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Kempis on the 4 Last Things: Consideration of One’s Own Death



2 Peter 3:10


But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. (my emphasis)


Taking a break from "Imitations of Christ", Thomas Kempis also authored a book titled, "Meditations on Death - Preparing for Eternity". He follows along the same lines as St. Thomas Aquinas did in a book written by Kevin Vost, "Aquinas on the Four Last Things".


As you can see in the image above, and if you are not familiar with the Four Last Things, it is a subject broken down into 4 parts: Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. I'll begin with Kempis' considerations of one's own death.


In Mathew 25:1-13 the parable of the bride grooms speaks of the ramifications of not being prepared. In verse 12-13 the bridegroom says: But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.


And there lies the point. We do not know the hour when Jesus will come to take us. I've had discussions with many people regarding the end of times. They seem too focused on THE end of times but not our individual meetings with Jesus. St. Paul warns us in 1 Thessalonians 5:2: "For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night."


Why don't Christians take our considerations of death seriously?

  1. Many, including some Catholics, believe in sola fide (faith alone). That's a shame because there is no such thing. (Another argument for another time.)

  2. Perhaps they think that, at a young age, there is no reason to think about death.

  3. Too attached to earthly things/having too much fun.

  4. They are afraid of death. I suggest that if one is afraid of death, they need to get to confession.

  5. They only believe in Heaven (72% US Adults per Pew Research in 2021). This is a very serious thought process and belief as, per St. Faustina in her diary, those who don't believe in hell (38% of US Adults per Pew, 2021), will surely end up in hell.

  6. Death is not spoken from the pulpit. I question what exactly is taught in seminaries. I love our priests and appreciate their sacrifices, but I do wonder why many only give fluff, feel good, homilies.

Kempis:

"My friend, it is most useful for you to call to mind frequently and assiduously the reality of your own death. And though death itself is a certainty, its time and manner of arrival are profoundly uncertain. Very often death comes to a person when he still expects to have much longer to live and looks forward to an abundance of time in which to repent for his sins, to amend his vices, and to improve his life and conduct. My advice, therefore, is to live as if you could die at any moment and to live each day as if it could be your last."

This is extremely important in that not knowing when we will die, we must be in a state of grace if it is heaven we wish. I once heard a presentation by Father Chris Alar, who asked, if it is easier for Catholics to get to heaven. YES, because Catholics have the sacraments, especially the sacrament of healing... Confession. I find it insane that Mother Church requires Confession a minimum of once per year. I work my tail off to be in God's good graces and still feel as though I'm pushing it by going once a month.


The Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen, whom I pray to each night for his intercession of wisdom, advises us to keep in the state of grace, getting faith if you had none, and praying because the “most important problem in the world today is your soul, for that is what the struggle is about.” And beseech St. Michael and Our Lady for help. (my emphasis)


God's gift of the Sacraments are just that, a gift that gives grace. It is that sanctifying grace that will lead us to paradise. So, why take such risk? Some people may wait until their deathbeds to repent. See the argument Kempis presents:

"The period of severe illness which precedes death for many is not, indeed, the ideal time for repentance. Generally a time when the spirit and the mind are gravely weakened and strong resolutions have become virtually impossible. For the person confined to bed and in the throes of physical and spiritual dissolution can hardly undertake any real works of piety or penance. Thus “deathbed repentance” is inherently uncertain in its efficacy since its sincerity is not demonstrated or supported by any works or reformation of life." (my emphasis)

All Catholics should, even though some foolish Catholics do not, believe in Purgatory. Again, if we want to go to heaven, must must be in a state a sanctifying grace. We must be pure. We must be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. The only way to achieve this sanctifying grace is through the purification/purgative process. Point blank, case closed, end of story. That's just the way it is and I don't recommend anyone bet against it. The beautiful sacrament of Confession offers this process through penance as directed by the Priest.


Of course, the length of stay in Purgatory depends on the purification process. I've read where it is possible to begin the purgative process while living. (May I recommend Martin Jugie's "The Truth About Purgatory and the Means to Avoid It"?) I have begun that process. I am shooting for heaven, not purgatory. If I miss, I pray my time in Purgatory is a short one. Do Not aim for Purgatory. If you miss, well, it's eternal damnation. God does not send souls to hell; we do that all by ourselves.

"Consider next your own self in your dying moments, and reflect upon the stains on your conscience, your unatoned sins, and your unamended vices. O mortal, reflect carefully upon that unknown time when you will come to your final hour, and when the lethal hand of death will fall upon your shoulder, and when you will be compelled to cross that dark stream from which none have ever returned! Reflect also upon the infinite joys and blessedness which those condemned will have lost forever."

For those on their death beds a Priest is called to administer Extreme Unction; a sacrament in which a priest anoints and prays for the recovery and salvation of a critically ill or injured person. However, the sacrament will save them from hell but does not guarantee a direct delivery to heaven. If the person near death can't perform a penance, then they may enter the purification process in Purgatory. Remember, only God alone guarantees salvation.

"In this world, human beings make enormous efforts to acquire honor for themselves and seek avidly to attain happiness in any form possible. Yet how few make any comparable effort to attain the glory which lasts forever and to secure for themselves the happiness which never ends! And at the point of death, a multitude of demons will appear before you, ready to seize upon each departed soul. With gaping jaws and grasping hands, these shall be like “roaring lions seeking whom they may devour.” And the nature of these tormenting spirits will correspond to the vice which they punish. Thus, the infernal spirit which punishes pride shall constantly mock and humiliate its victims, whereas the demon which punishes sloth will compel them to undertake incessant, arduous, and unending labor. This final sentence, once pronounced by the immortal Judge, can never, ever be revoked or changed. For indeed, it is written in Holy Scripture that “wherever the tree falls, there it will lie.”

The best, most logical and holiest solution is to prepare our lives as if this will be the last day we live. These earthly things we admire so much will not get us to heaven.

To quote Saint Philip Neri: "The best way to prepare for death is to spend every day of life as though it were the last."


Me? I have begun disconnecting from those earthly things that have no value for me to attain heaven. As I relinquish the love for earthly things, the love of God fills the void. Every quote from Kempis, in this post, makes perfect sense. I examine my conscience each day, sometimes many times. In my nightly prayers I include an Act of Contrition, telling our Lord I am repenting for any sin I've committed.

"But for those who have lived holy and upright lives, and who have prepared themselves diligently by prayer and penance, the situation will be very different indeed. For when they realize that they are about to pass from this world of sorrows, this valley of tears, they will not fear at all. On the contrary, they shall rejoice knowing that they are about to depart from their true native land of heaven, and there to enjoy unending and infinite bliss in the company of glorious angels and saints, illuminated by the magnificent and glorious radiance of the Holy Trinity Itself. For there shall be no bond of earthly concupiscence or carnal desire which enchains them to this lower realm, and they shall feel not a single pang of sorrow or regret to bid this world of time and space a final farewell." (my emphasis)

I tell my Lord every single night that I am making myself ready. I am not afraid to die. I know the beauty that awaits me in heaven, just as Thomas Kempis so eloquently described.


I'm not giving up on life, I'm preparing for life.


God Bless you!



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fatheratchley
fatheratchley
Jul 27, 2023

",,,why many only give fluff, feel good, homilies?" Priestly formation has been derailed; heck, the whole Church has. With the advent of Vatican II, much of the traditional Catholicism has been lost or suppressed. Leaders are at once ignorant of what Tradition offers and too complacent to go in search of our Faith's hidden treasures. Part of the problem may well be from God, who speaks in parables and hides pearls of truth lest we hear, repent and obey. Because the Church has become overly invested in the world, it seems God has abandoned us to our desires--really the worst form of punishment he could devise.

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Student of Kempis
Student of Kempis
Jul 28, 2023
Replying to

Father, I had to get off Twitter and have quit watching videos on YouTube for awhile. My favorites are Kennedy Hall and Dr. Anthony Stine. However, my mind was getting convoluted and I needed to take a break. I felt like I was trying to take on the world (Vatican). Thank you for your support. (We left a parish we had helped build after 30+ years. It got to be too modernistic.

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