I have been unsettled by remarks of a Dr Martin Scurr (Daily Mail 27 Jan 2015) who some years ago served the Jesuits at their HQ in Mayfair and religious attached to Westminster Cathedral. “I always think that it is those who have devoted themselves to their religious faith who are the worst when it comes to dying. Priests are the most anxious, the most hysterical and the hardest to control”, says Dr Scurr. “Their faith didn’t help many of them to die. Only Cardinal Hume died with grace, or peace”. Talking of nuns, most of whom he found to be neurotic and anxious, he says, “In my experience, only the nuns with dementia died well”. What’s going wrong? What can we do to help?
It’s difficult and dangerous to extrapolate one man’s anecdotal experiences into something larger than it is.
However, it is true that some priests and religious struggle mightily at the time of death. It should come as no surprise that those who have dedicated their lives to the service of the Lord are also considerable targets for the Enemy’s assault. Particularly at the time of death Satan comes with guns blazing to tempt to despair the faithful. The holier their lives, I suspect the more horrible the attack.
The Devil hates holy priests and holy religious with an intensity possible only for an angelic being. It is fixed, complete, and indefatigable.
This is why the Church retains in Her arsenal many powerful prayers for the time of death. We should all be familiar with the prayers for the dying. We should have sacramentals to hand.
What can we do?
Attend to your loved ones who are dying. Visit them, pray with them, make sure that a priest gets to them to anoint them and give them the Apostolic Pardon and give them viaticum. When you hear of a priest or religious who is dying, redouble your efforts to pray for them, fast for them. Invoke St. Joseph, Patron of the Dying. If you can’t visit them, pray before the Blessed Sacrament for them.
We are all engaged in a titanic and relentless struggle for souls.
We need the support that the Church provides.
We need to support each other.
GO TO CONFESSION!