“Man knoweth not his own end, but as fishes taken with the hook and as birds are caught with the snare, so men are taken in the evil time, when it shall suddenly come upon them.” (Ecclesiastes 9:12)
An evil time is death called because it is the greatest suffering man undergoes in life, his greatest indignity, filled with uncertainty and fears, and the approach of his worst enemies: “For the devil has come down to you in great wrath, knowing that he has but little time.” Such an evil time requires the greatest helps provided by God’s grace; the very help of His own Mother, His own helper at His death upon the Cross.
St. Alphonsus tells us that Our Lady is such a good helper at the time of death that She makes its horrible bitterness sweet. Indeed, the memory of the small devotion we gave Her, and the great bounty with which She repays our small services, fills the soul with sweetness in the midst of the sorrows of death. By Her prayers, and especially by Her presence, She makes our death sweet because She sheds the light of Faith upon the soul wherein it sees clearly that it is the moment to “redeem the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph 5:16) The soul instinctively, by Her Mother’s touch, learns and practices, perhaps for the first time in its life, the mystery of reparation.
Take, for example, the many souls who died in isolation during the confinement of Covid-19. Bereft of family and friends, bereft too of the Sacraments of the Church, to whom did they turn? They could only look to God, and in that look of desperation of all human help, they undoubtedly received God’s, the help of Mary, succor of the dying. It is not in vain that we pray over and over again: “pray for us now, and at the hour of our death.” This prayer is not in vain.
Unanimously, the Saints say that the devil lurks to attack the soul at death. He waits for the moment of fear and weakness to strike his last desperate blows – and God permits this for justice sake, and for the greater victory of divine grace, never allowing anyone to be tempted beyond their strength. Mary however, at the right moment, strengthens Her servant, and where necessary, routs the evil spirit with one severe look of Her Queenly countenance.
Let us turn to Mary frequently during our life. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” Apoc. 14:13. We can die in the Lord when we live like Jesus in the Heart of Mary. To do this, let us apply ourselves to three things: 1) Pray frequently for the conversion of sinners. 2) Offer one Hail Mary for those who are to die today. 3) Consider once a day, “What can I do to please my Heavenly Mother today?”. With these three simple things, we prepare a good death in the arms of our Mother and sustained by Her prayers.