The monk is supposed to keep death at the forefront of his mind. After all, death is our ultimate end on this earth, and the gateway to Heaven, Purgatory, or Hell. Heaven is our goal, and death to our earthly existence is the only way to get there.
In her memoirs, Fatima seer Lucia recalls her little cousins’ attitude toward death. In the apparitions, Our Lady had said that Jacinta and Francisco would go to Heaven soon, but that Francisco would need to pray “many rosaries”. In the simplicity of their childhood, they believed her, and both children fell to serious illnesses that brought them much suffering, just as Our Lady had told them would happen.
Francisco so faithfully believed that he would die soon that often he did not bother to go to school. Lucia recounts that he would say, “Our Lady is taking me to Heaven soon, so there’s no need for me to go. I would rather stay in the church with the Hidden Jesus. Remember, Our Lady said I needed to pray many rosaries.” And so he would remain in the church before the Blessed Sacrament, praying the rosary, until Lucia and Jacinta stopped by for him on their way home from school.
When Francisco was ill, and Lucia asked him if he was suffering much, he would reply in the affirmative and note that he did not speak of it because he wanted to offer his suffering to console Our Lord. That was his focus: to console Our Lord who suffers because of our sins.
Jacinta suffered in her illness for a longer period of time than Lucia, and Our Lady told her that she would die all alone. This was a cause of grief for Jacinta, who was very much attached to Lucia. When Lucia told her to remember that she would soon be with Our Lady, Jacinta would agree, but comment that sometimes it was hard for her to remember that. Still, when Our Lady came to Jacinta and asked if she was willing to suffer a bit longer for the conversion of poor souls, Jacinta agreed. That was her focus: the conversion of poor souls.
I am so inspired by the stories of these children! Their attitude toward death seems so far removed from the way we tend to look at it. I think of those programs that seek to grant dying children their fondest wish – like a trip to Disneyland or whatever; I have nothing against that, really. But I don’t think Jacinta and Francisco would have had any wish other than to please Our Lord and Our Lady, and they knew without a doubt that there was no better place than Heaven. In these times, we so need to keep that in mind.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.