Friday, November 13, 2015

spiritual reading: St Alphonsus on preparing for death

We have had quite a lot of deaths in our local community of late, as well as among those with particular associations with our diocese. Many of these were lives cut short with little by way of warning. So it is perhaps natural that my mind, almost of necessity, should turn to the topic of how best we may prepare for our own deaths. 

Spiritual writers all agree that, generally speaking, the best, and indeed the only adequate, preparation is a righteous life. And we all know, in brief, what it is to lead such a life: as Christ taught us, we must know and do the will of God, keeping his commandments, and taking up our Cross and follow him. 

There are many works by great saints to help expand on those few words at greater length. Perhaps you have a favourite of your own? If you do not, you might do worse than to look at 'Preparation for Death' by Saint Alphonsus De Liguori.. I would in particular suggest chapter 10 'How we must prepare for death,' which is quite short. To quote from it briefly:

We must be persuaded that the hour of death is not the proper time to set our accounts in order, nor to make the great concern of our eternal salvation secure The wise ones of this world, in worldly matters, take every precaution at the proper time towards obtaining that gain, that post, that matrimonial alliance; when the health of their body is concerned, they lose no time before applying the needful remedies. What would you say of any one who, having undertaken an academical contest, would defer preparing himself for it until the time was come? Would not that general be indeed mad, who should wait until besieged, to lay in stores of provisions and arms? Would not that pilot be mad, who should forget to provide himself with cable and anchors until the time of preparation for the tempest? That Christian is even in this state, to whom the hour of death arrives before his conscience is made clean in the sight of God.

The language of the work, naturally, reflects its author's era and background, but I do not think that too great an impediment to overcome in order to glean from it the wisdom it contains. A copy can be purchased quite cheaply here  or a free pdf copy may be found here

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