The month of November is a special time of the year to reflect on death, dying, and the end of the world. The month gets this emphasis because the 2nd of November is All Souls Day and because the readings at Sunday Mass would have us focus on “the last things.” So, over the coming weeks I’ll address different aspects of death, dying, and how we Catholics go about these momentous events in a family’s life.
Let’s first look at the dying process.
Sometimes families wait too long to call the priest in to give “the last rites.” And sometimes family members of a devout Catholic are so far from the Church that they don’t even think to call a priest to attend to their dying loved one. This is especially so if the dying person is being well cared for by loving family members and/or by some hospice outreach.
What can be missing in the mix is the forgiveness of sins that comes with the sacraments of the Church. The dying process is a powerful time to make things right between the dying person and God. Acting as if there need be no reconciliation with our Maker is not helpful to the dying loved one. Family members and hospice people can provide love, comfort, alleviation of pain, and the such. What the sacraments do, however, is to provide forgiveness of sins and a powerful sense of the Lord’s presence -- in such a way as to help the dying person meet the Lord face to face with humility, honesty, and in a state of having been forgiven all sins of the past.
Later this month we’ll look at what to do when a death has happened.