Death ‘not the most pleasant subject,' but ideal for contemplation
By Agnieszka Krawczynski
Photo: The Catholic Women's League at St. Anthony's Parish organizes weekly lunches during Lent to talk about end-of-life issues such as pallative care, dementia, and assisted suicide. (Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)
Lent is a good time to think about meeting your maker and comforting the dying, says Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB.
Speaking to parishioners at St. Anthony’s, West Vancouver, the archbishop admitted “it’s perhaps not the most pleasant subject. But while we meditate on the death of Christ for our salvation, we can think about our own death,” he told about 100 people during a Lenten lunch in the parish hall March 9.
“Death is not a falling asleep. That image that we use is radically inaccurate. Death will be an intense spiritual experience of the encounter with the living God.”
People who are dying need the support of their family, friends, and community to help them prepare to meet God, he said, speaking in favour of palliative care and saying it is much more than pain control.
“It’s about caring for the whole person – having the community, the family, the parish, and others be with the person as they enter into their most solemn moment.”
As St. Anthony’s parishioners supped on a Lenten meal of soup and buns, Archbishop Miller urged them to serve the dying with deep compassion.
“Care for the dying is part of the preferential option for the poor. This has characterized the life of the Church as an essential dimension of her charity [and] her love of neighbour.”
The first hospitals in the West were established by religious communities or lay Christians, he said, and Vancouver’s first health-care providers were religious sisters.
He also decried assisted suicide as an “infection” in Canadian society, saying what was a crime five years ago is now seen as not only a right, but an obligation for health-care workers and institutions.
That pressure is dangerous to Catholic hospitals and workers who want to provide life-giving care and refuse to kill their patients.
“People need accompaniment” as they journey and prepare for the moment of death, the archbishop said. “It will be a moment of incredible intensity because it is the opening to eternal life.”
Archbishop Miller was speaking as part of a series of weekly Lenten reflections at St. Anthony’s, the fourth straight year that Catholic Women’s League organizers have focused on end-of-life topics such as palliative care, dementia, assisted suicide, and suicide prevention.
Organizer Suzanne Latta praised the archbishop’s talk for conveying the “fundamental essence of what it is to be alive,” as well as helping his audience “anticipate what it will be at the end of life.”
Catholics need to be able to defend themselves and offer the world different solutions, Latta said.
“We are being inundated with so many alternatives that are not the answer.”
More soup and reflections on end-of-life issues will be served at St. Anthony’s March 23, March 30, and April 6.