Tag Archives: death




Sylvester, born of a noble family at Osimo, in Picenum, was remarkable, even as a boy, for his keen intelligence and upright conduct. Being duly instructed in sacred learning and made a Canon, he benefited his people by his example and his sermons. At the funeral of a relative, who was also a nobleman and a very handsome person, on seeing the disfigured corpse in the open tomb, he said: “What this man was, I am now; what he is now, I shall be.”


He soon retired to a lonely place with the desire for greater perfection, and there spent himself in vigils, prayer and fasting. To hide himself better from men, he kept changing his dwelling place. At length, he arrived at Monte Fano, at that time a solitary place, built a church in honour of St Benedict and laid the foundations of the Congregation of Sylvestrines. There he strengthened the monks with his wonderful holiness. He shone with the spirit of prophecy, and possessed power over the demons and other gifts, which he always tried to hide with deep humility. He fell asleep in the Lord in the year of salvation 1267.


Most merciful God, who, when the holy Abbot Sylvester was devoutly meditating upon the vanity of this world beside an open grave, graciously willed to call him into the desert and enrich him with unusual merits, we humbly pray that, following his example, despising the things of earth, we may thoroughly enjoy your everlasting presence. Through our Lord…

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964


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Divine Jesus, Incarnate Son of God, Who for my salvation didst vouchsafe to be born in a stable, to pass thy life in poverty, trials, and misery, and to die amid the sufferings of the Cross, I entreat thee, say to thy Divine Father, at the hour of my death: “Father, forgive him,” say to thy beloved Mother: “Behold thy son,” and to my soul: “This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”

My God, my God, forsake me not in that hour. I thirst, yes, my soul thirsts after thee, who art the fountain of living waters. My life passes like a shadow; yet a little while, and all will be consummated. Wherefore my adorable Saviour! from this moment, for all eternity, into thy hands I commend my spirit. Lord Jesus, receive my soul. Amen.

[His Holiness Pope Pius IX., by a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Indulgences, June 10th, 1856, confirmed an Indulgence of three hundred days, to be gained by all the faithful every time that they shall say the foregoing with contrite heart and devotion.] 

– From: St Anthony’s Treasury, 1916


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Francis,the fourth Duke of Gandia, first shone as an example of upright life at the court of the Emperor Charles V. When he escorted the body of the Empress Isabella to Granada for burial, seeing in her countenance, so horribly changed by corruption, the fate of all mortals, he bound himself by a vow to abandon all things and to serve only the King of kings.


Therefore, after the death of his wife, Eleanor of Castile, he entered the Society of Jesus. He was chosen by St Ignatius as Commissary-General for Spain, and a little later, though against his will, he was selected as the third Prepositor General of the whole Society. Pope Pius V appointed him an associate of Cardinal Allessandrino in an embassy to unite Christian princes against the Turks. Francis undertook this arduous journey and, nevertheless, happily completed his life’s course at Rome, as he would have wished, in the year of salvation 1572. He was added to the number of the saints by Clement X.


O Lord Jesus Christ, model of true humility and its reward, we beseech you, that as you made blessed Francis one of your glorious imitators by his contempt for earthly honours, grant us to follow his example and to share in his glory. Who live…

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964


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Alas! we always forget that the object of our love is beloved also by another, and that God is called in the Holy Scriptures a jealous God. In our affections we forget Him Who loves more than all creatures together, and Who, lest they should find any reason to complain of Him, has willed to die for them, eternal as He was by His nature. Raise your eyes to the regions of infinite love, there you will find the secret of your tears. You will see wrapped in the embrace of God the soul which divided itself so equally between God and you, that not even the attractions of Heaven would have torn it from you, if it had not received an indisputable order. You will see the reason of this command, which seems so cruel, and understand how the beauty of a Christian soul enraptures Him Who became its Spouse by baptism.


Unhappy that we are, we do not believe these divine mysteries! We call birth and life by the name of death; we make a tomb of the portal of heaven, we weep there, like men who have no hope?

– Lacordaire, from Laverty & Sons (eds), Leeds, 1905


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This new website has been set up by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Sections include: What is dying well? Talking about death. Facing death personally. Losing a loved one. Caring for the dying. The address of this new website is (external link).


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What joy when the soul, freed from the bonds of the flesh, rises triumphant above the clouds, and, passing the starry barrier, presents itself at the gate of heaven!

What joy to cross for the first time the sacred threshold of the heavenly home! The angels and saints going forth to meet the soul, pressing around it, offering it glad congratulations.

What joy to recognise in this happy company so many friends and dear relatives, our glorious patrons, our holy protectors, and, above all, Jesus and Mary!

– Laverty & Sons (eds), 1905


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Most people fear death in a greater or less degree, however much they may outwardly conceal the fact. And if we ask the reason why they should fear it, the reason is not far to seek. Death is a punishment of sin. It was the penalty that was attached by God Himself to the first transgression of His law. To our first parents, Adam and Eve, He said: “In the day thou eatest of it, thou shalt die the death.” He was speaking, of course, “of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste brought death into the world and all our woe”, as Milton says in the opening lines of his Paradise Lost. For this reason we shrink from it and all its circumstances – the coffin, the corruption, the worms, all so many marks and signs of our fallen condition. Disease, old age with its disabilities, the natural decay and loss of our faculties are its normal forerunners and are invested with the same reproach as testimonies to our being originally born in sin.

The older you get, the more real death becomes 

When you were still going, you did not think about death. It was almost impossible for you to envisage it. When you were older death became more real, and if it were a disturbing thought perhaps you turned hastily away from the grim spectre. When you become old, if you are not so already, its approach will be so near that you can hardly avoid thinking of it and the thought of it may, though it need not, have a paralytic effect on you.

Looking death straight in the face

The wise thing to do at all times in your life is to look death straight in the face, for the thought of it is a deterrent from sin – a much greater evil. But your consideration of death must not be morbid, but sane and calm. Acknowledge it to be a frightening thing but accept it, as a punishment of sin, in entire resignation to God’s will. Offer it, in advance, as often as the thought of it occurs, as an expiation for all your sins, and unite it with the death of Our Lord on the Cross. In this way you will ensure a happy death, one that will be full of consolation and hope for the actual moment of its happening. The fears and anxieties that during life may come to you at the thought of death are indeed veritable sufferings, but united to our Blessed Redeemer’s sufferings they can be converted into so many acts of penance that will bring their certain reward in not only procuring you a happy and peaceful death but in winning for you great merit in heaven. So the naturally disturbing thought of death can by degrees become a consoling one, seeing that it can be the means of immense spiritual gain.

“Watch and pray, for ye know not the day nor the hour”

But there is another consideration that can help to rob death of its terrors. After it, our destiny will be fixed for eternity. There will then be no more chance of doing penance and no more chance of practising virtue, of being patient under the daily annoyances and troubles of life, of exercising charity in the many ways and opportunities that offer themselves every single day, of acquiring merit and hoarding up treasure in heaven. Death is the end of our trial and probation; and death may come at any time, be we young, middle-aged, or old. “Watch and pray,” Our Blessed Lord said, “for ye do not know the day nor the hour.”

“While it is day”

The thought of death therefore should be the stimulus to instant action. We recall the words of Our Lord, “I must work the works of Him who sent me, while it is day,” and again He said, “The night cometh when no one can work” (John 9:4). The night is, of course, death. Let us then make Our Lord’s word ours, act upon them at once, now, to-day and every day. Let us work as it were against time. There is a Tuscan proverb that runs: “Pray as if you had to die to-day, work as if you had to live for aye.” If we live in this spirit, how faithful we shall be to our prayers, how constant in our frequentation of the sacraments, how often we shall turn to God during the day offering our work with a renewed intention of doing it all for Him, how careful and assiduous we shall be in doing that work, whatever it be, for we shall know that we are doing His will, the complete doing of which is the summit of all perfection. To those who live in this spirit, death when it comes will only be the end of a long day of toil and service in the interests of our dear Lord and Master, who will know how to console, bless, and reward His faithful servant. Death for such a one will have lost its terrors. This is the consolation of those who “live and die in the Lord”.

The joy of having finally made it all the way through the valley of the shadow of death

Yet though we have a natural dread of death, there is another sure way of getting rid of its terrors, and it is one that every good Catholic can acquire. To those who have a great and true love of God, who have thought and meditated upon His perfections – His goodness, His beauty, His lovableness, and the rest, all of which He has in an infinite and ineffable degree – to those who have come so to love Him that nothing and nobody apart from God has any attractions for them except in so far as they lead them to an ever-increasing love for God and an ever-growing desire to possess Him, to such souls death is not a dread, it is only the unfolding of the gate that gives entrance to the full vision of Him.

Why should they fear now that they are freed from the prison-house? 

One of our English poets has described us as “the prisoners of death”, but death can hold us only on this earth. When death comes for those who love God above all things, it is the beginning of their true life. While on this earth, all their aspirations and hopes have been directed to the unseen world, why should they fear now they are freed from the prison-house? Their heart has long been in heaven and the Treasure they most prize is there; there is their King and their Lord, their dearest and unfailing friend; and there too is their Mother Mary, and with her, the angels and the saints, the very élite of God’s creation. The soul in love with God has all this in mind and so is detached from all earthly things and ever looks to the world to come.

Our dearest and unfailing friend

Death reminds us to grow in this love of God, to love ever more entirely for Him, continually to push out self-love so that He may find room to wholly possess us.

It is not difficult for a good Catholic to arrive at a pure love of God, loving Him for Himself alone and His ineffable goodness. The thought alone that the greatest pain of the damned in hell is the loss of this Infinite Good is enough to convince our intellect and to stir our will, so that (as has been pointed out in another conference) we love Him with the whole of our minds and our hearts. Fear, such as the thought of hell may inspire, is – especially in the initial stages of conversion, as St Augustine points out in his Confessions – a motive for serving God; but this fear should by degrees give way to love, so that love becomes the dominating motive in our lives and sanctifies them as nothing else can.

It is then that we shall be able with all sincerity to say with St Paul, quoting from the prophet Osee [Hosea], “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (1Cor. 15:55).

– From: Lift Up Your Hearts, Christopher J. Wilmot, S.J., The Catholic Book Club, London, 1949


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“I know a young family that experienced the tragic death of their little daughter at the age of 18 months. The convention of our time is to deny death, to pretend it isn’t happening, to sanitise it, to make sure it only happens in hospitals and to hide it in funeral homes.

The convention of our time is to deny death

But the little girl’s parents defied these conventions and insisted on bringing their child home to their house for a wake. In making that choice, they were observing an old Irish tradition. In traditional neighbourhoods, the family, friends and neighbours of a person who was dying spent time with them, maybe speaking to them, maybe in silence, maybe praying together, and after they died, this process continued, people praying in silence or talking to each other, eating and drinking and celebrating the life of the person who had just left them. That tradition of the wake is a recognition of the continuation of life into and beyond death.

Precious hours

The child’s parents were glad of those precious hours with their child, that ‘waking’ time, with the house full of friends and neighbours and family. When their baby was taken to the church, and from there to her burial place, the family continued to talk to her and kept doing so for a long time afterwards. They would light a candle sometimes, to represent her and as a way of keeping in touch with her, and in that way, the child the family has lost continues to have a presence in their home. Their beloved child has never left them and they never left her.”

– St Stan Kennedy in Now is the Time , quoted in Saint Martin Magazine, issue July 2014. For subscriptions please visit (external link)


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Question: My aunt is nearing the end of her life but is still conscious and enjoying the company of her family. Unfortunately, some of her relatives think that it would frighten her to call the priest for the last rites, though she has been a devout Catholic all her life.

Answer by Fr Tim: The inaccurate term ‘last rites’ causes unnecessary worries. Priests regularly visit people in hospital to give Holy Communion and to minister the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. When a person begins to approach the end of life through illness, the time has come to receive the sacrament of anointing.

The Church insists that it is not necessary to leave this to the last minute because the sick person may receive great consolation and strength from the sacrament as their death approaches, even if this is gradually over a period of time. As a devout Catholic, your aunt would certainly want to receive the sacraments of anointing and would greatly benefit from the opportunity to receive the sacraments of penance and Holy Communion while she is still conscious and before she has to spend more of the time under sedation or powerful pain-relieving drugs.

Relatives who have little or no faith often mistakenly think that a sick person will be frightened by the attendance of a priest. It is often their own fear that is in play, since the priest reminds them of the eternal truths which they have tried to ignore, and prefer not to talk about.

The visit of a priest can help to create a greater honesty in communication as death approaches, so that there is not a conspiracy of silence in which your dying aunt cannot speak of her own mortality because of the frailty of her relatives in discussing such things. The visit of a priest can gently help her relatives to overcome such a barrier.

The prayers of the sacrament of anointing are entirely suitable for the time when death is approaching, but not immediately imminent. When death is near, the Apostolic Blessing, with the plenary indulgence and the Commendation of the Dying, are among the most beautiful prayers in the treasury of the Church.”

– This article by Fr Tim Finigan was published in the Catholic Herald newspaper, issue November 28 2014. For subscriptions please visit (external link)


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“St Therese’s activity on behalf of the Missions has not ended with her death. Her letters to her Brother Missionaries throb with the expectancy of how far more effective she will be on their behalf in Heaven.

If I am leaving the battlefield it is not with the selfish desire of taking my repose

‘I count on not being idle in Heaven, for it is my wish to continue to work for the Church, and for souls. I ask this grace from God and I am certain He will grant it. So you see, if I am leaving the battlefield it is not with the selfish desire of taking my repose.

I will teach you how best to sail the world’s tempestuous sea – with the self-surrender of a child

‘When I myself have reached the port I will teach you how best to sail the world’s tempestuous sea – with the self-surrender of a child well aware of its father’s love and of his vigilance in the hours of danger.

Brother, I am so happy to die – because, far more than on earth, I shall help the souls I hold dear. O what joy when comes the happy hour of going Home! I shall not die – I do but enter into life and whatsoever I cannot tell you here upon earth I will make you understand from the heights of Heaven.’

What attracts me to the Homeland of Heaven is the call of Jesus

But more fully still she writes: ‘What attracts me to the Homeland of Heaven is the call of Jesus, the hope that I may at last love Him as I have so longed to love Him, and the thought that I shall bring a multitude of souls to love Him, who will bless Him for all eternity. Brother, you will not have time to send me the list of things I can do for you in Heaven, but I guess them; and in any case you will have but to whisper them and I shall hear you and faithfully bear your messages to Our Lord, to our Immaculate Mother, to the Angels and the Saints you love.’

Till the Angel shall have said: ‘Time is no more.’

Her work for the Missions still continues, and there is every evidence that it will continue, as she prophesied it would, until the end of time.

‘I feel that my mission is about to begin – to make others love God as I love Him – to teach souls my Little Way. I will spend my Heaven in doing good on earth. This is not impossible, for the Angels keep watch over us while they enjoy the Beatific Vision. No, there can be no rest for me till the end of the world – till the Angel shall have said: ‘Time is no more.’ Then shall I take my rest, then shall I be able to rejoice because the number of the elect will be complete.’

These striking words were spoken during her last illness, 17 July 1897, less than three months before she died. Sure of the unfailing support of our Saint, whom Our Lord through His Church has specially given us as our Patroness in these difficult times, the Church in the Mission Field can look forward with quiet confidence to the days that lie ahead.”

– From “The Little Way Association” booklet, Issue No 94 – Little Way Association, London. Internet contact: (external link)


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