Straits and Anguish of Dying Christians
who have been Negligent during Life
about the Duties of their Religion
by Saint Alphonsus Liguori
One Day, the Pharisees, with the Malignant Intention-of Ensnaring
Him in His Speech, that they might Afterwards Accuse
Him before the Ministers-of Caesar, sent their Disciples to ask Jesus Christ, if it were Lawful-to Pay
Tribute-to Caesar. In Answer, the Redeemer, after Looking-at the Coin-of the Tribute, asked, "Whose
Image and Inscription is this?" Being told that it was Caesar's, He said, "Render
then to Caesar, the Things that are Caesar's, and to God, the Things that are God's". By these Words, Jesus Christ
Wants-to Teach us that it is our Duty-to Give-to Men what is Due-to them; and to Reserve-for Him, all the
Affections-of our Heart, since He Created us to
Love Him, and afterwards, Imposed-upon us a Precept-of Loving Him.
"Though shalt Love the Lord thy God, with thy Whole Heart". Miserable the Man who,
at the Hour of Death, shall see that he has Loved Creatures, that he has Loved his
Pleasures, and has not Loved God. "When Distress cometh upon them, they will
Seek for Peace, and there shall be None" - Ezekiel 7:25. They will then Seek Peace, but shall not
Find it; for many Causes-of Distress and Trouble, shall
Assail them. What shall these Causes be? Behold, the Unhappy Man shall then say:
First (1st): O God! I could have become a Saint,
but have not become one.
Secondly (2nd), he shall say: Oh! that I now had Time
to Repair the Evil I have done! but Time is at an End.
Thirdly (3rd): Oh! that at least, in the Short Time
that Remains, I could Remedy the Past! but alas! this Time is not Fit for Repairing past Evils.
O God! I could have, but have not, become a Saint.
Because, during their Whole Life, they Thought only-of Pleasing God, and
Sanctifying themselves, the Saints go-with Great Confidence to-meet Death,
which Delivers them from the Miseries and Dangers-of the Present Life, and
Unites them Perfectly-with God. But, the Man who has Thought-only of his
Pleasures, and of his own Ease, and has Neglected-to Recommend himself to
God, or to Reflect-on the Account, which he must one-day Render, cannot meet Death
with Confidence. Poor Sinners! They Banish the Thought-of
Death, whenever it Presents itself to them, and Think-only of Living-in Pleasures and
Amusements, as if they were never to Die. But, for each of them, the
End must one-day Come. "The End is Come, the End is Come" - Ezekiel 7:2. And when this
End is Come, everyone must Gather the 'Fruit' which he has Sown during his Life. "For what things
a Man shall Sow, those also shall he Reap" - Galatians 6:8. If he has Sown Works-of Holiness, he shall Receive
Rewards and Eternal (∞)
Life; but, if he has Sown Evil Works, he shall Reap Chastisements
and Eternal (∞) Death.
The Scene-of his Past Life, is the First (1st) Thing which shall Rush-on the
Mind-of the Dying Man, when the News-of Death will be Announced-to him. He
shall then, see-Things in a Light, very different-from that in-which he Viewed them, during Life. The Acts-of Revenge
which Appeared-to him Lawful; the Scandals which he Disregarded; the Liberty-of speaking
Obscenely and Injuriously, to the Character-of his Neighbor; the Pleasures
which were regarded-as Innocent; the Acts-of Injustice which he Held-to-be Allowable, shall then Appear what they really-were;
Grievous Sins and Offences against God, each-of-which,
Merited Hell. Alas! those Blind Sinners, who
Voluntarily Blind themselves, during Life, by Shutting their Eyes to the Light,
shall, at Death, Involuntarily see all the Evil, they have done.
"Then, shall the Eyes of the Blind, be Opened" - Isaiah 35:5. At the Light-of the Candle, which Lights him
to-Death, "the Wicked shall See, and shall be Angry" - Psalm 111:10. He shall See
all the Irregularities-of his Past Life; his frequent Abuse-of the
Sacraments, Confessions made without Sorrow or Purpose-of
Amendment, Contracts completed-with Remorse-of
Conscience, Injury done-to the Property or Reputation-of others, Immodest
Jests, Rancors, and Vindictive Thoughts. He shall see the
Bad Examples which he gave-to Young Persons who Feared God, and whom he Treated-with
Contempt and turned-into Derision, by calling them Hypocrites and other
Reproachful Names. He shall see so-many Lights and
Calls, Received-from God, so-many Admonitions-of
Spiritual Fathers, and so-many Resolutions and Promises made, but afterwards Neglected.
He shall see Particularly, the Bad Maxims by which he Regulated his Conduct, during Life.
It is Necessary to Seek the Esteem of the World, and to Preserve Honor. But, is it necessary-for a Man to
Preserve his Honor, by Trampling-on the Honor due-to
God? We ought to Indulge in Amusements, as-often-as we can. But, is it Lawful-to Indulge-in Amusements,
by Insulting God? Of what use to the World is the Man who
Lives in Poverty, and has no Money? But will you, for the Sake-of Money, Lose your
Soul? In answer-to these Questions the Sinner says, No matter. What can be done? If
we do not make a Fortune in the World, we cannot Appear among our Equals. Such the Maxims-of the Worldling
during Life; but at Death, he shall Change his Language. He shall then 'See' the
Truth of that Maxim-of Jesus Christ, "For what doth it Profit a Man, if he Gain the
Whole World, and Suffer the Loss of his own Soul? Or what Exchange shall a Man give-for his Soul?" - Matthew 16:26.
Unhappy me! the Worldling shall exclaim-on the Bed-of Death, I have had
so-much Time to Tranquillize my Conscience, and Behold, I am now at the Point-of
Death, and I find my Soul Burdened-with so many
Sins! What would it have Cost me to have Broken-off such a Friendship, to have
gone-to Confession every-Week, to have Avoided certain Occasions of Sin? Ah! very
little; but though it should have Cost me a Great Deal-of Pain and
Labor, I ought to have Submitted-to every Inconvenience, in-order-to
Save my Soul. Salvation is of Greater Importance
to me, than the Dominion-of the Entire World. But, alas! the Sentiments-of Negligent
Christians, at-Death, are as-Fruitless-as the Sorrows-of the
Damned, who Mourn-in Hell over their
Sins, as the Cause-of their Perdition, but Mourn
At that Time, they Derive no Consolation-from their Past Amusements or Pomps, from their Exalted
Dignities, or from the Humiliation-of their Rivals. On the contrary, at the Hour-of-Death,
these things, like so many Swords, shall Pierce their
Hearts. "Evil shall Catch the Unjust Man unto Destruction" - Psalm 139:12. At Present, the Lovers-of the
World, seek-after Banquets, Dances, Games, and Scenes-of Laughter and Joy; but, at the
Time-of-Death, this Laughter and Joy, as Saint James says, shall be Turned-into Mourning and
Affliction. "Be Afflicted, and Mourn, and Weep: let your Laughter be Turned into Mourning, and your Joy into Sorrow" -
James 4:9. Of this, we see Frequent Examples. A Young man, who Entertained his Companions by Sallies-of Wit and by Immodest
Jests, is Seized-with a Severe Illness. His Friends come-to see him, and find him
Overwhelmed-with Grief and Melancholy. He Indulges no-more in Jests, or
Laughter, or Conversation. If he Speaks at-all, his words are Words-of Terror or Despair.
His Friends ask why he speaks so-Despondingly, why he is so Melancholy? Have Courage,
they say, your Illness is not Dangerous. They Endeavor-to Inspire Hope and
Cheerfulness, but he is Silent. And how can he be Cheerful, when he Feels his Conscience,
Burdened-with many Sins, Sees that he must soon Appear-before Jesus Christ,
to Give an Account-of his Entire Life, and that he has much-Reason to Fear, that he shall Receive the Sentence-of
Eternal (∞) Death? He will then say:
O Fool that I have been! Oh! that I had Loved God! Had I Loved Him, I should not now find myself in these Straits, in this Anguish.
Oh! that I had Time to Tranquillize the Troubles of my Conscience! Let us Pass-to the Second (2nd) Point.
Oh! that I had Time to Repair the Evil I have done!
But now Time is at an End.
Oh! that I have Time, he will say, to Repair the Past! But, when
will he say this? When the Oil-in the Lamp is Consumed; when he is on the Point-of Entering-into Eternity (∞).
One-of the Greatest Causes-of the Distress and Anguish of the
Careless Christian, at the Hour-of-Death, is the Remembrance-of the Bad Use,
he has made-of the Time, in-which he Ought-to have Acquired Merits for
Heaven, and in-which he has Accumulated Demerits for Hell.
Oh! that I had Time! Do you Seek-for Time? You have Lost
so-many Nights in-Gaming, and so-many Years in-Indulging the
Senses, without ever Thinking-of your Soul; and now you Seek-for Time;
but Time is now no more. "Time shall be no-Longer" - Revelation 10:6.
Were you not already Admonished-by Preachers, to be Prepared-for Death? were you not
Told-that, it would Come-upon you, when you least-expect it? "Be you then also Ready", says Jesus
Christ, "for at what Hour you think not, the Son of Man will come" - Luke 12:40. You have
Despised My Admonitions, and have Voluntarily
Squandered the Time which My Goodness bestowed-upon you, in Spite-of your
Demerits; but now, Time is at an End. Listen-to the Words in-which the Priest that
Assists you, shall Tell you to Depart-from this World, Proficiscere anima Christiana de hoc
mundo. Go forth, Christian Soul from this World. And where shall you go? To Eternity
(∞)!, to Eternity (∞)!.
Death respects neither Parents nor Monarchs; when it comes, it does not Wait, even for a
Moment. "The Days of Man are Short, and the Number of his Months is with Thee: Thou hast Appointed his Bounds, which cannot
be Passed" - Job 14:5.
Oh! what Terror shall the Dying Man feel-at Hearing the Assisting
Priest tell him to Depart-from this World! What Dismay shall he Experience-in saying-within himself,
This Morning I am Living, and this Evening I shall be Dead! Today I am in this House; Tomorrow I shall be in the Grave; and where shall my Soul be
Found? His Terror shall be Increased, when he Sees the Death-Candle Lighted,
and when he Hears the Confessor, order the Relatives to Withdraw-from his Chamber, and to Return-to it, no more. It
shall be still more-Increased, when the Confessor gives him the Crucifix, and tells him
to Embrace it, saying, Embrace Jesus Christ, and Think no more of this World. He takes the
Crucifix and Kisses it; but, in Kissing it, he Trembles-at the Remembrance-of the Many
Injuries which he has Offered-to Jesus Christ. He would now Wish-to Repent
Sincerely-of all his Injuries-to his Savior; but he Sees that his
Repentance is Forced-by the Necessity-of his Approaching Death. "He",
says Saint Augustine, "who is Abandoned by Sin, before he Abandons it, Condemns it not Freely, but through Necessity".
The Common Delusion-of Worldlings is, that Earthly things Appear Great, and that the Things
of Heaven, as being Distant and Uncertain, Appear to-be of Little Value. They regard Tribulations as Insupportable,
and Grievous Sins as Unimportant. The Miserable Beings are as-if they were Shut-up in a Room,
Filled-with Smoke, which Hinders them from Seeing Objects, before their Eyes. But, at the
Hour-of-Death this Darkness shall Vanish, and the Soul shall begin-to See
things in their Real Colors. At that Hour, all Temporal Things, Appear-to be what they Really-are,
Vanity, Lies, and Deception; and the Things-of Eternity
(∞), Assume their True Value. Oh! how Important shall Judgment, Hell,
and Eternity (∞), which are so-much Disregarded
during Life, appear-at the Time-of Death. According, as these shall Begin-to Put-on their True Colors, the
Fear-of the Dying Man shall Increase. "In morte", says Saint Gregory,
"tanto timor fit acrior, quanto retributio vicinior; et quanto vicinius judicium tangitur, tanto vehementius formidator".
The nearer the Sentence-of the Judge approaches, the more Sensible the
Fear-of the Condemnation becomes. Hence the Sick Man will say,
Oh! in what Anguish do I Die! Unhappy me! Oh! that I knew that so Unhappy a Death, Awaited me! You have not known it; but you
Ought-to have Foreseen it; for you Knew that a Good Death, could not be Expected,
after a Wicked Life. But, since I must soon Die, oh! that I could at least , in the
little Time that remains, Tranquillize my Conscience! Let us Pass-to the
Third (3rd) Point.
Oh! that I could, in the Little Time that Remains, Repair the Past!
But, alas! this Time is not Fit for Repairing past Evils.
The Time, Allowed-to Careless Christians, at the
Hour-of-Death, is, for Two (2) Reasons , Unfit-for Tranquillizing the Troubles-of
their Conscience. First (1st), because this Time
is very Short; for at the Commencement, and for some Days during the Progress-of the Disease, the
Sick Man thinks only of Physicians, of Remedies, and of making his Last Will. During that Time, his
Relatives, Friends, and even the Physicians, Deceive him by Holding-out Hopes-of Recovery.
Hence, Deluded-by these Hopes, he will not be able for Some-Time, to Persuade himself that his
Death is at-Hand. When shall he Begin-to Persuade himself that Death is Near? Only, when he shall be at
the very Point-of-Death. This is the Second (2nd) Reason why, that
Time is Unfit-for Repairing the Evils-of the
Soul. At that Time, the Dying Man is Sick-in
Mind, as-well-as in Body. He shall be Assailed-by
Pains-of the Chest, Spasms-in the Head, Debility, and
Delirium. These shall Render him Unable-to make any Effort-to Excite a
True Detestation-of his Past Sins or to Apply-to the
Disorders-of his Past Life, a Remedy which will-Calm the Terrors-of his
Conscience. The News-of his approaching Death will Astound him, to such a Degree,
that he shall be Scarcely Half-alive.
A Person Laboring-under a Severe Headache, which Deprives him of Sleep-for
Two (2) or Three (3)Nights, will not even Attempt-to Dictate a Letter-of Ceremony.
And at Death, when he Feels but-Little, Understands but-Little, and sees only a Confusion-of
Things which Fill him with Terror, the Careless Christian Adjusts a
Conscience, Burdened-with the Sins-of Thirty
(30) or Forty (40) Years. Then, are Verified the Words-of the Gospel, "The Night cometh,
when no Man can Work" - John 9:4. Then his Conscience will say to him: "Now thou canst be
Steward no longer" - Luke 16:2. There is no-more Time for Negotiation; what has been Done, is Done.
"When Distress cometh upon them, they will Seek for Peace and there shall be None. Trouble shall come, upon Trouble" - Ezekiel 7:25-26.
It is often Said-of a Person, that he led a Bad Life, but afterwards
Died a Good Death; that by his Sighs
and Tears, he gave Proofs-of Sincere Repentance. "Morientes
non delieti poenitentia", says Saint Augustine, "sed mortis urgentis admonitio compellit" - Sermon 36. The
Wailing-of such Persons, Proceeds not from Sorrow for their
Sins, but from the Fear-of Imminent Death. He was not
Afraid-of Sinning, says the Holy Doctor, but of
Burning. "Non metuit peccare, sed ardere". Till this Moment, the
Dying Man has Loved Sinful Objects; will he now Detest them? Perhaps he will then
Love them with more-Tenderness; for the Objects-of our Affection, become more Dear-to us, when we are Afraid-of
Losing them. The Celebrated Master-of Saint Bruno, Died-with Signs-of
Repentance; but when Laid-in a Coffin, he said that he was Damned. If, at the
Hour-of-Death, even the Saints complain-that, on-Account-of the State-of the Head, they can Think but-little, of
God, or Make but-little Effort-to Excite Good Acts, how can the
Negligent Christian make these Acts at Death, when he was not in the
Habit-of making them during Life? It may be said that he Appeared-to have a Sincere Sorrow, for the
Wickedness-of his Past Life. But, was his Sorrow, True
Sorrow? The Devil Persuades him that the Wish-to have Sorrow, is
True Sorrow; but he Deceives him. The
Dying Man will say; I am Sorry from the Bottom of my Heart, etc; but these
Words shall come-from a Heart-of Stone. "From the Midst of the Rocks, they shall give forth their
Voices" - Psalm 103:12. But he has Frequently been at Confession, and has Received all the
Sacraments; he has Died, in Perfect Resignation. Ah! the Criminal who goes
to be Executed, appears to be Perfectly Resigned; but why? Because he cannot Escape-from the Officers-of Justice, who
bring him in-Chains, to the Place-of Execution.
O Moment, on which Eternity (∞)
depends! This Moment, made the Saints Tremble at the
Hour-of-Death, and made them Exclaim, O God! where shall I be in a Few Hours?"
"Sometimes", says Saint Gregory, "the Soul of even the Just Man, is Disturbed by the Terror
of Vengeance". What then, shall the Careless Christian, who has Disregarded
God, feel, when he sees the Scaffold-prepared, on-which he must Die?
"His Eyes shall See his own Destruction, and he shall Drink of the Wrath of the Almighty" - Job 21:20. He shall See with
his own Eyes, Death Prepared-for his Soul, and shall from that
Moment, begin-to Feel the Anger-of the Lord. The
Viaticum which he must Receive, the Extreme Unction which will be Administered-to him, the
Crucifix which is Placed-in his Hands, the Recommendations-of the Soul which is Read-by the Assisting Priest,
the Lighting-of the Blessed Candle; all these shall Form the Scaffold-of Divine Justice. The Poor
Sick Man Perceives-that he is already-in a Cold Sweat, that he can no-longer Move or Speak, that his Respiration has Begun-to
Fail; in a Word, he Sees that the Moment-of Death is at-hand, he Sees his Soul,
Defiled-with Sins, the Judge waiting-for him;
Hell Burning-under his Feet; and in his Confusion-of
Darkness and Terror, he shall Enter-into Eternity
"O that they would be Wise and would Understand, and would Provide-for their Last End" - Deuteronomy 32:29.
Behold, Dearly Beloved Brethren, how the Holy Ghost Exhorts us to Provide now , for the Terrible
Straits and Distress by which we shall be Encompassed-at Death,
and to Adjust at -Present the Accounts which we must Render-to God; for it
will be then Impossible-to Settle these Accounts, so-as-to Save our
- End of Liguori Sermon -
My Crucified Jesus,
I will not Wait till Death to Embrace Thee;
I Embrace Thee at this Moment.
I Love Thee above all things;
and because I Love Thee,
I Repent with my Whole Heart
of all the Offences and Insults
I have Offered to Thee,
Who art Infinite Goodness;
and I Purpose and Hope, with Thy Grace,
to Love Thee always,
and Never-more to Offend Thee.
Through the Merits of Thy Passion
I ask Thee to Assist me.