Who wants to think about death
“Who wants to think about death? I do, and I want you to, and here’s why” is the name of an article by Father Robert McTeigue.
McTeigue goes on to share this witty remark by Samuel Johnson who was viewing the magnificent Palace of Versailles, “The trouble with a place like this is that it makes it too difficult to die.”
A more profound statement McTeigue quotes is from Czesław Miłosz: “Religion, opium for the people. To those suffering pain, humiliation, illness, and serfdom, it promised a reward in an afterlife. And now we are witnessing a transformation. A true opium for the people is a belief in nothingness after death—the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murder we are not going to be judged.”
“Death has been described as a terror, because it removes us from this world; it has been described as a mercy, because it removes us from this world,” says McTeigue. Saint and sinner tremble at the outcome. Triumph is there for the Christian and the person of virtue.
A rewarding activity I enjoy as a lay minister is taking communion to the sick or shut-ins. Here are God’s holy people! They embrace the suffering and limitations of their state and all the while prepare for that final union with God. “When I think of the happiness that is in store for me, every sorrow, every pain becomes dear to me.” St Francis of Assisi
One of these precious members of the Body of Christ used to greet me with, “I have been waiting for the communion.” She waited until after her 100th birthday and is now with the Lord. I’m sure the Lord was waiting for her.
Precious is that short little visit I get to have as a representative of the Church with God’s holy ones who are side-lined. I remember one visit when I was tempted to hurry because there was a pancake breakfast waiting. This saint was called home very shortly after and I thought, “Wow! What a precious little time we have.”
Usually we don’t want to think about death “because of the fear of what may come after we have shuffled off this mortal coil” Hamlet said. "Live so as not to fear death. For those who live well in the world, death is not frightening but sweet and precious,” said St. Rose of Viterbo.
There are unfathomable riches in the consoling rituals and graces afforded to us by the Church. Yet many of our churches are unusually empty on Sunday mornings. Small wonder we don’t want to think about death. We are too busy with worldly things. “We will have time for that stuff later,” the devil whispers in our ears.
The church helps us through that final portal on our way to meet the Lord. There are sacraments, including the anointing of the sick, and there are prayers of departure like this “last blessing”:
Through the holy mysteries of our redemption,
may almighty God release you
from all punishments in this life
and in the life to come.
May he open to you the gates of paradise
and welcome you to everlasting joy.
Who wants to think about death? Isn’t God’s plan revealed through his son’s coming to earth remarkable? “Death is no more than falling blindly into the arms of God.” – St. Maria Maravillas de Jesus