Emily | A Year of Living Adventurously
“…to lead a good life a man should always imagine himself at the hour of death…”
- St. Bonaventure
Since today is Halloween, and tomorrow is the Feast of All Saints, it seems appropriate to ponder…death.
I know, I know. It seems like most of us are trying desperately to forget about this whole “end of life” thing. Just recently I’ve seen several magazine covers with teasers about “extending your life” and “how to look 20 years younger”. Facebook friends are saying things like “Death isn’t fair”. (Death is probably the most democratic thing there is–we all experience it)
Since November is the month of prayer for the dead, maybe it’s time to talk about this.
We Catholics shouldn’t fear death. We should prepare ourselves for it with good, frequent confessions, but generally, we should remember that this isn’t our home. Earth is wonderful and God gave us many good things here. But it’s not home–that’s Heaven!
I teach first grade CCD, and we started the year by talking about Heaven and how great it is. The kids’ eyes grew huge as we talked about the good things of Heaven and how happy we will be there. It’s a good thing to remember as adults. Heaven is the place of perfect happiness.
One of the other things we teach them is the old Baltimore Catechism definition of “why God made you.” “He made us to know, love and serve Him in this world, and be perfectly happy with Him forever in the next.”
Perfectly happy with Him forever in the next.
Sounds like something worth thinking about, yes?
I know no one likes to think about death. I’m sort of used to it. When I was listed for a double-lung transplant, I knew that if I didn’t get it, I wasn’t going to see my twenty-fourth birthday. Thoughts of death were pretty constant, not in a morbid way, but in a practical way, because there were things to think about just in case.
Granted, we don’t all need to do this. But we do need to think about our eternal destiny–and our eternal home. Heaven isn’t meant to be a scary thought, and neither is Purgatory. As C.S. Lewis said,
“Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, “It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into joy”? Should we not reply, “With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleansed first.” “It may hurt, you know”—even so, sir.” The Great Divorce
Heaven, Hell, Purgatory and the Last Judgment are what Catholics call the Four Last Things. We would do well, in November, to reflect on them. The Mass readings will certainly do that as we come closer to the feast of Christ the King, which closes the church year this month.
Fear of death isn’t something we should have. In fact, it should encourage us to live the best lives we can, right now–to grow as people of prayer, of faith, as Catholics. We should work toward that awesome, eternal goal of being with God forever in Heaven.
So that’s our goal, here: To know, love and serve God on Earth. If we do those things, to the best of our abilities, then we don’t have to fear death. It’s natural to fear the unknown. But a life forever with God? That’s not unknown. That’s what we want here and now, and it’s certainly not something to fear. We were made for God. We were made to be saints.
All of us can attain to Christian virtue and holiness, no matter in what condition of life we live and no matter what our life work may be.
-Saint Francis de Sales