Project Canterbury

Locust Street Letters

By Frank Lawrence Vernon

Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.




The Christian Religion teaches us that life continues after death, that consciousness is uninterrupted and that the practice of prayer continues. This means that what we are, and what we think and what we do five minutes before death will go on just the same five minutes after death. Only then our final destiny is fixed. We shall have what we have always desired. We shall be openly what we have always really been secretly. The secrets of all hearts will be revealed. What we have become we shall know then. At the particular judgment, which takes place at the moment of death, Our Lord who will be our Judge, will reveal to us our actual and self-elected state. The General Judgment at the end of the world will be the complete manifestation of God’s justice and mercy towards all men from the beginning to the end of the world, and it will determine and establish the final and fixed order of eternal life. But it is the particular Judgment of which I am writing.

The Holy Ghost speaks constantly to our consciences. You and I know enough about ourselves to judge ourselves here and now. We know what our life really is, at this moment. We know what our settled thoughts are. We know the range of our prayer life. If we should die this minute, our life and thought and prayers would continue. The daily question for us is, whether or not we are satisfied with our life, our thoughts and our prayers. Do we want to be always what we are now? Or would we like to be better? Do we want to become perfect? Or are we content to be imperfect? Of course there could be only one answer for any reasonable person of right intention, devout disposition and good will. We know we are very far from being perfect. We know that we must persevere in the effort to become perfect. And we also know that our efforts are aided by the prayers of others. Who expects to become perfect at the moment of death? What dying friend of ours ever professed to be perfect? All that the best of us and the worst of us dare to profess is that we hope, by the grace of God, we may be made perfect. We are grateful for the prayers of friends. We are never beyond the need of prayers. Yet once having set our souls towards perfection, once having submitted ourselves to God, once having placed our souls under the operation of Grace, once having made our act of Faith, once having firmly purposed to persevere, we are on the way of being made perfect, however imperfect we may be. We are on the way. How long the way, God only knows. What the trials of the way may be, God only knows. All that we know is that His Grace will be sufficient. And that is enough. Whatever the trials may be, His mercy endureth forever, and that is enough. So we walk by Faith, we are saved through Hope, and we are made perfect in Charity. The life in this world is our time of probation. Death is the transition into the life of purgation. From that life we pass, in God’s good time, into the life of perfection. All judgment is in Our Lord’s keeping. We know that many who are first shall be last, and that many who are last shall be first.

It is this attitude of penitent, humble waiting which is the key note of the Church’s rites for the dead.

Affectionately in Our Lord,

Project Canterbury