Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Catholic Culture : Library : The Notion of a Right to a 'Good Death' Undermines Society

"Dying is the most important step a person takes, for it is a step towards the ultimate fulfilment of our innate spiritual nature, our capacity to know God, to know the fullness of the mystery of all things. We have been created with this capacity and our best guide for living is to do nothing to dent, pervert or deaden it. The poet Lucretius said that 'life is given to no one as freehold, we all hold it on leasehold'. Accepting that life is a gift is a good start. Sadly these centuries-old truths about the nature of humanity are no longer common currency. But we can surely all of us recognise, whether we approach our lives with or without a transcendental faith, the serious ethical and social dangers to which the doctrine of unfettered personal autonomy is leading us.
The Most Rev Vincent Nichols is Archbishop of Westminster"

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The art of dying

O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death. Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not Thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty, O holy and merciful Saviour, Thou most worthy Judge eternal, suffer us not, at our last hour, for any pains of death to fall from Thee."
There is much talk today about end-of-life issues such has assisted suicide, hospice care, etc. One thing that I find more disturbing than the modern hot-button issues is the real lack of understanding about death from the spiritual perspective. The concept of a "happy death" such as our ancestors in the faith would have known and prepared for is almost nonexistent today.
It was just borne home to me this afternoon as I went to the bedside of a parishioner in the hospital. The local family (all non-practicing Catholics) never even told me he was in the hospital. (Actually, I found that he had been moved to ICU.) I had to hear about it from a brother who lives in another city. People are not prepared to die! They leave to the last minute those things for which a life-time of preparation is not long enough. Catholics mirror the rest of our society in being as clueless as everybody else. We are totally ignorant that at death, it is really a SPIRITUAL struggle that is taking place. Satan does not want us to die in a state of grace. That is why the Church fortifies us with the sacraments and prayer at the time of death. How often have I seen people dying to the noise of the television! Nothing like getting in another viewing of our favorit show!
In earlier times men took death seriously, not from a sentimental point of view, but in view of their souls:
"And therefore it is said in the seventh book of Ecclesiastes: MELIOR EST DIES MORTIS DIE NATIVITATIS. 'The day of man's death is better than the day of man's birth." And this is understood only of good men and the chosen people of God. For of evil men and reprovable, neither the day of their birth, neither the day of their death, may be called good. And therefore every good perfect Christian man, and also every other man though he be imperfect and late converted from sin, so he be verily contrite and believe in God, should not be sorry nor troubled, neither dread death of his body, in what manner wise or for what manner cause that he be put thereto; but gladly and wilfully, with reason of his mind that ruleth his sensuality, he should take his death and suffer it patiently, conforming and committing fully his will to God's will and to God's disposition alone, if he will go hence and die well and surely: witnessing the wise man that saith thus : BENE MORI, EST LIBENTER MORI. To die well is to die gladly and wilfully.

Therefore every sick man, and every other man that is in any peril, should be diligently induced and exhorted that he maketh himself, before all other things, peace with God; receiving spiritual medicines, that is to say the sacraments of Holy Church; ordaining and making his testament; and lawfully disposing for his household, and other needs, if he hath any to dispose for. And there should not be given first to no man too much hope of bodily heal. But the contrary thereof is now often times done of many men, into great peril of souls; and namely of them that actually and openly be drawing and in point hastily to die, for none of them will hear nothing of death.

The reason for this lack of concern for the "last things" is that people have simply put away the idea of sin. That the things we do can have eternal consequences is forgotten, or completely rejected, EVEN BY CATHOLICS! Every funeral that I do is a canonization. This has contributed to the lack of concern for having Masses offered for the repose of the souls of our beloved dead. We don't pray for the dead because we have lost the idea that there's any point to it!

Of course, the Prods will find this development quite gratifying. I mean, after all, they founded themselves on the idea that it was impossible to assist the souls of the faithful departed after death. But who cares what they think? Their "religion" is false anyway. What is really lamentable is that Catholics have bought into this completely. Get your purgatory done now, folks, you don't want to do it later, I can assure you!