Death is not the end, it is the beginning.
This month, we focus on the "last things" which refers to the study of "eschatology," the theology of what happens when we die. Throughout the month, we will have liturgies, prayers, video and text resources, presentations and other opportunities to come to better understand the four last things: Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.
Death is swallowed up in victory
-1 Corinthians 15:54
Coping with Death
Death may be a beautiful beginning, but there is often a tremendous amount of pain and grief associated with it for both those dying and their loved ones. There are resources available from the Church to make sense of and process this grief.
Benedictine Sister Kathy Persson, O.S.B., LCSW is available for individual, couple, or group counseling, and offers workshops and consultations for organizations of all sizes. She specializes in death and grief and has published texts on this topic. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Books on Death
- An Empty Cradle, a Full Heart: Reflections for Mothers and Fathers After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death – by Saint Bridget Parishioner, Christine O'Lafser
Aquinas on the Four Last Things: Everything You Need to Know about Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell – by Kevin Vost
After This Life: What Catholics Believe About What Happens Next – by Benedict J. Groeschel
Consoling Thoughts On Sickness and Death (Consoling Thoughts of St. Francis de Sales) - by St. Francis De Sales
A Formed video on what the Church believes and teaches about Last Things with Dr. Edward Sri. Click Here to Watch
Plenary Indulgence: A plenary indulgence is a grace granted by the Catholic Church through the merits of Jesus Christ, Mary, and all the saints to remove the temporal punishment due to sin. The indulgence cleanses a person of all temporal punishment due to sin. For those that die in a state of grace, we are united with God in heaven without the need for purgatory. Click Here for an explanation of this Indulgence and special circumstance
What does the Church teach about death?
A great place to start is the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1005
To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must "be away from the body and at home with the Lord."562 In that "departure" which is death the soul is separated from the body.563 It will be reunited with the body on the day of resurrection of the dead.
The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death. In the litany of the saints, for instance, she has us pray: "From a sudden and unforeseen death, deliver us, O Lord";586 to ask the Mother of God to intercede for us "at the hour of our death" in the Hail Mary; and to entrust ourselves to St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death.
- Resurrection of the Body 989
We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day.532 Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity:
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you.
Death is the end of man's earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When "the single course of our earthly life" is completed,584 we shall not return to other earthly lives: "It is appointed for men to die once."585 There is no "reincarnation" after death.
- Particular Judgement 1022
1022 Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification592 or immediately,593-or immediate and everlasting damnation.
At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.
1038 The resurrection of all the dead, "of both the just and the unjust,"621 will precede the Last Judgment. This will be "the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear [the Son of man's] voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment."622 Then Christ will come "in his glory, and all the angels with him .... Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.... and they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
Those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they "see him as he is," face to face.
We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."610 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.611 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."