Fragment of a homily by Saint Gregory the Pope of Rome about a monk who was almost swallowed by a serpent but was released thanks to his brothers’ prayers.
Brothers, we all must pray for each other at all times, following the law of Christian love; hence, the Apostle says, pray one for another (James 5:16); notwithstanding that, our prayer for those of our neighbors who are getting close to death must be especially zealous and persistent. The dying need our prayers the most; our fervent prayers for them set them free from the horrors of their death hour and sometimes even makes them whole.
Here is a story told to us by Saint Gregory, Pope of Rome: “There was a pious monk in my monastery. His brother came to the monastery and asked us to let him become one of us. We accepted him. But alas! The second brother led a completely different life. He didn’t care for his soul at all: he didn’t follow the monastic rules; he judged others and wore fashionable clothes; he couldn’t tolerate anyone who would talk to him about the afterlife and the need of repentance. We wanted to expel him more than once but each time we didn’t want to make his pious brother sad, so we let him stay. After a while, the slothful monk fell severely ill and was dying. While his body was growing stiff, the monks circled him and began to pray. All of a sudden, the dying monk screamed, “Leave me alone! A scary serpent is about to swallow me but he can’t do it because of your prayers. Go away so that I would stop feeling this pain: I’d rather he swallowed me and it were over.” “What are you talking about? Cross your heart!” the monks said to the dying man. “I can’t,” he replied. “The serpent is squeezing me.” The monks proceeded to pray even harder, and their prayer wasn’t in vain. Soon, the dying man felt better and told them in a happy voice, “Praise God! The serpent, to whom I was given as prey for my sins, has spat me out and is running away. Please keep praying for me; I want to improve and start a new life.” The brothers kept praying for him. What do you think happened? His life was spared. He improved and persevered in repentance and godliness until his death.
Seeing how beneficial your prayer for the dying can be, hurry to their deathbeds and pray for them. It may be that your prayer will save the sick person, and the Lord will make him strong again; undoubtedly, your prayer will bring them spiritual benefit, empower them as they grapple with demonic attacks, and help them to die as Christians. In addition, it will alleviate your grief at losing them. Amen.
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds