17 May 2010

Death: The Echo of Our Life

Towards the end of the last [nineteenth] century, there lived at the Grande Chartreuse a former general of the Russian army, Dom Jean-Louis de Nicolai, who as a Carthusian had a notable escape from death through the protection of the Immaculate Mother of God. One day early in December of the year 1880 – it was the evening of the 6th – he was returning to the Grande Chartreuse when he fell into the ravine which descends precipitously from the banks of the road leading to the monastery. Unable to move, and utterly helpless, he recommended himself with especial fervour to the Immaculate Virgin, whose feast it was on the 8th. The following morning, having passed two days in the snow, the looked-for help arrived, under the Providence of God, through the instrumentality of a shepherd boy, whom the poor sufferer regarded as an angel sent by God to save his life, which was, indeed, the case.

By practising the virtue of obedience throughout the whole of religious life, this faithful servant of Mary proved worthy of the great grace that even his death should be an act of obedience also.

It was the feast of Our Lady’s Purification. Seeing that his agony was being prolonged indefinitely – it had lasted eight days already – his confessor, Dom Vincent, the vicar of the House, said to him: ‘This is a beautiful day on which to die, dear Father. They will be ringing for Compline shortly; go to wish your Mother a happy feast in a better world’. Immediately, a perceptible change came over the features of the dying monk, and a few moments later he died. Thus did God receive his soul at the hands of Mary, on the very day when He had received Jesus from her in the Temple at Jerusalem.

Our death is but the echo of our life. If our whole life is passed in absolute submission to the good pleasure of God, and under the direction of our superiors, we shall die in the fullness of this act of abandonment to our heavenly Father – an act which has all the merit of martyrdom.