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You’re going to die May 24, 2012

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, Dallas Diocese, Domestic Church, General Catholic, Interior Life, Latin Mass, North Deanery, sadness, scandals, Tradition.

I assisted at Mass at the local FSSP parish last night, as I try to do at least twice a week. It was a Requiem Mass – perhaps the most glorious form of the Mass there is, both in form and intent.  I am always moved by TLM Requiem Masses.  This one was for the anniversary of the death of a parishioner.  It was beautiful, as always, although a low Mass.

The priest gave a brief homily.  He mentioned how frequently he comes across souls who are not prepared to die.  Even people with terminal cancer refuse to face the reality of their impending demise, and cling to the hope of the next treatment, the next miracle cure.  But it is inevitable – every single one of us is going to die.  How we do so is entirely up to us.

I got the impression from the priest that many of these souls may be either panicked, when finally forced to face reality, or completely in denial, even up to the very last moments.  Neither is the condition we should want to be in at that last moment.  And I say that as someone who has, perhaps, an inordinate fear of death, or have had that fear heretofore. 

This life seems so long to us.  When we are suffering, we think it will never end.  In reality, this life is incredibly short.  Compared to eternity, even 100 years is but an instant.  But how many of us consciously think about our eternal destiny, and prepare ourselves for the day we will die?  In the current culture, it is sadly very, very few.  Concommitant with this lack of preparation is the strange assumption that somehow, we’ll all go to Heaven, in spite of widespread commission of grave sins such as contraceptive use, abortion, greed, neglect of family duties, etc.  This assumption ignores Christ’s warnings that many, perhaps even the vast majority, go to hell (the gate is narrow, and few there are who enter through it…….the narrow winding path….outside, where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth, do not fear he who can destroy the body, but He Who can destroy body and soul in Gehenna etc., etc).

Almost no one knows which morning, when they wake up, will be their last.  And our eternal destiny is entirely dependent on the state of our soul at the moment of death.  Even if you’ve led a highly virtuous life, if  you by some means commit a mortal sin and it goes unconfessed before death, that’s it.  You have decided your eternal fate. 

We should not live in stark terror of death.  We must not become scrupulous.  But we must prepare for our death as if it is the most important event of our lives, because………it is.  And if one is leading a sinful life, or even  just an average one (average lives being quite prone to sin), and fails to prepare his soul for spending eternity with God in Heaven, enjoying the perfection of the Beatific Vision for all eternity, a death bed conversion is unlikely.  People drop dead all the time, with no last moment to express contrition.  And even those who are fortunate to die with some warning, with time to prepare themselves – will they be able to have true contrition and honestly confess their sins if they have spent their entire life running from God, ignoring or trivializing the Sacraments, assuming as far too many do today that God is nothing but Mercy and that all go to Heaven irrespective of the state of their souls? 

This preparation for a good and holy death is the work of a lifetime.  It’s not like a final exam you can cram for at the last minute and hope to get a passing grade.  A few, a very few, might be able to be saved through a death-bed conversion, but for most, developing the virtues and eschewing the vices that are a central part of leading a holy life takes their entire life to achieve.  But so few, it seems, put forth the effort to do so.  Even worse, how rarely do we hear of the four last things from our priests, who should be playing the lead role in helping form souls for that moment of particular judgment?

We desperately need this kind of leadership.  Some people remarked to me after Mass how influential just a few words from a priest (he only spoke for perhaps 5 minutes) could be.  I, as a lay person, can write and speak about this issue again and again, but when a priest does so, there’s an entirely different level of influence.  What would ultimately be desirable is to inculcate in the laity such a great love and hunger for God that death, far from being feared, is actually welcomed and looked forward to.  With a strong emphasis on mortification and penance and an understanding of this life as one of suffering and preparation for our eternal home , this desire would be further strengthened.  This is the program of so many Saints.

Unfortunately, the present anthropomorphized Church with its focus on material concerns (more concern with perfecting the world than perfecting individual souls) can’t seem to wrap its head around this solemn, ancient practice.

Be that as it may, ultimately, it’s up to each one of us to make our way up that rocky, narrow trail to the top of the mounntain, carrying our cross with us.  No one else can do it for us – we’ve all got to prepare to meet God in our own way.

I pray this becomes something that is more and more talked about within the Church.  I am going to try to do more posts on this subject, because I think it’s very important.

 Heaven, and hell, are forever.

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