Support the Mission of the Lepanto Institute with Every Purchase!

The Battle of a Lifetime

St. Catherine of Siena, doctor of the Church, was a mystic who recorded the mystical conversations she had with God the Father in a book simply titled, “The Dialogue.”  In this book, God describes to St. Catherine the trial at the moment of death that awaits sinners.  He said:

"How terrible and dark is their death! Because in the moment of death, as I told you, the Devil accuses them with great terror and darkness, showing his face, which you know is so horrible that the creature would rather choose any pain that can be suffered in this world than see it; and so greatly does he freshen the sting of conscience that it gnaws him horribly. The disordinate delights and sensuality of which he made lords over his reason, accuse him miserably, because then he knows the truth of that which at first he knew not, and his error brings him to great confusion.”

But Our Lord, in His Mercy, does not leave the poor sinner to his own devices, though darkened and confused he may be.  Rather, Our Lord permits this experience for the sinner so as not to choose despair, but rather call upon the mercy of Christ.  The Father further states:

“This is the effect of Mercy, to cause them to hope therein during their life, although I do not grant them this, so that they should offend Me by means of My mercy, but rather that they should dilate themselves in charity, and in the consideration of My goodness.

But they act in a contrary way, because they offend Me in the hope which they have in My mercy. And nevertheless, I keep them in this hope so that at the last moment they may have something which they may lay hold of, and by so doing not faint away with the condemnation which they receive, and thus arrive at despair; for this final sin of despair is much more displeasing to Me and injures them much more than all the other sins which they have committed. And this is the reason why this sin is more dangerous to them and displeasing to Me, because they commit other sins through some delight of their own sensuality, and they sometimes grieve for them, and if they grieve in the right way their grief will procure them mercy.”

This week has been a deeply bitter trial for my family.  Within a span of three days, my wife and I lost our fathers and our children lost their grandfathers.  When I wrote to you a week ago, I asked you to pray for the recovery of Elmo Thibodeaux and Boone Hichborn.  On Tuesday, I asked you to pray for the repose of Elmo’s soul, and for Boone’s happy death.  Today, with the heaviest of hearts, I ask you to have Masses said for the happy repose of them both.

On Tuesday, my mother was told by doctors that my father’s condition was grave and that we should consider going up to Baltimore to see him.  But at that time, we still have at least some hope of recovery.  On Wednesday afternoon, my mother, my siblings and I were told that our father had a matter of hours left.

I relayed to you the revelation of God the Father to St. Catherine of Siena because of how terrible, how difficult, and how gravely important the last hour of life is.  The most important thing all of us will ever do in this life is die, as the goal we all should have is to die well.

My father was a good man, but he was still a man with faults.  He and I were very close, so I knew the struggles that were to come, so when I left the house on Wednesday morning to go up to see him, I brought with me a bottle of Epiphany water, a vial of St. Joseph’s oil, my combat Rosary, and a first-class relic of St. Gemma Galgani and a pebble from St. Michael’s Cave.  Very thankfully, he had been to confession and received the Last Rites before being intubated.


What took place in my father’s hospital room in his last earthly moments was a battle for his soul on the scale of the battle for which this apostolate is named.  When I wrote to you, begging for prayers on his behalf, the response was overwhelming.  I received hundreds of replies, promising Rosaries, Eucharistic adorations, Masses, and many other prayers.  Even whole convents, monasteries, priests and bishops were offering prayers and Masses for him. 

Thus arrayed with a spiritual Holy League, a fleet of so many praying for my dad, I entered his room elated to see that he was properly armored with his brown scapular.  A deacon led our family at his bedside in the prayers for the dying. He then blessed my father with the Epiphany water and the St. Joseph’s oil.  I set the relics of St. Gemma and St. Michael upon his bare chest, and I placed a miraculous medal there as well. 

We all then prayed the Rosary for my dad.  During the third sorrowful mystery, I was inspired to finish it as a Penitential Rosary, which is to pray with arms outstretched in the form of a cross.  I am ashamed to admit that I struggled with vanity in that moment, wondering what my siblings would think, but when we got to the fourth mystery, I interrupted and asked my brother to join me in this practice, which he did.

After the Rosary, we took turns holding his hand to give him our love and to tell him how much we are going to miss him.  I then stole a corner of the room to pray quietly, asking Our Lady of Victory to be his advocate and win his soul, and also asking Our Lord to have mercy on him, repeating over and over, “Our Lady of Victory, pray for him.  My sweet Jesus, have mercy on him.”  In that time, I hoped to assist with my father’s cross as St. Simon assisted Our Lord on the way to Calvary.

While I never made it a specific prayer intention, I did hold the hope in my mind that my father would die within the hour of mercy, just as a small sign of his happy repose.  He died at 3:59.

As soon as he died, I made immediate arrangements for the 30 Gregorian Masses to be said for him to begin the following day. 

My father was a principled man who taught me patience and perseverance.  No matter how difficult a task, he never let me quit a project and instilled in me the necessity of following through on a promise.  But above all, he taught me that if there is something worth fighting for, you pour yourself completely into the fight without reservation or hesitation.  On Wednesday, nothing was more important to me than my father’s eternal salvation, and I can say with complete honesty that I poured all that I had into that fight.  As I told a friend of mine, “that damned Chinese dragon may take my father’s life, but I will do everything possible to keep it from taking his soul.”

When I was a child, my dad was my guardian, my protector, and my hero.  I looked up to him with intense devotion and admiration, and hoped some day to be like him.  Over the last few years, my dad loved and followed my work, and was proud of who I had become.  And in his last moments, when he could no longer defend himself, I had to honor and privilege to be his guardian and his protector. 

The deep pain of my father’s loss is the resulting wound from his Lepanto moment, the scar of which will remain with me for the rest of my life.  Though the pain will ease with time, I know it will never go away altogether … and I am glad for that.  The pain of loss is a reminder to me that there is always a debt to be paid for sin, and such pain is a motivation to always pray for the faithful departed.

Eternal rest grant unto him, Oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

I love you, Dad, and I look forward to seeing you again.

In your kindness, please have Masses said for both Elmo Thibodeaux and Boone Hichborn, and may God reward you abundantly for your charity.
Some other headlines you may have missed:

As always, please pray for the Church, for our bishops, priests, deacons, and for Lepanto's mission as we continue to unearth the truth and "restore all things to Christ." (Col. 1:20)

Christus Vincit!

Michael Hichborn
Lepanto Insititute