This devotion has for its object, first, to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus undergoing the greatest interior sufferings for the salvation of souls during His life, and, above all, during His Passion; secondly, to obtain, by the merits of this long agony, a happy death for the thousands of persons who each day die throughout the world. Nothing can be more simple and admirable than the history of this touching devotion. About twenty years ago, a saintly religious was inspired with the desire to make it known to the faithful, and for this end he composed a little prayer for those who each day are in their agony. Approved and enriched with many indulgences by his Holiness Pius IX, this prayer was distributed everywhere, and, being translated into several languages, it became known in most Catholic countries, and has given rise to the pious associations established in many towns, the object of which is to implore of God the salvation of the dying.
It is easy to understand how pleasing this devotion must be to the Heart of God, who, leaving the glory of heaven, descended on earth to save mankind from hell; it is the means of drawing down graces of conversion on a multitude of Christians, who, in this age of indifference and impiety, do not prepare for death, think not of eternity, and find themselves in the presence of the Sovereign Judge without having once reflected on their danger. It is also a means of cautioning souls against the infernal doctrines of freethinkers, who endeavor to banish the priest from the cradle of the new-born babe, from the nuptial contract, and from the bedside of the dying. Oh! what graces of salvation has not this devotion drawn down from heaven! What comfort has it not procured for the agonizing! How many expiring sinners has it not snatched from the abyss of hell, and how many souls has it not saved from eternal fire! Blessed be the agonizing Heart of Jesus for having inspired such a fruitful, opportune and providential devotion!
Christians, pray for all who are in their agony, recommend them often to the merciful Heart of Jesus, and remember that each day many thousands of persons fall under the sword of death, appear before the dread tribunal of God and begin an eternity of joy or woe. Alas! of this number how many thousands are in a state of mortal sin! Pray for the dying; they are your brethen in Jesus Christ; perhaps relations, friends, and benefactors, for whom you should obtain a happy death. Pray for the agonizing; one day you, too, will stand in need of prayers when you are in your agony, and you will rise victorious from your last struggle to enjoy eternal happiness. Lastly, make known this devotion to the agonizing Heart of Jesus to those who are in ignorance of it: speak of it in your families and amongst your friends, and this Sacred Heart will bless you. If, by the union and fervor of our prayers we could each day save a soul, what a rich harvest we should have stored up at the end of the year! What a pledge of our own salvation, and what a crown for all eternity!
At the recommendation of a Protestant family, living in the town of Liege in Belgium, a young lady who had been long ill was received into the hospital. She was an excellent musician, had lived entirely amongst heretics, and although nominally a Catholic, had no idea of religion and scarcely believed in the existence of God, giving herself up to all the pleasures of the world. When anyone spoke to her of religion, she became irritable and declared that such conversations fatigued her. The nursing sisters who were in charge of the hospital, despairing of her conversion, made a novena for her to the agonizing Heart of Jesus. On the last day of the novena, the poor sinner asked one of the sisters for a prayer book and after reading a page, exclaimed: "I will go to confession and communion." She made her confession and communion, and from that day she said to all who came to see her: "Oh! how truly happy I am." On the near approach of death, she expressed her desire to communicate again, and during her agony she repeated with fervor the words: "My Savior, my Savior, forgive me all my sins!" peacefully expiring with the holy Name still on her lips. Thus was this poor soul saved by being recommended to the agonizing Heart of Jesus. Glory and love to this divine Heart!
O most merciful Jesus! full of love for souls, I implore Thee by the agony of Thy most Sacred Heart, and by the sorrows of Thy Immaculate Mother, to purify in Thy blood the sinners of the whole world, who are now in their agony, and this day to die. Amen.
Agonizing Heart of Jesus, have pity on the dying.
Do not fail to pray for the dying every day, especially in your night prayers. The vast majority of those who die at night do so unprepared and without the sacraments of the Church.