Sunday, November 2, 2014

Memento Mori

Living to be 100 is no longer strange to our hearing. The Desk Columnist of The Catholic Times gives us her reflections on this new reality. She  uses the statistics she received from an on line community. In 1970 the average age for Korean men was 58.6 and women was 65.5. The statistics in 2010 showed  men living to an average age of 77.6 and   women were 84.4. Within a period of 40 years there was an increase of 40 years.

A recent survey made in a Korea: men wanted to live to 83 years of age and women to 82. 26.6 percent  wanted to live from 80-84 years of age, and 8.8 percent wanted to live over 100.She mentions studies of longevity of humans going up to hundreds of years.

With this increase of the years of life there has also been, she says, the increased interest in death. In the beginning of this century like a gale, we heard a lot about eating well and living well--"Well-Being"  but this has gradually and quietly changed into "Well Dying". At  one time what was difficult to talk about, one of the  taboos,  has given way today to a   popular topic of discussion: interest in advancing the quality of life and preparation for death. 

The English  Economist Magazine shows that Korea was listed as 32nd out of 40 countries in their  care for the dying. The atmosphere of our society, she says, would  give credence to these results. Within the Church you have those who have studied the situation and  would like to see a change from " lets eat well, live well and die"   to  understanding the death is a part of life and life is a preparation for "Well-dying".

There is need for education for this preparation. In the West she says because of the Christian culture there is a natural relationship between life and death which we do not have in Korea because of the change in the  Confucian culture. Death is not seen as the natural outcome of life. She mentions the negative feelings many Koreans have with cemeteries and charnel  houses which influences our society. Even within the Church it is not easy to find programs that help us to have a correct understanding about death.

One of our theologians  mentions that we do not repeat death, it's once in a life time occurrence. When life has meaning than death will have meaning. When we have a fear of death and fight against it we fight against life and have not accepted its meaning. Living our life  fully enables us to accept death with hope.

The hermits of the middle ages with their life of fasting, silence, work they often used the words: Memento Mori.  "Remember Death", "Remember those who have died." We remember death we remember the briefness of life. We will not be lazy, and remember what awaits us after death. "We are going into eternal life. How blessed is death and how noble is this life here on earth that has prepared us for death." She concludes her article with these words of Karl Rahner. 

Today is the Feast of All Souls; the month to pray for the dead, to meditate on death and to make the most of the gift of life we have received.      

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