“Blessed be the Lady who intends me to quit this life this Saturday. I know that God, our Lord, is about to do me the mercy and favor of allowing me to recite Matins in Heaven.”Saint John of the Cross
On December 13, he asked in the morning what day it was and when he heard it was Friday, he inquired frequently what hour it was: after all, he was waiting to say Matins in heaven.
On this last day of his life, he was more silent and recollected than ever. Most of the time his eyes were closed. When he opened them, he fastened them, filled with love, on a copper cross.
About three o’clock he asked that Padre Sebastián de San Hilario be brought to him. This was a young friar to whom John had given the habit in Baeza. Now he was ill of a malignant fever some cells away. He was brought in and remained perhaps a half hour.
John had an important message for him: “Padre Sebastián, your Reverence will be elected a prior of the order. Pay attention to what I tell you, and try to bring it to the notice of superiors, telling them that I mentioned it to you immediately before my death.” It was something that was important for the growth of the Province.
At five o’clock the saint broke into an exultant cry: “I am happy that, without deserving it, I shall be in heaven tonight.” Soon thereafter, he turned to the prior and Fernando Díaz: “Father, will your paternity send word to Señor Fernando’s home that they should not wait for him, he must remain here tonight.”
Then he asked for the holy anointing and received it with deep devotion; he gave all the responses to the prayers of the priest. At his urgent request, the Most Blessed Sacrament was brought once more for his adoration. He spoke tenderly to the hidden God. In farewell, he said, “Lord, now I shall see you no more, with eyes of flesh.”
Padre Antonio de Jesús and several other elderly fathers wished to stay with him, but he would not permit it. He would have them called when it was time.
Padre Sebastián heard him also say that God had granted him three petitions for his consolation: not to die a superior; to die in a place where he was unknown; and that, after having suffered much. Then he lay so still and peacefully engrossed in prayer that they thought he was already dead. But, coming to himself again he kissed the feet of “his Christ.”
At ten o’clock he heard a bell ringing. He asked what that was for. They told him that his brothers were going to Matins. “And I,” he said, “by the mercy of my God am going to recite them with the Virgin, our Lady, in Heaven.”
At about eleven-thirty he had them call the fathers. About fourteen or fifteen friars came who were ready for Matins. They hung their lamps on the wall as they came in. They asked the saint how he was. He grasped a rope that hung from a beam in the ceiling and raised himself up in bed.
“Fathers, shall we recite the De Profundis? I feel quite well.”
He looked “very calm, beautiful and happy,” according to the testimony of the subprior, Ferdinando de la Madre de Dios. He intoned the psalm himself, the others responded. In this way “I don’t know how many” psalms were recited according to Francisco García. They were the penitential psalms, which precede the recommendation of the soul.
The reports given do not correspond on whether that followed immediately after the psalms and at what point John interrupted the prayers. He had become tired and had to lie down again. And he had one more wish: that someone would read to him part of the Song of Songs; the prior did so. “What precious gems!” It was, after all, the love Song that had accompanied him through life.
Again he asked what time it was. Midnight had not yet struck. “At midnight I shall stand before God to recite Matins.”
Padre Antonio reminded him of everything he had done for the Reform, at its beginnings and later as superior.
The saint replied, “God knows what took place in those days.” But he did not want to count on that. “Pater Noster, this is not the time to be thinking of that. It is by the merits of the blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ that I hope to be saved.”
His brothers asked for his blessing and, at the provincial’s command, he gave it. He recommended that they be truly obedient and become perfect religious.
Shortly before midnight, he handed “el Santo Cristo,” his crucifix, to one of the bystanders, probably Francisco Díaz. He wished to have both hands free to lay out his body for burial. He then took it back and now he took leave of it, speaking most tenderly of the Crucified as he had earlier of the Eucharistic Savior.
Twelve strokes sounded from the bell tower. The dying man said, “Brother Diego, give the signal to ring the bell for Matins, for it is now time.” Francisco García, bell ringer of that week, went out.
John heard the tone of the bell and said, with the crucifix in his hand “In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum” [Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit]. A parting glance at all those present, a final kiss for the Crucified One—then he stood before the throne of God to pray Matins with the heavenly choirs.
Saint Edith Stein
24. Conflicts within the Order and final days (excerpt)
Stein, E 2002, The Science of the Cross, The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Book 6, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, ICS Publications, Washington D.C.