Monday, November 26, 2012

Preparing Oneself for Death

Experience is the best teacher: a familiar cliche but also a fact.  Most of our teaching is lecturing  and cramming, using visual aids a great help, but to have the students experience what is being taught has the best chance for retention and bringing about change.

This method of teaching seems to have been more popular years ago, though we now have simulation teaching, which can be done with games, role-playing and other activities. One parish written up in the Peace Weekly had an activity suitable for the month of November, the end of the  liturgical year, and the month during which we think of death, and pray for those who have died.

One Incheon parish had a program to try to experience some of the aspects of death. A large casket was placed in front of the main altar and, while praying the office for the dead, people took turns getting into the casket and for 5 minutes having the lid closed over them. The thoughts and feelings expressed by the participants were mostly positive.

While some were taking their turn getting into the casket, those waiting their turn were writing their last will and testament. These would be offered up at the offertory of the Mass for the Dead that was celebrated at the end of the retreat.

During the  experience, there were many different thoughts that were expressed. One woman came to a realization that not to forgive a person with whom she had a grudge was foolish, for she would be returning to God, and she didn't want to bring the grudge along with her. The president of the Purgatorial Society told the participants that they came into the world without anything, and they leave without anything. He wanted the participants to see themselves as they were without making any excuses, and to appreciate God's love for each of them.

The pastor, after getting out of the casket, said that he felt a great peace while in the casket. He was conscious of the words of Jesus, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, though he should die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die (John 11:24-35).

After the "death" experience, many said there was a new appreciation of God's love in their lives. And when they left the church to go home, they noticed that the trees along the road had become more beautiful.


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