Devotion Of The Bona Mors, Or Art Of Dying Happy, by anonymous
Once upon a time there was a focus on having a good death. It was thought that in order to have a good life, one had to have a good death. If a good death might not necessarily entirely overcome a bad life, it did at least mark one as being courageous in the face of mankind’s ultimate enemy, and a life that had been good could be marred by a poor death. As a consequence of the societal importance of having a good death, especially for men, there were books, like this one, which encouraged someone to behave in such a manner as to achieve a good death. Since a good death was hoped for and even expected for a certain class of gentleman of strong religious belief, it was not surprising that there would be guides for a good death so that someone could think about and to some extent prepare for having a good death. I find this sort of work fascinating myself, quite possibly because of my own generally morbid interests as well as my fascination about the ways of the past, even the ways of dying, that have been left by the wayside along with so much of traditional culture.
This particular short book of less than 50 pages is written with a Catholic audience in mind. It begins with an explanation about the purpose of the work, in order to help the reader obtain the grace of a good death. After that short introduction, there is a discussion about plenary indulgences and partial indulgences that might ease the sting of death for the faithful Catholic. This is followed by the rules that must be obeyed by those seeking to obtain said comfort. Following this is a discussion of prayers in Latin with the English translation in parallel columns that the faithful can pray in order to obtain a happy death. These prayers take up the vast majority of the book’s contents, and appear to be aimed at an audience of English Catholics who might need the consolation in England being a small and despised minority. This particular book was published in 1856, and it is unclear exactly who wrote it, but it is part of a larger work of devotion that was reprinted separately because of the importance of the good death. Suffice it to say that this book is about a subject that people scarcely tend to think about these days.