to say when we have to stand before One who knows even our most
secret thoughts? No wonder that the saints lived so piously, no wonder that they mortified themselves continuously. Many saints, like Gregory the Great, Lidwina, Teresa, were afflicted with bodily
infirmities all their lives and they bore them patiently. St. Aloysius,
St. Stanislaus Kostka, St. Agnes, St. Cecilia began already from an early age to prepare for the last hour of their lives.
Towards the middle of the fifteenth century a young man went to the gate of a Carthusian monastery not far from Gand, and asked to be admitted as a monk. His name was Peter of Dume. The superior received him with great kindness, and after the usual probation gave him the habit of the Order. He persevered in his vocation till his happy death, which took place in the year 1490.
During all the many years he spent in that monastery he was never seen to smile, and an unwonted earnestness accompanied every one of his actions. It was a long time before the superior discovered the cause of this; but, being commanded to make it known to him, the monk in virtue of obedience, related to him the reason of it in these words: "I was passing through that part of the country which is watered by the deep river Escaut, and in crossing over it I fell into the water, and sank to the bottom. I felt that I was drowning, and that in a few moments I should be in eternity. I at once was seized with great fear as I thought of the terrible judgment of God which I was soon to undergo, especially as I was thus called out of life so suddenly without time to make any preparation. I thought of Mary my Mother in Heaven, and I prayed to her. 'O Mary, Our Lady of Good Help, come to my assistance,'" I said to her. My prayer was not in vain. At that same moment I felt myself lifted from the bottom of the river and laid upon the bank. I fell upon my knees to thank God. Then I took the resolution to spend the rest of my life in preparing myself for a happy death, and on that very day I came to this house, that I might immediately begin to fulfill my resolution. I also at the same time resolved to spend the remainder of my days in the service of Mary, to show my gratitude to her for her maternal protection, and for having saved me from certain death." The holy religious was little known by men, for it was his continual prayer that he should live unknown to the world.
Sometimes, children, you will hear the Church speak of the first and second coming of the Son of God. His first coming was when He came into the world as a little babe, and was born in the stable at Bethlehem. His coming then was in the midst of poverty, suffering and neglect. But His second coming which will be at the end of the world, to judge mankind, will be in power, majesty, and glory. Our Blessed Lord, therefore, will come to judge us all at the end of the world, but He will also judge each of us at the moment of our death. On the day of general judgment the justice of God will be made manifest to everyone. It often happens in this life that the good are poor, persecuted and despised, while the wicked are rich, prosperous, and held in honor and esteem by the world. Thus if we looked no further than the present life, it might seem to some, who do not bear in mind that the peace of a good conscience and the happiness of a virtuous life are far beyond all worldly advantages, as if the wicked rather than the good, are the favorites of Heaven. It will then be seen that the short sufferings of this life, borne with patience for the love of God, have secured for the good an eternity of happiness; while the false pleasures and sinful enjoyments of the wicked are the cause of their eternal damnation.
Aripart, King of the Lombards, when dissatisfaction broke out in his army, wished to flee into France. He could not bear the thought, however, to leave his treasures behind and therefore took as much gold as he could carry, and fled at night. He was obliged to swim the river Tessino, but the great quantity of gold which he carried frustrated all his exertions, the weight of the precious metal dragged him to the bottom, and he met his death in the water. Thus he who lets his heart cling to gold and the temporal goods in this world, is drawn into the abyss of hell.
My dear boys and girls, after your soul has left your body it must appear before Jesus Christ. Christ will be its judge, for to Him the Father has committed the judgment. Christ has been to the soul until its departure a God of love and mercy, and has bestowed on it countless graces. But now He stands before it in another character; now He is its judge, who regards not the person of man, who demands an account of every idle word, who has the power and the will to condemn the impenitent sinner. When Joseph in Egypt made himself known to his brothers and said: "I am Joseph whom you sold," his brothers could not answer him, being struck with exceeding great fear. I leave it to yourselves to judge what anguish and terror must seize the guilty soul when on a sudden it sees itself placed in the presence of an angry judge. "That moment," says St. Basil, "will be to it more painful than all the pains of hell."
Ask yourselves : Do I love God above all things, and do I show it by this, that I would rather suffer all evils, even death, than offend God by a mortal sin ? Do I raise my heart frequently to God ? Do I love to pray? Do I frequently receive the sacraments? Do I mean well by everybody? Do I rejoice at my neighbor's success; have I patience with his failings ; do I love to do him acts of kindness? These are the questions we ought to put to ourselves every day so that we might prepare to meet our Judge.
In the court-house of Lubeck is a famous painting, called the dance of death. There you see all classes of ages, children, youth, virgins, men and women, the aged, all dancing, rejoicing and exulting in full pleasure of life, and they do not perceive that the angel of death, with the scythe, walks behind them, to mow down one after the other, to lead them to his realm. Here drops as his victim a child, there an aged man, here a youth, and nevertheless the dance continues in mad enjoyment. Thus it is in the life of man. Daily we see the angel of death walking softly in our midst, demanding his victims, and we know not how, when or where he will call us. All we do know is, that he will not forget us, and behind him is the divine Judge and the momentous eternity, and nevertheless we live in blindness and frivolity, as if our stay here on earth were everlasting.
Let no day pass, children, without heartily repenting of your faults and endeavor to expiate them by various works of penance. If in such a way you judge yourselves, you will not be judged. Jesus will graciously receive you on the day of judgment and greet you as His dear child.
Source: Story Sermonettes for the Children's Mass, Imprimatur 1921