Gathering Up Thoughts on a Friday

_MG_0665 (2)

It’s been a while, hasn’t it! Time to gather my thoughts at a leisurely pace . . .

I guess the thoughts most prevalent on my mind are springing from the book Raise Happy Children . . . Teach them Virtues! by Mary Ann Budnick. It was lent to me over a month ago but unfortunately remained buried in our car until earlier this week (with all the November-themed talk of death and burial over here, I suppose it’s appropriate I buried my books as well), when I finally un-earthed it. “Ah! Right! This book!”

Smilingly, I curled up and embarked on the introduction, expecting to absorb a wealth of ideas for raising my future children–and instead I got a mirror. A massive, clear, glinting mirror. The pursuit of virtues: the real, solid, burning desire of the will to grow in specific virtues: do I have this? The unfogged perception and understanding of this one and only path to sanctity: do I possess this?

My answer was, to be honest, more of a squeak than anything.

It is not enough to have some sort of desire of virtue and perfection . . . The greater the love and desire of the end, the greater the care and diligence that are employed to gain it. Thus it is very important that the desire and affection for virtue and perfection be great, since the care and diligence in securing and gaining it will be great in proportion . . . where the desire of advancement in perfection is not found, there will be very little hope.

-St. Alphonsus Rodriguez

It’s tricky to write about; the more spiritually honest my thoughts become, the more useless and limp words seem in describing it all. Virtues–virtuous living–I know these words, and I thought I knew their importance. But I think I was mistakenly, and possibly unconsciously, viewing virtues as the byproduct of a saintly living (She is holy, and so look at how virtuous her life is) rather than as the fulcrum, the definition, the foundation of saintly living at all (She is virtuous, and so look at how holy her life is). This a subtle but tremendous difference. Tremendous.

Attending Sunday Mass or even daily Mass, saying the daily rosary and frequenting the sacrament of confession {do} not eradicate . . . vices. Oh, that it could be that easy! These are all sources of God’s supernatural grace that can help us in our ongoing battle to eradicate our vices. But it takes our will to conquer our selfishness, pride, vanity, gluttony, thoughtlessness, jealousy, etc. so as to replace these vices with the natural virtues (good habits) of spirit of service, humility, temperance, kindness, justice, etc.

Raise Happy Children . . . Teach them Virtues! by Mary Ann Budnick

My dominant temperament (sanguine) is the most superficial of them all. Naturally, I would at times love to have a different temperament; to possess the intensity, concentration, intelligence, focus and passion for achievement of the choleric instead of all my surface-level delights, and my natural lack of penetration and depth when it comes to learning, comprehending, and acting on things. And yet, as with anything else that is inherent to my person, I accept my temperament as something God-given, something chosen for me, something I am capable of refining and perfecting through the practice of virtues. Fortunately, I can see where, through God’s grace, my temperament has already been refined somewhat from its natural faults–and yet I can certainly see how far I have left to go.

In the realm of my spiritual life, having strong sanguine tendencies translates to my being easily impressed by a thought, resolution, or a truth–and yet the impressions do not remain long; it translates to my being easily inspired and aroused–and yet I lose interior perseverance once the initial firestorm of excitement has died down. It is my natural inclination to run after new spiritual goals and practices, and yet to be all the while attuned to the sensory, sensual, exterior things of life that consistently hinder my progress due to my very attachment to them. Clothes; appearances; food; smells; comfort; entertainment; mental idleness . . . The more I’m attached to pleasing my senses (as a sanguine temperament is strongly wont to do), the foggier I become in my perception of my real spiritual state. It happens every time.

The interior life should be one of continual conversion, one of falling and rising, one of constantly pursuing a goal, one of desire. While reading the introductory pages of this book, I knew I had lost more of that desire than I wanted to admit. Christ vomits the lukewarm from His mouth. And while I do care, I do want to be a saint–as of late, I’ve felt as though I’ve had buckets of good intentions and yet am walking through a fog, not really knowing where I am. While Confession itself is relatively easy for me because it is, naturally, not so painful for me to disclose myself to others and I truly desire absolution and sanctifying grace for my soul . . . examining my conscience and grasping my sins is inherently difficult because of my lack of penetration and my struggle for depth and perception. Hence the fog that descends at times. Where am I?

However, the opening pages of this book confronted me with something so simple and so profound. My holiness and happiness depend entirely (apart from God’s grace) on my practice of the virtues and my mortification of the vices.

And it’s as simple as that.

It is harder toil to resist vices and passions, than to sweat in bodily labors. He that avoideth not small faults, by little and little falleth into greater. Thou wilt always rejoice in the evening, if thou spend the day profitably. Be watchful over thyself, stir up thyself, warn thyself, and whatsoever becometh of others, neglect not thyself. The more violent thou uses against thyself, the more shalt thou progress.

-Thomas a Kempis

Somehow, distilling my entire spiritual life down to “Nothing within me is stagnant, and I am always either progressing in virtue, or regressing in vice,” radically changed my entire perspective. Distilling the inevitably cliched phrases “growing in holiness” and “pleasing God” down to “actively pursuing the virtues” cleared my fog. It translated my “good intentions” into “the actions I must make.”

One thing in particular that has helped me initially was the observation made in Chapter 1 that daily mortification of the senses is vital for the sanguine’s spiritual life. Not the hair shirt, per se, but little things (which are often much more difficult than the big ones). In recently focusing on growing in virtue and practicing mortification, I’ve begun to realize how there is a staggering number of little promptings that come from the Holy Ghost during my day; promptings to deny myself something that my senses would enjoy. Already, it is impossible to ignore how a small mortification of the senses (one that no one else would even notice) primes me in my pursuit the virtues of temperance, prudence and fortitude. An act of self-denial equates to a growth in spiritual strength. I’m starting to see there’s a potential mortification to be found even in an indulgence . . . you can enjoy something with others, and yet still exercise a mastery over yourself by quietly forgoing an element that would seem to make it perfect.

I have also noticed that it really does become a contest; a race; something that enlivens you, where you experience a sense of competitiveness and determination. What can I mortify today? What virtue can I seek after?

I’m hoping to keep a notebook or something to begin a concrete tracking of my virtues and vices, although I have a poor record when it comes to consistently journaling anything. It will call for the virtue of fortitude and perseverance, I’m thinking 😉

Virtue–even attempted virtue–brings light; indulgence brings fog.

-C. S. Lewis

* * *

But to move on! Yesterday, I read an article on motherhood by Michele Chronister that was, quite sincerely, the best article I’ve read in quite a while. I cherish the hope of being a mother one day, a stay-at-home-because-I-love-the-home mother, and she stated in such tender and gentle ways the beauty of that hidden vocation.

If you were to read my resumé, you would read about my experience as a catechist, a speaker, a writer, and a social media manager. When I encounter people outside of our family and they ask what I have been working on, they aren’t asking me how many diapers I changed that day, or how many tearful faces I stroked. They’re curious what book I’m working on, what my latest article is, or if I’ve done any speaking lately.

And so, it is hard to reconcile the fact that my most important job – the job that fully absorbs my heart and my thoughts and the vast majority of my waking and sleeping hours – is not one that is seen as important or interesting by the culture we’re living in. Adding to this confusion is the fact that the women of my generation were all raised to believe that we could “do it all” – we could work, be mothers, have a social life…and be successful in all those areas. The reality is that motherhood compels me and draws me like no other job does. No matter what my other accomplishments may be, they just don’t grab my heart the way those four little souls do.

* * *

_MG_0633 (2)

Above: Beautiful roses representing a continuously beautiful and blessed courtship 🙂 God has been so good to us and our growing relationship as we continue to make strides, and we received several pieces of wonderful news this week that display His Fatherly Providence over us, and especially the motherly intercession of Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom on our behalf, after our having made a novena in her honor the week before. Lots of gratitude in our little corner of the world!

* * *

We celebrated two birthdays in the Donellan household this week, which accounts for some of my “blog silence,” and it’s really just been a wonderful and blessed few days, all around! It’s hard to believe my brother is fourteen years old, taller and bigger than me . . . sniff . . . however, as my dad has always been taller and bigger than me, I don’t have quite the same nostalgia (wink), but he reached the milestone of 50 and it was so much fun celebrating the gift he is to our family as our leader, provider and protector!

However, all these birthday bashes included . . . you guessed correctly . . . a small overdose slightly increased amount of sugar. Ah, well, I think we’re arriving at that point in the year where temperance will just have to be fought for as best we can . . . as in . . . we’re baking four pies and a cake next week. I shall only have a few bites 🙂

* * *

I made the venture and drove downtown with Lena earlier this week for the first time. I am a full-blooded country mouse who loves trees, hills, winding roads and small towns, and would much prefer to never live in the city if I didn’t have to.

However, it was fun to expand my driving skills, especially for such a momentous occasion as contributing to Lena’s book cover and being treated to lunch and laughs by some great friends. And Lena is a great shotgun rider, by the way. We were able to have in-depth spiritual conversations and yet navigate an angry driver, unexpectedly closed blocks (agh) and one-way streets thanks to her adept usage of my cell phone, making helpful suggestions and never questioning my judgment 🙂

* * *

I have been considering Christmas gifts more deeply this week, and crafting one upcoming birthday gift which I hope to make a blog post about soon. However, we’ve chosen not to shoot for having everything done before Advent after all. Since we wind up ordering a lot of things online for Christmas anyway, we don’t really experience a mad rush of having to go out and find gifts during Advent, and so it seemed that trying to fit in our gift-acquiring before Advent would only cause unnecessary stress. Still, as that holy season approaches, I shall still try to remain ahead of the game and attempt to grow a little more in the virtues prudence and industry 😉

Have a very blessed Friday and feast of St. Gregory the Wonderworker, and let’s keep remembering to pray and make sacrifices for the Holy Souls in Purgatory!

Latinsig2

 

Advertisements

“To the Lord I Will Tender My Promise” (Reading through the Catholic Solemn Rite of Betrothal)

Caminade

The Solemn Rite of Betrothal – PDF

It’s a drizzly gray Autumn afternoon, I’ve got a drainage cough for my new best friend and a near-empty cup of lemon water at my elbow, and so it’s high time to blog about something cheerful and interesting!

In my stats, I’ve been noticing over the past few months that some readers are coming across Benedic rather frequently by entering terms such as “betrothal” and “Catholic betrothal” into their search engine of choice. Now, I’ve only written about the Rite of Betrothal once before, which was last October, and I was only just starting to warm up to the whole blogging thing. In that post, I was more focused on the “why” behind betrothal and I didn’t actually describe the Rite in much detail. Not . . . exactly . . . helpful.

Now, as regular readers know, I’m not betrothed and have never been through this Rite personally, but that doesn’t prevent me from oogling over its beauty and being desirous of it for the future! So, for the sake of being helpful (and for oh-so-selflessly blogging about something I love), I thought I would actually write a post that walks you through this beautiful Rite, in case you are interested in it, or know of a couple who might be.

(All images below are taken directly from the free PDF, linked above, courtesy of Laudete Dominum.)

The Processional

Bet1

My comments: This first page already says so much. “It is most fitting that the ceremony take place before the altar of God.” This phrase alone reminds me of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar: I will go in unto the altar of God; to God, Who giveth joy to my youth! And that’s exactly what the couple seeking to be betrothed is doing; they are going, together, unto the altar of God, Who has blessed their youth with so much joy by destining them for the Holy Sacrament of Marriage.

And then Psalm 126 . . . “To the Lord I will tender my promise in the presence of all His people.” In the presence of all His people. It is taught that every vocation is a gift not only from God to the creature (privately), but also from God to His Church as a whole (publicly). The engaged couple is about to witness before their priest and, presumably, their parish community (representing the Church as a whole) their solemn intention to enter into the vocation God has given them–not only for their own good, but for the good of the Church. In my mind, this is a supremely beautiful way to begin your engagement.

The entire psalm, by the way, appears to be a lovely summation of the marriage the engaged couple looks forward to; it speaks of the domestic church, the companionship of marriage, the labor of building and providing for a family and–most beautifully–the gift of children.

The Allocution

Bet2

My comments: This Allocution . . . oh, it makes me so excited, even as I sit here sniffling away. If God ordains I am betrothed one day, I will be completely beside myself at the privilege of hearing these amazing words spoken to my future fiance and I!

A favorite part: “In the time that intervenes, you will prepare for the sacrament of matrimony by a period of virtuous courtship, so that when the happy and blessed day arrives for you to give yourselves irrevocably to each other, you will have laid a sound spiritual foundation for long years of godly prosperity on earth and eventual blessedness together in the life to come.” Our Holy Mother Church gets it. That’s all I can say. Every engaged couple needs to hear these words from their priest, in the Presence of Christ in the tabernacle and of their parish family!

Exchanging the Promise

Bet3

My comments: Oh . . . oh . . . (ecstasy) . . .

These words speak for themselves. And I particularly love how the woman takes the beautifully feminine “following” role and, rather than speaking the words all over again for herself, instead lovingly agrees to the words her fiance has already spoken. That is spot-on.

And then, the priest places his stole in the form of the cross over their clasped hands and blesses them, declaring their betrothal! (Ecstasy . . .)

Blessing/Receiving the Engagement Ring

Bet4

My comments: What makes the bestowal of the engagement ring so beautiful is that it very closely mirrors what will happen in the traditional Marriage Service. In this instance, the man begins on the index finger of the woman (in the Marriage Service, he’ll begin on her thumb, so as to incorporate the “Amen” on her ring finger, which in the Rite of Betrothal is left unsaid), and, in a most sacred way, consecrates their betrothal to the Most Holy Trinity.

And then comes what is possibly the most beautiful part of all: the priest opens the missal (the missal!) to the Canon and presents the image of the Crucifixion to be kissed. The engaged couple kisses and accepts the symbol of their approaching married love: the Cross!

Scripture Readings

Bet5

My comments: Needless to say, these readings thrill my heart. They are simply perfect, and for the now-betrothed couple, they are a preparation and strengthening for the final months left to them before they can be married, during which time holy purity must be preserved as excitement and mutual closeness escalates. “If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love . . . These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be filled. This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.”

Final Blessing

Bet6

My comments: And now we come to the end of the Rite, which proves to be equally beautiful and moving as was the beginning!

These words of blessing, administered by the priest, gently foreshadow what the couple will, before too long, hear at the end of their Nuptial Mass:

May the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob be with you: and Himself fulfill His blessing on you: that you may see your children’s children even to the third and fourth generation; and thereafter possess life everlasting, by the aid of our Lord.

And finally, the document signed by the couple says all there needs to be said: May the divine Spirit with His grace and manifold gifts enlighten our minds and move our wills to spend the days of our engagement soberly, piously, and justly, awaiting the blessed consummation of that union to which we have been called and to which we are solemnly pledged. In Thee, O Lord, do we put our trust. Let us nevermore be confounded.

I hope you enjoyed this more detailed perusal as much as I did (or, at least, nearly as much . . . 😉 ) Have a lovely rest of your day!

Latinsig2

7 Rambling Monday Takes :: Vol. 6

MondayTakes

Read previous installments here!

1.

In fact, today’s takes are probably not going to be that rambling at all (I know, I know; be still your beating hearts . . .), since I employed much of my brain energy putting together today’s earlier post (which I had begun crafting weeks ago . . . sigh) but did not want to let another Monday go by without putting in an installment to my beloved series.

But speaking of today’s earlier post, I realized belatedly that it was my 100th post on this blog! Not that it makes it intrinsically any more special than the 99th or the 101st, but still . . . 100 is a teensy bit of an exciting number. So here’s to hundreds more!

2.

I’m determined it’s not another cold. It’s seasonal allergies (and honestly, it probably is, since I felt my sinuses start to get . . . interesting . . . while outside a few evenings ago). But whatever it happens to be, I just finished employing the assistance of a whole box of tissues. And . . . it the box was quite full this morning. I don’t think any more visceral descriptions of my current state are needed. I’m off shortly to do another sinus rinse. Unfortunately, however, my nose has that very raw feeling which means it’s going to start peeling before I know it. Sigh. A peeling nose. What more could I ask for? C’est la vie.

3.

War and Peace! I am still reading it, I’ll have you know; although I wound up having to start over to get my bearings after a slight absence due to busyness (I mean, I’m introduced to what feels like 25 people in the first three scenes), but over the past few days I plowed through 40 or so pages and am certainly engrossed.

I’ll admit, I’m rather of unused to reading a novel (classic though it is) that isn’t grounded in a Catholic mentality–being that all my recent favorite fiction has tended to be Catholic fiction–and so it’s an opportunity for me to observe the morals (or lack thereof) so far displayed in this sweeping tale and ponder, Where will their choices lead? Will they regret them? Will they improve? It’s very interesting, and is definitely going to prove to be a moral tale, for better or worse. As an aside, Tolstoy does a marvelous job of making me both like and deeply pity Pierre simultaneously from the very first instant.

4.

This morning, I embarked on making some concrete personal plans for Christmas gift-giving (since our family expectations are still in full swing for having all those things completed by the start of Advent). To be specific, it was a budget and outline, typed up neatly in my neat and businesslike fashion, complete with indentations, italics and bolding.

I tend to get serious and slow when planning spending, since my temperament has been heralded by many experts to be the least trustworthy with a checkbook. Initially, these cold observations rather hurt my sanguine feelings ( 😉 ) but at the same time, I fully recognize that it does take a little extra up-front prevention on my end to prove them wrong.

I also did some fun initial perusing and brainstorming for potential gift ideas, of course . . . I pity the people who aren’t Catholic and Christmas. Being Catholic at Christmas makes gift-choosing all so much more delightful.

This year, for gift-giving in our household, we are going draw names among us four siblings; meanwhile, Mom and Dad will both buy us Donellan offspring each a gift, bringing our total gifts to three a piece (an acceptably simple and pleasantly symbolic number), while the four of us kids are each going to pitch in on a gift for Mom and for Dad, and of course we’ll also be getting things for our grandmother and assorted friends.

I feel the need to draw a diagram.

Yes, it’s slightly more complex than the lovely simplicity of last year . . . but what can you say when Mom says she wants to get everyone a gift this time? Nothing but yes, of course 🙂 And as I am a godmother, and am in a courtship, this Christmas . . . there’s that for me to happily consider, too! Although it does take time, planning and effort to keep gift-giving simple and spiritually focused, I’m still really looking forward to it!

5.

Since I don’t want to use up all my ideas about gift-giving in the 4th take, I’ll move on to the 5th. (Folks, this is called Wise Expenditure of One’s Interior Resources.)

My predominate style of gift-giving has definitely become almost entirely Faith-oriented over the past few years, probably because I can 1) immediately see the timelessness of it, and 2) because it’s what I love most to receive and therefore springs most naturally to my mind. (Although I’m a normal human being [I know you were in doubt] and also greatly relish books, clothes, movies and music [not that those can’t be Faith-oriented, too, of course, but bear with me] should someone be so kind as to grace me with them!)

Not that I at all mind buying fun and instantly applicable material gifts for other people (in fact, I seem to recall getting a toilet brush for someone . . . or at least encouraging that a certain person buy a toilet brush for someone . . . one Christmas, years ago; Lena, remind me of the details?), but when you can give something to someone you love, something that supersedes the world and reminds them instead of the beauty of Heaven, the assistance of the Saints, or of the mission of their life . . . to me, that just can’t be beaten. So that is definitely on my mind and heart as I embark on these last weeks before Advent!

6.

Hmm, what else? Well, I keep trying to journal on a sort-of-regular basis and keep having to leave unfinished entries because of life. It’s better than nothing (I hope!) . . . I’ll try again tomorrow . . .

7.

Ah, yes, choir! (I knew there was something I was forgetting.) We are already preparing for Guadete Sunday next month by reviewing Mass XVII (one of my dearest favorites) and Credo IV, as well as learning some new hymns, one an early foray (14th Century) into polyphony that is beautifully haunting and full of less-commonly-heard intervals as compared to today; and the other a lovely two-part carol that is in both Latin and Spanish, which we plan to sing before the Christmas Eve Mass.

I’ve just now realized how easy it is to take these gifts of sacred music, and my opportunity to learn them, for granted. It’s been such a blessing to become a part of this beautiful and mysterious world of the musical side of Latin Mass for the past year and to be a little piece of our parish choir!

Have a blessed end to your Monday!

Latinsig2

 

Peering Towards the End

Prosper_Guerin_-_La_pieta

My Lord and my God, from this moment I accept at Thy hands, with resignation and cheerfulness, the kind of death it may please Thee to send me, with all its pains and anguish.”

Recently, it occurred to me that my daydreams have never been exactly what they ought to be. As any girl who senses the vocation of marriage in her soul might do, I’ve often let my chin fall to my fist while I daydreamed up the perfect wedding day (and these daydreams are punctuated by the minutest liturgical details, such as the floating chant of the Introit of the Nuptial Mass: “Deus Israël conjungat vos: et ipse sit vobiscum . . .”), or of future children being born and baptized (complete with things such as the Exsufflation and with their little mouths squirming from the intrusion of blessed salt), and receiving their First Communions (at the altar rail) and Confirmations (slapped on the cheek, naturally).

I’ve daydreamed of attending imaginary FSSP priestly ordinations of friends (“Oh, raptures, I can hear him softly praying the Canon for the first time with his newly ordained fellow priests!”),  and I’ve nurtured countless smaller daydreams of future domestic life as its potential Keeper of the Hearth. Being largely sanguine, I’m capable of galloping a thousand (imaginary) miles per minute . . . if I’m not actively engaged in combating distraction for my own mental and spiritual good, that is.

But it struck me a few days ago that I have never purposefully daydreamed about my death.

Which is odd, because of all potential subjects with which I could daydream up a storm, my death is the one thing in life (or almost out of it) I can count upon, with all certainty, to actually happen to me. As befits the beautiful sign of contradiction that is the Catholic Faith, my death will be the most important moment, the defining moment, of my life: its summation, its crowning note, for better or for worse—salvation or damnation, forever. Yet, curiously, it naturally ranks rather low on my “let’s daydream about this today” list.

And so the premise intrigued me: to daydream about my death.

Of course, to frequently meditate on the reality of one’s death is rather imperative for the Christian, by all traditional (and just plain sensible) accounts. I am going to die, after all. My soul will one day separate from my body; immutably sealed in its then-current state, it will be summoned immediately to my Particular Judgment (God help me).

Just like everyone else, I’ve been left clueless as to the day of my death; to the age, weight, hair color (if my hair remains by then . . .) and mental faculties I’ll possess at the time of my death; to what, precisely, I’ll be dying from and how long it will take. I pray fervently I’ll be spared a sudden death, that I’ll be blessed with the assistance of the last Sacraments, and so forth. But I really know nothing at all about my impending death; no details, no hints, except that it will happen . . . and, in the grand scheme of things, it will happen soon. If I hope to be spiritually prepared for it in any way, then meditate on its awesome reality I must.

To my mind, daydreaming about death differs from meditating on death because daydreaming involves mental storytelling, the fabrication and weaving of intricate details based on the whims of your desires and experiences (or lack thereof). In meditation, you quiet and discipline your mind so as to contemplate a truth; in daydreaming, you let loose and narrate a story to yourself. Although it’s inferior to meditation, I think the possibility remains that a good daydream, of the right sort, might lead to a wholesome meditation. And so I propose that if I spend the next half-hour concocting one decent daydream of my own death, it might cultivate a propensity in me to think about my death—and, consequently, begin to meditate on it—more often.

Echoing the traditional prayer, I wholeheartedly embrace whatever death Our Lord has destined for me, down to the tiniest details. With that kept always in respect, I think I can safely proceed to weave my first daydream of my death . . .

* * *

Peering towards the end, I would first like to imagine I’m not dying in a hospital.

Hospitals are for the preservation of earthly life, after all; and so attempting to die in a controlled environment, one nobly dedicated to saving life, feels similar to making a date with one’s friend at a Krispy Kreme in order to solemnly disclose you’re never eating sugar again. I’m afraid it wouldn’t put me in the best frame of mind for total surrender.

So in this daydream of death, in which I may pick and choose the details, I’m dying wherever my home would be — or, at least, in a place that would feel like a home to me, such as the home of a friend or family member.

I’m lying in a small room, a quiet room, with no electronics but perhaps a window; and I’m surrounded by a simple arrangement of the holy images I’ve come to hold dear across my life. The Sacred Heart of Jesus; the Sorrowful Heart of Mary; St. Joseph; St. Anthony; St. Raphael; a Madonna and Child, especially “The Song of the Angels”; St. Faustina. Perhaps most important of all, Our Lady of the Rosary, since it was on her feast that I first Totally Consecrated, and it will be on my Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary–perhaps more than anything else–that my frightened soul will be leaning during my last hours.

I don’t know what my sufferings will be, but without wanting to sound too morbid, I really do hope there will be significant pain at the end, and so there is pain in this daydream. I want there to be suffering that can be offered up for others; but most of all, suffering to be offered up in reparation for a lifetime’s worth of sins. What a staggering thought as I lay there, dying–my life is stretched out behind me, irrevocable. Clarity envelopes me; an awing clarity I wholly lacked back then. I will want to suffer, to offer reparation as much as I can!

This suffering is, most likely, the worst pain of my life, the last agony, but it is also a consolation because I know Our Lord is bestowing on me the gift of suffering purifying my love for Him. It isn’t a pain that robs me of peace, but rather, it is a channel of grace and final charity to my soul.

The room in which I’m lying is very still. However, through the walls, I can hear the muffled sounds of children playing and of dishes clattering; footsteps, maybe a slightly stumbling piano practice. These beloved household sounds remind me that while my approaching death is the most intense and perilous moment of my life, I am just a grain of sand in God’s universe, and that time and the people within it will carry on without my physical presence, for as long as He sees fit.

I am passing out of time; I am not the center of it, nor ever was.

This thought is utterly overwhelming; a mystery I can’t even begin to touch, and one that frightens me more than a little but is nevertheless true and unavoidable. I am leaving time and entering eternity. I am on the brink.

And, in this daydream, I know I am on the brink. I know, quite clearly, that I’m dying—and I’ve known for at least a little while. Through the infinite mercy of God, I’ve had time to pray, to receive the Sacraments frequently (my illness permitting), to contemplate death, to weep, to confess, to anticipate. I’ve been given time to be afraid and yet to renew within myself the sentiments of faith, hope and charity; to learn to be even joyful.

As I lay dying, surrounding me in the room are a handful of people softly murmuring the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary (in Latin; because I will die a stickler for Latin, and they will lovingly accommodate my wishes in hora mortis). As I daydream about this, I’m not sure who they are, precisely, though I see them as my family, either by blood or because we are members of the same Church Militant. Are they my future husband, future children, future grandchildren? Parish friends? Sisters in Christ whose babies I’ve held, tears I’ve dried, and with whom I’ve traded many a phone call over the hectic cacophany and quiet stillness of the unfolded tale of my life?

Or are they strangers?

Naturally, the presence my future husband enters immediately into my daydream’s consideration. But I’m not sure. Is he here, praying for and with me, holding my hand with the unwavering softness and steadiness that comes from a lifetime of knowing, loving and forgiving me in the Sacrament of Marriage . . . or am I without his physical presence? Have I already helped him in his own death, and am now suffering mine alone?

In building up this daydream, both options are their own mixture of wine and gall. If he is here with me physically as I die, then I know I’m aching over his own grief and over the thought of leaving him alone, and yet rejoicing because, God’s mercy permitting, I’ll be able to pray for him and his salvation far more efficaciously than on earth (even if it’s from Purgatory for a time). However, if he’s already gone, then I know I’m longing for the immediate consolation of his physical presence, but yet finding a deeper consolation in hoping he’s praying (either from Purgatory or Heaven) for my salvation in my final hour—again, far more efficaciously than he could on earth.

Since I feel I should choose this detail for my daydream, I would ultimately choose for my future husband to already be gone (although this is one of the countless reasons I am so very thankful Our Lord is in control, and not me–I won’t have to decide!); firstly, for the reason mentioned above (his, hopefully, praying for me with a power he could not have possessed on earth)–secondly, that I could offer up my loneliness without him as another sacrifice to God for reparation–and thirdly, because his physical absence would remind me all the more sharply that my approaching death is fully and utterly between God and myself, alone.

But regardless of anything else—of anyone else in the room—of whether they’re my children and I’ve lived decades of my life with them, or if I’ve never seen them until these last moments — . . . regardless of all these things, there is the priest.

Out of all the possible components of my daydream of death, the priest is the one that cannot be removed. He is there. With all absoluteness, I have to have him at my side . . . because he is Christ for me now.

In my daydream, I don’t need to know the priest’s name, to recognize his face or the modulations of his voice. I have been blessed to know, or hear of, so many wonderful priests, I now feel spoiled for choice. If, at this unknown time of my death, my age or location doesn’t accommodate my wonderful parish priest, then the priest in question might either belong to the FSSP (because I dote on them and long for the day I can meet one in person) or at least has a knowledge and pure, wholehearted love of the traditional rites.

This faithful priest sits beside me in a kitchen chair (relocated to the bedroom), his head bowed slightly, his body perhaps only a shadow in my sight, but he is there. He is accompanied by a Crucifix, a burning candle, the fragrant scent of holy oils, the book containing the Last Rites . . . he is a powerful warrior, armed to defend and aid me in my last combat. He is focused wholly on me and on protecting me and ushering me in to eternity. This is consoling beyond all words!

He is murmuring along with the Rosary, helping me to pray, and I am holding his hand as the intensity escalates, both of my pain and of the knowledge that I am about to die and to be judged. I have known for a long time that the moments leading up to death are the moments of unparalleled spiritual attack, and now I feel temptations to terror and despair sweeping over me. My countless sins and failures, distended and even grotesque, flicker sharply through my memory. I pray in fragments, in final battle. This good priest at my side has heard my Confession and absolved me; now, he urges me to have childlike trust in God and to surrender my soul entirely to the Blessed Virgin’s care, reminding me that I made myself entirely hers, and she will not forget me now. Repeatedly, I ask him to pray for me; in response, he nods each time and continues the Aves.

The Rosary is soon finished, and as the tempest thickens within me, I begin to hear the names of the saints.

Holy Mary, pray for her.
All ye holy Angels and Archangels, pray for her.
Holy Abel, pray for her.
All ye Choirs of the Just, pray for her.
Holy Abraham, pray for her.
St. John the Baptist, pray for her.
St. Joseph, pray for her . . .

My soul warms at the name of the Blessed Mother; my patron, St. John the Baptist; and good St. Joseph, my consolation. My eyes are closed now; I pray along with this last litany with increasing physical feebleness. The pain is, perhaps, at its highest point–but at the same time, I sense it is my rope to Heaven and I cling to it, struggling as mightily as I can to embrace and not reject it.

The priest’s voice finds me again.

“Go forth, O Christian soul, out of this world, in the name of God the Father almighty, Who created thee; in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, Who suffered for thee; in the name of the Holy Ghost, Who sanctified thee; in the name of the holy and glorious Mary, Virgin and Mother of God; in the name of the Angels, Archangels, Thrones, and Dominations, Cherubim and Seraphim; in the name of the Patriarchs and Prophets, of the holy Apostles and Evangelists, of the holy Martyrs, Confessors, Monks and Hermits, of the holy Virgins, and of all the Saints of God; may thy place be this day in peace, and thine abode in holy Sion. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

His prayers continue, guiding me like a small ship through a mighty storm while I, wearily but with hope, look for the first sign of stars.

Beyond this, I can’t formulate much more for this daydream. The precise moment of death is too shrouded to even daydream about. I do wish for one last thing, though: that this good priest, in my last minutes, would be able to assist me in making a final renewal of my Total Consecration.

” . . . I, Mary, a faithless sinner, renew and ratify today in thy hands the vows of my Baptism; I renounce forever Satan, his pomps and works; and I give myself entirely to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, to carry my cross after Him all the days of my life, and to be more faithful to Him than I have ever been before. In the presence of all the heavenly court I choose thee this day for my Mother and Mistress. I deliver and consecrate to thee, as thy slave, my body and soul, my goods, both interior and exterior, and even the value of all my good actions, past, present and future; leaving to thee the entire and full right of disposing of me, and all that belongs to me, without exception, according to thy good pleasure, for the greater glory of God in time and in eternity . . .

“O faithful Virgin, make me in all things so perfect a disciple, imitator and slave of the Incarnate Wisdom, Jesus Christ thy Son, that I may attain, by thine intercession and by thine example, to the fullness of His age on earth and of His glory in Heaven. Amen.”

And even as I am praying this to the best of my ability, clinging to the priest’s hand, still hearing snatches of children’s voices from behind the walls, I imagine the storm fading away; the tempest calming in my soul; the pain, even, ebbing; and, too wonderful almost to hope for, I imagine at last witnessing the mysterious fulfillment of Our Lady’s promise to those who honored her Seven Sorrows:

I will visibly help them at the moment of their death; they will see the face of their Mother.

And, in my daydream, I close my eyes for the last time; or, am I opening them?

* * *

It’s a strange feeling, to have just written a daydream of your own last agony. And yet, there’s a sense of peace hovering about it, as well.

In ruminating about what my death might be like, in hoping fervently for a holy one, and in having to depart from the daydream just before the actual moment of my death, I can’t resist a final glance at Screwtape’s last letter of ranting failure to Wormwood, which can now stand for an eloquent description of what I chose to leave unsaid:

He saw Him. This animal, this thing begotten in a bed, could look on Him. What is blinding, suffocating fire to you, is now cool light to him, is clarity itself, and wears the form of a Man. You would like, if you could, to interpret the patient’s prostration in the Presence, his self-abhorrence and utter knowledge of his sins (yes, Wormwood, a clearer knowledge even than yours) on the analogy of your own choking and paralysing sensations when you encounter the deadly air that breathes from the heart of Heaven. But it’s all nonsense. Pains he may still have to encounter, but they embrace those pains. They would not barter them for any earthly pleasure. All the delights of sense, or heart, or intellect, with which you could once have tempted him, even the delights of virtue itself, now seem to him in comparison but as the half nauseous attractions of a raddled harlot would seem to a man who hears that his true beloved whom he has loved all his life and whom he had believed to be dead is alive and even now at his door. He is caught up into that world where pain and pleasure take on transfinite values and all our arithmetic is dismayed.

Latinsig2