A lot of people don’t like to talk about death or dying. For many, death is a fearful thing. It’s a morbid subject.
As the old saying goes, the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. So why the hesitancy to talk about death? We are all going to die someday. There is no way around it.
When our oldest son was 10 years old, his best friend Tommy was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. There was no doubt that barring a miracle, death would come for Tommy in the not too distant future.
Before becoming bedridden, little Tommy asked my wife, who was his Catechism teacher that year, “How long after we die will we be in heaven?” Tommy knew he probably would not live until his 11th birthday. But Tommy had been raised to believe that being with God in heaven would be so wonderful that words could not describe it. So little Tommy did not fear death.
For the vast majority of young people, dying is something that’s just not on their radar screen. Death is something that normally only happens to old people. So why bother even thinking about it? But death can come to the young and old alike. My wife had a friend, Beth, in high school who complained of a bad headache one day. Beth laid down and closed her eyes and never woke up. She died of a brain aneurism.
For many of us death will come when we are senior citizens, but for some, like Tommy, it can come way too soon. And for some, like Beth, it comes far too soon and much too suddenly. Sometimes there’s no time to prepare or to say goodbye to loved ones.
The Boy Scout motto is ‘Be Prepared.’ ‘Doomsday preppers’ give a new kind of meaning to that motto. They have ‘bugout bags’ all ready to go for when doomsday hits. Some even have secret hideaways where they intend to go to ride out whatever catastrophe befalls mankind. Should a catastrophe occur they may cheat death for a while, but in the end it really won’t matter. Death still comes for us all.
So maybe it wouldn’t hurt to at least think about death now and then. We might start by thinking about where we are going to end up. If we want to end up in heaven instead of that other place, some prep work might not be a bad idea.
Why are we here?
A good way to start thinking about the end is to start at the beginning. A question that has been the subject of much debate amongst philosophers since early civilization is “why are we here?” But every Catholic should already know the answer to this question. Catholics learn the answer to this question in the first or second Catechism class they attend. We are here to love and serve God. We are here to become holy, to become saints. Nothing else really matters.
But in the course of growing up and dealing with all the ups and downs and twists and turns life throws at us, too many Catholics seem to forget why we are here. And it seems that many forget it rather quickly.
Our parish does not have a parochial grade school that’s part of the parish. All of the children in our parish attend CCD classes (now called Faith Formation classes) one night every other week, for two hours, during the school year. For the last couple years, at the start of the year, I’ve been asking the 8th graders in the Preparation for Confirmation class that my wife and I teach, in the very first class, “Why are we here?” But none of the 14 to 16 kids in the class have been able to answer it, even though they learned the answer to the question just six years previously.
Parents as Teachers
I’ve mentioned before that a saying amongst Catechists in our parish is once the kids are confirmed we won’t see most of them again until they want to get married. Many of their parents don’t take them to Mass on Sunday and some of the kids are greatly surprised to learn that once they are old enough to get to Mass on Saturday or Sunday on their own they will have a mortal sin on their soul if they don’t go to Mass.
For some years now, most of the kids getting ready to be Confirmed have not been to Confession or received the Eucharist since their First Holy Communion. And now these kids are in 8th grade, the final year of their Faith Formation. Most of them will become teenaged Catholic Ed dropouts who go on to become lukewarm Catholics or cafeteria Catholics who know very little about Catholic Doctrine.
The obvious question is why is it that these kids don’t seem to know much about their Faith? Is it the fault of the Catechists who volunteer their time and do their best to instruct these young Catholics in the fundamentals of our faith? Or is it that their parents don’t do a very good job of continuing to teach their children how to live their faith because they themselves are clueless? My money is on reason number two.
We are still feeling the effects of the consequences of 50 years of poor catechesis. There are just too many Catholics today in their 30s, 40s and 50s who don’t know how to live their faith because they don’t know or understand God’s teachings. Judging by many survey results, far too many Catholics today think that missing Mass on Sunday, divorce, cohabitation, using artificial birth control, sodomy and same sex ‘marriage’ are all no big deal. And some even seem to think that abortion is ‘a women’s health issue’ instead of murder.
It’s rather troubling that so many people today seem to be more concerned today about which celebrity just uttered yet another inane comment, or which team just made a great trade, than about what God, our creator and the reason for our existence, expects of us. It’s kind of hard to understand how people like Felix Kjellberg, the YouTuber known to his fans as PewDiePie, can have 67 million subscribers, yet many Catholics probably don’t even know that both the Catholic Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are available online. Developing well-formed consciences is not hard to do, but far too few Catholics bother to do so.
God is Just
It’s kind of ironical that people are so concerned about the profession or the career they will work at for 30 or 40 years while they live out their mortal lives here on earth, but they seem to not be very concerned about where their immortal souls will end up for all of eternity.
Once they are Confirmed many Catholics think they are done learning about their faith. Worse still, it seems that many think they can now pick and choose what to believe and what they can disregard.
God is merciful but He is also just. Ignorance of the law is no excuse in a courtroom, and ignorance of God’s teaching probably won’t carry much weight with Him when we die and are judged.
If you have any Catholic friends or loved ones who have stopped going to Mass on Saturday or Sunday, or who seem to have taken up dissident positions when it comes to Catholic teaching, talk to them about Catholic doctrine and the importance of living our faith. You might just save a soul.