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On death

English Spanish Fr. Daniel P. Martin Profile

As a priest, I encounter death on a weekly basis. It could be a funeral or an anointing at a local hospital or even a conversation with someone in spiritual counseling. It’s not something that we like to talk about as a culture, but it’s an inescapable part of human life. How we approach death tells us a great deal about how we approach life. If we do not understand death, we will never truly understand life. 

The ancient Romans were wise in this regard. Whenever their triumphant generals rode into Rome with great fanfare and celebration over their recent victories, the Romans were sure to place a man by his side to whisper in his ear, “Remember that you will die.” They must have figured that it would keep him on the straight and narrow path. Some of our most beloved saints, like St. Francis of Assisi, meditated on their death often. It did not make them morose.

Instead, it gave them a different perspective on life. After all, how important do our daily struggles and problems appear from that vantage point? Will any of our current anxieties matter then? As Jesus says, “Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your lifespan?” (Lk 12:25) 

Our Catholic faith helps us to approach the mystery of death not with inconsolable despair, but with patient anticipation and hope, as we look forward to a greater encounter with God and, therefore, a greater encounter with all things in God. The mystery of death ultimately melts into the mystery of God, for death is the portal through which we must walk into the light of God. 

By God’s grace, we become partakers of the divine nature: the greatest Communion a person can receive. If we could only appreciate this mystery of death, how differently we would live this present life. We would know what was truly important, and free from fear and anxiety, we would not be afraid to truly live. 

Little Flower Church will be hosting a day-long seminar on "Passing from this Life to the Next: Practical Helps and Pastoral Considerations for Catholics," on Saturday, Feb. 21, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., in Comber Hall. For more information, click here
Fr. Daniel P. Martin
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Comments from readers

Marianne donahay - 02/16/2015 04:09 PM
This article cemented the "life in the Spirit" I took some years back. Seeing the lords visions as I have is like a miracle within. At 29 I was widowed, never understanding the big why. Articles like this teaches reality of what's ahead. I used to fear death, and do not anymore. Thank you Father for writing this to help us understand.
victor martell - 02/16/2015 03:13 PM
Cuando se llega al ocaso de la vida,. nos damos cuenta que quizás el tiempo nos ha pasado muy rapido y queremos revisar los momentos en los que no nos comportamos siguiendo las huellas de Cristo. Pero; como nos llenamos de orgullo cuando recordamos cuantas veces ayudamos a nuestro prójimo y le dimos la mano a aquel que nada tenía. Si llevamos debajo de nuestro brazo las caridades efectuadas en vida estoy seguro que Jesus nos dara su mejor abrazo.
Deacon Tom Hanlon - 02/16/2015 03:09 PM
Nice thoughts Father Martin. As a Police Chaplain the loss of an officer killed in the line of duty is very difficult because of the sudden death of that officer. I concentrate on helping the family understand that death is not the end and that officer is enjoying their heavenly reward that we will all share one day. Deacon Tom Hanlon St Louis Parish
juan Picasso - 02/16/2015 02:29 PM
Thank you Father but when you loss a young son after 4 years of cancer, there is not hope on earth, we only can wait until we are in heaven to understand; why? GOD Bless You!
Frank - 02/16/2015 02:09 PM
Thank you Father for sharing. I have been becoming increasingly aware of my mortality and sometimes overcome by fear of the unknowingness of death. I can't help thinking that I will one day not be here and it gets a little scary. This served as a nice reminder that there is something greater in the anticipation.

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