“But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.” (Matt. 24:13)
“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you be
hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first
conviction to the end….” (Hebrews 3:13-14)
“Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1. Cor. 9:24)
One of the fundamental propositions of the Ignatian Exercises is to pray for the grace you need. Thus, if you are impatient, you should pray continually for the virtue of patience. Ask, and it shall be given to you (Luke 11:9). Now, paying heed to the immense wisdom of our Catholic spiritual heritage, it is incredibly prudent to pray for the most important grace of final perseverance. In his 750 page treatise, The Spiritual Life, Father Adolphe Tanquerey makes the following observation (p. 68):
“…final perseverance is a singular and priceless gift. We cannot merit it strictly speaking. To die in the state of grace in spite of all the temptations that assail us at the last hour, to escape these by a sudden and tranquil death – falling asleep in the Lord – this is truly in the language of the Councils the grace of graces. We cannot ask for it persistently enough. Prayer and faithful co-operation with grace can obtain it for us.”
Still further, in the Theological Dictionary of Father Rahner, et al, it is stated:
“It is the defined teaching of the Church that actual perseverance to the end (perseverantia finalis) is impossible without a special grace (D 832); it remains uncertain whether this later will be granted (D 826); it cannot be merited, but the Christian is to pray for it and cherish the firm hope of it.”
The great Dominican and Thomist, Father Garrigou-LaGrange, says this: “Therefore, to obtain this grace of final perseverance, we should frequently unite ourselves with the Eucharistic consecration, the essence of the sacrifice of the mass, pondering on the four ends of sacrifice: adoration, supplication, reparation and thanksgiving” (Providence, p.331). This is quite a beautiful and powerful recommendation. He also mentions the advice of Pope Benedict XV to have a mass said while you are living for the grace of a happy death. Make the effort – it will be well worth it! – to have a mass said for you and your spouse (or sibling, etc.) to die in sanctifying grace.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is mindful of our need for final perseverance (I recall the prayer Jesus said for Peter’s perseverance at the Last Supper, Luke 22: 31-32, and also Judas’ tragic fall from grace despite such a good beginning). One of the great promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary involves a special grace of final perseverance:
“I promise you in the excessive Mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful Love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months the Grace of Final Penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.”
Of this promise (quoted above) Father Garrigou-LaGrange staes:
“We may here remind the reader of the great promise of the Sacred Heart, to those who receive Communion well on nine successive First Fridays. This promise, we have said, is absolute, that it supposes that Communion has been well made for these nine times. This would be, therefore, a grace given only to the elect” (Life Everlasting, p. 262).
I encourage everyone to make (or complete) the First Friday devotion, and also to stay very close to the Blessed Virgin who has a “special office” to pray for us at the hour of our death, she who was given to us as a great gift by Jesus, from the Cross, as he died to give us eternal life. Finally, let us beseech Saint Joseph incessantly for the grace of a happy death, for he is the Patron Saint of a happy death.
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
P.S. Father Garrigou-LaGrange once had a student named Karol Wojtyla…who was recently canonized! Pray to Saint John Paul II for the grace to make the First Friday devotion. Notice, of course, the profound relationship between devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a profound love of the Holy Eucharist!
Image: Stations of the Cross, Pasierbiec, Poland, using Saints and other heroic Catholics from Poland. The Station in question thus substitutes Saint John Paul II in the place of Simon of Cyrene (fifth station). Picture used with permission.
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