St. Francis de Sales, in his Seventh Meditation (1.17) found in his Introduction to the Devout Life, calls us to draw to mind the choice between heaven and hell. This reflection should be done in the morning (plan on 20–30 minutes). Some practical comments have been added to the text in italics.
On the Choice upon to you between Heaven and Hell.
- PLACE yourself in the Presence of God. Imagine that you are in a room with Christ.
- Humble yourself before Him, and ask His inspiration. While you are in the room with Christ, think about your lowliness—He is the King of Heaven—and ask Him to speak to you and help you in your prayer.
- Imagine yourself alone with your good angel in an open plain, as was Tobit on his way to Rages. Suppose the Angel to set before you Paradise, full of delights and joys; and on the other hand Hell, with all its torments. Contemplate both, kneeling in imagination before your guardian Angel. Consider that you are most truly standing between Hell and Paradise, and that both the one and the other are open to receive you, according to your own choice.
- Consider that the choice you make in this life will last for ever in the next. It is important to realize that our choices in this life have eternal consequences. Think deeply about this one thing, that what we choose and do here in this life will last forever in the next.
- Consider too, that while both are open to receive you according to your choice, yet God, Who is prepared to give the one by reason of His Justice, the other by reason of His Mercy, all the while desires unspeakably that you should select Paradise; and your good Angel is urging you with all his might to do so, offering you countless graces on God’s part, countless helps to attain to it. God desires us to choose His Mercy! Think of the image of the father running to greet the prodigal son as he returns home, having wasted his inheritance. The father, seeing the son a far ways off, runs to embrace him. So too does God desire to run to meet us, but we first must, like the prodigal son choosing to return home, decide to choose heaven.
- Consider that Jesus Christ, enthroned in Heaven, looks down upon you in loving invitation: “O beloved one, come unto Me, and joy for ever in the eternal blessedness of My Love!” Behold His mother yearning over you with maternal tenderness—” Courage, my child, do not despise the Goodness of my Son, or my earnest prayers for thy salvation.” Behold the Saints, who have left you their example, the millions of holy souls who long after you, desiring earnestly that you may one day be for ever joined to them in their song of praise, urging upon you that the road to Heaven is not so hard to find as the world would have you think. “Press on boldly, dear friend,”—they cry. “Whoso will ponder well the path by which we came hither, will discover that we attained to these present delights by sweeter joys than any this world can give.”
- PRAY ALOUD: “O Hell, I abhor thee now and for ever; I abhor thy griefs and torments, thine endless misery, the unceasing blasphemies and maledictions which thou pourest out upon my God;—and turning to thee, O blessed Paradise, eternal glory, unfading happiness, I choose thee for ever as my abode, thy glorious mansions, thy precious and abiding tabernacles. O my God, I bless Thy Mercy which gives me the power to choose—O Jesus, Saviour, I accept Thine Eternal Love, and praise Thee for the promise Thou hast given me of a place prepared for me in that blessed New Jerusalem, where I shall love and bless Thee for ever.”
- Dwell lovingly upon the example set before you by the Blessed Virgin and the Saints, and strive to follow where they point you. Give yourself up to your guardian Angel, that he may be your guide, and gird up your courage anew to make this choice