ON THE ADVANTAGES OF THE RELIGIOUS STATE
VII. MORITUR CONFIDENTIUS — A RELIGIOUS DIES MORE CONFIDENTLY.
Some are deterred from entering Religion by the apprehension that their abandonment of the world may be afterwards to them a source of regret. In making choice of a state of life, I would advise such persons to reflect, not on the time given to us to live, but on the hour of death, which will determine their happiness or misery for all eternity. And I would ask if in the world, surrounded by seculars, disturbed by the fondness of children, from whom they are about to be separated, perplexed with the care of their worldly affairs, and troubled by a thousand scruples of conscience, they can expect to die more content than in the House of God, assisted by their holy companions, who continually speak to them of God, pray for them, console and encourage them in their passage to eternity? Imagine you see, on the one hand, a prince dying in a splendid palace, attended by a retinue of servants, surrounded by his wife, his children, and relations, and represent to yourself, on the other, a Religious expiring in his monastery, in a poor cell, mortified, humble, far from his relatives, stripped of property and self-will; and tell me, which of the two dies more contented — that sick prince or that poor Religious? Ah! the enjoyment of riches, honours and pleasures of this life does not afford consolation at the hour of death, but rather begets grief and diffidence of salvation; while poverty, humiliations, penitential austerities, and detachment from the world, render death sweet, and give to a Christian increased hopes of attaining that true felicity which shall never terminate.
Jesus Christ has promised that whosoever leaves his home and relatives for His love shall enjoy eternal life. And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundred-fold and possess life everlasting (Matt. xix. 29). A certain Religious of the Society of Jesus, being observed to smile on his death-bed, some of his brethren began to apprehend that he was not aware of his danger, and asked him why he smiled; he answered: “Why should I not smile, since I am sure of Paradise? Has not the Lord Himself promised to give eternal life to those who leave the world for His sake? I have long since abandoned all things for the love of Him; His promise cannot fail. I smile, then, because I confidently expect eternal glory.” The same sentiment was expressed long before by St. John Chrysostom, writing to a certain Religious: “God cannot tell a lie; and He has promised eternal life to those who leave the goods of this world. You have left all these things; why, then, should you doubt the fulfilment of His promise?”
St. Bernard says that “it is very easy to pass from the cell to Heaven; because a person who dies in a cell scarcely ever descends into hell, since it seldom happens that a Religious perseveres in his cell till death unless he be predestined to eternal happiness.” St. Laurence Justinian says that Religion is the gate of Paradise; because, living in Religion, and partaking of its advantages, is a great mark of election to glory. No wonder, then, that Gerard, the brother of St. Bernard, when dying in his monastery, died singing. God Himself says: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord (Apoc. xiv. 13). And surely Religious, who, by the holy vows, and especially by the vow of obedience, or total renunciation of self-will, die to the world and to themselves, must be amongst those who die in the Lord. Father Suarez, remembering at the hour of death that all his actions in Religion were performed through obedience, was filled with spiritual joy, and exclaimed that he could not have imagined death could be so sweet and so full of consolation.
VIII. PURGATUR CITIUS — A RELIGIOUS IS PURIFIED MORE QUICKLY.
St. Thomas teaches that the perfect consecration which a Religious makes of himself to God, by his solemn Profession remits the guilt and punishment of all his past sins. The Saint writes: “It may be reasonably said that a person by entering Religion, obtains the remission of all his sins. For, to make satisfaction for all sins, it is sufficient to dedicate oneself entirely to the service of God by entering Religion, which dedication exceeds all manner of satisfaction.” “Hence,” he concludes, “we read in the Lives of the Fathers, that they who enter Religion obtain the same very grace as those who receive Baptism.” The defects committed after Profession by a good Religious, are expiated in this world by his daily exercises of piety, meditations, Communions, and mortifications. But, should a Religious not have made full atonement in this life for all his sins, his Purgatory will not be of long duration. The many sacrifices which are offered for him after death, and the prayers of the Community, will soon release him from suffering.