Tuesday, July 28, 2009

You will not fear the terror of the night



nor the arrow that flies by day. Psalm 90
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In the monastery we sang psalm 90 every night at Compline - it is one of my favorite psalms and always evokes a variety of emotions in me. I've often connected it to death and dying and still do to some extent - perhaps because it was recited at the end of the day.
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After a restless night, I prayed the psalm once again this morning. The terror of the night... People sometimes mistake such existential fears for the mystical night John of the Cross and other spiritual masters write about. Perhaps they can be likened to such experiences, although I consider that notion personally rather unrealistic. Grasping the reality of life and death - indeed, grappling with it, can be terrifying all by itself - even for the person of faith.
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Recall Therese of Lisieux who warned her sisters to keep medicines far away from the dying lest they succumb to temptation and attempt suicide. I thought of this after reading a comment from Melody to my post yesterday on euthanasia and assisted suicide. I will reprint her comment here since it speaks well to the end of life dangers the lonely elderly or disabled may face.
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The support of family and friends.
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My mother-in-law passed away earlier this year. Her last weeks were filled with suffering. I lost count of the times she said, "I wish God would just take me." She had signed a "no-code", and we were all in agreement that no extraordinary means would be employed. But she didn't mean that she wanted another human being to end her life. I am afraid that if the euthanasia option were readily available, a lot of terminally ill people wouldn't have the strength to resist the temptation, especially if they were suffering. And their families might think they were doing a kindness.
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I should add that when the time came, my mother-in-law slipped away peacefully. Most of the family members whom we have lost have died in peace (the only one who didn't ended his own life). It's just the time leading up to death which has been very difficult. The temptation would be very great to expedite matters; I don't think we want to go down that road. - Melody
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Melody's comment reminded me of the deaths I've witnessed over the years. I remember my mom one day telling the nurse in hospice, "I keep trying to die, I just don't know how to do it." I now understand that if assisted suicide were available, in heCheck Spellingr state she may have welcomed it. Another friend's mother cried out to me the night she was dying, "Terry, can't you do anything?" She may have asked me that because she knew I was praying for her and that I was religious - which turned out to be little consolation for the poor lady in her moment of distress. Likewise, as my brother struggled during his last days he told me - "I'm scared to die." Almost glibly I told him not to be, that purgatory wouldn't be that bad. My assurances couldn't console him... All I could do was to be near him, promising I would pray for him and have Masses offered for him after death - yet it only quieted him - which in turn helped to relieve my own sense of helplessness.
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I've been with others who have died as well. I can see now how each could have been inclined, even convinced to accept some sort of potion to alleviate their pain, and above all, their terror, perhaps in a cocktail mix permitting them to slip away. People without faith or an understanding of suffering may be particularly vulnerable, especially if they feel themselves to be dying alone, without friends or family nearby, and no religious support... just clinicians working the night shift, surfing the Internet, listening to i-tunes or busy texting their time away. I've seen such employees even in Catholic health care facilities. And unfortunately, Catholic health care is disappearing.
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It's not like we didn't know all of this was coming however - JPII consistently warned about it, while any reasonable person ought to have known legalized abortion prepared the way for it.
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From the womb to the tomb.
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"The close connection which exists, in mentality, between the practice of contraception and that of abortion is becoming increasingly obvious. It is being demonstrated in an alarming way by the development of chemical products, intrauterine devices and vaccines which, distributed with the same ease as contraceptives, really act as abortifacients in the very early stages of the development of the life of the new human being.
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...the point has been reached where the most basic care, even nourishment, is denied to babies born with serious handicaps or illnesses. The contemporary scene, moreover, is becoming even more alarming by reason of the proposals, advanced here and there, to justify even infanticide, following the same arguments used to justify the right to abortion. In this way, we revert to a state of barbarism which one hoped had been left behind forever.
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15. Threats which are no less serious hang over the incurably ill and the dying. In a social and cultural context which makes it more difficult to face and accept suffering, the temptation becomes all the greater to resolve the problem of suffering by eliminating it at the root, by hastening death so that it occurs at the moment considered most suitable."
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No one, however, can arbitrarily choose whether to live or die; the absolute master of such a decision is the Creator alone, in whom "we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). - Evangelium vitae
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"It is the Lord who will free you from the snare
of the fowler who seeks to destroy you..." - Psalm 90
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Link:
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International Taask force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

7 comments:

  1. Life "gets" real ....

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  2. Wonderful post.
    I love that quote from Therese. Anyone who has suffered understands what she meant.

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  3. Great post, not that the subject is "fun", because it is not. But we Catholics can have a discussion about death, but non-religious people freak out if you mention the word. As if you looked the other way, it would pass more smoothly...
    It's really a shame because death is one "event" we are all invited to.

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  4. Thanks, Terry. I remember that quote of St. Therese; as SF said, anyone who has dealt with suffering knows what she meant.

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  5. Terry wrote.."The close connection which exists, in mentality, between the practice of contraception and that of abortion is becoming increasingly obvious.

    YES !! , YES!!
    but just try to convince a mother of a teen NOT to pass out birth control to her daughter. Many do. Try to convince your Catholic Physican not to give birth control to you and prepare for battle when you disagree. Try to convince the Catholic community that you see at every Mass that your not crazy for having all of these children. Oh, and the taunts and the head shaking of our work peers who just don't get us and the verbal assaults. Yes we've had some.

    Birth control began it all.

    I am so proud to be Catholic. The church fathers have stood firm and rightly so.

    I still think birth control is worse than abortion (and abortion is pretty TERRIBLE )because at least with abortion God gets the soul of a baby in return and with birth control God gets nothing. It's Satans perfect plan. God wants people -Satan stops people from being created. Evil perfected.

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  6. Belinda - actually JPII wrote that - I just posted it.

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  7. Curious that the bottom link to the "international" organization is headquartered in Steunbenville ...

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