“Dude, a former classmate your brother and I knew from high school died last week.” My friend somberly remarked.
“Huh?” I responded, unsure if I heard him correctly.
“A mutual friend of your brother and I is gone. He overdosed on cocaine.”
We were both silent for what seemed like an hour. Then I responded, “Bro, I’m sorry man.”
I think almost every person has experienced some tragedy like this. I remember one day in high schoo,l a girl walked past me sobbing, in tears. When a teacher asked what was wrong, her classmate responded, “Her friend just committed suicide.”
A few weeks back, a relative of mine lost a good friend who made a suicide pact with a girl he met while in a hospital.
Sadly, these tragedies are becoming more frequent. We read stories on Facebook and other media outlets of kids being bullied and then committing suicide.
What can we do in such an unexplainable situation? What happens to these souls who commit suicide? What about those who have no religion and die in a tragic accident such as a substance overdose? How about so many young men who are killed tragically by gang violence or women who have lost their lives due to a botched abortion? Is there hope for those we know who have befallen this tragedy?
The Ray of Redemption
It is funny thing in life that when all seems lost, someone, for some reason throws you a lifeline. The armies of Mordor are preparing to annihilate the last free kingdom of men, Minas Tirath in The Return of the King. Just when all seems lost and the men, women and children of the city will be annihilated, the Riders of Rohan show up. When the Haradrim nearly wipe out the Riders of Rohan, Aragorn, the lost King of Gondor shows up with the men of the mountain and successfully defends his kingdom. Fin is about to be killed by Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens. As Ren reaches for Luke Skywalker’s light saber, Rey snatches it from him using the power of the force and engages him in battle to save Fin and the Resistance. Ana saves Elsa’s life in Frozen, freeing her heart from shame and fear. Elsa in turn uses her freedom to save her kingdom of Arendelle.
Do you see the beautiful pattern here? Our hearts are hardwired to redemption. We love situations where all hope seems lost, then for some reason, a miraculous rescue takes place. An impossible victory is won. Hatred is replaced with love. War torn hearts, homes and lives are replaced with peace. A person without hope finds redemption and…..finds God.
Our Catholic Faith teaches that when death occurs the soul is separated from the body and faces judgment before Christ. However, we do not officially know when the soul leaves the body.[i] We do know that the Holy Trinity and Our Lady will do anything and everything to save a soul in danger of damnation and procure salvation for every person who asks for mercy…..even at the moment of death.
A couple centuries ago, a woman approached a priest, whom she had never met before, in the confessional lamenting, “Father, my husband has committed suicide. I am devastated. I will never see him again.”
The priest gently replied, “Madam, he is in purgatory. Please pray for him.”
She rebuked the priest, “Father, he committed suicide, how could he be in purgatory. I will never see him again.”
The priest again gently said to the woman, “Madam, he is in purgatory. Please pray for him.”
The woman again retorted, “Father you do not understand…..”
At that, the priest had enough. He gently, albeit sternly remarked, “Madam, you do not understand that between the time your husband jumped from the cliff and hit the rocks below, the Blessed Mother interceded for him. Be at peace. He is in purgatory. Please pray for him.”
Then the Confession ended. The priest who revealed that to the widow was St. Jean Marie Vianney, the Patron Saint of Priests.
Our Lady Patron of Deathbed Conversions
When my friend told me his classmate overdosed, one thing he mentioned was, “I just, I just wish I could have done more for him when he was alive. He would always speak about how he missed his mother. She died when he was just a young boy.”
Everyone, who witnesses tragedy wishes the same thing. Yet, we can do far more for them than we think.
When we finish the Hail Mary, we conclude with the words “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” Notice we do not say “pray for me a sinner”, we say “pray for us” meaning we are asking for her intercession for ourselves and all those we love and hold dear.
When we say “now” we are not only asking her to remember us in the present moment but always. Her mediation spans time, place and people. She desires all of us to be with her Son forever. And what better way to start that journey than in the present moment?
“At the hour of our death” is a petition for Our Lady to prepare us and our loved ones, to meet her Son. Like the good thief on the cross, we are asking her in a gentle way, “Remember me Mother.” And remember us She will.
Like the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Mary longs for all souls to be saved. Death is a place where she intercedes with great tenderness and mercy. Legend has it that at the hour of his death, Henry VIII, who persecuted numerous Catholics, defied the Papacy and killed his wives clutched his rosary before dying. For every beautiful story of Mary’s intercession at the hour of someone’s death there are a thousand we do not know about. If you would like to read more inspirational stories about Mary’s intercession at death check here http://www.ncregister.com/blog/astagnaro/the-amazing-conversion-of-death-row-inmate-claude-newman and here https://veneremurcernui.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/last-things-invoke-our-blessed-mother-on-your-death-bed/.
The greatest gift we can give those who have been lost to any tragedy is fervently asking Our Lady to remember them, to pray for them and intercede for them. Her Maternal Mediation and Glory has no limits in the conquest of souls.
Mary, pray for us sinners, all of your children the world over, now and at the hour of our death! Amen!
[i] Iana. (2005, October 30) When does your soul leave your body? Message posted to https://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=82696