The Testament of Isabella 
the Catholic
[Isabella I, Queen of Castille and Leon]


Thoughts on Death and Penance
Taken from the book, The Spiritual Combat by DOM LORENZO SCUPOLI
With Imprimatur
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---------------Thoughts on Death---------------
Every moment of our lives we stand on the brink of eternity


1. Contemplation of death enables us to judge properly and prevents our being imposed upon in all affairs. With nothing we came into this world, and with nothing shall we leave it. Why then should we consume our very lives in the accumulation of riches? No one is to accompany us out of this world; why then are we so fond of creatures?

The stench and corruption of the grave in which the pampered body is the prey of the lowest vermin show us the folly of carnal pleasures.

In our narrow cell beneath the earth among the meanest things of creation, when our very blanket of soil may be trampled upon by the meanest beggar, then we shall be freed of the vanity of seeking distinction and preference over others.

2. It is our best instructor through life, laying down but one simple rule, which is the direction of all our acts to one last end. This consideration drives away all the petty troubles which punctuate this life with unfailing regularity: it steadies us on the course and sustains us on the journey.

3. It teaches us to know ourselves, one of the essential points of true wisdom.

4. It teaches us to despise all that this world can offer, and is the solace of all true servants of God.

5. It is like ice, and helps to chill and deaden the fire of concupiscence; it is a bridle which curbs our sensual appetites.

6. It is a continual source of humiliation, a specific remedy against pride and vanity.

7. It is an excellent preservative against sin. "In all thy works be mindful of thy last end, and thou shalt never sin."
[Eccl. 7: 40]

8. It brings exasperated minds back to peace and reconciliation. Whoever considers seriously that a certain and unavoidable death will one day bring him before the Judge Who shows no mercy but to those who show mercy to others, he will easily be induced to forgive.

9. It is an antidote against the pleasures and vanities of the world. Thus the prince who once placed a jester in a crazy chair over a large fire told him very justly, seeing the jester's uneasiness, that life should be considered like a defective chair, which at any hour, at any moment, might fall to pieces; and the fire beneath the prince represented as the fires of Hell which everyone should hold in dread.

10. It teaches us a provident economy with regard to our salvation, by setting before our eyes the transitory character of this life, and the necessity of laying up a treasure of good works while it is in our power to do so.

11. It induces us to embrace penances with a cheerful spirit.

12. It encourages us to persevere in the way of penance with unshakable firmness.

---------------Thoughts on Penance---------------

Penance is the only pathway to God, once we have been separated from Him in sin. By penance I mean either penance of heart or an active penance. The one is effective, the other affective, and both must be united as the several circumstances of our condition require.

An active or effective penitence is to be utilized when sickness or any voluntary affliction befalls us, or when through a penitential spirit, we discipline ourselves.

In afflictions we practice active penitence in the following situations:

1. As often as we receive crosses with the intention of receiving them as just punishments from a tender parent solicitous for our reform; or as the sentence of a merciful judge who inflicts a penalty in this life in order to spare us in the next.

2. As often as we confess our sins with true repentance, and receive the punishment with due submission.

That these two interior acts may make a deep impression on our hearts they may be accompanied by the following reflections:

a. If the crimes for which we are punished were to be weighed against our sufferings, how light would the atonement be in comparison with our guilt!
b. All that we endure has been decreed in the providence of God.
c. All our sufferings are to our ultimate advantage, as they satisfy for our offenses.
d. We suffer too that we may come to a realization of our own wickedness, for we seldom advert to this subject before we feel the hand of God.
e. If by the Sacrament of Penance we are already in the state of grace, affliction is sent as a means of satisfying the Divine justice for the temporal punishment due to our sins.
f. The punishment due to mortal sin is eternal damnation, and irrevocable banishment from the sight of God if one is not repentant.
g. Millions have perished who perhaps were guilty of but one mortal sin after Baptism, and many of them were surprised by death the moment it was committed.

In order to apply these truths to our own case when any affliction befalls us, we ought to retire into the depths of our hearts, and reason thus with ourselves:

"Is it not an article of faith that when I first sinned mortally after Baptism, I made myself unworthy of all but the reprobates in Hell? O my God, if such were actually my fate, how many years should I have already passed in that place of horror! If I consider my first mortal sin, what must I not have suffered in that fiery furnace to this time, and what might I not expect to suffer for all eternity!

"It is through Thy mercy alone, O my God, that I was not in Hell from that first moment I deserved it, that I am not there at this moment, that I may still hope never to go there; and it is through Thy mercy that Thou has not dealt with me as Thou hast with those miserable wretches who now burn there for all eternity.

"Instead of those horrible unending torments, from which You have graciously exempted me, Thou art pleased to send this affliction; and yet I murmur, am impatient and rebellious. What I now suffer cannot possibly last long; what I deserved is eternal!"

An active penitence is exercised by depriving ourselves of any satisfaction of body or mind, with the intention of making some atonement to the divine justice by bearing patiently any contempt or injury, and offering it to the Almighty in expiation of our offenses.


This is acquired by grace, and our cooperation-----"the grace of God with me." [1 Cor. 15: 10]

The means appointed by providence for obtaining grace is to ask for it-----" Ask and you shall receive." Let us pray and strive to obtain it.


We should ask for affective penitence by forming acts repeatedly throughout the day, by words suitable to the affection God is pleased to instill within our hearts. Let us say: "My God, why did I ever offend Thee; and why, since I have been so miserable, do I not conceive a sorrow for it equal to that of the greatest penitents? How lamentable it is to forfeit my Baptismal grace, purchased with Thy Sacred Blood! What ingratitude on my part! What gracious mercy on Thine to pardon such a

"I now discern, O my God and Father, the excess of Thy love by the incredible patience You have shown me. Thou didst spare me in existence when I brazenly rebelled against Thee."

The words of the devout penitents expressed in the Holy Scriptures will best suit the occasion.

"O God, be merciful to me a sinner."
"Father, I have sinned against heaven and before Thee. I am no longer worthy to be called Thy son."
"Against Thee alone have I sinned, and done evil in Thy sight."
"A contrite and humble heart Thou wilt not despise." [Ps. 50]

Similar quotations may be utilized.


Let us consider attentively those motives which are most likely to affect our hearts.

The infinite goodness of God, as evidenced by our very existence.
The greatness of His Divine majesty, which has no need of us. The severity of His just vengeance, which might at once destroy us forever.
It would be wise to consult books on the above subject.
Let us sigh and lament in the presence of God for having offended Him, if these reflections move our hearts; but if we remain cold and indifferent, let us lament our insensibility.
Let us beg of the Divine goodness with the Samaritan woman, the water of life. "Lord, give me this water!" One penitential tear can disarm the anger of Heaven.
When you ask your celestial Father to give you your daily bread, remember to pray for the bread of tears; that ought to be the daily bread of sinners.
When moved to perform some good action, such as an alms, fasting, or some penitential work or personal deprivation, offer it to God, beseeching Him to bestow on you what you yourself are unable to obtain, i.e., a spirit of penance and sincere contrition for offenses.
Once a week read over these reflections-----for example on Saturday or Sunday.
Make it a rule, if you desire to succeed, every day to set apart half an hour to be spent in reading some pious book under these two regulations.
1. Choose such books as will most efficaciously stir up a penitential spirit in your heart.
2. Consider with great attention such passages as seem to affect you in particular, and lead you to an interior and affective spirit of penance.

Assist daily at the Sacrifice of the Mass [where and when one is available that is not sacrilegious], the principal object of devotion for the penitent heart, since Jesus Christ is there offered for our sins; and assist also to merit grace for the necessities of life. Join with the priest in offering the sublime sacrifice to God for this dual purpose.