How serene am I at the prospect of death?

Eugene’s biographer, Rey, narrates the course of his illness:

The sons of Father de Mazenod, with Father Tempier above all, were far from optimistic; their filial attachment, on the contrary, began to be alarmed.

His illness became worse and worse, and he had to remain in bed. A very high fever broke out a few days later, and the doctors no longer concealed the seriousness of the symptoms. The patient understood the danger of his situation; he was less concerned with the sickness of the body than with the welfare of his soul and of the Society of which he was the Father. One night, when the intensity of the fever had become more violent, he refused to close his eyes for a single moment, wishing, he said, to employ more usefully the few moments that remained for him to live.

Rey I p. 469

Thirty two years later, on the night before he died, the 79 year-old Eugene instructed those around him: “If I fall asleep or if my condition worsens, please wake me up because I want to know that I am dying.”

A few hours before his death he said again: “Oh how I want to see myself dying, so that I can fully accept the will of God.” (Rey II  p. 857)

These were the sentiments of a person who had spent his life giving everything to his Savior, and who calmly rejoiced at being eternally united with the One he had always loved.

What a lesson to us to prepare our own lives for a serene encounter with our Savior in death.

“While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.”    Leonardo da Vinci

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Da Vinci’s statement is a lot easier to sit with than Frank’s question of ‘how serene am I at the prospect of death’.

    I do not think that I would like to be awakened if I am dying, but I would like the chance to say goodbye to those I love – to let them know that I go willingly towards my next stage in life – for it will be life just different somehow from what I experience now. To share with those I love where I will be – my joy and my struggle, and the ever-growing gratitude that has become such a deep part of me. Yes I would like my loved ones here to see my excitement, even though it be subdued, in going to be with my Beloved in a whole new way. Unlikely that it will be easy for nothing of great worth in my life has been ‘easy’.

    A few days ago when watching a young mother with her baby I thought briefly of death and what it might look like – but was quite unable to put a image to it. I wondered if when I died would I see my son who died shortly after he was born – would he know me? Would he love me?

    I have been blessed so greatly in this life here that is not yet over – hard to imagine that it could get better and yet I KNOW that it will. Do I want to say wake me as I laying dying so as to know that I am dying – that does not sound like me. But yes wake me so that I might run into the arms of my Beloved in a new way. I think for a moment of Jesus and the cross – and his resurrection. Not a nice ‘holy’ thought, but most certainly a part of my being.

    Today I begin a new ministry (for me) – an Oblate one, in that I enter into it with an Oblate heart. Nervous but excited it will be a way for me to continue dying to myself – but in a wonderful way for it will not be about me at all. It seems strange to be thinking of death this morning. I am not used to facing it in this way. Oh Eugene – where you lead me and how you inspire me.

  2. kirk says:

    Ah! an inspirational death… hope I may have the courage to follow Eugene’s example when that moment arrives. Thanks Frank for beautiful sharing. All the best Eleanor. Thanks and God bless. Kirk

  3. Peg Hanafin says:

    A wake up call to all of us in the front line waiting for the reaper to come and make the final call. Thank you Fr Frank.

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