Posted by: wordofthevine | March 26, 2015

At Our Last Breath…Finding Ourselves Surrounded By the Light!

Besides offering spiritual direction in person and via SKYPE and traveling to offer retreats, I work as a part-time chaplain for a community hospice. I couOXYGEN VOLUME 13nsel the dying and their families and I often attend them as they are dying. I am remembering one experience that I had sitting at the bedside of a woman with her family as she was dying. At this 11th hour, people often have a foot in both worlds, here on Earth and in Heaven. This woman was talking to her grandmother, who had died many years before and she was seeing the Virgin Mary who must have been accompanying her at this hour of her death. I was remembering one of our conversations as I was witnessing this sacred moment. As she was dying, the woman was grasping the large Miraculous Medal that I had given her. I recalled in our past conversation when I handed her the medal that she was remarking about one of her family members who had left the Catholic Faith. The woman was sharing how beautiful Catholicism was to her and how blessed she had always felt to be Catholic and to have the Blessed Mother and the Eucharist.

As she was dying, as I was sitting with her now, she began to become fearful as she talked to the circle of her family that were apparently joining her as she was making the transition from life on Earth. All of a sudden, she looked up in distress and proclaimed, “But, I don’t want to see him or talk to him. She seemed to recoil from something or someone. I reassured her family that many times as a person passes they are moving towards a great and intensely loving light. Sometimes, we see the fruits of our own life on Earth with uncanny clarity which can be painful.

I began to consider purgatory as I witnessed this woman’s distress at the moment of passing. Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. says in The Three Ages of the Interior Life, that we have to develop “proximate disposition…to receive the light of glory immediately after death without passing through purgatory. Purgatory is a punishment which presupposes a sin that could have been avoided, and an insufficient satisfaction that could have been completed if we had accepted with better dispositions the sufferings of the present life. No one will be detained in purgatory except for sins he could have avoided or for negligence in making reparation for them. Normally, purgatory should be spent in this life while meriting, while growing in love, instead of after death without merit.”

While, I would never attempt to judge the quality of this woman’s dispositions towards God, for in her life she had endured many sufferings and continued to love God, her movement to avoid something at her death made me reflect. What is the quality of my own soul and how rectified am I in going towards the Cross to love those who have hurt me? I was left with a desire to cultivate a generous heart and to welcome suffering, not seek it, when it comes to me. All of this could allow me and each one of us to hold nothing back from the Lord, to freely entrust ourselves to His merciful love here and now and at the hour of our death. What is your plan to grow in holiness the remainder of Lent this year. When we learn to love and offer the present moment of internal rub or pain for the very one causing it, we grow in merit and make up for many sins. That way, at our last breath, we will not fear seeing anyone! Let us go full steam ahead in the spiritual life, trusting not in our own merits, but in the merciful and abiding love of God. ~ Mary


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