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Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Thoughts on Death in Advent Part Five

A good person who is not a Catholic went to several art galleries with me recently. We were looking at paintings of SS. Jerome, Mary Magdalene and others when she asked me why the skull was a prominent feature in these paintings.

I replied that the saints had meditated on death, as a reminder of their own mortality, and in order to repent of sins. She replied that she did not agree with this emphasis on death, that death merely meant that our souls joined a universal soul, which she calls God.  In her belief system, there is no particular or final judgement, nor is there a heaven or a hell.

She believes in God's mercy, which is excellent, but she does not believe in punishment.

St Alphonsus also speaks on the mercy and love of God, but his meditations on death seem appropriate for Advent, so I am continuing this mini-series. Here is one titled: The Emptiness and Shortness of Human Life 

1. Holy David said that the happiness of this life is as 
the dream of one awaking from sleep: as the dream of them 
that awake.1 All the greatness and glory of this world will 
appear no more to poor wordlings at the hour of death, 
than as a dream to one awaking from sleep, who finds that 
the fortune which he has acquired in his dream ends with 
his sleep. Hence, did one who was undeceived wisely 
write on the skull of a dead man, "Cogitanti omnia viles- 
cunt." He who thinks will undervalue all things. Yes, to 
him who thinks on death, all the goods of this life appear 
as they really are, vile and transitory. 
Nor can that man fix his affections on the earth 
who reflects that in a short 
time he must leave it forever. 
Ah, my God, how often have I despised Your grace for 
the miserable goods of this world! Henceforth I desire 
to think of nothing but of loving and serving You. 
Assist me with Your holy grace. 
Paul the Hermit and Skull

My friend and I talked about the famous "Bone Chapel" in Rome of the Capuchins, which she saw with her husband. I have seen something similar, on a smaller scale in Floriana, Malta.

The Capuchins meditated on death to an interesting degree. It is hard for a Catholic to explain such traditions to those who do not believe.

Here is more of St. Alphonsus.

2. "And is it thus, then, that worldly grandeur and 
sovereign power must end?" Such was the exclamation 
of St. Francis Borgia, when he beheld the corpse of the 
Empress Isabella, who died in the flower of her youth. 
Reflecting upon what he saw, he resolved to bid adieu 
to the world, and to give himself entirely to God, say- 
1 "Velut somnium surgentium." Ps. 72. 20. 
[29] ing, “I will henceforth serve a master who will never 
forsake me." Let us detach ourselves from present goods 
before death tears us away from them. What folly it is 
to expose ourselves to the danger of losing our souls, for 
the sake of some attachment to this miserable world, 
from which we shall soon have to depart; for soon it will 
be said to us by the minister of God, "Go forth, Chris- 
tian soul, out of this world!"1
O my Jesus, if only I had always loved You! How 
many offences have I been guilty of against You! 
Teach me how to correct my disorderly life, for I am 
willing to do whatever You please. Accept my love, 
accept my repentance, in which I love You more than 
myself, and crave Your mercy and compassion. 
3. Reflect that you cannot remain forever in this 
world. You must one day leave the country in which 
you now reside; you must one day go out from the 
house in which you now dwell to return to it no more. 
Make me sensible, O God, of the injustice I have been 
guilty of in turning my back upon You, my sovereign good; 
and grant me the sorrow to bewail my ingratitude 
as I ought. O that I had died rather than ever offended 
You! Do not allow me to live any longer ungrateful for 
the love which You have shown me. My dear Redeemer, 
I love You above all things, and I desire to love You 
to the best of my power during the remainder of life. 
Strengthen my weakness by Your grace; and do You, 
Mary, Mother of God, intercede for me. 


Anita Moore said...

How can your friend believe in God's mercy if she doesn't believe in punishment? If there's no punishment, where is the need for mercy?

Supertradmum said...

Christain scientists are not logical in their theology and frown on the rational....I cannot explain the inconsistencies.