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A Program of Spiritual Formation for Candidates to the Priesthood

The Lay Monastic Community of Caryana









This topic attracts very few because it does not contain a philosophical, oratorical or poetic art which might instruct the mind or polish the tongue or delight the ears; instead, it exhorts us to meditate on death and to think about things which are not generally pleasant to the rich and powerful man, like poverty, humility, patience and other Christian virtues.


Why are so few eager to learn the art of dying well? "For the number of fools is infinite." (Sir. 1:15) There is no greater folly than to neglect the art upon which depended the greatest and eternal goods and to waste one's time mastering the innumerable arts of increasing and preserving perishable goods.


No one is willing to consider that, in death, one must render to God an account of all one has done, said and thought, and even of one idle word; where the devil is our accuser, our conscience the witness, God our judge and punishment or reward is eternal. Doesn't this make the art of dying well the most important of arts? While many prepare for the smallest litigation, it is amazing how many face their Divine judge with utterly no preparation. This is why mortals rush to hell in great numbers. "If the just man scarcely will be saved, where will the impious and the sinner appear." (I Pt. 4:18)


Death is evil because it is opposed to life which is undeniably good. "By the envy of the devil, death came into the world." (Wis. 1:13) But God saw to it that good can come out of death. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of the Saints." (Ps. 116:15) And so Christ, by His death, destroyed death and, by rising, restored our life. Christ's death made death good. Thus, St. Ambrose entitled his book, "The Good of Death," showing that some deaths can be good.


Two goods can be derived from death. Firstly, it ends all the miseries of life, that is, if you do not end up in hell. "Great labor is created for all men and a heavy yoke upon the children of Adam from the day of their coming out of their mother's womb until the day of their burial." (Sir. 40:1) Secondly, death brings an excellent good in that it opens the door to God's kingdom, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord." (Rec. 14:13) For those who are led to purgatory, death frees them from the fear of hell and makes them certain of future everlasting happiness.


Even for those destined to hell, death brings some benefit. . .it prevents their punishment from increasing. Thus, death has lost its sting. "For me, to die is gain." Thus, Paul exhorts the Thessalonians not to be saddened by the deaths of their loved ones but look upon them as asleep. 


Thus, Catherine of Genoa described death as most fair and beautiful that flees from those who seek it and seeks those who flee from it. Death, as the offspring of sin, is evil; but, by the grace of Christ, it became in many ways useful and salutary, lovable and desirable.


St. Robert Bellarmine













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