Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Souls Day

Today we remember all those who have died and also bring to mind our own impending death. Three articles in the November issue of Kyeongyang Magazine help us to reflect on this important part of life. 

One article focuses on life as a preparation for death. We are always preparing for our death. If we forget death we will not be able to live the full life.  'Well living' is the preparation for 'well dying (expressions commonly heard  in Korea). It is in the 'small dying' each day that we can have new life, and in the last dying that we can enter eternal life. The Paschal Mystery has made this possible for us.

To believe thinking about death will lead to depression, make us anxious, pessimistic or passive is contrary to what we've been told by those who have thought deeply on the subject. Meditating on death is to face death calmly, with an easy conscience.  It allows us to see life as it is. It doesn't matter when we die or what the circumstances are. What will be important is the state of our internal life at that time.

In Korea, we have the term 'returned' when referring to a person who has just died. The dead person is considered as being away from home and would be returning. This is an understanding of those who have a religion and those that do not.

Another articles stresses that in recent years there is a tendency to avoid using the word death; it is missing in our art and literature. Love is easy to talk and write about but personal death is another matter entirely--it's taboo. But as we know when we suppress anything it is not easy to keep what we have suppressed from affecting us negatively; it can appear under many different guises.

Up until recent times most persons died in the home. The family was present and children were brought up seeing the death of those they loved. Today most die in hospitals or nursing homes; this makes death seem unnatural, far off and not part of life.

The way  the next life has been described is not  helpful. It is a mystery and when we spell it out too concretely, whether it is  heaven or hell, we are not approaching the subject in a way that many would find emotionally easy to accept. Trying to make our future more vivid than the message we have  received in the Scriptures leaves us open to misunderstanding and revulsion, according to one of the articles.

As Catholics we should be thankful for the many ways that we come in contact with death in the liturgy and in life. We have had saints who used a skull and other concrete ways to remind them of death. It was for them a way of enjoying the gift that has no end. We also should think often of the way we will meet death, and should not hesitate to make it a topic for our discussions.

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