As we approach the end of the liturgical year, we draw our attention to the last things that await beyond the grave. The great feasts of All Saints and All Souls commemorate our beloved dead, but they also remind us of the impermanence of our worldly existence and the eternal judgment in the spiritual realm. In the Northern Hemisphere, we have a vivid expression of decay and corruption all around us in the glory of fall as the natural world sheds its colorful raiment, leaving the barren and stark naked monochrome landscape of winter.Vanitas by Philippe de Champaigne, c. 1671
By contemplating death, we focus our minds on how better to live, so that when the moment comes–as it does for all of us–we need not be afraid or ashamed of our nakedness in the sight of God as our first parents were in the rebellion of original sin which brought death into the world. As the ancient saying commands us, memento mori, remember that you must die. How we live our lives will determine whether we will join with the saints in the victory of Christ over death. Indeed, the saints are excellent examples for us of how to live–and how to die–with grace.
In their last words, many of the saints quote scripture or favorite prayers, while others express defiance as they embrace their martyrdom. Still others provide advice to their followers. As Dr. Johnson once wrote, “Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” The same can be said for the saints in their final moments on earth.
In each of the aphorisms collected below, we have a distillation of a life devoted to Christ into one statement which summarizes what was most important to each of these saints in the hour of victory, as each passed through the veil into the presence of God. We would do well to profit from this wisdom so that we might also emulate it–before the bell tolls for our own passing.The Martyrdom of St. Andrew by Bartolome Murillo, 1682
1. St. Andrew (Martyr)
Lord, eternal King of glory, receive me hanging from the wood of this sweet cross. Thou who art my God, whom I have seen, do not permit them to loosen me from the cross. Do this for me, O Lord, for I know the virtue of Thy Holy Cross.
2. St. Andrew Kim Taegon (Martyr)
This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.
3. St. Augustine
Your will be done. Come, Lord Jesus!
4. Bl. Bartholomew Longo
My only desire is to see Mary who saved me and who will save me from the clutches of Satan.
5. St. Bernadette Sourbirous
Holy Mary, pray for me, a poor sinner.
6. St. Catherine of Siena
Blood! Blood! Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.
7. St. Clelia Barbieri
Be brave, because I am going to Paradise; but I shall always remain with you, too; I shall never abandon you!
8. St. David
Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.
9. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Be children of the Church.
10. St. Faustina Kowalska
Today, the Majesty of God is surrounding me. There is no way that I can help myself to prepare better. I am thoroughly enwrapped in God. My soul is being inflamed by His love. I only know that I love and am loved. That is enough for me. I am trying my best to be faithful throughout the day to the Holy Spirit and to fulfill His demands. I am trying my best for interior silence to be able to hear His voice …
11. St. Francis of Assisi
When you see that I am brought to my last moments, place me naked upon the ground just as you saw me the day before yesterday; and let me lie there after I am dead for the length of time it takes one to walk a mile unhurriedly.
12. St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle
In all things I adore the will of God in my regard.
13. St. Joan of Arc (Martyr)
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!
14, St. John Chrysostom
Glory to God for all things!
15. St. John Paul the Great
Let me go to the house of the Father.
16. St. Lawrence (Martyr)
O Christ, only God, O Splendour, O Power of the Father, O Maker of heaven and earth and builder of this city’s walls! Thou has placed Rome’s scepter high over all; Thou hast willed to subject the world to it, in order to unite under one law the nations which differ in manners, customs, language, genius, and sacrifice. Behold the whole human race has submitted to its empire, and all discord and dissensions disappear in its unity. Remember thy purpose: Thou didst will to bind the immense universe together into one Christian Kingdom. O Christ, for the sake of Thy Romans, make this city Christian; for to it Thou gavest the charge of leading all the rest to sacred unity. All its members in every place are united – a very type of Thy Kingdom; the conquered universe has bowed before it. Oh! may its royal head bowed in turn! Send Thy Gabriel and bid him heal the blindness of the sons of Iulus, that they may know the true God. I see a prince who is to come – an Emperor who is a servant of God. He will not suffer Rome to remain a slave; he will close the temples and fasten them with bolts forever.
17. St. Ignatius of Loyola
O, my God!
18. St. Kateri Tekakwitha
Jesus, I love you.
19. Bl. Miguel Pro, S.J. (Martyr)
Long live Christ the King! (Addressed to his executioners)
20. St. Perpetua (Martyr)
Stand fast in the faith and love one another. (Addressed to her brother)
21. St. Pio of Pietrelcina
22. St. Pius X
To restore all things in Christ.
23. St. Stephen (Martyr)
Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. (Addressed to his executioners)
24. St. Teresa of Ávila
After all I die as a child of the Church. My Lord, it is time to move on. Well then, may Your will be done. O my Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time for us to meet one another.
25. Bl. Teresa of Calcutta
Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you.
26. St. Therese of Lisieux
I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me. My God, I love You.
27. St. Thomas à Becket (Martyr)
If all the swords in England were pointed against my head, your threats would not move me. I am ready to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace. (Addressed to his murderers)
28. St. Thomas Aquinas
Be assured that he who shall always walk faithfully in God’s presence, always ready to give him an account of all his actions, shall never be separated from him by consenting to sin.
29. St. Thomas More (Martyr)
I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.
30. St. Wenceslaus (Martyr)
May God forgive you, brother. (Addressed to his murderer)