Another case – which was just as frightful – involved a man who was ill and whom we had hosted at our monastery for three days, to attend the Holy Oil service. His wife had told us about some heavy sins that he had done in his life. For three days, we asked him to confess to whatever confessor he wanted – since we had several of them -, gently and patiently explaining to him that God had left us the power to forgive sins through confession. Yet he would not hear about any of that.
On the third day, at night, while we were at the Holy Oil service, he started to howl, literally, all of a sudden, saying that these frightful dark creatures were coming to take him away and that he could see his own sins on them. Extremely terrified, he asked us to confess him right away (now he had become wise). So everyone else left the room where we were and in between shrill moanings, all he could say was: “…I have done… I have done…” and he died in my arms.
I said the forgiveness words more out of a feeling of pity for him, since it had been his last wish – but he was dead. This account was told and retold throughout that region for many years afterwards.
Now THAT is what doubt does – that guilty lack of faith and self-deception which makes one believe that upon one’s death, there will be no demons and no angels coming for your poor soul. What a source of anguish and fear during one’s last minutes on earth, at a time when peace is so necessary! And what things man does not expose himself to, if death takes him by surprise!
Excerpt from “Iată duhovnicul – părintele Arsenie Papacioc” (“Ecce the Confessor – Fr. Arsenie Papacioc“) – volume 2