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monastery, for he was a good youth *" I only repeat what is chronicled; but we may certainly remark, by the way, how curious it is to find in such a modern work as the Diary of a Late Physician, composed by an author who probably had never read Cæsar of Heisterbach, an instance of fears expressed by the dying in words almost identical with those heard in the eleventh century, and reported by the monk in the above passage. 'Doctor, keep them off!" cried the dying scholar described by Samuel Warren; who then says, "I once before heard these strange words from another dying patient. To me they suggest very unpleasant, I may say fearful, thoughts. What is to be kept off?" For this commentary being accused of injudicious sanctioning of superstitious terrors, he replied, “If we find several dying persons, of different characters and situations, concur in uttering in their last moments the same words, is it so unwarrantable for an observer to hazard an inquiry concerning their possible import †?” But to return to those scenes where
joyful confidence was all through predominant. Adam, the monk of Lucka, related to me,” says again Cæsarius, "the death of a certain knight that was very precious. There was,' he said, "in Saxony a knight named Alardus, a man of such prowess that in the first tournament, in which he was knighted, he acquired with his own hand fourteen horses, who as a prudent man, ascribing that temporal honour not to his strength, but to God, restored them all; and bidding adieu to his companions and the world, took the habit of our order in the monastery of Lucka. And because the Lord proves his elect, He visited him with such an infirmity, that he would have been an object of horror to all but supernatural men. At his death he moved every one to tears by his words. He seemed then to have a prophetic spirit, and to know exactly what was passing in the Church, indicating what priests were saying mass at particular altars; and then declaring that he beheld Christ with his Mother and the saints, he expired." We read in the chronicle of the priors of the Grande Chartreuse that Petrus Faverius, prior of the Holy Cross, procurator of the whole order, while employed in a certain city upon affairs, fell sick, and that Lord Hubert, the prior, came to visit him, whose presence made him glad, and who administered the sacraments to him. But a wondrous vision is said to have been his; for on the departure of this holy man, the enemy of the human race appeared to stand before his bed, having a great book, in which were written all the sins of his past life, and this he held up to his face with a ferocious grin; and when the sick man could only say, that having confessed he had hopes of mercy, the spectre seemed to try more and more to make him despair; but
* vii. c. 55. VOL. VII.
+ Sam. Warren, Diary, chap. iv.
‡ xi. c. 19.
then the blessed Virgin Mary, with superhuman effulgence, having her divine Son in her arms, appeared to enter the room, and coming near said, “Brother, why fear? By this lovely Boy all thy sins are cancelled." Then the whole vision ceased suddenly, and the sick man felt ineffable joy; and shortly after, in the presence of Lord Hubert, to whom he told it, adding that the saints stood round him, expired. Bellarmine, when he beheld that his death was near, said, "Buona nova, buona nova, O che buona nova è questa." Alquirinus, a Cistercian monk, formerly a physician, when he came to die, would not have recourse to a physician; and being asked by his abbot why he rejected the charity which he had shown to others, and seemed to regard death with such joyful familiarity, he replied, "Because whatever I consider in my mind and behold with my eyes affords me matter of joy and exultation. For the Lord has taken all sadness from my heart, and assured me of salvation by his wounds, so that I fear not death." But witness a scene of antic solemnity in the death of a bishop. It was Wednesday, the 1st of May, in the year 418. The gates of the cathedral of Auxerre are thrown wide open at the hour of matins. Clerks, people, magistrates, ladies, and devout women all flock in. The saintly Bishop Amateur is dying at the foot of the altar. When the rays of the morning had penetrated deeper into the vast sanctuary, the prelate raised himself, walked feebly to the pontifical chair, sat down, turning to Germain, and spreading out his pale hands towards him, said with a feeble voice, "O Germain! forbid all lamentations; prohibit tears." A light kindled in his eyes, his lips resumed their colour. The faithful perceived that he was about to address them for the last time. The people approached; but the bishop closed his eyes, and every one was rapt in admiration at such a beauteous death t. St. Pius V. expired repeating the vesper hymn of the day—
"Quæsumus auctor omnium
Relating the death of Tasso in the convent of St. Onufrio, and contrasting it with the death of the author of the Henriade in the Hotel de Villette, Chateaubriand adds, Comparez et voyez ce que la foi ajoute de beauté à la mort." But we must pass on. Reader,
"Look not so wilder'd; for these things are true,
* Jacob de Richebourg, Ultima Verba Factaque Morientium. + Lefeuvre, Hist. de St. Germ. l'Auxerrois.
That buzz about our slumbers, like brain-flies,
A hope beyond the shadow of a dream."
Let us proceed to observe further, how, in consequence of its moral discipline, or even of its only partial control over manners and thoughts, Catholicism changes the melancholy and fearful views of death which are incident to our nature. "There are
four kinds of dying men," says Cæsar of Heisterbach: " some live well and die well, others live ill and die ill; others lived ill, but, by the grace of God, die well; and as forming a kind of strange exception to the general law, there are some who lived nearly to the end well, but seem to die ill, as if to verify the prophetic words, In peccato suo quod peccavit, morietur*"" Here is, perhaps, the most solemn part of the road, the most appalling, dear young companion, to such persons as ourselves. We can all, however, perceive that an inestimable advantage accrues to those following it from the central wisdom, if it has influenced their lives and thoughts, or even penetrated deeply into their heart; for death is no foe to virtue, to a great love, or to sin repentant. It is no foe either, as Catholicism seems intent on proclaiming, to humility; and may we not all be humble? The old Church says with our ancient poet,
minds humble, your devotions high;
So shall ye learn the noblest part, to die."
But let us proceed with instances of the faculties not unfrequently manifested by the dying, when the incipient death of the body is leaving the spirit more unobstructed.
Anacharsis, finding Myson mending the handle of his plough in summer, asked him whether that was the season for ploughing, and received for answer, "It is the season for preparing the plough;" on hearing which words, he recognized the presence of one of the seven. In the Catholic precepts respecting the general forethought and habitual though unconscious preparation for death, by a virtuous and heroic life, those who pass here should recognize the divinely-inspired Church. St. Isidore relates, that by ancient usage the day of coronation of the emperor at Constantinople, at the moment when he appeared in his greatest glory, a stone-mason was to approach and present him with specimens of four kinds of marble, that he might choose one for the construction of his own tomb. If you will believe
* * xi, c. 1.
the poet, there is a tree in the forest that serves the same purpose.
""Twas in a shady avenue,
There came to me
A sad and solemn sound,-
"In still and silent slumber hush'd
From heaven above, or earth beneath,
"A secret, vague, prophetic gloom,
"This massy trunk that lies along,
The man who spreads the pall,
The elm shall have them all!"
Catholicity, however, employs such images only on one occasion, and that in the case of its supreme pontiff. One may believe that it does not require each of the promiscuous multitude to express every night upon their knees a wish to be dissolved, but undoubtedly it inculcates the necessity of living with a general impression that there is an eternal destination awaiting us; or, as Mary, queen of Scots, said, in concluding her letter after her condemnation, to Elizabeth, "that from the first days of our capacity to comprehend our duties, we ought to bend our minds to make the things of this world yield to those of eter nity." Its disciple is not, perhaps, required to make all his whole life but death's preface, saying, like Sintram to Death, when riding with him in the forest, "I will keep the thought of thee steadily before my soul, thou fearful yet wholesome monitor, thou awful yet loving guide;" but he is taught the extreme folly and perilous consequences of acting through life as if he and death were never to meet, like those whom even the Gentile ridiculed, τοῦ θανάτου τὸ παράπαν οὐ μνημονεύοντες. Within the natural forest, the Church, by her funeral bells,
contrives, from time to time, to give salutary warning to all who pass.
"The convent bells are ringing!
In the grey square turret swinging,
The song for the dead below,
Or the living who shall shortly be so !"
Bells used to be called "exclamatorias voces defunctorum *." "I have often said, preached, and written," says Antonio de Guevara, writing to the Commander Anjulo, “that the sound or clamorous noise of bells is not made so much for the dead as the living; for if we think a little, it is to teach us that we also are to die; so that we may truly say they toll not for the dead, but for the living." The Lady Capulet has the same thought, exclaiming,
"O me! this sight of death is as a bell
That warns my old age to a sepulchre."
No doubt it enters into the Catholic morality to entertain occasionally such grave thoughts. Life is so uncertain! so many resemble, in one respect, Cæsar, who, as Cicero says, when slain, expected to live long: "Multos annos regnare meditatus t." Pierre de Pirac, archbishop of Lyons, one day complained of the shortness of life, and said that he could not expect to live more than ten or twelve years more. "He did not live twelve days," says Pierre Mathieu ‡. Madame de Sévigné, on the 26th April, 1695, wrote to M. de Coulanges, saying, "Pour moi que rien n'avertit encore du nombre de mes anneés, je suis quelque fois surprise de ma santé ; je suis guérie de mille petites incommodités que j'avois autrefois; non-seulement j'avance doucement comme une tortue, mais je suis prête à croire que je vais comme une écrevisse." In less than a year after writing these words she was dead §. Well might that poet of the thirteenth century demand,
"Dites, aveiz-vos pleges de vivre longuement?
* La Tradition de l'Eglise sur les Bénédictions.
§ Lett. 1038.