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Are You Prepared to Die?

November 15, 2010

In the month of November we meditate on the four Last things: death, judgement, heaven and hell. In the modern age we think little of such things. This is dangerous and ill advised. That death will come is certain. It may come in an instant. Tomorrow is not promised. I can’t even promise you that you will make through alive, reading this post.

Not only do modern people think little of death, but even less do we think of the judgment to follow. The Book of Hebrews says, It is appointed to man to die once, and after this the judgment (Heb 9:27). Even Church-going Catholic largely pass over any notion of judgment after death. This is most evident at Catholic funerals which are dominated by gleeful canonizations of the deceased and never a mention of jjudgment or the need to pray for the one who has died. Our neglect to pray for the dead is a terrible dereliction of duty.

At every funeral I spend almost half of the homily reminding the assembled mourners that they are going to die and that they must ready themselves for this fact. At most funerals, the majority of those attending have little spiritual roots in their life and I use the opportunity to urge them to a greater sobriety about their condition and ultimate appointment with God. Indeed, too many people today are not serious about their spiritual life. They do not pray, they do not go to Mass, receive the sacraments or read scripture. They go on laughing and playing and goofing off like life were some big joke. But it is not and we must ready ourselves to meet God and face judgment.

Over and over again Scripture reminds us that we will face judgment.

  1. I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell (Matt 5:22)
  2. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison (Matt 5:25)
  3. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matt 7:2).
  4. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you (Matt 11:23)
  5. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. (Mat 12:26)
  6. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here (Matt 11:23)
  7. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son (John 5:22)
  8. I have much to say in judgment of you. (Jn 8:26)
  9. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead (Act 17:31).
  10. Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matt 25:11-13)
  11. But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. (Rom 2:5)
  12. When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matt 25:31)
  13. This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares (Rom 2:16).
  14. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart (1 Cor 4:5).
  15. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:10)
  16. For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people (Heb 10:30)
  17. Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral (Heb 13:4)
  18. Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful (James 2:13)
  19. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead (1 Pet 4:5)
  20. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Pet 4:13)
  21. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books (Rev 20:12)

Well, by now you get the point, to ignore judgment is to ignore a LOT of Scripture. And this is only a partial recording of the judgment texts here. Despite the voluminous Scriptural affirmation, little is said of judgment by modern Christians. The problem must certainly be laid at the feet of many clergy who seldom mention judgment or warn of it. While this is not true of all, it is certainly true of many.

The Catechism speaks of Judgment in the following way:

Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others. Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately, — or immediate and everlasting damnation.  (CCC 1021-1022)

 The Scripture often emphasizes the suddenness of death and judgment.

  1. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour (Matt 25:13)
  2. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matt 24:44)
  3. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mk 13:35-37)
  4. When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape(1 Thess 5:3)

Hence we must live our lives in readiness. Our central priorities must be prayer, the reading of Scripture and other spiritual works, devotion to the Sacraments, holy fellowship and weekly Mass. We must repent of serious sins and seek seriously to grow in holiness. Scripture says that we must Strive for peace with all men, and that holiness: without which no one shall see God (Heb 12:14). Some of us have to bury the hatchet and offer forgiveness to others for the Lord warns sternly, If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matt 6:15) and James also warns: Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful (James 2:13). We cannot go on living in presumption that the judgment we face is of little account for Scripture gives no basis for such a casual attitude. Neither should we despair for God is rich in mercy and does not spurn those who are humble and contrite. Perhaps the best approach is simply to have a kind of sobriety about the fact that we will all face judgment and to thoughtfully prepare for it.

A word about the nature of judgment we face. None of us can say for sure what that moment will be like. However it would seem that the key word to describe what must go on is “honesty.” In that moment, before the Lord, all masks will be removed. All the little excusing lies we like to tell ourselves will be set aside. We will see ourselves as we really are. Perhaps too we will also see more clearly some of the grief and trouble we have been carrying and have a truth compassion for our self even as we have a sober understanding of our faults and incompleteness. For a true believer the judgment is not simply between heaven and hell, but even more so, an assessment of what remains incomplete in us. The Lord promised us perfection (Matt 5:48) and St. Paul wrote: May God who has begun a good work in you bring it to completion (Phil 1:6).  Hence our judgment must also certainly include the question of what, if anything, remains incomplete in us. For it is impossible that a promise of God would remain incomplete for us or anything be less than perfect. Whatever is judged to be incomplete or imperfect is set right in purgatory which is for us not against us.

But the fact is, judgment awaits us all and we must soberly prepare for it. Death will come (perhaps when we least expect) and thereafter the judgment. Prepare for your own judgment and pray for those who have already gone there. Judgment is certain. Prepare and pray.

Here’s a little video I put together on the topic of death and judgment and the end of the world. It is rooted in the Song by Credence Clearwater Revival “There’s a Bad Moon on the Rise” The refrain says, “Hope you’ve got your things together, hope you are quite prepared to die.”

And here’s a sermon excerpt I have posted before from a funeral I preached last year. This clip is typical of the exhortation I give in most of my funeral sermons to the congregation that they are going to die and must prepare.

Filed in: Moral Life, Prayer, Sacraments • Tags: ,

Comments (29)

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  1. Cynthia BC says:

    The timing of this reflection is perfect for me – today is the first anniversary of my mother’s death.

  2. Mark Biscuit says:

    This article is incomplete. You ought to write about retribution too.

    • Gosh the article was so long anyway. BuT, that is what comments are for. Perhaps you would like to elaborate on this aspect? I did give a few quotes from scripture that mention it but if you think it should be expanded, I am always grateful when commentors enrich the article with other material

  3. Bill says:

    The use of the internet is of course a controversial topic. Like many things, it can be used for the very highest and the most evil of purposes. Two years ago, I found myself on a business trip far from my home. I began to reflect on the strengths and the weaknesses of my marriage. After praying the evening prayers of the Divine Office in my hotel room, I decided to use the internet as my spirtual director. I “googled” something—can’t remember the search now—and happened upon a sermon by you Msgr. Searching for anything else with your name I happened upon the funeral excerpt above. I cannot describe the incredible impact the sermon had on me that night. That sermon led me to your blog…and I will be forever grateful for the things I learn here about my faith, my life and what it means to be a Roman Catholic. I have many friends who condemn the internet as the tool of the devil. When we get to arguing, I think back on that night in the hotel room and realize: “where sin abounds, grace abounds even more.” Thank you for all that you do.

  4. Robert J. Voegtlin says:

    No. I know what I have done and failed to do. I know that my only hope is God’s mercy. I will be judged by my Lord and God and I do not presume or despair. i fear only that if I get what I deserve I will not be able to love Him. My only protection is His love for His creation. I wrap myself in his love when my sorrow for what I am hurts to much. I hope.

  5. Grandpa Tom says:

    Death and judgement are certain. When we die we must face that final hour. During our last hour, we must be conditioned to pray. Prayer is like an exercise that trains the mind. Prayer must be habitual so that during that last hour our prayer’s will almost be automatic. I personally pray the Stations of the Cross five times a day. I say an Our Father and Hail Mary for each station, then I add a prayer for the resurrection making a total of 15 of each prayer for a total of 30. After I have done this during the day, I have said 150 prayers, a garland of roses to God through Jesus. Sometimes I awake during the night, and my mouth is saying aloud the Our Father or Hail Mary prayer, it is like my soul is loving God even when I am not physically concious of prayer. I can feel the blessing in return. There are 150 psalms, so I think my 150 daily prayers are on point with our requirement to give praise. I think I might be the only person saying the Stations every day, and not just once on Good Friday. Jesus told St. Bridgett that He received 5,480 wounds during His passion, and a person could honor each wound by saying 12 prayers every day for one year.

    Jesus came into this world for that final hour. “Father, save me from this hour. But it was for this very reason that I came to this hour.” — “Why, O my soul are you sad, and why do you sigh within me?” (LOH-Vol. IV, p. 188).

    In “The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena,” God explained that to think our sin is greater that His mercy, is a sin graver to Him than all other sins, because they have depreciated His mercy. Then God showed St. Catherine a vision of the foulness of the Devil. The sight of him was more painful to see him in his own form, which was so horrible that the heart of man could not imagine it. St. Catherine said after seeing the Devil for hardly a moment, that she’d “rather walk on a road of fire, even until the Day of Judgement, than to see him again (Treatise on Discretion, p. 49-50).” In the last of the book in a letter of Ser Barduccio di Piero Cannigaiani, St. Catherine’s last hour is described. She suffered a grave assualt of demons, she fought back, saying; “I have sinned! Oh Lord, have mercy on me!” This she repeated more than sixty times, raising each time her right arm, then letting it fall and stike the bed. Then changing her words, she said as many times again but without moving her arms, “Holy God, have mercy on me!” Her face suddenly changed from gloom to angelic light, and her tearful and clouded eyes became serene and joyous. Her last words, like our Savior, was “Father into Your Hands I commend my soul and my spirit,” and thus sweetly with a face all shining and angelical, she bent her head, and gave up the ghost. This beautiful Saint and Doctor of the Church has given to us an example of how to die, and face that last hour.

    • Thanks for this addition. Despair is surely a sin against hope just as much as presumption. But despair is more crafty because it masquerades as a kind of (false) piety or humility. It is not, it is a sin against hope as you and St. Catherine point out.

  6. William says:

    Thank you for this perspective, Msgr. We should never done away with the Requiem Mass. The Mass of Christian Burial simply does not cut the mustard vis-a-vis all you’ve had to say here. The tone, music, symbolism, and words of the traditional Requiem Mass in Latin leaves all those in attendance no doubt whatsoever that they, too, shall one day die and give an account of the lives they’ve led. What were those all-knowing liturgists thinking when they changed all this?

  7. Peter Wolczuk says:

    A very important message as the concept and certainty of our deaths seemed to be pushed out of our awarenss. Television and movie characters die in droves but, theyre not real. Funerals have been replaced by memorials; sometimes called, a “celebration of life” where attendees are encouraged to share a memory of the life of the deceased. Lately a sort of get together tends to be held.
    When I went to the one which was held for my mother a little over two years ago everyone sat around eating and chatting about whatever came to mind with very little said about the deceased. I was very startled and disappointed and, a young lady recently told me that she had recently attended a similar event for a deceased relative and was disappointed but unsure about just what and how. When I commented about my similar experience and how it seemed that we were being taught that nothing bad ever happens and to brush away any grief by acting as if the get together is just a sort of family re-union; I added that it appears that we’re being gradually taught that bad things don’t happen.
    At least not hear and not to us. Maybe to people on the other side of the world who talk differently, dress & act differently and don’t have what it takes to be like us. She replied that the “bad things don’t happen” comment summed up her negative feelings about the get together.
    So, if we stop believing in death and group together in a manner which implies that it didn’t really happen – how is one to motivate people to seek salvation? Nobody’s died lately; we just had a dinner in honour of an elderly relative who, for some unmentioned reason, didn’t show up. Right?
    Well I don’t think think it’s right at all. As a matter of fact I think something’s going terribly wrong with this deception. After all, we know just who the master of deception is. And, how can creating a massive cultural state of denial about the existance on death, serve anything except his agenda as more & more people see no no need to worry about what happens to them after death because nobody seems to die anymore.

    • Yes, you are right, it really is stonishing that, even at funerals, death is seldom mentioned or refelcted upon, let alone judgment after death! Denial and misplaced cheerfulness, with a dose of presumptiveness mixed in seem rather to abound at modern funerals.

  8. Bill Robberson says:

    “At every funeral I spend almost half of the homily reminding the assembled mourners that they are going to die and that they must ready themselves for this fact.”

    Can’t help but ask-what would you desire those you love-those who are grieving to hear upon your own death?

    As for me, the encouraging hope filled words/message of Jesus would be my choice not a preaching about judgment and guilt.

    While your judgment/guilt message is valid and your intent is “right on” your timing is inappropriate and is inconsistent with Jesus message of compassion for the suffering.

    • Yes, I surely would. Some do need to hear it! As for timing, the ones who need to hear it do not come at other times.

      By the way Bill, I am not feeling a lot of comfort from your rebuke how about a little more compassion? 🙂

      At any rate I often have people thank me for saying all this at just about every funeral. I suppose I am aware that some, such as yourself have other notions about what a funeral should be but it’s a big Church and plenty of other priests and deacons do just what you are suggesting. Perferences will vary but I am fairly clear, based on years of funerals and personal prayer that I have to preach to those who are there and I would say more then 70% of them, at an average funeral are unchurched, a combination of fallen away Catholics and non-practicing Protestants. Now, if, as Ezekiel says, I am watchman for the house of Israel and if I am sent to warn them, and if, as the text says, if I don’t warn them they will die in their sins, what am I to do with opportunities like this? Just offer pleasantries and consoling thoughts? Do you want to stand in my place at judgment? For God says if I don’t warn them, he will hold me responsible. If a funeral isn’t time for a sober message and reminder of death that awaits us all I am not sure when is.

      Here is the text: Ezekiel 3:17 – 17“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. 19But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.

      • Peter Wolczuk says:

        I flounder to grasp the fine points of the disagreement enough to comment on it directly but, I have a little something in my personal experience which feels relevant to me. From time to time I’ve heard someone who was conducting a funeral or memorial service seem to seize the opportunity to do some general preaching and, instead of giving a few words, start in addressing the attendees at length about their church attendance level and acceptance of Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Invariably most of those listening gradually responded with a slight, but growing hostility.
        Earlier this year I heard a pastor at a street mission who was giving a service for one of the regulars who had died. When he started on the subject of salvation I started to get nervous. However, he made a few comments on how a funeral of someone he’d known would make him nervous about his own chances of salvation if he wasn’t working to keep a healthy relationship with God but, if he had been working on it recently he wasn’t nervous and could focus on being a good friend who was saying farewell. He didn’t dwell on it and everyone seemed receptive.
        While there was probably a lot of skill in the way he presented this (the skilled can make a difficult task look easy) the difference which I saw was that he told a bit of his story rather than preached about what the listeners should do. Basically he seemed to tell the part of his personal story that expressed his feelings at that, and other, memorial times.

        • I tried the more subtle approach for years. Didn’t really work and no one really took it seriously. Prophecy needs to be clear, strong and umabiguous. I get a much better result that way. I also think a lot of people think that preaching is supposed to please and encourage them. There is a place for that but good preaching also afflicts and provokes response. Jesus was more than willing to provoke people and unsettle them. It is not a goal in itself, rather it is the necessary outcome of lancing a boil or setting a broken limb. Protests, anger, and so forth are not the sign, necessarily, of failure. I’ve had people come to me and say, “You once made me mad but you also made me think and I’ve come to understand what you were saying was true.”

          I think we have long enough tried the “nice guy” preaching and all through the past 40 years Mass attendance has steadily dropped. Currently only 27% of Catholics attend Mass at all any more. We have, collectively become a rebellious house. God said the following to Ezekiel:

          He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house (Ez 2:1-7).

          I do not suppose that the whole congregation is a rebellious house, but it would seem, statistics being what they are that the vast majority no longer have any seriousness about the faith. Mild mannered pleasantries have been tried for a generation now. The verdict is that people take the Church less seriously. Stronger medicine is called for.

    • Bender says:

      Can’t help but ask-what would you desire those you love-those who are grieving to hear upon your own death?

      “Pray for him. He was a decent guy, he did some good things, even a lot of good things now and then, but he’d be the first to tell you he was not perfect — he had his failings — all in all, he was a man, for good and for bad. So pray for him — that God be kind and, in His judgment, consider not what he truly deserves, but be merciful and redeem him. Pray for him, and sing praises to the Lord, our Savior.”

  9. Bill Robberson says:

    Respectfully, I apologize.

    My comment was not intended as a rebuke rather was a disagreement over timing.

    I do believe that Ecclesiastes 3:1-1 “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.” and the following verses provide a bit of validity to my opinion.

    Once again, I am a real fan of your ministry and your forthrightness.

    • Bender says:

      We might consider what St. Augustine had to say upon the passing of his mother, St. Monica.

      During her life, Monica was widely regarded as a “living saint,” but Augustine did not presume upon God’s mercies. As he wrote in his Confessions (Book IX, ch. 13) —

      “although she was alive in Christ even before her soul was parted from the body, and her faith and the good life she led resounded to the glory of Your name, yet I cannot presume to say that from the time she was reborn in baptism no word contrary to Your commandments ever fell from her lips. . . .

      “And so, my Glory and my Life, God of my heart, I will lay aside for a while all the good deeds which my mother did. For them I thank You, but now I pray to you for her sins. Hear me through Your Son, who hung on the cross and now sits at your right hand and pleads for us, for He is the true medicine of our wounds. I know that my mother always acted with mercy and that she forgave others with all her heart when they trespassed against her. Forgive her too, O Lord, if ever she trespassed against You in all the long years of her life after baptism. Forgive her, I beseech You; do not call her to account. Let Your mercy give Your judgment an honorable welcome, for Your words are true and You have promised mercy to the merciful. If they are merciful, it is by Your gift; and You will show pity on those whom You pity; You will show mercy where You are merciful.

      “I believe that You have already done what I ask of You, but, Lord, accept these vows of mine. . . . By the strong ties of faith Your handmaid had bound her soul to this sacrament of our redemption. Let no one tear her away from Your protection. Let not the devil, who is lion and serpent in one, bar her way by force or by guile. For she will not answer that she has no debt to pay, for fear that her cunning accuser should prove her wrong and win her for himself. Her reply will be that her debt has been paid by Christ, to whom none can repay the price which He paid for us, though the debt was not His to pay. . . .

      “O my Lord, my God, inspire Your servants my brothers — they are Your sons and my masters, whom I serve with heart and voice and pen — inspire those of them who read this book to remember Monica, Your servant, at Your altar and with her Patricius, her husband, who died before her, by whose bodies You brought me into this life, though how it was I do not know.”

      If Augustine could expend so much prayer reflecting on the sins of St. Monica, who was most holy, we would do well to do the same with our own deceased loved ones.

      • Bill Robberson says:

        Bender, your posts about the deceased and are quite appropriate however my concern is/was focused upon my grieving children, parents, spouse etc. I care about them and what pastoral care and compassion is expressed during my funeral service and anything that causes them unnecessary tears or guilt just seems insensitive. Later maybe, if they need to be chastised but not at my funeral.

      • Bender says:

        Bill — I think that perhaps you are misconstruing what is being said regarding what should be said at funerals (or at least what I think should be said). What I have said above does not need to be viewed as “chastisement” or “rebuking.”

        You say you would like “compassion.” Well, of course, compassion is from the Latin meaning, “to suffer with,” such that one does not ignore the obvious, does not pretend that there is no suffering, no pain, and does not try to avoid that anguish. Rather, one acknowledges it and embraces those that are mourning.

        To run away from the anguish, to simply say, “oh that Bill was a great guy and we can all be thankful that he is now in heaven” would not only be presumptuous, but your family would know that it is false, that it is sugarcoating — that, although you are no doubt a pretty good guy, they know that you too are not perfect. Mourners do not need lies. That is not compassion. In fact, it is opposed to compassion. Now, we don’t need to go to the opposite extreme and say, “oh that Bill was a miserable bastard and, not that it would do much good, but we may as well pray for him non-stop day and night for the next 10,000 years so that maybe, just maybe, it might get him an inch closer to heaven.” We don’t need to rub salt in mourners’ wounds, we don’t need to damn you to hell, but it is right and appropriate to say, “hey, shouldn’t we at least ask God to receive him in His Home, rather than have him just barge right in?”

        It is not a matter of chastising them or the deceased, it is merely a matter of propriety and charity — charity (love) enough to pray for the deceased and not merely tell funny stories about him.

        Of course, maybe if people were to instruct their children and other family members themselves on the “last things,” then Msgr. Pope would not need to use a funeral as a teachable moment. Maybe if the sick and dying were to be sure to ask their family members themselves to pray for them, to come clean with them and reconcile and ask for forgiveness for all the times that they wronged them, then it would not be such a harsh surprise if those same matters were mentioned at the funeral.

        Indeed, maybe it would be appropriate to write out some “last words” on what you would like, and this could be read at your funeral. What would you say? (1) “Don’t cry and don’t feel bad, I’m doing just fine,” with the prospect that, because no one then bothers to pray for you that, if no one else cares, why should God care? and you end up stuck in purgatory for 20 billion years; or (2) “There is no need to cry — in Jesus we have hope of redemption, that He will redeem us, but it is absolutely necessary to pray, to thereby join with Him in that work of salvation, and to strive to be holy ourselves so that we might all be one day rejoined together in heaven.”

        I mentioned Augustine before, now I’ll mention St. Bernadette, whom I am quite fond of. She was a celebrity after Lourdes and, like Monica, many considered her a “living saint.” And that distressed Bernadette, who said that, after she was dead, while people were making intercessions to her as if she were in heaven, she would be suffering in purgatory because there was no one to pray FOR her, rather than TO her.

        Preaching that salvation for the deceased and ourselves is possible, but that it is NOT automatic, is not being harsh or insensitive. Rather, it is being caring and loving. The priest or whoever does not need to be an insensitive jerk about it, but such things do need to be said.

  10. Donna says:

    The most effective sermon I heard referred to how when we die we will all end up in a pine box, whether we are rich or poor, famous or not. That really helped me reorder my priorities–when I think about it, which isn’t often enough–and I think about the mad rush for riches, and fame and accomplishing something in this life…we all end up in the same place. Could be depressing, but when I think about Christ, in context, it’s really not.

  11. Bill Robberson says:

    With respect I believe you are generalizing a bit in this post today.

    Certainly in the “larger picture” your post today November 17th at 8:55pm is quite powerful and I totally agree.

    However, your original post “Are we prepared to die” was not “in general” it specifically discussed your practice i.e. “At EVERY (my caps) funeral I spend almost half of the homily reminding the assembled mourners that they are going to die and that they must ready themselves for this fact.”

    Therein is where, and only where, I have objection.

    Scenario: Funeral audience composed solely of the decedents 3 children all under 10 years old.

    Might this scenario change the essence of your refection? “At every funeral I spend almost half of the homily reminding the assembled mourners that they are going to die and that they must ready themselves for this fact.”

    In my personal experience one in authority must be quite cautious and specific when assessing their audience. Generalization of them may be guesswork or judgmental. Accordingly, if the audience is incorrectly assessed the composition of ones message may be inappropriate and/or detrimental.

    • Well come one Bill, the nature of a blog post is to be general. I might also imagine a scenario where everyone spoke German, or Lithuainian. Do you want be to devote a paragraph to that too? Must every possible scenario be mapped out? Or is speaking in general fashion not allowed. Do you see how long the post is already? Your secenario is extremely rare, the vast majority of funerals contain larege numbers of extended family and friends, most of whom are in very serious spiritual condition. I am speaking to a general situation. At this point I sense you are just being argumentative. I can assure you however, that in your rare scenario I would adapt. And as for your “cautious” approach, it has been tried an found wanting. I wonder if Jesus, Paul and the prophets of old would conform to your “mild-mannered” directive.

      At any rate, Bill, give a little credit to me and others. As a priest for 21+ years I have learned to negotiate life’s little nuances just fine. I also think most who read here are sophisticated enough to distinguish general observations from specific situations that call for adjustments.

  12. Dave A says:

    Msgr.
    Yours is the most true concern–the salvation of souls! This concept is much too novel among Catholics today. I pray that my pastor will someday just get a smell of this purpose. I return to this article every month or so to help keep my focus, which can be difficult in our times. Bless you for your honesty.

  13. normless says:

    DNA – Divine Nature Amazingly – God Bless – Respectfully