HOW WE SHOULD LEARN TO DIE and of the Nature of An Unprovided Death (from the writings of Blessed Henry Suso,a priest of the Order of St. Dominic)
These were a choice doctrine for whoever might actually feel it like in their hearts. I must admit that, my dear friends, it rends my very heart. But though the words are so piercing, yet do people sit and give little heed to them; they have ears and hear not; they have eyes and see not.
Be converted to God; repent of thy sins; if thy end be well, then will all be well.
Oh, happy the man, that ever he was born, who arrives well prepared at this hour, for his passage will be a good one, however bitter his death; behold the bright angels will guard him, the saints escort him, the celestial court receive him; his final marching forth will be a glorious entry into his everlasting fatherland.
THE SERVANT - Lord, what wilt Thou teach me?
ETERNAL WISDOM - I will teach thee to die and will teach thee to live. I will teach thee to receive Me lovingly, and will teach thee to praise Me lovingly. Behold, this is what properly belongs to thee...He who puts this teaching off till then, will find it too late... Open, therefore, thy interior sense, I will now show thee and see and listen; see what grim death is like in the person of thy neighbour, do but mark the lamentable voice thou wilt hear.
THE UNPREPARED DYING MAN - O Lord, I do not complain that I must die; I complain that I must die unprepared. I do not merely lament the end of my life, I LAMENT AND WEEP OVER THE DELIGHTFUL DAYS WHICH ARE LOST AND VANISHED WITHOUT ANY PROFIT. My words are full of bitterness, my speech full of woe! Oh, who will enable me to be as I once was, to have again those pleasant times before me, and to know then what I know now! WHEN THOSE TIMES WERE MINE, I LET THEM PASS SWIFTLY AWAY... now they vanished from me; I cannot recall them, I cannot overtake them. I OUGHT TO HAVE VALUED IT MORE PRECIOUSLY. Lo, this is why my eyes shed salt tears, because they cannot restore what I have lost. WOE IS ME, O GOD, I HAVE FEASTED SO MANY DAY AWAY, AND IT PROFITS ME NOW SO LITTLE. Why did not I learn to die all the time? O ye blooming roses, that have still your days before you, LOOK AT ME AND LEARN WISDOM; TURN YOUR YOUTH TO GOD, AND WITH HIM ALONE OCCUPY YOUR TIME, SO THAT WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME MAY NOT HAPPEN TO YOU.. Ah, me! how have I consumed my youth! No one would I believe; my wayward spirit would listen to no one. Alas, now am I fallen into the snare of bitter death! My days have vanished, my youth has sped. Better were it for me had my mother's womb become my grave than that I should so have squandered away my time.
How shall I do penance? Seest thou not how terrified I am, how exceeding great is my distress? Death and the bitterness of separation oppress me. O long protraction of my amendment, how much too protracted hast thou not proved! MY GOOD INTENTIONS WITHOUT WORKS, MY GOOD PROMISES WITHOUT PERFORMANCE, HAVE RUINED ME. I HAVE SAID TO GOD 'TOMORROW AND TOMORROW', TILL I AM FALLEN INTO THE NIGHT OF DEATH. O Thou Almighty God, is it not a misery above all miseries, ought it not deeply to afflict me, that I should thus have lost the whole of my life, my thirty, my forty years? I know not that I ever spent a day wholly according to God's will, or that I ever rendered to God, as in reason I ought to have done, a truly acceptable service. Oh, how the thought cuts me to the heart! O God, how wretchedly shall I not stand before Thee and the whole heavenly host! Lo, now I am departing hence; and now, even at this hour, a single Pater Noster, uttered with devotion, would rejoice me more than if anyone were to put into my hands a thousand pounds of gold. AH, MY GOD, WHAT EVIL HAVE I NOT INFLICTED ON MYSELF IN NOT HAVING SEEN THIS WHILE IT WAS IN MY POWER. WHAT HOURS UPON HOURS HAVE ESCAPED ME. HOW HAVE I ALLOWED MYSELF TO BE LED WRONG BY SMALL THINGS IN THE GREAT AFFAIR OF MY SALVATION. It would now be more agreeable to me, and would procure me more eternal reward if, from divine love, I had foregone the pleasure I took at the sight of a friend, when such pleasure was contrary to God's will, than if that friend were to demand a reward for me from God thirty years long on his knees.HEAR, HEAR ALL MEN A LAMENTABLE THING -- I GO BEGGING ROUND AND ROUND, BECAUSE MY TIME IS SHORT. AND BEG A SMALL ALMS OUT OF THE MERIT OF GOOD PEOPLE AS AN EXPIATION FOR MYSELF, AND IT IS REFUSED ME. Alas, Thou God of Heaven, let this move Thy compassion, that with my healthy body I could have earned such great reward and wealth on so many a day when I went about idle, and that now this small alms, begged only as an expiation, not as a reward, for which, moreover, I should stand indebted, no one will give me. Oh, let this, ye old and young, GO TO YOUR HEARTS, AND HOARD UP IN THE GOOD SEASON WHILE YOU CAN, SO THAT YOU MAY NOT BECOME BEGGARS, AND BE DENIED IN AN HOUR LIKE THIS.
The best advice I can give thee, THE GREATEST WISDOM AND PRUDENCE ON EARTH IS THIS -- THAT THOU PREPARE THYSELF BY A FULL CONFESSION AND AN ABSTINENCE FROM ALL THOSE THINGS THOU KNOWEST THYSELF TO BE INFECTED, AND HOLD THYSELF AT ALL TIMES READY, AS THOUGH SHOULD HAVE TO DEPART IN A DAY, OR AT LATEST IN A WEEK. Imagine now, in thy heart, that thy soul is in Purgatory, and doomed to remain there ten years for her evil deeds, and that this year alone is granted thee to help her in. Look at her very often, see how woefully she calls out to thee and speaks to thee: O thou my best beloved friend, reach me thy hand, have pity on me, and help me to pray that I may speedily come out of this raging fire of Purgatory, for I am so miserable, that there is nobody, except thee alone, to help me, with charitable works. I am forgotten by all the world, because every one is busy about himself....for the comforts of the body, perishable love, and the greedy pursuits of sustenance, blind the multitude.
If thou wouldst be delivered from this miserable and unprovided death, then follow my advice. BEHOLD, DILIGENT MEDITATION ON DEATH, AND FAITHFUL ASSISTANCE GIVEN TO THY POOR SOUL, WHO APPEALS PITEOUSLY TO THEE, WILL ADVANCE THEE SO FAR THAT THOU WILT NOT ONLY BE WITHOUT FEAR, BUT MORE, THOU WILL EXPECT DEATH WITH ALL THE ARDOUR OF THY HEART. Think of me every day, and write down my words in the bottom of thy heart. In my bitter distress see what thy future lot will be. Oh, happy the man, that ever he was born, who arrives well prepared at this hour, for his passage will be a good one, however bitter his death; behold the bright angels will guard him, the saints escort him, the celestial court receive him; his final marching forth will be a glorious entry into his everlasting fatherland. But me, alas! where will my soul lodge, Oh, my soul, how art thou utterly forsaken! O God, how very miserable will I be among all miserable souls! Who is there that will help me with entire fidelity? And now let me put an end to my sad complaints; for my hour is come. My hands begin to grow cold, my face to turn livid, my eyes to lose their sight. Alas, the shocks of furious death wrestle with my poor heart. I begin to fetch my breath very hard. The light of this world begins to vanish from me. I begin to see into the next world. O God, my God, what a sight! The horrible forms of black Moors assemble together; the wild beasts of hell surround me. They gloat over my poor soul to see if it will be theirs. O Thou just judge of the severe judgment seat, how very heavy in Thy scales are those things which in ours are so light! The cold sweat of death bursts, from very anxiety, through my flesh. Oh, the wrathful aspect of the severe judge, how very sharp Thy judgments are! Now let me turn in spirit to that world where I am led by the hand into Purgatory, and where, in the land of torments, I see anguish and distress. O God, I see the wild, hot flames dart up on high, and meet over the heads of suffering souls. They wander up and down amid the dark flames, and great is their affliction. What heart would like to contemplate our pangs, the bitterness of our woe? Many a sad cry is heard. Help! help! ah, where is all the help of our false friends? Where are the fair promises of our false friends? How have they deserted us, how have they utterly forgotten us? Oh, have pity on us, some little pity; at least you our best beloved friends! What services have we not rendered you, and how are we now repaid. Oh that we should not have warded off these sufferings when we could have done so with things so trifling! Is not the least torment here greater, much greater, indeed, than any torment ever was on earth? One hour in Purgatory lasts a hundred years. Lo! now we boil, now we burn, now we shriek aloud for help; but, more than all it is our misfortune to be deprived so long of the joy of His countenance; this it is that cuts through the heart, the sense, the soul! - And thus I expire.
ETERNAL WISDOM - See; this shouldst thou diligently look to whilst thou art in thy youth, and whilst thou hast still time to make things better. But when, in truth, thou hast reached this hour, and thou canst not make things better, then shouldst thou look at nothing on earth, except My death and My infinite mercy; so that Thy trust may repose wholly in Me.
THE SERVANT - Ah, Lord, now will I praise Thee, and vow reformation to Thee till death. Oh, how very terrified I am! I did not think death was so near me. Truly, Lord, this sight shall not fail to profit me; every day I will be on the watch for death, and will look about me that he take me not by surprise. I will learn how to die; I will turn my thoughts to yonder world. Lord, I see that there is no remaining here; Lord, in sooth, I will not save up my sorrow and repentance till death. Oh, how terrified I am at this spectacle, I marvel that my soul is still in my body! Begone, begone, from me, soft reclining, long sleeping, good eating and drinking, perishable honours, delicateness and luxury! If but a little suffering here is so painful to me, how shall I ever endure immeasurable agony? O God, it indeed I were now to die thus, how would it be with me? What a load have I not still upon me! Lord, this very day I will set a poor man to pray for my poor soul, and since all her friends have forsaken her I will befriend her.