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  • Sarah Raad

Dead

“If men go to so much trouble and effort to live here a little longer, ought they not strive so much harder to live eternally?” (Saint Augustine).

Life of George Washington The Christian death (Stearns)

I have been thinking very much about the dead lately…


Grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, ancestors. I have been thinking about the people who I know and those who I do not. And as I have been thinking about the dead – and praying for them very much – I have been thinking about my own death…


Now – before anybody panics – I am a relatively young and healthy woman, with no indication that my death is imminent, and yet, lately as I pray for the repose of the souls of the dead, my thoughts turn more and more often to my own death.

I know that many people might consider this macabre, pessimistic or downright depressing, and yet, I cannot seem to forget the old adage that “there is nothing more certain than death and taxes”, and so it seems ludicrous to spend my earthly life trying to ignore or forget the next one…

Saint Thomas a Kempis in his masterpiece, “The Imitation of Christ”, said, “Every action of yours, every thought, should be those of one who expects to die before the day is out. Death would have no great terrors for you if you had a quiet conscience… Then why not keep clear of sin instead of running away from death? If you aren’t fit to face death today, it’s very unlikely that you will be tomorrow.”


And I have been reflecting on that. Because Saint Thomas a Kempis was not afraid to be dead, because he was not afraid to be alive – and he saw death for what it truly is – rebirth to eternal life... Saint Therese of Lisieux – during her final conversations as she lay dying – said, “I am not dying, I am entering eternal life.”


And this faith – this confidence – in eternity is amazing. In 258AD, Saint Cyprian was martyred. Before he was put to death, Saint Cyprian said, “What an honour, what happiness to depart joyfully from this world, to go forth in glory from the anguish and pain , in one moment to close the eyes that looked on the world of men and in the next to open them at once to look on God and Christ! The speed of this joyous departure! You are suddenly withdrawn from earth to find yourself in the kingdom of Heaven.”


You see, Saint Cyprian understood the sentiment that was later expressed by Saint Terese of Avila said in her spiritual text, “Life”, in the 16th century, “I want to see God and, in order to see him, I must die”.


The Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, explained it cleverly in his book, “The Great Divorce”, when he said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’, and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done’. All that are in hell choose it. Without self-choice there could be no hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.” (page 58).


And I consider these words today, as I pray for the dead – those long dead, and those recently deceased – because in praying for them I also pray for myself… And as Saint Augustine said, “If men go to so much trouble and effort to live here a little longer, ought they not strive so much harder to live eternally?”


And I pray for the grace to strive harder… It is for that I pray…


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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