Often, in prayer books, one will see a “Prayer for a Happy Death.” What does this mean? It simply means dying in a state of grace. Lent is a good time for spiritual reading, and St. Francis de Sales book, Introduction to the Devout Life, is a good candidate for this, and contains this (slightly edited) meditation on death:
Place yourself in the Presence of God and ask Him to inspire you.
Imagine yourself on your death-bed, incurably ill.
Consider the uncertainty of the day of your death. One day, my soul, you must depart from this body. When will it be? … With or without warning? As a result of illness of accident? Shall I have a chance to go to Confession? Shall I be assisted by a Priest? Will I be prepared? Unhappily, I know the answer to none of these things. Only one thing is certain - that I shall die, and sooner than I imagine.
Consider that then, the world will come to an end as far as you are concerned. You will have no more part in it. It will turn upside down before your eyes, for worldly joys and pleasures and the things you loved in vain will turn into empty dreams and shadows. Fool that I am to offend God for the sake of such trifling vanities. I have forsaken God, and for what - for nothing! On the other hand, devotion and good deeds will be seen as desirable and delightful to you and you will ask yourself - why did I not take this beautiful and pleasant path of everlasting joy? At that hour, your sins - which at the time seemed so small - will appear as vast as mountains and your devotions truly small.
Consider how reluctantly your soul will bid farewell to this world, to all its riches and vanities, to amusements, friends, family, to everything - and last of all, to your own body, leaving it pale, wasted away, hideous and fearful.
Consider how your body will be hurried to the grave and then the world will give no more thought to you than you have given to others. They will say, ‘God rest his soul’ - and that will be the end of it. Such is the pitiless power of death.
Consider the destination of your soul once it has left the body. In which direction will it go? It will continue in the same direction as it went on earth!
Spiritual Acts and Resolutions
Pray to God and cast yourself into His arms. O my God, take me into Thy care on that terrible day; may all other days be sad if only that single day will be a happy one!
Despise the world. Since I do not know when I will part from the world, I will not become attached to it. No love for friends or for relatives, save what is holy, save what can last forever. For why should I love them with a love that death can end?
I will prepare for that hour and ensure that it may be a happy one. I will do all I can to make my conscience clear and resolve to overcome all my faults and imperfections.
Thank God for inspiring these resolutions and offer them to Him, imploring Him to grant you the grace of a Happy Death through the merits of His Son and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Saints…
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