them, we can complain only of ourselves. "But, ” says the Redeemer, “now they have no excuse for their sin." (John xv. 22.) To excuse himself, the sinner shall also say that the devil tempted him to sin. But, as St. Augustine says, "The enemy is bound like a dog in chains, and can bite only him who has united himself to him with a deadly security." The devil can bark, but cannot bite unless you adhere and listen to him. Hence the saint adds: ”See how foolish is the man whom a dog, loaded with chains, bites." Perhaps he will advance his bad habits as an excuse; but this shall not stand; for the same St. Augustine says, that though it is difficult to resist the force of an evil habit, ”if any one does not desert himself, he will conquer it with the divine assistance." If a man does not abandon himself to sin, and invokes God’s aid, he will overcome evil habits. The Apostle tells us, that the Lord does not permit us to be tempted above our strength. ”God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able." ( I Cor. x. 13.)
10. ”For what shall I do," said Job, ”when God shall rise to judge me? and when he shall examine, what shall I answer him” (Job xxxi. 14.) What answer shall the sinner give to Jesus Christ? How can he, who sees himself so clearly convicted, give an answer? He shall be covered with confusion, and shall remain silent, like the man found without the nuptial garment. ”But he was silent." (Matt. xxii. 12.) His very sins shall shut the sinner’s mouth. "And all iniquity shall stop her mouth." (Ps. cvi. 42.) There,, says St. Thomas of Villanova, there shall be no intercessor to whom the sinner can have recourse. ”There, there is no opportunity of sinning; there, no intercessor, no friend, no father shall assist." Who shall then save you? Is it God? But how, asks St. Basil, can you expect salvation from him whom you have despised?”Who shall deliver you? Is it God, whom you have insulted ?" (S. Bas., Or. 4, de Fen.) Alas! the guilty soul that leaves this world in sin, is condemned by herself before the Judge pronounces sentence. Let us come to the sentence of the Judge.
Third Point. Terror of the soul when she shall be condemned.
11. How great shall be the joy of a soul when, at death, she hears from Jesus Christ these sweet words: ”Well done, good and faithful servant; because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." (Matt. xxv. 21.) Equally great shall be the anguish and despair of a guilty soul, that shall see herself driven away by the Judge with the following words: ”Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire" (verse 41). Oh! what a terrible thunderclap shall that sentence be to her!”Oh! how frightfully," says the Carthusian, "shall that thunder resound!" Eusebius writes, that the terror of sinners at hearing their condemnation shall be so great that, if they could, they would die again. “The wicked shall be seized with such terror at the sight of the Judge pronouncing sentence that, if they were not immortal, they should die a second time." But, brethren, let us, before the termination of this sermon, make some reflections which will be profitable to us. St. Thomas of Villanova says, that some listen to discourses on the judgment and condemnation of the wicked with as little concern as if they they themselves were secure against these things, or as if the day of judgment were never to arive for them. "Heu quam securi hæc dicimus et audimus, quasi nos non tangeret hæc sententia, aut quasi dies hæc nunquam esset venturus!" (Conc, i., de Jud.) The saint then asks: Is it not great folly to entertain security in so perilous an affair? "Quæ est ista stulta securitas in discrimine tanto?" There are some, says St. Augustine, who, though they live in sin, cannot imagine that God will send them to hell. ”Will God," they say, ”really condemn us ?" Brethren, adds the saint, do not speak thus. So, many of the damned did not believe that they should be sent to hell; but the end came, and, according to the threat of Ezechiel, they have been cast into that place of darkness. "The end is come, the end is come... and I will send my wrath upon thee, and I will judge thee." (Ezec. vii. 2, 3.) Sinners, perhaps vengeance is at hand for you, and still you laugh and sleep in sin. Who will not tremble at the words of the Baptist: ”For now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree, therefore, that doth not yield good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the fire." (Matt, iii. 10.) He says, that every tree that does not bring forth good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the fire; and he promises that, with regard to the trees, which represent sinners, the axe is already laid to the roots that is, chastisement is at hand. Dearly beloved brethren, let us follow the counsel of the Holy Ghost "Before judgment, prepare thee justice." (Eccl. xviii. 19.) Let us adjust our accounts before the day of accounts. Let us seek God, now that we can find him; for the time shall come when we will wish, but shall not be able to find him. ”You shall seek me, and shall not find me." (John vii. 36.)”Before judgment," says St. Augustine, ”the Judge can be appeased, but not in judgment." By a change of life we can now appease the anger of Jesus Christ, and recover his grace; but when he shall judge, and find us in sin, he must execute justice, and we shall be lost. (Sermons for All the Sundays in the Year by St Alphonsus Liguori in .pdf format; a sermon on the death of the sinner is appended at the end of this article.)
This is just a little different from the description we have received of Hereafter and the synopses, including a predictably "glowing" review in The New York Times, that I have read of the film last evening in preparation for this commentary. For far from a sentimental reunion with all of one's loved ones, the General Judgment of the living and the dead on the Last Day will separated the saved from their loved ones if they have damned themselves to Hell by persisting in a state of unrepentant Mortal Sin (and/or by dying outside of the bosom of Holy Mother Church). Saint Alphonsus de Liguori provides a very powerful warning in this regard:
Worldlings now regard as fools the saints, who led mortified and humble lives; but then they shall confess their own folly, and say: "We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honor. Behold how they they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints"--Wis., v. 4, 5. In this world, the rich and the noble are called happy; but true happiness consists in a life of sanctity. Rejoice, ye souls who live in tribulation; "your sorrow shall be turned into joy"--John, xvi. 20. In the valley of Josaphat you shall be seated on thrones of glory.
But the reprobate, like goats destined for the slaughter, shall be placed on the left, to await their last condemnation "Judici tempus", says Saint Chrysostom, "misericordiam non recipit". On the day of judgment, there is no hope of mercy for poor sinners. "Magna", says St. Augustine, "jam est poena peccati metum et memoriam divini perdidisse judicii"--serm. xx, de Temp. The greatest punishment of sin in those who live in enmity with God, is to lose the fear and remembrance of the divine judgment. Continue, continue, says the Apostle, to live obstinately in sin; but in proportion to your obstinacy, you shall have accumulated for the day of judgment a treasure of the wrath of God. "But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath against the day of wrath"--Rom., ii. 5.
Then sinners will not be able to hide themselves; but, with insufferable pain, they shall be compelled to appear in judgment. "To lie hid", says St. Anselm, "will be impossible--to appear will be intolerable." The devils will perform their office of accusers, and as St. Augustine says, will say to the Judge: "Most just God, declare him to be mine, who was unwilling to be yours". The witnesses against the wicked shall be, first, their own conscience--"Their conscience bearing witness to them"--Rom., ii. 15; secondly, the very walls of the house in which they sinned shall cry out against them--"The stone shall cry out of the wall"--Hab., ii. 11; thirdly, the Judge himself will say--"I am the judge and the witness, saith the Lord:--Jer., xxix. 23. Hence, according to St. Augustine, "He who is now the witness of your life, shall be the judge of your cause"--lib. x. de Chrod., c. ii. To Christians particularly he will say: "Wo to thee Corazain, wo to thee Bethsaida; for in in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes"--Matt., xi. 21. Christians, he will say, if the graces which I have bestowed upon you had been given to the Turks or to the Pagans, they would have done penance for their sins; but you have ceased to sin only with your death. He shall then manifest to all men their most hidden crimes. "I will discover thy shame to they face"--Nahum., iii. 5. He will expose to view all their secret impurities, injustices, and cruelties. "I will set all they abominations against thee"--Ezech., vii. 3. Each of the damned shall carry his sins written on his forehead.
What excuses can save the wicked on that day? Ah! they can offer no excuses. "All iniquity shall stop her mouth"--Ps., cvi. 42. Their very sins shall close the mouth of the reprobate, so that they will have not courage to excuse themselves. They shall pronounce their own condemnation.
Third point. Sentence of the elect, and of the reprobate.
St. Bernard says, that the sentence of the elect, and their destiny to eternal glory, shall be first declared, that the pains of the reprobate may be increased by the sight of what they lost. "Prius pronunciabitur sententia electis, ut acrius (reprobi) doleant videntes quid amiserint"--ser. viii. in Ps. xc. Jesus Christ, then, shall first turn to the elect, and with a serene countenance shall say: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world"--Matt., xxv 34. He will then bless all the tears shed through sorrow for their sins, and all their good works, their prayers, mortifications, and communions, above all, he will bless for them the pains of his passion, and the blood shed for their salvation. And, after these benedictions, the elect, singing alleluias, shall enter Paradise to praise and love God for all eternity.
The Judge shall then turn to the reprobate, and shall pronounce the sentence of their condemnation in these words: "Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire"--Matt., xxv. 41. They shall then be for ever accursed, separated from God, and sent to burn for ever in the fire of Hell. "And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just into life everlasting"--Matt., xxv. 46.
After this sentence, the wicked shall, according to St. Ephrem, be compelled to take leave for ever of their relatives, of Paradise, of the saints, and of Mary the divine mother. "Farewell, ye just! farewell, O cross! farewell, O Paradise! farewell, fathers and brothers: we shall never see you again! farewell, O Mary, mother of God!"--S. Eph. de variis serm. inf. Then a great pit shall be opened in the middle of the valley: the unhappy damned shall be cast into it, and shall see those doors shut which shall never again be opened. O accursed sin! to what a miserable end will you one day conduct so many souls redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ! O unhappy souls! for whom is prepared such a melancholy end. But, brethren, have confidence. Jesus Christ is now a father, and not a judge. He is ready to pardon all who repent. Let us then instantly ask pardon from him. First Sunday In Advent: On The General Judgment (15 Minutes)
Imagine saying farewell to your wife or your husband or your son or your daughter or your own parents and brothers and sisters as you yourself are sent to Hell for all eternity? Imagine saying farewell to the Mother of God, whose suffering at the foot of her Divine Son's Most Holy Cross effected your spiritual rebirth as an adopted son or daughter of the Living God? Imagine saying farewell to the instrument of our salvation, the Most Holy Cross, that we mocked and scorned by means of our sins and bad confessions and our lukewarmness and unworthy Communions and overall attachment to the spirit of the world, to say nothing of our refusal to be the least bit mortified so as to store some merit for eternity as the consecrated slaves of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary?
The Faith is the only thing that is real, which is why the devil wants to use his minions in Hollywood and elsewhere in the so-called "entertainment" industry to convince us that everything other than the Faith is real. Although any of us who reads the words of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori should tremble at the thought of what awaits us at the moment when we die--and I recall being absolutely terrified when recording these sermons that are now archived in the "Save Thy Soul" section of Tradition Catholic Sermons, those who make it their business to deceive others about First and Last Things (and Clinton Eastwood, Jr.'s, new motion picture is really big business, having grossed over $22,000,000 since its premiere on October 15, 2010, the Feast of Saint Teresa of Avila) have a particular price tag to pay for leading the gullible to believe that which reaffirms them in a naturalistic view of life and death that is from the devil himself.
Today, the Commemoration of All Souls, November 2, 2010, gives us an opportunity to pray for the elect, the saved, who are in the Church Suffering to make satisfaction for their forgiven sins, Mortal and Venial, and for their general attachment to sin and disordered self-love. The souls in Purgatory are assured of their salvation. They need us, however, to pray for them to help pay back the debt that they can only pay back by means of being purified in the hellfires of Purgatory. Can we refuse to help them? As I have noted so many times before on this site and in various print journals over the years, the Poor Souls in Purgatory will be eternally grateful to us for the Masses that we have offered for them and for the prayers, especially the Rosaries, that we say for them. How can we refuse these suffering souls, who were the beneficiaries of the Mercy of the Divine Redeemer at the moment of their Particular Judgments, our assistance, especially in this month of November that is dedicated to their relief?
As I have noted before in my article summarizing some of the sermons given by the founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, Saint Alphonsus de Liguori gave us "what for" in his Sunday sermons to help us get home to Heaven. Saint Alphonsus teaches us to walk the Way of the Cross (his own meditations for the Way of the Cross were the ones that were used at Saint Aloysius School in Great Neck, New York, when I was a student there from 1956 to 1962) by keeping close to the Mother of God, Mary our Immaculate Queen, she who is the Mediatrix of All Graces, as he explained in The Glories of Mary:
From Jesus, however, it is (we must understand) that we receive grace as the author of grace, from Mary as a mediatress; from Jesus as a Savior, from Mary as an advocate; from Jesus as a source, from Mary as a channel. Hence St. Bernard says, that God established Mary as the channel of the mercies that he wished to dispense to men; therefore he filled her with grace, that each one's part might be communicated to him from her fullness; "A full aqueduct, that others may receive of her fullness, but not fullness herself." Therefore the saint exhorts all to consider, with how much love God wills that we should honor this great Virgin, since he has deposited the whole treasure of his graces in her: so that whatever we possess of hope, grace, and salvation, we may thank our most loving Queen for all, since all comes to us from her hands and by her powerful intercession. He thus beautifully expresses himself: "Behold with what tender feelings of devotion he wills that we should honor her! He who has placed the plenitude of all good in Mary; that thus, if we have any hope, or anything salutary in us, we may know that it was from her or that it over-flowed."
Miserable is that soul that closes this channel of grace against itself, by neglecting to recommend itself to Mary! when Holofernes wished to gain possession of the city of Bethulia, he took care to destroy the aqueducts: He commanded their aqueduct to be cut off. And this the devil does when he wishes to become master of a soul; he causes it to give up devotion to the most Blessed Virgin Mary; and when once this channel is closed, it easily loses supernatural light, the fear of God, and finally eternal salvation.
Saint Alphonsus teaches us from eternity that Our Lady is the pathway to Heaven. She is our life, our sweetness, and our hope. She can plead for us with her Divine Son, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, now and the hour of our deaths. We need her intercession as we are enrolled in her Brown Scapular and as we pray as many Rosaries each day as our states in life permit. She will soften the blows of what we deserve by means of our sins by helping us to have true sorrow for them as we amend our lives and seek to do reparation for them by offering all that that we have and to to the Most Sacred Heart of her Divine Son through her own Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. Saint Alphonsus, who was firm on the pulpit and the quintessence of Christian meekness and humility in the service of the poor and the downtrodden, will help us increase our devotion to Our Lady, the Queen of Mercy, so that we will not get what our sins deserve in strict justice, eternal Hellfire, when we die.
Saint Alphonsus gave us "what for" in this life so that we can share eternity with Him in Heaven in the company of the Immaculate Queen of Heaven and Earth. We should thank him for being so brutally honest with us in the service of Christ the King and Mary our Immaculate Queen!
And may we, as children of Our Lady's Most Holy Rosary who are totally consecrated to her Divine Son through her own Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, ever take seriously the final injunction to her in the Ave Maria to pray for us "nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae" (now, and at the hour of our death) so that our life after death will be one of eternal bliss in the glory of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost for all eternity in Heaven, where "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Cor. 2: 9), especially not the "eye" of any Hollywood film producer or director.
Viva Cristo Rey! Vivat Christus Rex!
Isn't it time to pray a Rosary now?
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, pray for us.
See also: A Litany of Saints
Saint Alphonsus de Liguori on the Death of Sinners
SERMON XXXVIII. NINTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST. - ON THE DEATH OF THE SINNER.
"Thy enemies shall cast a trench about thee." LUKE xix. 43.
SEEING from a distance the city of Jerusalem, in which the Jews were soon to put him to death, Jesus Christ wept over it. "Videns civitatern flevit super illam." Our merciful Redeemer wept at the consideration of the chastisement which was soon to be inflicted on the city, and which he foretold to her inhabitants. ”Thy enemies shall cast a trench about thee. ” Unhappy city! thou shalt one day see thyself encompassed by enemies, who shall beat thee flat to the ground, and thy children in thee, and shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone. Most beloved brethren, this unhappy city is a figure of the soul of a sinner, who, at the hour of death, shall find himself surrounded by his enemies first, by remorse of conscience; secondly, by the assaults of the devils; and thirdly, by the fears of eternal death.
First Point. The sinner at death shall be tortured by remorses of conscience.
1. "Their soul shall die in a storm." (Job xxxvi. 14.) The unhappy sinners who remain in sin die in a tempest, with which God has beforehand threatened them. ”A tempest shall break out and come upon the head of the wicked." (Jer. xxiii. 19.) At the commencement of his illness the sinner is not troubled by remorse or fear; because his relatives, friends, physicians, and all tell him that his sickness is not dangerous; thus he is deceived and hopes to recover. But when his illness increases, and malignant symptoms, the harbingers of approaching death, begin to appear, then the storm with which the Lord has threatened the wicked shall commence. "When sudden calamity shall fall on you, and destruction as a tempest shall be at hand." (Prov. i. 27.) This tempest shall be formed as well by the pains of sickness as by the fear of being obliged to depart from this earth, and to leave all things; but still more by the remorses of conscience, which shall place before his eyes all the irregularities of his past life. ”They shall come with fear at the thought of their sins, and their iniquities shall stand against them to convict them." (Wis. iv. 20.) Then shall his sins rush upon his mind, and fill him with terror. His iniquities shall stand against him to convict him, and, without the aid of other testimony, shall assail him, and prove that he deserves hell.
2. The dying sinner will confess his sins; but, according to St. Augustine, ”The repentance which is sought from a sick man is infirm." (Serm, xxxvii., de Temp.) And St. Jerome says, that of a hundred thousand sinners who continue till death in the state of sin, scarcely one shall be saved. ”Vix de centum milibus, quorum mala vita fuit, meretur in morte a Deo indulgentiam, unus." (Epis. de Mort. Eus.) St. Vincent Ferrer writes, that it is a greater miracle to save such sinners, than to raise the dead to life. ”Majus miraculum est, quod male viventes faciant bonum finem, quam suscitare mortuos." (Serm. i., de Nativ. Virgin.) They shall feel convinced of the evil they have done; they will wish, but shall not be able, to detest it. Antiochus understood the malice of his sins when he said: ”Now I remember the evils that I have done in Jerusalem." (1 Mach. vi. 12.) He remembered his sins, but did not detest them. He died in despair and oppressed with great sadness, saying: "Behold, I perish with great grief in a strange land" (v. 13). According to St. Fulgentius, the same happened to Saul at the hour of death: he remembered his sins; he dreaded the punishment which they deserved; but he did not detest them. “Non odit quid fecerat, sed timuit quod nolebat."
3. Oh! how difficult is it for a sinner, who has slept many years in sin, to repent sincerely at the hour of death, when his mind is darkened, and his heart hardened!”His heart shall be as hard as a stone, and as firm as a smiths anvil." (Job xli. 15.) During life, instead of yielding to the graces and calls of God, he became more obdurate, as the anvil is hardened by repeated strokes of the hammer. ”A hard heart shall fare evil at the last." (Eccl. iii. 27.) By loving sin till death, he has loved the danger of his damnation, and therefore God will justly permit him to perish in the danger in which he wished to live till death.
4. St. Augustine says, that he who is abandoned by sin before he abandons it, will scarcely detest it as he ought at the hour of death; for he will then detest it, not through a hatred of sin, but through necessity. ”Qui prius a peccato relinquitur, quam ipse relinquat, non libere, sed quasi ex necessitate condemnat." But how shall he be able to hate from his heart the sins which he has loved till death? He must love the enemy whom till then he has hated, and he must hate the person whom he has till that moment loved. Oh! what mountains must he pass! He shall probably meet with a fate similar to that of a certain person, who kept in confinement a great number of wild beasts in order to let them loose on the enemies who might assail him. But the wild beasts, as soon as he unchained them, instead of attacking his enemies, devoured himself. When the sinner will wish to drive away his iniquities, they shall cause his destruction, either by complacency in objects till then loved, or by despair of pardon at the sight of their numbers and enormity. "Evils shall catch the unjust man unto destruction." (Ps. cxxxix. 12.) St. Bernard says, that at death the sinner shall see himself chained and bound by his sins. ”We are your works; we will not desert you." We will not leave you; we will accompany you to judgment, and will be your companions for all eternity in hell.
Second Point. The dying sinner shall be tortured by the assaults of the devils.
5. ”The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time." (Apoc. xii. 12.) At death the devil exerts all his powers to secure the soul that is about to leave this world; for he knows, from the symptoms of the disease, that he has but little time to gain her for eternity. The Council of Trent teaches that Jesus Christ has left us the sacrament of Extreme Unction as a most powerful defence against the temptations of the devil at the hour of death. “Extremæ Unctionis sacramento finem vitæ tanquam firmissimo quodam præsidio munivit." And the holy council adds, that there is no time in which the enemy combats against us with so much violence in order to effect our damnation, and to make us despair of the divine mercy, as at the end of life. ”N ullum tempus est, quo vehementius ille omnes suæ versutiæ nervos intendat at perendos, nos penitus, et a fiducia, etiam, si possit, divinæ misericordiæ deturbandos, quam cum impendere nobis exitum vitæ perspicet." (Sess. 14, cap. ix. Doctr. de Sacr. Extr. Unct.)
6. Oh! how terrible are the assaults and snares of the devil against the souls of dying persons, even though they have led a holy life! After his recovery from a most severe illness, the holy king Eleazar said, that the temptations by which the devil assails men at death, can be conceived only by him who has felt them. We read in the life of St. Andrew Avelliuo, that in his agony he had so fierce a combat with hell, that all the religious present were seized with trembling. They perceived that, in consequence of the agitation, his face swelled, and became black, all his members trembled, and a flood of tears gushed from his eyes. All began to weep through compassion, and were rilled with terror at the sight of a saint dying in such a manner. But they were afterwards consoled, when they saw that as soon as an image of most holy Mary was held before him, he became perfectly calm, and breathed forth his blessed soul with great joy.
7. Now, if this happens to the saints, what shall become of poor sinners, who have lived in sin till death? At that awful moment the devil does not come alone to tempt them in a thousand ways, in order to bring them to eternal perdition, but he calls companions to his assistance. "Their house shall be filled with serpents." (Isa. xiii. 21.) When a Christian is about to leave this world, his house is filled with devils, who unite together in order to effect his ruin. "All her persecutors have taken her in the midst of straits." (Lamen. i. 3.) All his enemies will encompass him in the straits of death. One shall say: Be not afraid; you shall not die of this sickness! Another will say: You have been for so many years deaf to the calls of God, and can you now expect that he will save you? Another will ask: How can you repair the frauds of your past life, and the injuries you have done to your neighbour in his property and character? Another shall ask: What hope can there be for you? Do you not see that all your confessions have been null that they have been made without true sorrow, and without a firm purpose of amendment? How can you repair them with this heart, which you feel so hard? Do you not see that you are lost? And in the midst of these straits and attacks of despair, the dying sinner, full of agitation and confusion, must pass into eternity. ”The people shall be troubled and they shall pass." (Job xxxiv 20.)
Third Point. The dying sinner shall be tortured by the fears of eternal death.
8. Miserable the sick man who takes to his bed in the state of mortal sin! He that lives in sin till death shall die in sin. "You shall die in your sin." (John viii. 21.) It is true that, in whatsoever hour the sinner is converted, God promises to pardon him; but to no sinner has God promised the grace of conversion at the hour of death. ”Seek the Lord while he may be found." (Isa. iv. 6.) Then, there is for some sinners a time when they shall seek God and shall not find him. “You shall seek me, and shall not find me." (John vii. 34.) The unhappy beings will go to confession at the hour of death; they will promise and weep, and ask mercy of God, but without knowing what they do. A man who sees himself under the feet of a foe pointing a dagger to his throat, will shed tears, ask pardon, and promise to serve his enemy as a slave during the remainder of his life. But, will the enemy believe him? No; he will feel convinced that his words are not sincere that his object is to escape from his hands, and that, should he be pardoned, he will become more hostile than ever. In like manner, how can God pardon the dying sinner, when he sees that all his acts of sorrow, and all his promises, proceed not from the heart, but from a dread of death and of approaching damnation.
9. In the recommendation of the departing soul, the assisting priest prays to the Lord, saying: ”Recognize, O Lord, thy creature." But God answers: I know that he is my creature; but, instead of regarding me as his Creator, he has treated me as an enemy. The priest continues his prayer, and says: ”Remember not his past iniquities. ” I would, replies the Lord, pardon all the past sins of his youth; but he has continued to despise me till this moment the very hour of his death. ”They have turned their back upon me, and not their face: and, in the time of affliction, they will say: Arise, and deliver us. Where are the gods which thou hast made thee? let them rise and deliver thee." (Jer. ii. 27, 28.) You, says the Lord, have turned your back upon me till death; "and do you now want me to deliver you from vengeance? Invoke your own gods the creatures, the riches, the friends you loved more than you loved me. Call them now to come to your assistance, and to save you from hell, which is open to receive you. It now justly belongs to me to take vengeance on the insults you have offered me. You have despised my threats against obstinate sinners, and have paid no regard to them. ”Revenge is mine, and I will repay them in due time, that their foot may slide." (Deut. xxxii. 35.) The time of my vengeance is now arrived; it is but just to execute it. This is precisely what happened to a certain person in Madrid, who led a wicked life, but, at the sight of the unhappy death of a companion, went to confession, and resolved to enter a strict religious order. But, in consequence of having neglected to put his resolution into immediate execution, he relapsed into his former irregularities. Being reduced to great want, he wandered about the world, and fell sick at Lima. From the hospital in which he took refuge he sent for a confessor, and promised again to change his life, and to enter religion. But, having recovered from his illness, he returned to his wickedness; and, behold! the vengeance of God fell upon him. One day, his confessor, who was a missionary, in passing over a mountain, heard a noise, which appeared to be the howling of a wild beast. He drew near the place from which the noise proceeded, and saw a dying man, half rotten, and howling through despair. He addressed to him some words of consolation. The sick man, opening his eyes, recognized the missionary, and said: Have you, too, come to he a witness of the justice of God? I am the man who made my confession in the hospital of Lima. I then promised to change my life, but have not done so; and now I die in despair. And thus the miserable man, amid these acts of despair, breathed forth his unhappy soul. These facts are related by Father Charles Bovio (part iii., example 9).
10. Let us conclude the discourse. Tell me, brethren, were a person in sin seized with apoplexy, and instantly deprived of his senses, what sentiments of pity would you feel at seeing him die in this state; without the sacraments, and without signs of repentance! Is not he a fool, who, when he has time to be reconciled with God, continues in sin, or returns to his sins, and thus exposes himself to the danger of dying suddenly, and of dying in sin? "At what hour you think not," says Jesus Christ, "the Son of Man will come," (Luke xiii. 40.) An unprovided death, which has happened to so many, may also happen to each of us. And it is necessary to understand, that all who lead a bad life, meet with an unprovided death, though their last illness may allow them some time to prepare for eternity; for the days of that mortal illness are days of darkness days of confusion, in which it is difficult, and even morally impossible, to adjust a conscience burdened with many sins. Tell me, brethren, if you were now at the point of death, given over by physicians, and in the last agony, how ardently would you desire another month, or another week, to settle the accounts you must render to God! And God gives you this time. He calls you, and warns you of the danger of damnation to which you are exposed. Give yourself, then, instantly to God. What do you wait for? Will you wait till he sends you to hell?”Walk whilst you have light." (John xii. 35.) Avail yourselves of this time and this light, which God gives you at this moment, and now, while it is in your power, repent of all your past sins; for, a time shall come when you will be no longer able to avert the punishment which they deserve.
[I entreat my reader to read Sermon xliv., or the Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, on the practical death, or that which practically happens at the death of men of the world. I know by experience that though it does not contain Latin texts, whenever I preached that sermon, it produced a great impression, and left the audience full of terror. A greater impression is made by practical than by speculative truths.] (Sermons for All the Sundays in the Year by St Alphonsus Liguori in .pdf format.)