The Latin adage grasps reality so well, talis vita, finis ita. That means the way you live is the way you die. If one lives well, a good death is likely with the grace of God. Whereas those who live a sinful life are unlikely to make a last minute conversion and die well.
The saints stand apart. They embrace death with confidence, even joy. They know what awaits every faithful soul who heroically fights the good fight on earth: Heaven. The ten saints here featured display such a high degree of union with God and the Blessed Virgin Mary that they already seem to experience a foretaste of Heaven on their deathbed.
Their last words prove that a life of heroic virtue, united with the Cross of Christ, is the source of true happiness in this life and in the next.
Saint Andrew the Apostle
Last words: “I know the virtue of Thy Holy Cross.”
At his crucifixion, Saint Andrew composed the following prayer:
“O most beautiful Cross that was glorified by carrying the Body of Christ! Glorious Cross, sweetly desired, ardently loved, always sought, and finally prepared for my heart that has so long awaited you. Take me, O Cross! Embrace me. Release me from my life among men. Bring me quickly and diligently to the Master. Through you He will receive me, He, Who through you has saved me.”
The holy Apostle continued: “Lord, eternal King of glory, receive me hanging from the wood of this sweet cross. Thou who art my God, whom I have seen, do not permit them to loosen me from the cross. Do this for me, O Lord, for I know the virtue of Thy Holy Cross.”
Saint Joan of Arc (1412—1431)
Her last word: “Jesus.”
Fr. Jean Massieu, an eyewitness, recounts how Saint Joan died as she burned at the stake: “…she uttered pious and devout lamentations and called on the Blessed Trinity, and upon the blessed and glorious Virgin Mary, and on all the blessed saints in Paradise.”
The judges and several Englishmen who saw Saint Joan of Arc face death were so profoundly moved that they wept. Her enemies “recognized God's hand and made professions of faith when they saw her make so remarkable an end. And her last word, as she died, was a loud cry of 'Jesus'."
The fire consumed her body but her heart remained miraculously intact.
Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio (1913—1928)
His last words: “Long live Christ the King!”
After valiantly fighting for the Cristeros, Saint Jose was captured. While the socialists barbarically tortured the 14-year-old boy with sharp machete blows, the godless soldiers screamed, “If you shout, ‘Death to Christ the King’, we will spare your life.”
His firm reply remained the same: “Long live Christ the King! Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe!” Although his torturers pierced his body with bayonets, with every stab, he shouted louder and louder: "Viva Cristo Rey!"
King Saint Ferdinand of Castile (1199—1252)
His last words: “Sing the Te Deum!”