Death is Certain and Uncertain
by Saint Alphonsus Liguori
In this Day's Gospel we find that, having gone up into One of the Ships, and having heard from Saint Peter that he and his Companions, had
Labored all the Night, and had taken Nothing, Jesus Christ said:
"Launch out into the Deep, and let down your Nets for a Draught" - Luke 5:4. They Obeyed, and having Cast-out their Nets
into the Sea, they took such a Multitude-of Fishes, that the Nets were nearly Broken. Brethren, God has Placed us in the
Midst-of the Sea of this Life, and has Commanded us to Cast-out our Nets, that we may 'Catch Fishes'; that is, that we may
Perform Good Works, by which we can Acquire Merits for Eternal
(∞) Life. Happy we, if we Attain this End,
and Save our Souls! Unhappy we, if instead of Laying-up
Treasures for Heaven, we, by our Sins 'Merit'
Hell, and bring our Souls to Damnation! Our
Happiness or Misery for Eternity
(∞) depends-on the Moment of our Death,
which is 'Certain' and 'Uncertain'. The Lord Assures us that Death is 'Certain', that we
may Prepare-for it; but, on the other hand, He leaves us 'Uncertain' as to the Time
of our Death, that we may be always Prepared-for it - Two (2) Points of the
First (1st) Point -
It is Certain, 'That' we shall Die.
Second (2nd) Point -
It is Uncertain, 'When' we shall Die.
First (1st) Point
It is Certain 'That' we shall Die
"And as it is Appointed unto Men, Once to Die" - Hebrews 9:27. The Decree has been Passed, for Each of us;
we must all Die. Saint Cyprian says that we are all Born-with the Halter
on the Neck; hence, every Step we make, brings us Nearer-to the Gibbet. For Each of us, the
Gibbet shall be the Last Sickness, which will End in Death. As then, Brethren,
your Name has been Inserted-in the Registry of Baptism, so it shall be One Day written-in the
Record of the Dead. As in Speaking-of your Ancestors, you say: God be Merciful
to my Father, to my Uncle, or to my Brother; so Others shall Say the same of you, when you shall be in the Other World;
and as you have often Heard the Death Bell Toll-for Many, so Others shall Hear it Toll-for you.
All things Future, which regard Men now-Living, are 'Uncertain', but Death is 'Certain'.
"All other Goods and Evils", says Saint Augustine, "are Uncertain; only Death is Certain".
It is 'Uncertain' whether such an Infant shall be Rich or Poor, whether he shall Enjoy Good or
Ill Health, whether he shall Die at an Early or at an Advanced Age. But it is 'Certain' that he shall
Die, though he be the Son-of a Peer, or of a Monarch. And when the Hour arrives,
no one can Resist the Stroke of Death. The same Saint Augustine says: "Fires, Waters, and the Sword
are Resisted; Kings are Resisted; Death comes, who Resists it?" We may Resist Conflagrations, Inundations, the Sword-of
Enemies, and the Power-of Princes; but who can Resist Death? A certain King of France, as Belluacensis relates,
said in his Last Moments: "Behold, with all my Power, I cannot make Death wait for a Single Hour". No, when the Term-of-Life
has Arrived, Death does not Wait even a Moment - "Thou
hast Appointed his Bounds, which Cannot be Passed" - Job 14:5.
We must all Die. This Truth we not only Believe, but
See with our Eyes. In every Age, Houses, Streets, and Cities are filled-with New Inhabitants; their Former Possessors are Shut-up in the
Grave. And as for them, the Days of Life are over, so a Time shall come, when not One, of all who are now Alive, shall be Among the Living.
"Days shall be Formed, and no one in them" - Psalm 138:16. "Who is the Man that shall Live, and not
see Death" - Psalm 88:49. Should anyone Flatter himself, that he shall not Die, he would not only be
a Disbeliever - for it is of Faith that we shall all
Die - but he would be Regarded-as a Madman. We know that all Men, even Potentates and Princes and
Emperors, have, after a certain Time, Fallen Victims to
Death. And where are they now? "Tell me", says Saint Bernard, "where are all the Lovers of
the World? Nothing has Remained of them, but Ashes and Worms". Of so many Great Men of the World, though Buried-in Marble Mausoleums, Nothing has Remained,
but a Little Dust and a Few Withered Bones. We know that our Ancestors are no-Longer among the Living; of their Death, we are
Constantly Reminded-by their Pictures, their Memorandum Books, their Beds, by the Clothes which they have left us. And can we Entertain a
Hope or a Doubt, that We shall not Die? Of all who Lived-in this Town,
a Hundred Years ago, how many are now Alive? They are all in Eternity
(∞) - in an Eternal (∞)
Day of Delights, or in an Eternal (∞)
Night of Torments. Either the One or the Other,
shall be our Lot also.
But, O God! we all know that we shall Die; the
Misfortune is, that we Imagine Death as 'Distant', as if it were Never-to-Come, and therefore we Lose Sight of it.
But Sooner or Later, whether we Think or Think-not of Death, it is 'Certain', and of Faith
that we shall Die, and that we are Drawing-nearer to it, every day. "For we have not here a Lasting City,
but we Seek One, that is to come" - Hebrews 13:14. This is not our Country; here we are Pilgrims-on a Journey. "While
we are in the Body, we are Absent from the Lord" - 2Corinthians 5:6. Our Country is Paradise, if we know how to Acquire it,
by the Grace of God, and by our own Good Works. Our House is not, in-which we Live; we
Dwell-in it only in-Passing; our Dwelling is in Eternity (∞).
"Man shall go into the House of his Eternity" - Ecclesiastes 12:5. How Great would be the Folly
of the Man, who, in Passing-through a Strange Country, should Lay-out all his Property in the Purchase of Houses and Possessions in a Foreign Land, and Reduce himself
to the Necessity-of Living Miserably for the Remainder-of his Days, in his Own Country! And is not he, too, a
Fool, who seeks after Happiness in this World, from which he must Soon Depart, and,
by his Sins, Exposes himself to the Danger of Misery in the
Next, where he must Live for Eternity (∞)?
Tell me, Beloved Brethren, if instead of Preparing-for his Approaching Death, a Person
Condemned to Die were, on his Way-to the Place-of Execution, to Employ the
Few Remaining Moments of his Life in Admiring the Beauty-of the Houses, as he Passed-along, in Thinking-of Balls and Comedies,
in Uttering Immodest Words, and Detracting his Neighbors, would you not say that the
Unhappy Man had either Lost his Reason, or that he was
Abandoned by God? And are not you, on the Way to Death?
Why then do you Seek only the Gratification-of the Senses? Why do you not Think-of Preparing the Accounts which you shall One
Day, and perhaps very soon, have to Render-at the Tribunal of Jesus Christ? Souls that have
Faith, Leave-to the Fools of this World, the Care-of Realizing a Fortune on this Earth; Seek you
to make a Fortune-for the Next Life, which shall be Eternal (∞). The Present Life must
End, and End very soon.
Go to the Grave in which your Relatives and Friends are Buried. Look at their
Dead Bodies; each of them says to you: "Yesterday for me, and Today for thee" - Ecclesiasticus
38:23. What has Happened-to me, must One Day, Happen-to thee. Thou shalt become Dust and Ashes, as I am. And where shall thy Soul
be Found, if, before Death, thou hast not Settled thy Accounts with God? Ah, Brethren!
if you Wish-to Live Well, and to have your Accounts Ready-for that Great Day, on which your Doom, to
Eternal (∞) Life or to Eternal
(∞) Death, must be Decided; Endeavor during the Remaining Days of Life, to
Live-with Death before your Eyes. "O Death, thy Sentence is Welcome" - Ecclesiasticus 41:3. Oh!
how Correct are the Judgments, how Well-Directed the Actions of those who Form their Judgments, and Perform their Actions, with
Death before their View! The Remembrance-of Death, Destroys all
Attachments to the Goods-of this Earth. "Let the End of Life be considered", says Saint Lawrence Justinian,
"and there shall be Nothing in this World, to be Loved". Yes, all the Riches, Honors, and Pleasures of this World are easily
Despised by him who Considers that he must Soon, leave them Forever
(∞), and that he shall be Thrown-into the Grave, to be the Food-of
Some Banish the Thought-of Death, as if by Avoiding-to Think-of Death, they could
Escape it. But Death cannot be Avoided, and they who Banish the Thought-of it, Expose themselves to Great
Danger of an Unhappy Death. By keeping Death before their Eyes, the Saints have
Despised all the Goods-of this Earth. Hence Saint Charles Borromeo kept on his Table, a Death's
Head, that he might have it Continually-in-View. Cardinal Baronius had the Words - Memento mori -
Remember Death - inscribed on his Ring. The Venerable P. Juvenal Anzia, Bishop of Saluzzo, had before him a 'Skull', on which was Written:
As I am, so thou shalt be. In Retiring-to Deserts and Caves, the Holy Solitaries
brought with them the Head-of a Dead Man, and for what Purpose? To Prepare themselves for
Death. Thus a certain Hermit, being asked at Death why he was so Cheerful, answered: I have kept
Death always Before my Eyes, and therefore, now that it has Arrived, I feel no Terror. But, oh! how Full-of Terror
is Death, when it comes-to those who have Thought-of it, but Seldom.
Second (2nd) Point
It is Uncertain 'When' we shall Die
"Nothing", says the Idiota, "is more Certain than Death, but Nothing is more
Uncertain than the Hour of Death". It is Certain that we shall Die. God
has already Determined the Year, the Month, the
Day, the Hour, the Moment, in which Each of us shall
Leave this Earth, and Enter-into Eternity (∞); but, this
Moment, He has Resolved not to Make-known to us. And
Justly, says Saint Augustine, has the Lord Concealed it; for had He Manifested
to All, the Day fixed-for their Death, many should be Induced-to Continue-in the Habit of
Sin, by the Certainty of not Dying before the Appointed Day.
"Si statuisset viam omnibus, faceret abundare peccata de securitate". Hence the Holy Doctor teaches, that
God has Concealed from us, the Day of our Death, that we may Spend all
our Days Well. "Latet ultimus dies, ut observentur omnes
dies". Hence Jesus Christ says: "Be you then, also Ready: for at what Hour you think not,
the Son of Man will Come" - Luke 12:40. That we may be always Prepared-to Die,
He Wishes us to be Persuaded that Death will come, when we Least-expect it. "Of
Death", says Saint Gregory, "we are Uncertain, that we may be Found, always Prepared-for Death". Saint Paul
likewise Admonishes us, that the Day of the Lord - that is, the
Day on which the Lord shall Judge us - shall come Unexpectedly, like a Thief-in-the-Night. "The
Day of the Lord shall so Come, as a Thief in the Night" - 1Thessalonians 5:2. Since then, says Saint Bernard, Death
may Assail you, and Take-away your Life, in every Place and at every Time, you should, if you Wish to
Die Well and Save your
Soul, be at all Times and Places, in Expectation-of Death.
"Mors ubique te expectat, tu, ubique eam expectabis". And Saint Augustine says: "Latet ultimus dies,
ut observentur omnes dies". The Lord Conceals from us the Last Day of our Life,
that we may always have Ready, the Account which we must Render-to God, after Death.
Many Christians are Lost, because many, even among the Old, who Feel the Approach-of
Death, Flatter themselves that it is at a Distance, and that it will not Come, without giving them Time
to Prepare-for it. "Dura mente", says Saint Gregory, "abesse longe mors creditur, etiam cum
sentitur". Death, even when it is Felt, is Believed to be Far-off. O Brethren,
are these your Sentiments? How do you Know that your Death is Near or Distant? What Reason have you to Suppose that
Death will give you Time to Prepare-for it? How many do we know, to have
Died Suddenly? Some have Died Walking; some Sitting; and some during Sleep. Did anyone
of these ever Imagine that he should Die in such a Manner? But they have Died in this Way;
and if they were in Enmity with God, what has been the Lot-of their
Unhappy Souls? Miserable the Man who meets with an
Unprovided Death! And I Assert, that all who Ordinarily Neglect to Unburden their
Conscience, Die without Preparation, even though they should have Seven (7)
or Eight (8) Days to Prepare-for a Good Death;
for, as I shall Show-in a Future Sermon, it is very Difficult, during these Days
of Confusion and Terror, to Settle Accounts with God,
and to Return to Him with Sincerity. But I Repeat, that
Death may Come-upon you in such a Manner, that you shall not have Time even to Receive the
Sacraments. And 'Who' knows whether, in another Hour, you shall be among the Living or
the Dead? The Uncertainty of the Time of his Death,
made Job Tremble. "For I know not how long I shall Continue, and whether after a while, my Maker
may Take me Away" - Job 32:22. Hence Saint Basil exhorts us, in going to Bed at Night, not to Trust that we shall see the Next Day.
"Cum in lectulum ad quiescendum membra tua posueris, noli confidere de lucis adventu".
Whenever, then, the Devil Tempts you to Sin,
by Holding-out the Hope that you will go to Confession and Repair the
Evil you have done, say to him in Answer: How do I know that this shall not be the Last
Day of my Life? And should Death Overtake me in Sin, and not give me
Time to make my Confession, what shall become of me for all Eternity
(∞)? Alas! how many Poor Sinners
have been Struck Dead in the very Act of Indulging in some
Sinful Pleasure, and and have been sent to Hell! "Man knoweth not his own End: but as
Fishes are Taken with the Hook, and as Birds are Caught with the Snare, so Men are Taken in the Evil Time, when it shall Suddenly come upon them" -
Ecclesiastes 9:12. Fishes are taken with the Hook while they Eat the Bait that Conceals the Hook, which is the Instrument-of their
Death. The Evil Time is precisely that in which Sinners are Actually
Offending God. In the Act of Sin, they 'Calm'
their Conscience by a Security-of Afterwards-making a Good Confession, and Reversing
the Sentence of their Damnation. But Death comes Suddenly upon them, and does not
Leave them Time for Repentance. "For when they shall say,
Peace and Security; then shall Sudden Destruction come upon them" - 1Thessalonians 5:3.
If a Person lends a Sum-of Money, he is Careful Instantly to get a Written Acknowledgment, and to take all the other Means necessary to-Secure
the Repayment of it. Who, he says, can know what shall happen? Death may Come, and I may Lose
my Money. And how does it happen, that there are so many who Neglect to use the same Caution for the
Salvation of their Souls, which is of far-Greater Importance, than all Temporal Interests? Why do they not
also say: Who knows what may happen? Death may come, and I may Lose my
Soul? If you Lose a Sum-of Money, 'All' is not Lost; if you
Lose it One-way, you may Recover the Loss in another; but he that
Dies and Loses his Soul,
Loses 'All', and has no Hope of ever Recovering it. If we could Die
Twice (2), we might, if we Lost our Soul the
First (1st) Time, Save it the Second (2nd).
But we cannot Die Twice (2). "And as it is Appointed unto Men,
Once to Die, and after this, the Judgment" - Hebrews 9:27. Mark the Word Once; Death
happens to Each of us but Once (1); he who has Erred the First
(1st) Time, has Erred Forever (∞).
Hence, to bring the Soul to Hell is an Irreparable Error.
Periisse semel oeternum est.
The Venerable Father John Avila, was a Man of Great Sanctity, and Apostle of Spain. What was the Answer
of this Great Servant of God, who had led a Holy Life from his Childhood, when he
was told that his Death was at-hand, and that he had but a Short Time to Live?
Oh! replied the Holy Man with Trembling,
that I had a Little more Time to Prepare for Death! Saint Agatho, Abbot, after so many
Years in Penance, Trembled at the Hour
of Death, and said: What shall become of me? who can know the Judgments of God? And,
O Brethren, what will you say when the Approach-of Death shall be Announced-to you, and when, from the Priest who attends
you, you shall Hear the Words: "Go forth, Christian Soul, from this World"? You will perhaps say: Wait
a little; allow me to Prepare Better. No, depart Immediately; Death does
not Wait. You should therefore Prepare yourselves Now. "Wherefore, my Dearly Beloved, with Fear and Trembling, Work
out your Salvation" - Philippians 2:12. Saint Paul Admonishes us, that if we Wish to Save our
Souls, we must Live in Fear and Trembling, lest
Death may find us in Sin. Be Attentive, Brethren; there is Question of Eternity
(∞). "If the Tree Fall to the South, or to the North, in what place soever it shall
Fall, there shall it be" - Ecclesiastes 11:3. If, when the Tree-of your Life is Cut -down, you Fall-to the South - that is, if you obtain
Eternal (∞) Life - how Great shall be your
Joy at being able to say: I shall be Saved; I have Secured All; I can never Lose God; I shall
be Happy Forever! But, if you Fall-to the North - that is, into Eternal (∞)
Damnation - how Great shall be your Despair! Alas!
you shall say, I have Erred, and my Error is Irremediable! Arise then from your
Tepidity, and after this Sermon, make a Resolution to give yourselves Sincerely-to God.
This Resolution will Insure you a Good Death, and will make you
Happy for Eternity (∞).
- End of Liguori Sermon -
Prayer for the Graces Necessary for Salvation
Eternal Father, Your Son has Promised that You will Grant us all the Graces which we ask for in His Name. In the Name and
Merits of Jesus Christ, I ask the following Graces for myself and for all Mankind. Please give me a Lively Faith in all that the Church Teaches.
Enlighten me, that I may know the Vanity of the Goods of this World, and the Immensity of the Infinite Good that You are. Make me also see the
Deformity of the Sins I have Committed, that I may Humble myself and Detest them as I should.
Give me a Firm Confidence of Receiving Pardon for my Sins, Holy Perseverance, and the Glory of Heaven, through the Merits of
Jesus Christ, and the Intercession of Mary. Give me a Great Love for You, that will Detach me from the Love of this World, and of myself, so that I may
Love none other, but You.
I Beg of You a Perfect Resignation to Your Will. I Offer myself entirely to You, that You might do with me, and all that
belongs to me, as You Please.
I Beg of You a Great Sorrow for my Sins.
I ask You to give me the Spirit of True Humility and Meekness, that I may Accept with Peace, and even with Joy, all the
Contempt, Ingratitude and Ill-treatment I may receive. At the same time, I also ask You to give me Perfect Charity, which shall make me wish well to
those who have done Evil to me.
Give me Love for the Virtue of Mortification, by which I may Chastise my Rebellious Senses and oppose my Self-Love. Give me a
Great Confidence in the Passion of Jesus Christ and in the Intercession of Mary Immaculate. Give me a Great Love for the Blessed Sacrament, and a
Tender Devotion and Love to Your Holy Mother. Give me, above all, Holy Perseverance, and the Grace always to Pray for it, especially in Time-of
Temptation, and at the Hour-of Death.
Finally, I recommend to You the Holy Souls of Purgatory, my Relatives and Benefactors, and in a special manner I recommend to
You all those who Hate me or who have in any way Offended me; I Beg You to Render them Good, for the Evil they have done or may wish to do me. Grant
that, by Your Goodness, I may come One Day to sing Your Mercies in Heaven; for my Hope is in the Merits of Your Blood and in the Patronage of Mary.
Mary, Mother of God, Pray to Jesus for me.
Ancient Miraculous Prayer to Saint Joseph
Patron of Departing Souls
This Prayer was found in the Fiftieth Year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In
1505 it was sent from the Pope to Emperor Charles, when he was going into Battle. Whoever shall Read this Prayer, or Hear it,
or Keep it about themselves, shall never Die a Sudden Death, or be Drowned, nor shall Poison take-effect on them; neither shall they Fall into the
Hands of the Enemy, nor shall they be Burned in any Fire, nor shall they be Overpowered in Battle.
O Saint Joseph, whose Protection is so Great, so Strong, so Prompt before the Throne of God, I Place in you, all my Interests and
O Saint Joseph, do Assist me by your Powerful Intercession, and Obtain for me from your Divine Son, all Spiritual Blessings
through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having Engaged here below your Heavenly Power, I may Offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of
O Saint Joseph, I never Weary Contemplating you and Jesus Asleep in your Arms; I dare not approach while He Reposes near your
Heart. Press Him in my name and Kiss His Fine Head for me, and ask Him to Return the Kiss when I Draw my Dying Breath, Saint Joseph, Patron of Departing
Souls, Pray for us.
Many Miracles have been attributed to this Daily Prayer.
Make this Prayer known everywhere . . .