Who would want to pray for a slow death? St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows did so that he could prepare himself spiritually. He died in 1862 at the age of 23 of tuberculosis, which was a painful way to die: "When TB wakes up and gets into the lungs, it eats them from the inside out, slowly diminishing their capacity, causing the chest to fill up with blood and the liquidy remains of the lungs. It’s painful, it’s drawn out. It’s an awful way to die."
St. Gabriel was born Francis Possenti in 1838. After being cured twice of serious illnesses he joined the Passionist order at the age of 18. The Passionists are dedicated to the Passion of Jesus. When St. Gabriel was dying, he maintained a cheerful demeanor and was a source of inspiration to his fellow novices. He was named the patron of clergy, students, and young people.
We actually live a slow death. Each day we progress to our ultimate end, which we pray will lead us to Christ in Heaven. We have an advantage that St. Gabriel did not have. He knew his death was near. We do not. With the state of medicine, we can count on a long life, as long as we are freed from tragic accidents. We can maintain a cheerful demeanor in our daily life as we prepare for our death. We can be a source of inspiration to others in our appreciation of the goods of the earth that God has given us and the goods of Heaven that we receive in the grace of the sacraments and prayer. Let us imitate St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows by dedicating our lives to living, and dying, as faithful disciples of Christ.