We do not want you to be like whose who have no hope – A Reflection on Modern Christian Attitudes Toward Dying
it is not necessarily death that we fear, but dying. Dying is something none of us have ever done before, and we tend to fear the unknown. Further, most of us realize the dying involves some degree of agony. Instinctively, and understandably, we draw back from such things.
Even Jesus, in his human nature, recoiled at the thought of the agony before him, so much so, that he sweat blood and asked if possible, that the cup of suffering could be taken from him. Manfully though he embraced Father’s will, and our benefit rather than his. Still, he did recoil humanly at the suffering soon to befall him. So then, here are some reasons that explain and make understandable why we do not run toward death.
But it remains true, that for a faithful Christian, the day we die is the greatest day of our life.
Addiction to comfort has deceived, and seduced us such that we are no longer in touch with our hearts greatest long and we cling to passing things and (I would argue, as does my family friend) we seem little different from those who have no hope. Put most regretfully, we no longer witness to a joyful journey to God that says, “Closer to Home!….Soon and Very Soon I am going to see the King….Soon I Will be Done with the troubles of this World….Going home to live with God!”
As stated, there are legitimate reasons to be averse to dying. But how about even a glimmer of excitement from the faithful as we see the journey coming to an end. St Paul wrote to the Thessalonians regarding death We do not want you to be like those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13).
Sam Parnia practices resuscitation medicine. In other words, he helps bring people back from the dead — and some return with stories. Their tales could help save lives, and even challenge traditional scientific ideas about the nature of consciousness.
“The evidence we have so far is that human consciousness does not become annihilated,” said Parnia, a doctor at Stony Brook University Hospital and director of the school’s resuscitation research program. “It continues for a few hours after death, albeit in a hibernated state we cannot see from the outside.”
It sounds supernatural, and if their memories are accurate and their brains really have stopped, it’s neurologically inexplicable, at least with what’s now known. Parnia, leader of the Human Consciousness Project’s AWARE study, which documents after-death experiences in 25 hospitals across North America and Europe, is studying the phenomenon scientifically.
Wired interviewes Parnia
I decided that we should study what people have experienced when they’ve gone beyond cardiac arrest. I found that 10 percent of patients who survived cardiac arrests report these incredible accounts of seeing things.
When I looked at the cardiac arrest literature, it became clear that it’s after the heart stops and blood flow into the brain ceases. There’s no blood flow into the brain, no activity, about 10 seconds after the heart stops. When doctors start to do CPR, they still can’t get enough blood into the brain. It remains flatlined. That’s the physiology of people who’ve died or are receiving CPR.
Not just my study, but four others, all demonstrated the same thing: People have memories and recollections. Combined with anecdotal reports from all over the world, from people who see things accurately and remember them, it suggests this needs to be studied in more detail.
Wired: One of the first after-death accounts in your book involves Joe Tiralosi, who was resuscitated 40 minutes after his heart stopped.
When Tiralosi woke up, he told nurses that he had a profound experience and wanted to talk about it. That’s how we met. He told me that he felt incredibly peaceful, and saw this perfect being, full of love and compassion. This is not uncommon.
People tend to interpret what they see based on their background: A Hindu describes a Hindu god, an atheist doesn’t see a Hindu god or a Christian god, but some being. Different cultures see the same thing, but their interpretation depends on what they believe.
At the very least, it tells us that there’s this unique experience that humans have when they go through death. It’s universal. It’s described by children as young as three. And it tells us that we should not be afraid of death.
These observations raise a question about our current concept of how brain and mind interact. The historical idea is that electrochemical processes in the brain lead to consciousness. That may no longer be correct, because we can demonstrate that those processes don’t go on after death.
There may be something in the brain we haven’t discovered that accounts for consciousness, or it may be that consciousness is a separate entity from the brain
“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” - Will Rogers
"If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons."
- James Thurber
"Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe, we are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made."
University of Liège researchers have demonstrated that the physiological mechanisms triggered during NDE lead to a more vivid perception not only of imagined events in the history of an individual but also of real events which have taken place in their lives!
Such a conclusion is in complete accord with all that I have read about NDEs.
To catch up on all the discussion concerning NDEs, Wikipedia has a pretty good article on near-death experience including this bit about its lasting effects.
Kenneth Ring (professor of psychology) has identified a consistent set of value and belief changes associated with people who have had a near-death experience. Among these changes one finds a greater appreciation for life, higher self-esteem, greater compassion for others, a heightened sense of purpose and self-understanding, desire to learn, elevated spirituality, greater ecological sensitivity and planetary concern, and a feeling of being more intuitive. Changes may also include increased physical sensitivity; diminished tolerance of light, alcohol, and drugs; a feeling that the brain has been "altered" to encompass more; and a feeling that one is now using the "whole brain" rather than a small part.
Near-death.com has the best links for NDE research conclusions and testimonies of NDEs.
The most recent is the experience of a Harvard-trained neurosurgeon, Dr Eben Alexander whose book, Proof of Heaven, was published last October.
Dr. Alexander, 58, was so changed by the experience that he felt compelled to write a book, “Proof of Heaven,” that recounts his experience. He knew full well that he was gambling his professional reputation by writing it, but his hope is that his expertise will be enough to persuade skeptics, particularly medical skeptics, as he used to be, to open their minds to an afterworld.
It took him two years, he said, to even use the word God in discussing his experience. But then he felt an obligation to all those dealing with near-death experience, and particularly to his fellow doctors. He felt compelled to let them know.
His messages to those who deal with dying is one of relief. “Our spirit is not dependent on the brain or body,” he said. “It is eternal, and no one has one sentence worth of hard evidence that it isn’t.”
The marriage of two dead people in China is a centuries-old custom called "minghun," or "ghost marriage."
According to folklore, if people are alone when they die, they will be alone in the afterlife, too. Worse yet, lonely ghosts might come back and try to take family members back to their world to keep them company. So it becomes a family responsibility to make sure deceased relatives are happily married.
Carrying out a ghost wedding in modern China isn't easy. For one thing, it's not legal. The practice was officially banned after the Communist Party came to power in 1949, but it can still be found in remote regions of the country.
Also, ghost weddings can cost big bucks. They are performed much like regular weddings, except they usually involve a burial ceremony. Relatives and friends of the deceased eat and drink. Sometimes entertainment is provided. After the wedding, the two families typically socialize together, especially on major holidays. Some believe their bond can be closer than that of in-laws of living couples.
As is customary with a regular marriage, the family of the groom must give the bride's family a betrothal gift. When the couple is dead, that gift almost always comes in the form of cash. In total, Wei's children spent around $2,500 on the betrothal gifts to the bride's family, but they considered the price reasonable. A typical betrothal gift for a ghost wedding is between $4,500 and $5,500.
Finally, it's not exactly easy to find an available corpse.
Demand for female bodies is particularly high.
As a result, the fresh corpse of a young woman can fetch as much as $30,000 on the black market. That kind of demand has led to the grim crime of grave robbing.
In early March, four people were sentenced to more than two years for stealing 10 corpses from graveyards in Shannxi province and selling them on the black market.
Zhou Peng, a journalist at the Xi'an Evening News who reported on the story, told NBC the criminals even performed plastic surgery on corpses and dyed their hair to make them look younger, so they could fetch higher prices.
"Ghost marriage between two dead people is stable and lasts forever. There is no such thing as divorce."
Eastern Orthodox Christianity has a different approach to the reality of our departure from life. Death is regarded as an integral part of life, as birth or growing old is. Of course death is still viewed as an unnatural state of mankind, a consequence of the great fall, but, nevertheless an unavoidable and necessary passage. Nobody runs away from it but embraces it, when time comes, with the great expectation of the encounter with Christ.
Fr. Gherorghe Calciu Dumitreasa, of blessed memory, was telling that in his old village, when someone would fall on the death bed, all the people, including the children, would go forth and ask for forgiveness from the one who was about to pass. After this forgiveness ritual the dying person would then confess his/her sins for the last time and receive Communion to prepare as much as possible for the inevitable encounter with Christ.
After passing, the body would be washed by members of the family, dressed in an outfit prepared in advance and would be deposed in a simple open coffin inside the house. The priest would come and read the eleven Resurrectional Gospels and the family and friends would keep vigil, reading from the Psalter.
On the day of the funeral the priest would bring the body in procession into the Church where the funeral service would take place. The deceased would lay there, resting in an open casket, in the midst of the community he/she belonged to. In the Orthodox Church the deceased are never considered as leaving the communion with the Church. Death is merely a passing from the Militant Church on Earth unto the Triumphant Church in Heaven. The departed are just temporarily missing physically from among us, but awaiting there, just us we do, the great reunion of Christ’s family in the Kingdom to come.
St. Basil the Great teaches therefore that the greatest philosophy is the continuous thought of death. Not in a fatalistic way, but in the spirit of a heightened awareness of our everyday actions and their impact of our state after leaving this life. Instead of being preoccupied on how to hide or make death more bearable by artificial means, we should embrace it and transform it in an element of change in our lives towards a more responsible existence
A near-death experience happens when quantum substances which form the soul leave the nervous system and enter the universe at large, according to a remarkable theory proposed by two eminent scientists. According to this idea, consciousness is a program for a quantum computer in the brain which can persist in the universe even after death, explaining the perceptions of those who have near-death experiences.
Dr Stuart Hameroff, Professor Emeritus at the Departments of Anesthesiology and Psychology and the Director of the Centre of Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, has advanced the quasi-religious theory.
It is based on a quantum theory of consciousness he and British physicist Sir Roger Penrose have developed which holds that the essence of our soul is contained inside structures called microtubules within brain cells. They have argued that our experience of consciousness is the result of quantum gravity effects in these microtubules, a theory which they dubbed orchestrated objective reduction (Orch-OR).
Thus it is held that our souls are more than the interaction of neurons in the brain. They are in fact constructed from the very fabric of the universe - and may have existed since the beginning of time
The cover story in Newsweek: Heaven is Real. A Doctor’s Experience With the Afterlife. Dr. Eben Alexander.
When a neurosurgeon found himself in a coma, he experienced things he never thought possible—a journey to the afterlife.
As a neurosurgeon, I did not believe in the phenomenon of near-death experiences. I grew up in a scientific world, the son of a neurosurgeon. I followed my father’s path and became an academic neurosurgeon, teaching at Harvard Medical School and other universities. I understand what happens to the brain when people are near death, and I had always believed there were good scientific explanations for the heavenly out-of-body journeys described by those who narrowly escaped death.
In the fall of 2008, however, after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.
There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind—my conscious, inner self—was alive and well. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility.
Where is this place?
Who am I?
Why am I here?
Each time I silently put one of these questions out, the answer came instantly in an explosion of light, color, love, and beauty that blew through me like a crashing wave. What was important about these blasts was that they didn’t simply silence my questions by overwhelming them. They answered them, but in a way that bypassed language. Thoughts entered me directly. But it wasn’t thought like we experience on earth. It wasn’t vague, immaterial, or abstract. These thoughts were solid and immediate—hotter than fire and wetter than water—and as I received them I was able to instantly and effortlessly understand concepts that would have taken me years to fully grasp in my earthly life.
Doreen Carvajal went to Spain, to Andalusia, on the Trail of Inherited Memories
I still wonder how I ended up living in a former medieval bordello on the brink of a sandstone cliff on the southern frontier of Spain.
The other world worried about bills, real estate values, tourism, lost jobs, the immediate future. In contrast, I retreated into my quest, hoping to take new stock of my identity by reclaiming ancestral memories, history and DNA clues that I believe had been faithfully passed down for generations of my family, the Carvajals.
They had left Spain centuries ago, during the Inquisition. That much I knew. We were raised as Catholics in Costa Rica and California, but late in life I finally started collecting the nagging clues of a very clandestine identity: that we were descendants of secret Sephardic Jews — Christian converts known as converses, or Anusim (Hebrew for the forced ones) or even Marranos, which in Spanish means swine.
There are scientific studies exploring whether the history of our ancestors is somehow a part of us, inherited in unexpected ways through a vast chemical network in our cells that controls genes, switching them on and off. At the heart of the field, known as epigenetics, is the notion that genes have memory and that the lives of our grandparents — what they breathed, saw and ate — can directly affect us decades later.
Recent studies in Sweden explore the effects of famine and abundant harvests on the health of descendants four generations later. That is not exactly what I am looking for: I’m intrigued by the notion that generations pass on particular survival skills and an unconscious sense of identity that stands the test of centuries.
The French psychologist Anne Ancelin Schützenberger, now in her 90s, has spent decades studying what she calls the ancestor syndrome — that we are links in a chain of generations, unconsciously affected by their suffering or unfinished business until we acknowledge the past.
In the 1990s Dina Wardi, a psychotherapist in Jerusalem, worked with the children of Holocaust survivors and developed the theory that survivor parents often designated certain children as “memorial candles” who took on the mission of serving as a link to preserve the past and connect the future. The children of survivors who actively struggled against the Nazis, she found, had a compulsive ambition to achieve.
Reality is even stranger. Dr. Darold A. Treffert, a psychiatrist in Wisconsin, maintains a registry of about 300 “savants” who through a head injury or dementia acquire skills they never learned. Conceivably, he says, those skills, like music, mathematics, art and calendar calculating, were buried deep in their brains. He calls it genetic memory, or “factory-installed software,” a huge reservoir of dormant knowledge that can emerge when a damaged brain rewires itself to recover from injuries.
Marilyn Monroe's estate earned $27 million last year and is looking at earning $30 million this year. Her Facebook page (3.5 million likes) and her twitter account keep her in the public eye, 50 years after her death.
This video presents the common theories of different religions is what exactly happens after we die.
Here are some gleanings of what people have learned:
They speak of being received by a being of light and of overwhelming, total love and absolute knowledge. They do not question the reality of a loving God. They felt enveloped in his love. They were asked to give an accounting of their lives. They were given an understanding that they had a purpose in life and needed to return to fulfill that purpose which was to be more loving toward their families and all mankind.
They returned with a hunger for knowledge. They experienced absolute knowledge while in the presence of God, and while most of it was erased when they returned to mortality, they felt an insatiable desire to learn all they could.
They became more involved in a church, but some found it frustrating to see churches wrangling and contending with each other. They found various trappings of some religions distracting. What they really wanted was a greater understanding of things of the spirit. There had been an awakening of inward spirituality. They desired to serve, not to be seen of men or out of duty or obligation, but out of pure motives; they really cared.
They spoke of increased sensitivity to violence of any kind and even found old western movies with gunfights senseless and painful to watch.
They experienced increased awareness of the beauties of nature, of uplifting music and of inspiring artistic works.
They felt less desire to seek wealth and worldly possessions. Things were no longer important.
They had an increased interest in eating healthy foods and enjoying regular exercise. They clung to life feeling there was so much more they needed to do before they left this life again.
Rod Dreher on Life After Death, Really
Neuroscientist Mario Beauregard writes that more and more research indicates that something inexplicable by the standard materialist model of human consciousness is happening with Near Death Experiences. Here’s an excerpt focusing on a medically well-documented case that cannot be explained as the bizarre firing of neurons in the mind of a dying patient:
Beauregard says the theory that NDEs are caused by a decrease of oxygen to the brain cannot be sustained. He points out too that people who have been born blind have the same NDE experiences as those with sight.
Forgot to say that I somewhat knew a Texas guy who claimed this happened to him after a near-fatal car crash — except his was a pretty dark story. He had been living a pretty bad life, and went to hell, or an approximation thereof. He claimed that Jesus Christ came to him there, told him it wasn’t his time yet, but that he should change his life, and turn to the Light. He said Jesus also told him “your days are numbered” — meaning that he didn’t have much time left. He had a dramatic, instant turnaround in his life, and became a far more peaceful and even saintly man. Sure enough, not long after this happened, he learned that he had a terminal illness. He’s dead now, but he spent the rest of his days serving God and doing good for others. Interestingly, after this experience, he had an almost preternatural spiritual sensitivity. I did not know the man before his alleged NDE, so I have no way of knowing if this was true. He was an exceptionally humble and gentle man when I met him, by the way, and didn’t like to talk about all this (I only found out about it because he’d told a friend of mine at his church, who asked.) FWIW.
More from the Beauregard piece
The scientific NDE studies performed over the past decades indicate that heightened mental functions can be experienced independently of the body at a time when brain activity is greatly impaired or seemingly absent (such as during cardiac arrest). Some of these studies demonstrate that blind people can have veridical perceptions during OBEs associated with an NDE. Other investigations show that NDEs often result in deep psychological and spiritual changes.
These findings strongly challenge the mainstream neuroscientific view that mind and consciousness result solely from brain activity. As we have seen, such a view fails to account for how NDErs can experience—while their hearts are stopped—vivid and complex thoughts and acquire veridical information about objects or events remote from their bodies.
NDE studies also suggest that after physical death, mind and consciousness may continue in a transcendent level of reality that normally is not accessible to our senses and awareness. Needless to say, this view is utterly incompatible with the belief of many materialists that the material world is the only reality.
It looks like the gateway to heaven - but this stunning image taken by the Hubble Telescope has captured the dramatic phase of a dying star's lifespan when it runs out of nuclear fuel and emits beams of light like searchlights.
The Daily Mail dubbed this the 'gateway to heaven'. To me it looked like the cross.
A very clear and detailed recount of a near-death experience.
Howard Storm was an atheist until he had an extraordinary near-death experience. After that, everything changed. Indeed, he is now a Christian minister. His book, My Descent into Death, shot to prominence globally after the novelist Anne Rice called it “a book you devour from cover to cover, and pass on to others”.
She added that “Storm was meant to write it and we were meant to read it.”
“I was lying there, when I heard a voice say: ‘Pray to God.’ I said: ‘I don’t pray. I don’t believe in God.’ Then, it came a second time; and a third: ‘Pray to God.’
“So, tried to think of a prayer. I started to mumble some things. A mention of God came into a few of these phrases. With each mention the people around me became very, very angry, and started screaming at me: ‘There is no God’ and ‘Nobody can hear you.’ It angered them so much that they were retreating from me. The mention of God was unbearable to them.” Encouraged, he mumbled other jumbled half-remembered phrases: “Glory, glory hallelujah, God Bless America, Our Father who art in heaven…”
“I felt that there was some kind of justice in the universe and that if you lead a miserable life you go down the sewer pipe of the universe into the septic tank. And that’s where I was. Yet I knew I hadn’t been flushed down into the deeper part, just yet.
“In that state of hopelessness I had a memory of myself as a child in Sunday school, singing ‘Jesus Loves Me’. I also had a vivid feeling of being a child and feeling that there was a wonderful God-man named Jesus who was my friend and who loved me. With real sincerity, I called out: ‘Jesus, please save me.’ With that, a tiny light appeared in the darkness and it came down over me. Out of this light came two hands. They reached down and touched me, and all the gore and filth that was me just fell away.
“In two or three seconds I was healed and filled with an indescribable love. In this world there is no equivalent to that kind of love. These arms picked me up and brought me into this brilliant light. I was held against the body of this man. I knew that he was Jesus. I cried.
“We were moving straight up, faster and faster towards the world of light. It dawned on me then that everything I had believed in was wrong, and I was going to where God lived. I thought: ‘They’ve made a terrible mistake. I don’t deserve this. I’m garbage.’”
Chris Murphy, a trial lawyer from Chicago, describes near death experience and his 'Visit to Paradise'
that was full of "Beauty, shining, energy, love".
After cheating death three times, Ben Breedlove, 18, finally lost his life on Christmas night after suffering from a heart attack.
But not before he recorded videos of his life and near-death experiences and how at peace he felt when he believed he was leaving the world.
The Austin teenager had a life-threatening heart condition he fought every day as he was growing up.
He had a near death experience when he was four, fourteen and then less than a month ago.
In the video, he shares these experiences, including the bright light that brought him peace the first time around and the time he was wearing a suit and standing in a white room with his favourite rapper Kid Cudi.
Of this experience, he wrote: 'I then looked in the mirror, I was proud of myself of my entire life, everything I have done. It was the BEST feeling.'
This is a flash card video, so you can turn down the sound on the annoying music.
I thought of a story told by a friend, whose grown son had died, at home, in a hospice. The family was ringed around his bed. As Robert breathed his last an infant in the room let out a great baby laugh as if he saw something joyous, wonderful, and gestured toward the area above Robert's head. The infant's mother, startled, moved to shush him but my friend, her mother, said no, maybe he's just reacting to . . . something only babies see.
Peggy Noonan on the best thing said in 2011, "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow," Steve Jobs' last words.
"Before embarking, he'd looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life's partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them. Steve's final words were: 'OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.'"
The caps are Simpson's, and if she meant to impart a sense of wonder and mystery she succeeded. "Oh wow" is not a bad way to express the bigness, power and force of life, and death. And of love, by which he was literally surrounded.
Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims to Rome on Sunday that a loss of faith in Jesus Christ has led many people to despair in the face of death.
“If we remove God, if we take away Christ, the world will fall back into the void and darkness,” he said in his Nov. 6 Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square.
“And this is also reflected in the expressions of contemporary nihilism, an often subconscious nihilism that unfortunately plagues many young people.”
The Pope charted the impact that the Christian message had upon the ancient world where “the religion of the Greeks, the cults and pagan myths were not able to shed light on the mystery of death.” He noted that ancient inscriptions read “In nihil ab nihilo quam cito recidimus,” meaning “How quickly we fall back from nothing to nothing.”
Thus, St. Paul reminded the Christians of Ephesus that they were “without hope and without God in the world” before their conversion to Christianity, whereas afterwards they no longer grieved “like the rest, who have no hope.”
“Faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” said the Pope, is “a decisive watershed.” It is the “definite” difference between “believers and non-believers,” or “those who hope and who do not hope.”
Our Last Judgment, therefore, will be “based on the love we practiced in our earthly life.” That is why it is “true wisdom” to take advantage of mortal life to carry out works of mercy, because “after our death, it will no longer be possible.”
Tradition is that Faure's Requiem is performed on All Souls Day, November 2. Tonight I am going to hear the Boston Boys' Choir and the Men's Schola sing Faure's Requiem at St. Paul's Church in Cambridge.
It is heavenly music.
Here is the Kings College Choir singing Pie Jesu and Agnes Dei from the Requiem
More from the Requiem, "In Paradisum"
from a Concert in Berne, May 2007, Agata Mazurkiewicz, conductor, Choir Konzertverein Bern, Berne Chamber Orchestra.
Insight Scoop traces All Souls Day
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger once said so well, one major difference between Protestants and Catholics is that Catholics pray for the dead:
"My view is that if Purgatory did not exist, we should have to invent it." Why?
"Because few things are as immediate, as human and as widespread—at all times and in all cultures—as prayer for one"s own departed dear ones." Calvin, the Reformer of Geneva, had a woman whipped because she was discovered praying at the grave of her son and hence was guilty, according to Calvin, of superstition". "In theory, the Reformation refuses to accept Purgatory, and consequently it also rejects prayer for the departed. In fact German Lutherans at least have returned to it in practice and have found considerable theological justification for it. Praying for one's departed loved ones is a far too immediate urge to be suppressed; it is a most beautiful manifestation of solidarity, love and assistance, reaching beyond the barrier of death. The happiness or unhappiness of a person dear to me, who has now crossed to the other shore, depends in part on whether I remember or forget him; he does not stop needing my love.
I like graveyards in general, and Guatemalan graveyards are particularly attractive. Every little pueblo has its cemetery, the plain block-like tombs gaily painted pink, yellow, white, purple, sky-blue or mauve. They are well cared for and not at all dismal.
On 1 November, All Saints' Day, I had been in the little town of Salama, some sixty miles distant from the capital. All Saints' Day is every cemetery's day of glory, the day on which Catholic Guatemalans go with their families to the tombs of their dead relatives and spend the day there. Flowers are taken: real flowers, beautiful but ephemeral, or plastic ones, gaudy but permanent. A few days beforehand, the family refreshes the tomb with a coat of paint and renews the inscription. On the day itself, everyone picnics over grandmama, eating a dish called fiambre - rice and twenty different kinds of cold meat - which is prepared only for this day.
No grave was totally neglected on All Saints' Day, and even the graves of the dead without descendants were newly painted or strewn with a flower or two.
People from northern latitudes often find the customs of All Saints' Day morbid. I found them not only charming, but moving and wise. It seemed to me that death as the inevitable end of life was accepted better in Guatemala than in our own culture, where everything possible is done to disguise the fact of death until the last moment, when it comes as a terrible shock. And surely it is some consolation to the dying to know that at least once a year they will be remembered.
Nothing could illustrate better the contrast in our attitudes to death than the behaviour of the North American lady with whom I visited Salama cemetery on All Saints' Day. It happened that she was a member of the American Association of Graveyard Studies, which has a membership of 300, and as such I supposed she would be interested in the activities in the graveyard on this of all days. On the contrary, she regarded them as a hindrance to the proper study of gravestones as purely physical artifacts. I was rather embarrassed when, wishing to take a photograph of a particular tomb, she asked the family who had decorated it in remembrance to remove their flowers so that the tomb should appear in her photograph in its 'natural' state. She preferred her cemeteries dead in every possible sense, so that they were strange and alien places on the edge of town, with no connection to the world of the living. Thus death remained a taboo for her, despite her studies; she belonged to a culture in which death was warded off by facelifts, vitamin tablets, the magical avoidance of ubiquitous substances and even the freezing of corpses at -270°. Which was the wiser attitude?
Near-Death Experiences: 30 Years of Research - Part 5
A neurosurgeon’s perspective
Eben Alexander was your typical neurosurgeon. A firm believer of scientific reductionism, he thought that all thoughts originate from the brain. But this changed in 2008 when he encountered a case of near-death experience (NDE).
Having contracted acute bacterial meningitis, which damages the neocortex—the part of the brain that is thought to involve complex cognitive functions like conscious thought—Alexander went into a coma and spent six days on a ventilator. The chance of survival was very slim, and less so was the possibility of recovering fully.
The normal glucose levels in a human’s cerebrospinal fluid are between 60 and 80 mg/dl (milligram per one-tenth of a liter), and the meningitis infection is considered severe when the level drops to 20 mg/dl. But the glucose level of Alexander’s cerebrospinal fluid was at 1 mg/dl, making it impossible for his brain to function.
However, during the time when he was in coma, Alexander encountered vivid experiences involving multiple senses, such as vision, hearing, and smell. He said that he couldn’t describe how amazing it was.
“What happened deep in coma was absolutely stunning,” Alexander said during an interview.
“The whole situation seems to be much more real than our earthly life, and the sensory modalities were very strange because they were, you know, when I was remembering all this and trying to write it down, a lot of the kind of auditory and visual things that we would normally think of as things that we see or hear, were all kind of blended together.”
For example, he “saw” a beautiful melody appearing as colors in front of him, and he remembered gold and silver arcs of lights as transparent arcs of energy that he perceived as sounds.
“To compare it with sitting here and talking on the phone or working on my computer, it was much, much more real, very rich, and as if I were truly being alive for the first time,” Alexander said. “It was really amazing.”
“My brain right now—I think it recovered pretty well—could not do anything close to what my brain was doing deep in coma,” Alexander said in this year’s International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) conference.
“How does a dying brain end up getting far, far more powerful and able to handle these tremendous loads of information instantaneously and put it altogether?”
“The standard neuroscientific explanation […] absolutely does not address the real powerful elements of the experience,” he said.
“My conclusion is that the experience was very real and had to happen outside of my brain, and it had to happen outside of this physical universe. […] There is an element of our consciousness that is not dependent on the brain and that is what was set free, for me, and went on that journey.”
Dr. George Ritchie can be seen on this dramatized YouTube video witnessing to his near death experience when he was 20 and a private in the army.
The video promotes his book My Life After Dying, published in 1991, a re-titling of his original book Return from Tomorrow, published in 1978.
George G. Ritchie became a physician, served his residency in psychiatry at the University of Virginia and then began a private practice in psychiatry in Virginia. He died at 84, leaving his wife of 60 years, a son and a daughter, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Raymond Moodie, a student at the University of Virginia, first became aware of Near Death Experiences after hearing Ritchie's story. Moodie went on to investigate over 150 cases of NDEs
From an interview by Kathryn Lopez of Father George Rutler, Priest Walks among the Dead
Lopez: Is there a literal cloud of witnesses?
FATHER RUTLER: I do not know how people see in Heaven, without biological eyes, but their vision is better than 20/20. They see the essence of each other. Whatever that essence is, we can only surmise that it is akin to what was seen by Jesus when he looked into the hearts of men. In that sense, the “cloud of witnesses” consists of people who have become with inexpressible vividness what they were meant to be in this world.
Lopez: “It is an indictment of our time that [saints] are largely ignored, almost self-consciously so by our schools”?
FATHER RUTLER: No explanation, sociological or psychological or anthropological, can adequately explain how saints get to be saints. They are the evidence of divine grace, and to acknowledge their existence is to acknowledge that grace. So most of our schools prefer to destroy the evidence. Thus the greatest people who ever lived are treated nervously or ignored altogether. This is the biggest and most blatant lacuna in our curricula. For instance, how many Ph.D’s have ever heard of St. Lawrence of Brindisi? Yet, a good case may be made for saying that there would be no Doctors of Philosophy today, and no civilization at all as we know it, had it not been for him.
Lopez: What’s the most important lesson these people all helped impress upon you?
FATHER RUTLER: They only proved to me the doctrine of the greatest doctors of souls from Basil to Augustine to Newman: Each human soul is worth more than the entire universe.
Lopez: Is the main point of your book to love one another?
FATHER RUTLER: Yes, of course. But it is much easier to love one another than to like one another. I am happy that we are not commanded to do the latter.
You don't often think about the singers at a funeral, but here is a lovely story about a young woman who learned the
responsibilities of a singer when a remarkable young girl dies suddenly.
Losing a child: grief and hope
Maddy was having a hard time preparing as the last time she sang at a funeral at our church - Father Kelly's - she broke down while singing his favorite hymn - "Lead, Kindly Light." Saturday, she was to sing "Hallelujah" (Cohen), "Ave Maria" (Schubert), and "All Through the Night" which was Sara's favorite lullaby. She's also been on an emotional roller coaster with her job, moving and preparing to leave for college.
But Maddy knows that the discipline of a singer in this situation is that it's not about her - which was affirmed when we were walking towards the church and Sadie's mom Sara - whom we had never met - so graciously came out to greet us. She told Maddy that Sadie had been to hear her sing and had wanted to meet her afterwards, but that she (Sara) had discouraged her from interrupting Maddy talking with her friends.
Maddy didn't make it through the lullaby, but as she feared, began to cry - and as she has noted, while a musician can get away with crying, a singer can't. We had to leave quickly as she was so depleted afterwards. That's when we had the conversation in the car where she said she wished she'd had the opportunity to meet Sadie and I assured her that she certainly had today. And that she now has a very close friend in heaven.
After 5 years of writing an advice column about the end of life, Judy Bachrach says her letters fall into 3 categories: letters about inheritance and disinheritance, questions about death etiquette and how to dispose of corpses.
The New Death.Those seeking advice reveal a new attitude about the end
I marvel over people’s interest in all three categories, but especially their obsession with the fate of the outer wrappings. How can it matter? Why does it matter?...
And then, at odd moments, the answer comes to me. In these modern times, the Afterlife is now. That’s what it’s come down to. No one wants to wait. No one thinks waiting ages for some kind of final justice will improve the odds. Atheist or believer, pragmatist or romantic, we all consign to death, someone else’s death, a long hoped-for settling of accounts. We want our heavenly rewards, emotional or tangible, to arrive today, and the death of a relative is the doorway to those rewards.
But if there is a heaven, a Final Reward for sufferings here on earth, it will come, the newer general feeling goes, not through my death. But through yours. And that is the death people write me about.
The narcissism of people today is astonishing and blinding.
I did not know Bishop Michael Evans, who has died at the sadly young age of 59 after a long illness, but I feel that the manner of his departure provides us with much food for thought.
The bishop knew he was ill, and that his condition was terminal, and (I was going to write “but”, but “and” is correct) he faced up to the prospect of death with Christian resignation.
In January 2011 Bishop Evans broke the news to his diocese that he did not have long to live. He wrote: “Rather than resign, I would like to continue among you as your bishop and the father of our diocesan family until this stage of my life ends. I do not know how long that will be. I am most grateful for the ways you have cared for and so prayerfully supported me in recent years. You remain very much in my thoughts and care.
“As I live now under the shadow of death, my prayer is very much that of St Paul that I may know something of the power of Christ’s Resurrection and a share in his sufferings, trusting that the Lord is with me. I pray that even now I can joyfully witness something of the good news we are all called to proclaim.”
I am sure that I am not alone in finding this exemplary. We are all going to die, and we will all have to deal with that one day. The bishop’s way of dealing with it – low-key, seeing death as just one stage in life, not making a fuss, not appealing to the emotions, but rather to the facts of faith – is a pretty excellent template we could all follow.
Robin Lane Fox, in his interesting book, Pagans and Christians, attributes the triumph of Christianity over paganism (if memory serves) to one factor above all others: Christianity could deal with the fear of death, whereas paganism could not. In other words the Christians had the answer to the great question raised by Epicurus, namely how to face up to the prospect of personal extinction.
What Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams when Abigail Adams died.
Monticello, November 13, 1818
The public papers, my dear friend, announce the fatal event of which your letter of October the 20th had given me ominous foreboding. Tried myself in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well, and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that for ills so immeasurable, time and silence are the only medicine. I will not, therefore, by useless condolences, open afresh the sluices of your grief, nor, although mingling sincerely my tears with yours, will I say a word more where words are vain, but that it is of some comfort to us both, that the term is not very distant, at which we are to deposit in the same cerement, our sorrows and suffering bodies, and to ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and never lose again. God bless you and support you under your heavy affliction.
In Controversy over Heaven, Gary Smith looks at the controversy over Seven in Heaven Way, a street in Brooklyn renamed to honor seven firefighters who died trying to rescue victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks which the New York City Atheists Organization are protesting saying it violates the separation of church and state.
Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice asserted that “the claim that somehow ‘Seven in Heaven Way’ violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is absurd. Acknowledging religion is not an endorsement of religion, and to suggest that this street name somehow crosses the constitutional line of establishing a religion is nonsense.”
Polls consistently find that high percentages of Americans believe in heaven and expect to spend eternity there. Various polls show that 80-90 percent of Americans believe in heaven. A Gallup Poll reported that 77 percent of Americans rated their chances of getting to heaven as “good” or “excellent.” Several near-death experience accounts of heaven — Don Piper’s “90 Minutes in Heaven,” “Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back,” and “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven” — are all best sellers. Given this and the deep impact of 9/11 on Americans, the lively debate over the naming of this street in Brooklyn is not surprising. Belief in heaven has provided millions of Americans with hope as they face earthly struggles and death and has frequently helped inspire them to improve conditions on earth.
You can't beat this headline.
A woman who thought she had buried her mother 15 years ago got a shock when the old woman turned up alive and in Florida.
Grace Kivisto, 56, from Knox County, Illinois, was told human remains found in a local brickyard in 1996 belonged to her mother.
But investigators using DNA analysis last week told her family the remains were not those of their missing relative.
Then, yesterday, detectives told Mrs Kivisto her missing mother had been found, alive and well, in Jacksonville, Florida.
She told WQAD.com: 'I was out gardening, and a detective came to tell me that they had found my mother. Alive!'
Another stunner headline
President Sarkozy gives blessing for marriage under obscure law
A woman has married her dead boyfriend at a ceremony in France - after getting permission from President Sarkozy.
Karen Jumeaux, 22, made use of an obscure French law to wed fiance Anthony Maillot - almost two years after he was killed in a road accident.
She wrote to President Nicolas Sarkozy to ask permission for a posthumous wedding, which was granted because she could prove they were already planning to marry.
The couple met in 2007 and had a baby boy in 2009, shortly before his death at the age of 20.
She tied the knot wearing a white dress and in the presence of family and friends at the town hall ceremony in Dizy-le-Gros, eastern France, yesterday.
She said afterwards: 'He was my first and only love and we were together for four years.
I vaguely remember such laws enacted in World War 1 because so many millions were killed so quickly.
Women who were engaged before their fiances left home to fight and die could be declared 'white widows' and collect a survivor's pension.
There are two errors involved with life and death. The first is to ignore the value of life. Life is a precious gift, a good which should not be unnaturally taken away. Every life is precious, and every person is to be loved because they have life. The second is to try to hold on to life unnaturally, to extend one’s stay in the fallen world when it is time for one to enter into eternity. Those who neglect the care of others, those who ignore the inherent good which is the foundation for all life, are often the same ones who end up striving to prolong their own miserable existence, and they do so at the expense of others. They have not prepared themselves for eternity. They do not understand the meaning of life, and so they cannot understand the meaning of death.
Death is not the end, but a point of transition. We should prepare ourselves for death, for we will all face it one day. Life allows us to find out who we are, to come to know ourselves as we truly are. Once we have properly come to know ourselves, we can (thanks to grace) purify ourselves from all sinful contamination, and then in death, we will be the person we are meant to be, free from all sin, free from the sorrows of sin, in eternity. If we are prepared, eternal life is a blessing, because it allows us to experience ourselves as we truly are in an unfallen, beatified state. Life is a gift; it allows us the opportunity for such a preparation, but, because of sin, temporal existence is riddled with trials and tribulations; death allows us to have a final victory over sin, to overcome the “evils of this life.”
In the lives of the desert fathers, we find the remembrance and preparation of death was a significant component of their spiritual life. They understood and accepted the significance of death. They knew and understood that because death lies before us, it can be and should be contemplated during our earthly existence, so that we can be ready for death and not be found unprepared for eternity.
The Sayings of the Desert Fathers relates the death of Abba Sisoes
It was said of Abba Sisoes that when he was at the point of death, while the Fathers were sitting beside him, his face shone like the sun. He said to them, ‘Look, Abba Anthony is coming.’ A little later he said, ‘Look, the choir of prophets is coming.’ Again his countenance shone with brightness and he said, ‘Look, the choir of apostles is coming.’ His countenance increased in brightness and lo, he spoke with someone. Then the old men ask him, ‘With whom are you speaking, Father?’ He said, ‘Look, the angels are coming to fetch me, and I am begging them to let me do a little penance.’ The old man said to him, ‘You have no need to do penance, Father.’ But the old man said to him, ‘Truly, I do not think I have even made a beginning yet.’ Now they all knew that he was perfect. Once more his countenance suddenly became like the sun and they were all filled with fear. He said to them, ‘Look, the Lord is coming and he’s saying, “Bring me the vessel from the desert.”’ Then there was as a flash of lightning and all the house was filled with a sweet odour.
Pat Gohn writes No Anxieties: Confronting Our Dust in Faith
It's one of the touchstones of Lent, this intentional remembering that life on earth is short compared to the promise of eternity. Our time on planet Earth really means something. And the really big questions of life are always related to certainty of death, but more than that, they are subject to the economy of grace.
She quotes Gaudiam et Spes (Joy and Hope) (1965).
It is in the face of death that the riddle of human existence grows most acute. Not only is man tormented by pain and by the advancing deterioration of his body, but even more so by a dread of perpetual extinction. He rightly follows the intuition of his heart when he abhors and repudiates the utter ruin and total disappearance of his own person. He rebels against death because he bears in himself an eternal seed which cannot be reduced to sheer matter. All the endeavors of technology, though useful in the extreme, cannot calm his anxiety; for prolongation of biological life is unable to satisfy that desire for higher life which is inescapably lodged in his breast.
Although the mystery of death utterly beggars the imagination, the Church has been taught by divine revelation and firmly teaches that man has been created by God for a blissful purpose beyond the reach of earthly misery . . . For God has called man . . . so that with his entire being he might be joined to Him in an endless sharing of a divine life beyond all corruption. Christ won this victory when He rose to life, for by His death He freed man from death. Hence to every thoughtful man a solidly established faith provides the answer to his anxiety about what the future holds for him.
"We realized that our own point of view is that when you’re dead, you’re dead. Therefore the only place you exist is inside those who know you. If you lived and you’re forgotten, you lived in vain.” He paused.
“It’s not a happy show,” he said, grinning. “But it’s fun.”
I said that I often felt, writing obituaries, that one reason death is interesting to people is that it is grim and engaging in equal measure. Dying and grieving are universal experiences, but so is wonderment at what death entails.
Dr. Peter Kreeft on What Difference Does Heaven Make?
The answer to the question is only the difference between hope and despair in the end, between two totally different visions of life; between "chance or the dance." At death we find out which vision is true: does it all go down the drain in the end, or are all the loose threads finally tied together into a gloriously perfect tapestry? Do the tangled paths through the forest of life lead to the golden castle or over the cliff and into the abyss? Is death a door or a hole?
To medieval Christendom, it was the world beyond the world that made all the difference in the world to this world. The Heaven beyond the sun made the earth "under the sun" something more than "vanity of vanities". Earth was Heaven's womb, Heaven's nursery,
The glory has departed. We moderns have lost much of medieval Christendom's faith in Heaven because we have lost its hope of Heaven, and we have lost its hope of Heaven because we have lost its love of Heaven. And we have lost its love of Heaven because we have lost its sense of Heavenly glory.
Heaven and Hell – suppose, just suppose it were really, really true! What difference would that make?
Despite being declared dead, Sanders had been able to move about the country easily. Investigators know he lived in Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia and Nevada. He worked as a laborer, a welder and a scrap metal collector.
According to records obtained by the AP, his arrests included possession of drug paraphernalia and a number of traffic and motor vehicle incidents, all in Tennessee. He was sentenced to two years in Georgia for simple battery. State and federal authorities have said some of the charges involved minors, but they refused to elaborate.
Court documents obtained by The Associated Press show Sanders abandoned his family in 1987 and was declared dead by a Mississippi court 1994. He lived unnoticed for years despite being arrested several times.
Sanders was wanted in the kidnapping 12-year-old Lexis Roberts, whose skeleton was found by hunters early last month. Her 31-year-old mother, Suellen Roberts, is missing. Officials say she is not a suspect in her daughters death — and they hope she has not met with foul play.
Thorne said Sanders was alone when he was arrested at the Flying J Truck Stop by FBI agents and Harrison County Sheriff’s deputies.
Father Robert Barron comments on "Hereafter", a film I haven't seen yet, but want to. We all want to know whether there is life after death and I'm interested in what Clint Eastwood has to say about it.
I was at a Requiem Mass this morning; nothing unusual in that, of course. Yet this Mass was highly unusual in this respect: there was no panegyric of the dead. The deceased man had made it clear to his widow before he died that he wanted the homily to focus on the faith – specifically the theology of death and resurrection, with accompanying prayers for the dead – and not on him.
This must be the first funeral I have attended since the death of my father more than 30 years ago when a “celebration of the life” has not been a central feature of the service. How and when did it creep in that a funeral has to concentrate on a deceased person’s achievements, foibles and lovable frailties – indeed, on his or her imminent canonisation – to the exclusion of almost everything else?
There you have it: no mournful pop songs, no tributes to the deceased’s love of a pint at his local pub, his efforts on behalf of mankind; just natural grief at the loss and hope in the mercy of God. I left this morning’s funeral more comforted and consoled than at many a funeral I have attended in recent years.
“Under my promise to always tell you the truth, I have discontinued chemo and other treatments,’’ he wrote, adding, “I’m beyond the place where chemo can help me. I have come home to die. I am near the end of my journey.’’
Father Field, who had stood in the pulpit month after month, performing pastoral duties through intense pain, sat in a wheelchair on June 27. Speaking into a microphone, he asked if anyone had questions. There were none. Instead, the parishioners took their turn to stand. They began to clap, their applause echoing through the church for minute after minute, as if to prolong his time with them.
A masterful teacher who deftly discovered new insights in familiar Gospel passages, Father Field spent the past two years using his own life as a lesson in how to let life shine in the shadow of death. “I am in a place of great peace and gratitude,’’ he wrote. Father Field, who lived in the church rectory, died Monday. He was 59 and had celebrated his 20th anniversary as an ordained priest last month.
As days dwindled, priest let his life be his lesson
While he said his illness provided “a teachable moment’’ for parishioners, it also helped him live a lesson he had taught, and learned, over and over.
“I believe we go into the hands of the God who loves us, and what’s next, we just can’t imagine how wonderful it must be,’’ he said in the interview. “This is a time when you have to figure out — do you believe this or not. You’ve been saying this your whole life. Is this really the truth or not? And, so far, it feels like the truth.’’
ABC News looks at the eerie signs, premonitions, and sightings of the afterlife and finds that "goose-bump" experiences are common among the 9/11 Families who say they are touched by loved ones lost
Even more astonishing are reports of actual sightings. Monica Iken recalled waking up, to see her husband Michael standing at the foot of the bed.
"He was all glowing, and I just sat up, I said, 'Thank you for coming.' As quick as I said that, he left. But he was smiling. He was telling me he was there with me. It was not a dream. He was literally standing there," Monica Iken said.
"These kinds of things tend to happen with people when people lose someone very, very close to them," said Shear, who added that while there are rational explanations, she doesn't totally discount the possibility that the incidents might be something more. "Obviously, there's so many things that we just do not understand." I
n the end, McEneaney and the others said they don't mind whether you believe them or not; the messages they have received brought them comfort they deeply needed.
"It's not about death," said McEneaney. "It's about love and hope and loving connections that continue, even after death."
Benedict XVI recalls life of cardinal, reflects upon eternal life
The Holy Father remembered the life and legacy of the recently deceased Cardinal Paul Augustin Mayer on Monday morning. During his remarks, the Pontiff noted that in dying we achieve the "most profound desire of mankind," being reunited with God.
The funeral Mass for the 98-year-old cardinal, who died last Friday, was concelebrated by members of the College of Cardinals led by their dean, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. The Holy Father gave the homily.
"As is the destiny of the human existence," observed Pope Benedict, "it blossoms from the earth ... and is called to Heaven, to the homeland from whence it mysteriously comes."
The Pope recalled the words of Christ from the cross, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit," and noted that every funeral celebration takes place "under the sign of hope."
Because in his last breath on the cross, Jesus sacrificed himself, taking on our sins and reestablishing the victory of life over death, he explained, "every man that dies in the Lord participates by faith in this act of infinite love, in some way returns his spirit together with Christ, in the sure hope that the hand of the Father will resurrect him from the dead and introduce him in the Kingdom of life.
"The great and unshakeable hope, resting on the solid rock of God's love, assures us that the life of those who die in Christ 'is not taken away but transformed' and that 'the abode of this earthly exile is destroyed, an eternal dwelling is being prepared in heaven'."
Amidst a climate in which a fear of death makes many despair and seek illusory consolations, "Christians stand out for the fact that they place their security in God, in a Love so great as to be able to renew the whole world," commented the Pope.
The vision is to achieve the "most profound desire of mankind," the Holy Father underscored, which is living in the "new Jerusalem," in peace, without the threat of death and in full communion with God and each other.
The Gap at Watson's Bay
Sydney, Australia (AHN) - A freak wave in Australia prevented a suicidal man from carrying out his plans to leap to his death from a cliff.
The 45-year old man jumped from a cliff commonly used by people wanting to kill themselves, known as the Gap at Watson Bay.
But when he plummeted more than 650 feet, the wave broke his fall and washed him safely to shore.
I'd like to know what this man says in five years' time.
Only 3, Paul Eicke is the youngest person I have ever heard of who survived to tell of his near death experience.
A boy of three claims he saw his great grandmother in heaven while he was clinically dead after falling into a pond.
Paul Eicke came back to life more than three hours after his heart stopped beating.
It is believed he was in the pond at his grandparents' house for several minutes before his grandfather saw him and pulled him out.
His father gave him heart massage and mouth-to-mouth during the ten minutes it took a helicopter to arrive.
Paramedics then took over and Paul was taken the ten-minute journey to hospital. Doctors tried to resuscitate him for hours. They had just given up when, three hours and 18 minutes after he was brought in, Paul's heart started beating independently.
Professor Lothar Schweigerer, director of the Helios Clinic where Paul was taken, said: 'I have never experienced anything like it. 'When children have been underwater for a few minutes they mostly don't make it. This is a most extraordinary case.'
The boy said that while unconscious he saw his great grandmother Emmi, who had turned him back from a gate and urged him to go back to his parents.
Paul said: 'There was a lot of light and I was floating. I came to a gate and I saw Grandma Emmi on the other side.
'She said to me, "What are you doing here Paul? You must go back to mummy and daddy. I will wait for you here."
'I knew I was in heaven. But grandma said I had to come home. She said that I should go back very quickly.
'Heaven looked nice. But I am glad I am back with mummy and daddy now.'
Paul is now back at home in Lychen, north of Berlin in Germany, and there appears to be no sign of brain damage.
Some interesting images that patients drew their near-death experiences appear in Newsweek, entitled Crossing Over.
Hieronymus Bosch, "The Ascent of the Blessed"
The drawings and others like them are newly published in P.M.H. Atwater's "The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences."
A.J. Ayer was a professor of logic at Oxford University, Britain's most eminent philosopher and most famous atheist.
Recuperating in hospital after a heart attack that nearly killed him, Professor Ayer choked on some smoked salmon smuggled into him by well-meaning friends. He was 'clinically dead' for four minutes.
The doctor who treated for the heart attack returned to Ayer's bedside
“I came back to talk to him later that evening,” he told Cash. “Very discreetly, I asked him, as a philosopher, what was it like to have had a near-death experience? He suddenly looked rather sheepish. Then he said, ‘I saw a Divine Being. I’m afraid I’m going to have to revise all my various books and opinions.’
“He clearly said ‘Divine Being,’” said Dr. George. “He was confiding in me, and I think he was slightly embarrassed because it was unsettling for him as an atheist. He spoke in a very confidential manner. I think he felt he had come face to face with God, or his maker, or what one might say was God.
While he never spoke of this conversation publicly or to his family, he had changed.
When Ayer was released by his doctors a month later, friends and family did notice that he’d changed.
“He became so much nicer after he died,” was the mordant way my mother-in-law, Dee Wells, put it to Cash. “He was not nearly so boastful. He took an interest in other people.”
What she also noticed is that as his life ebbed away, Ayer began spending a great deal of time with Father Frederick Copleston,
“In the end, he was Freddie's closest friend,” said Dee. “It was quite extraordinary.”
Daniel Kalder reviews the new CD Johnny Cash-American VI: Ain't No Grave
Well there ain’t no grave
Gonna hold my body down
Well there ain’t no grave
Gonna hold my body down
When I hear that trumpet sound
I’m gonna get up out of the ground
The song mixes defiance with a joyful declaration that death is not the end. And it is this bedrock of faith, of an elemental Christianity that liberates Cash from fear and informs the rest of the album. This is the sound of a man at peace with himself, with his life, who is ready to meet his Redeemer. Indeed, he’s so at peace he can take a Sheryl Crow song, Redemption Song and make you forget about her musings on toilet paper and suspect for the first time that she might actually be a talented songwriter. Then he takes Kristofferson’s For the Good Times- basically a song in which a horny goat tries to emotionally blackmail his ex into giving him some pity sex- and turns it into a moving reflection on a long life nearly at its end. The fourth track, 1 Corinthians 15:55 is the last song Cash ever wrote and begins with the lines from scripture:
Oh Death where is thy sting?
Oh grave where is thy victory?
Before Cash continues with a plea to God for shelter, guidance, forgiveness and mercy; but it’s a plea given in the certainty that God is merciful, delivered over a cheerful waltz. Cash knows that if he asks, he shall receive.
Doctor claims he has evidence of afterlife that may convince skeptics without any active faith
In a new book “Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences.” medical doctor Jeffrey Long claims
that accounts of near-death experiences play out remarkably similarly among the people who have had them, crossing age and cultural boundaries to such a degree that they can’t be chalked up simply to everyone having seen the same Hollywood movie.
In his book, Long details nine lines of evidence that he says send a “consistent message of an afterlife.” Among them are crystal-clear recollections, heightened senses, reunions with deceased family members and long-lasting effects after the person is brought back to life.
Long noted that he was especially fascinated that very small children who have near-death experiences almost always recount the same stories as adults, even if the concept of death isn’t fully formed in their minds.
Long, a radiation oncologist, said that writing his book has actually made him a better doctor, as well as a believer in the afterlife.
“[It] profoundly changed me as a physician,” he said. “I could fight cancer more courageously. I found patients who died, it wasn’t the end. It made me more compassionate and more confident.”
His interview with Time magazine
Medically speaking, what is a near-death experience?
A near-death experience has two components. The person has to be near death, which means physically compromised so severely that permanent death would occur if they did not improve: they're unconscious, or often clinically dead, with an absence of heartbeat and breathing. The second component [is that] at the time they're having a close brush with death, they have an experience. [It is] generally lucid [and] highly organized.
You say this research has affected you a lot on a personal level. How?
I'm a physician who fights cancer. In spite of our best efforts, not everybody is going to be cured. My absolute understanding that there is an afterlife for all of us — and a wonderful afterlife — helps me face cancer, this terribly frightening and threatening disease, with more courage than I've ever faced it with before. I can be a better physician for my patients.
You raise the idea that your work could have profound implications for religion. But is whether there is life after death really a scientific question, or a theological one?
I think we have an interesting blend. [This research] directly addresses what religions have been telling us for millenniums to accept on faith: that there is an afterlife, that there is some order and purpose to this universe, that there's some reason and purpose for us being here in earthly life. We're finding verification, if you will, for what so many religions have been saying. It's an important step toward bringing science and religion together.
A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, "'Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side."
Very quietly, the doctor said, "I don't know."
"You don't know? You're a Christian man, and don't know what's on the other side?'
The doctor was holding the handle of the door. On the other side came a sound of scratching and whining, and as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.
Turning to the patient, the doctor said, "Did you notice my dog? He's never been in this room before. He didn't know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened, he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, But I do know one thing... I know my Master is there and that is enough."
So long as people are grading themselves, Gagdad Bob jumps in to grade himself on his spiritual progress and gives himself a B+ and muses on near-death experiences and the real afterlife.
Back to the seeming closeness of heaven and earth in these troubled times. Father Rose writes that "never before has mankind been given such striking and clear proofs -- or at least 'hints' -- that there is another world, that life does not end with the death of the body, that there is a soul that survives death and is indeed more conscious and alive after death." But what do people do with it? Most seem to simply become more confused. It reminds me of the gift of literacy. What do most people do with it? Basically just waste it on garbage and trivia.
Now some intriguing details. Father Rose says that "the dying person's spiritual vision often begins even before death," apparently because the two worlds are drawing closer together, so to speak. It is as if the other world penetrates and infuses this one with a peculiar but distinct energy, something most people can experience when in the presence of the dying loved one.
Since premature death was so much more commonplace in the past, I wonder if people were much more aware of this space, or even lived in it most of the time? For them, the security we take for granted was an extreme rarity, if it occurred at all. People were not secure in their person, their health, their food supply, nothing. Thus, perhaps it was much easier for them to acknowledge the one true source of security in the Absolute.
This again speaks to the historical irony of contemporary man, whose increased security causes him to hold on that much more tightly to those very things that moth and rust doth corrupt, except a bit more slowly. Again, for this reason, spiritual progress is simultaneously easier and more difficult than ever before. Nevertheless, I give myself a B+.
A fascinating glimpse into the mind and work of a German expert in near-death research, Bernard Jakoby
What happens when a person dies?
One of Jakoby's goals is to disseminate the already-existing knowledge of the dying process, death, and the continued existence of consciousness.
According to Jakoby, the problem in our present-day society is our unwillingness to be open to these things. Once man accepts the observable processes and pays attention to the many existing reports, then consequently, he would also acknowledge the existence of life after death, the existence of a loving deity, and his responsibility for everything, including himself.
That’s exactly what the dying process actually reflects—we will be confronted with all of the unresolved issues in our lives, and that is something people would rather not hear,” Jakoby said.
“At the moment of death, people are like an open book. The time to waffle has passed, as has the time to blame others for our shortcomings. We are completely left to ourselves, and that is also the reason why some people die easily, and others with difficulty. The more unresolved issues pile up, the harder the process of dying. Presently, one of the biggest taboos is for people in their eighties to deal with unresolved issues from World War II that surface at the time of their deaths,” he continued.
On unresolved issues and forgiveness
Jakoby considers it a grave issue that despite the existing, well-documented knowledge about the death process, so many people don't translate it into their daily lives. For example, he believes that the preparation for death should not begin when a husband is already hospitalized, but much sooner. However, most of his seminar attendees come only after having witnessed death, or once they are overwhelmed by an event and can no longer deal with it.
In particular, Jakoby finds the huge number of reported after-death contacts between the departed and the living family members as an alarming sign of our times, as most of these contacts have to do with unresolved issues.
“As long as we harbor ill thoughts toward a deceased, or have negative thoughts about anyone, we are not free. That’s why forgiveness is so important, and that’s why so many dying people long for reconciliation during their last days."
Mgr Roderick Strange in Credo, Remembering those who died raises questions about loss and early death
Heaven is code for the presence of God where love is made perfect, and we are perfected in love. There we shall see one another as we really are, when all imperfection has been wiped away. Beauty will be revealed; those we love will be instantly recognisable, whatever the throng; whatever further journey there may have been, those who love will not have passed beyond each other, but will be united by love again; and those who had no hope of such a consummation, but were passionate for justice and truth, will find their deepest longings satisfied beyond their wildest dreams.
Barbara Frale, a Vatican researcher, claims to have discovered Christ's 'death certificate' on the Turin Shroud.
The historian and researcher at the secret Vatican archive said she has found the words "Jesus Nazarene" on the shroud, proving it was the linen cloth which was wrapped around Christ's body.
She said computer analysis of photographs of the shroud revealed extremely faint words written in Greek, Aramaic and Latin which attested to its authenticity.
The Associated Press adds Faint writing seen on Shroud of Turin
The Catholic Church makes no claims about the cloth's authenticity, but says it is a powerful symbol of Christ's suffering.
There has been strong debate about it in the scientific community.
Skeptics point out that radiocarbon dating conducted on the cloth in 1988 determined it was made in the 13th or 14th century.
But Raymond Rogers of Los Alamos National Laboratory said in 2005 that the tested threads came from patches used to repair the shroud after a fire. Rogers, who died shortly after publishing his findings, calculated it is 1,300 to 3,000 years old and could easily date from Jesus' era.
Another study, by the Hebrew University, concluded that pollen and plant images on the shroud showed it originated in the area around Jerusalem sometime before the eighth century.
While faint letters scattered around the face on the shroud were seen decades ago, serious researchers dismissed them, due to the results of the radiocarbon dating test, Frale told The Associated Press.
But when she cut out the words from enhanced photos of the shroud and showed them to experts, they concurred the writing style was typical of the Middle East in the first century — Jesus' time.
n her book "The Shroud of Jesus Nazarene," published in Italian, Frale reconstructs from the lettering on the shroud what she believes Jesus' death certificate said: "Jesus Nazarene. Found (guilty of inciting the people to revolt). Put to death in the year 16 of Tiberius. Taken down at the ninth hour."
A little-known section of the French civil code states it is possible for a bride or groom to marry a dead fiancé as long as there is clear evidence that they planned to marry before the loved one died.
Magali wore a white dress and veil and a large colour portrait of the dead groom was on show during the ceremony, the Independent reported. The service was attended by 30 family members and friends.
The widow bride said at Saturday's service: ‘I am not really in the mood to have a wedding reception so we will just drink a cup of coffee and I will thank everyone who has supported me.
The sombre event ended with her placing a bouquet of flowers on the bride-groom’s grave.
Now on his sixth installment of Heaven: It Ain't Boring, Berger is setting out to debunk what he says are "myths" about heaven and dying.
Forget about serenely playing the harp on a fluffy cloud. Berger says heaven is a dynamic place of fun, culture, creativity and happiness.
"When you read the Bible and see what's going on in heaven, there's nothing boring about it. There's nothing boring about God," he said. "Why would God's heaven be boring? The creator of the universe? Come on."
Son's death motivates pastor's study of afterlife
To Trace All Souls Day by Fr. Brian Van Hove, S.J.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger once said so well, one major difference between Protestants and Catholics is that Catholics pray for the dead:
"My view is that if Purgatory did not exist, we should have to invent it." Why?
"Because few things are as immediate, as human and as widespread—at all times and in all cultures—as prayer for one"s own departed dear ones." Calvin, the Reformer of Geneva, had a woman whipped because she was discovered praying at the grave of herson and hence was guilty, according to Calvin, of superstition". "In theory, the Reformation refuses to accept Purgatory, and consequently it also rejects prayer for the departed
In theory, the Reformation refuses to accept Purgatory, and consequently it also rejects prayer for the departed. In fact German Lutherans at least have returned to it in practice and have found considerable theological justification for it. Praying for one's departed loved ones is a far too immediate urge to be suppressed; it is a most beautiful manifestation of solidarity, love and assistance, reaching beyond the barrier of death. The happiness or unhappiness of a person dear to me, who has now crossed to the other shore, depends in part on whether I remember or forget him; he does not stop needing my love."
As the sacraments on earth provide us with a process of transformation into Christ, so Purgatory continues that process until the likeness to Him is completed. It is all grace. Actively praying for the dead is that "holy mitzvah" or act of charity on our part which hastens that process. The Church encourages it and does it with special consciousness and in unison on All Souls Day, even though it is always and everywhere salutary to pray for the dead.
To be admitted without review by committee: children under the age of 12, sixth-grade teachers, the mothers of triplets, janitors, nuns (all religions), nurses, all other mothers, loggers, policemen with more than 10 years of service, Buddhists (see Appendix A), bass players in rock bands, librettists, gardeners, cartographers, eighth-grade teachers, cellists, farriers, veterinarians, magicians, compass-makers, firemen and firewomen, rare-book-room librarians, cobblers, anyone from the former Gilbert Islands in the South Pacific, breakfast cooks in diners, philologists, proofreaders, administrative assistants and secretaries, sauciers, mapmakers, cartwrights, cartoonists, essayists, people who manufacture thimbles, and Presbyterians (see Appendix B).
To be admitted after cursory review by committee: archaeologists, Catholics, Jews, doctors (except orthodontists; see Appendix C), plumbers, taxi-drivers, boatwrights, soldiers actually engaged in defending their clan or country from attack or threatened attack, undertakers, popes without children, longshoremen, tugboat pilots, coaches of any elementary-school sport whatsoever (precedence for basketball and Australian Rules football coaches), all other teachers, cellists, anyone who ever worked on an auction for a nonprofit, scuba divers, publishers of children’s books, people from Finland, people who sell life insurance (it turns out life insurance is something really, really close to the Director’s heart), anyone who ever took a tango lesson, hotel doormen, people who brew beer in their bathtubs, child-care-center directors, emergency dispatchers, detectives, monks, anyone in the peanut-butter industry, paddle surfers (female), bus drivers, fishmongers, anyone who ever repaired a copy machine or a child’s bicycle, and any father who ever wiped or bathed a child other than his own without complaint.
To be admitted under the special Mother of the Lord provision (“the back door”): Unitarians, Pete Maravich, exotic dancers, journalists (see Appendix D)
Appendix D: Unitarians, bless their earnest hearts, are admitted without further ado, but the debates over the qualifications of journalists as a class go back millennia and have generated many planets’ worth of legal records. For the year 2009, print and radio journalists are given precedence over web journalists. Television journalists are, as usual, not admitted, but this year for the first time are allowed to file appeals with Mr. Edward Murrow.
In 1927, the 75 year old Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov announced it was time for his death. Itigilov, who was the 12th Pandito Khambo Lama, the titular head of the Buddhist faith in Russia, had the other lamas join him in meditation. He died mid-meditation. His sitting body was set upright inside a wooden box and buried. Shortly thereafter Buddhism was all but wiped from newly communist Russia.
In 2002, Itgilov's body was exhumed (it had been secretly exhumed and checked on twice by the monks during the Soviet era) and transferred to the Ivolginsky Datsan, the most important Buddhist monastery in Russia. Itigilov's mummified remains there, sitting in the exact same lotus position as when he died more than three quarters of a century ago. Though his eyes and nose are now sunken, the body is nonetheless a wonder of preservation.
Tom Foley, a 41-year-old tax advisor tells how he copes with terminal cancer.
‘I am stepping out of time into eternity'
But, why accept? Why not a solitary whine? Or perhaps even a trite: "This is not fair." Because all is grace, all is gift. And it is time to give the gift back, freely and willingly. A strong sense of Divine Providence strengthens me, a sense that I have been prepared for this. Both my wife and I had fairly dramatic conversions around the time of the death of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI. Since then the liturgy, particularly the Benedictine monastic liturgies at abbeys such as St Cecilia's, Quarr, Downside, Solesmes and Le Barroux, have become, for us, a foretaste of the Heavenly Liturgy. What can one say but when the cantor announces: "Deus, in adiutorium meum intende ("O God, come to our aid") our souls will fly to the stratosphere and we will be among the angels. And then, after the chanting of the psalm, the bow for the "Glory be" is a bodily enactment of what the soul proclaims at that moment: "All is well, God is in the heavens and we are his sons and daughters!"
Rather, one can be possessed by joy and, dare I say it, one can begin to taste a little excitement at the thought of stepping out of time into eternity. But the horror of the rupture and wrongness of death must not be denied and it is thus not right to be too joyful.
There is an oddness about modern funerals I simply cannot fathom. Why are people so chirpy? I will leave clear instructions: no jokes and no beatification ceremony (the modern custom). Instead: I desire that people pray unceasingly that my purgation will be short.
John Burns on Britain's Oldest Warrior
He was a 19-year-old private when he was struck by the burst of a German shell over the British trenches in September 1917 and sent home to recover from his wounds. Working as a plumber in Wells until his retirement, he lived to the age of 111 before he died on July 25, when he was listed by Britain’s Defense Ministry as the last survivor among the millions of British soldiers who fought in the trenches on the Western Front. The last French and German veterans of the trenches died earlier this decade.
In his last years, he became a national celebrity, memorialized in a poem written by Andrew Motion, then the poet laureate, and in a song fashioned from Mr. Patch’s own words about the fighting in the trenches that was recorded by the pop group Radiohead (“I’ve seen devils coming up from the ground/I’ve seen hell upon this earth.”) He met it all with the same modesty, saying that it was not he who should be honored but the men who fell at the battlefront, “the ones who didn’t come home.”
When Mr. Patch finally broke 80 years of silence, it was in the final decade of a life that was honored by thousands of mourners who gathered at his funeral on Thursday in this quiet cathedral town set in rolling green hills 140 miles west of London. But his message was not the traditional story of valor and patriotism under fire. Rather, he took as his themes the futility of war and the common humanity of soldiers who meet as enemies on the battlefield.
the feature that would have been likely to please Mr. Patch more than any other was the presence, as honorary pallbearers, of two German soldiers in full dress uniform, part of a six-man contingent that also included soldiers from Belgium and France. A German diplomat, Eckhard Lübkemeier, offered a New Testament reading from Corinthians that spoke of Christ’s “message of reconciliation.”
A Belgian diplomat read an excerpt from Mr. Patch’s 2007 autobiography, “The Last Fighting Tommy,” in which he described an offensive during the battle at Passchendaele, the bloodiest chapter in the Ypres fighting, when he came across a fellow soldier “ripped from his shoulder to his waist by shrapnel” during a British assault on German lines.
The episode reinforced in Mr. Patch, a devout Christian, the belief that there is a life after death. “When we got to him, he looked at us and said, ‘Shoot me,’ ” he recalled. “He was beyond all human help, and before we could draw a revolver he was dead. And the final word he uttered was ‘Mother!’ It wasn’t a cry of despair, it was a cry of surprise and joy.”
He added, “I’m positive that when he left this world, wherever he went, his mother was there, and from that day, I’ve always remembered that cry, and that death is not the end.”
This is the most moving, lyrical and funny encomium I ever read: The Great Convivium by Father Raymond De Souza, being the homily delivered at the funeral Mass for Richard John Neuhaus.
In our first reading the prophet Isaiah has a vision of the Lord's celestial mountain. In the translation we used we hear of a "feast." We used the RSV translation, because it is never a good idea to set the deceased to spinning even before he gets to his grave, which may well have happened had we used the lectionary of the New American Bible, against which Fr. Richard regularly inveighed. There is another translation. In the Latin Vulgate, the word used is convivium. Convivium might just have been Fr. Richard's favorite word
Convivium strictly means "to live together," but it connotes a banquet or feast, indicating that a certain supply of rich food and fine wine are, if not required, at least desired. Isaiah says nothing about cigars. But then Fr. Richard was not a sola scriptura man. Convivium is an essential part of the Christian life. We are not meant to be disciples alone. Convivium is what Fr. Richard created over his whole life, delighting in the company of others and the delightful things the Lord had made. He drew people together who might not otherwise meet -- Christians and Jews, evangelicals and Catholics, Canadians and Americans, clergy and laity, theologians and journalists, entrepreneurs and evangelists, distinguished authors and aspiring writers.
At the conclusion of every convivium, every symposium, every meeting, Fr. Richard would look ahead to the next gathering, which he would announce with the proviso, "should the Lord delay his return in glory."
The Lord will delay no longer; there is no more waiting for Richard John Neuhaus. He wrote, in what turned out to be his valedictory at the end of the February First Things: "The entirety of our prayer is ‘Your will be done' -- not as a note of resignation but of desire beyond expression. To that end, I commend myself to your intercession, and that of all the saints and angels who accompany us each step through time toward home."
We pray that Fr. Richard is now experiencing the fulfillment of that desire, which eye has not seen, ear has not heard. We close the eyes of our dear Father. Our eyes are blurred by tears. We are afraid that when they dry, we may not see as clearly without him to show us. We close his eyes and pray that they may open upon the glory of the Lord Jesus, the eternal Son of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, at the great convivium of all the blessed. Amen.
From the depths of my heart, I wish all of you a blessed Easter. To quote Saint Augustine, “Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra – the resurrection of the Lord is our hope” (Sermon 261:1). With these words, the great Bishop explained to the faithful that Jesus rose again so that we, though destined to die, should not despair, worrying that with death life is completely finished; Christ is risen to give us hope (cf. ibid.).
Indeed, one of the questions that most preoccupies men and women is this: what is there after death? To this mystery today’s solemnity allows us to respond that death does not have the last word, because Life will be victorious at the end. This certainty of ours is based not on simple human reasoning, but on a historical fact of faith: Jesus Christ, crucified and buried, is risen with his glorified body. Jesus is risen so that we too, believing in him, may have eternal life. This proclamation is at the heart of the Gospel message. As Saint Paul vigorously declares: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” He goes on to say: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:14,19). Ever since the dawn of Easter a new Spring of hope has filled the world; from that day forward our resurrection has begun, because Easter does not simply signal a moment in history, but the beginning of a new condition: Jesus is risen not because his memory remains alive in the hearts of his disciples, but because he himself lives in us, and in him we can already savour the joy of eternal life.
The resurrection, then, is not a theory, but a historical reality revealed by the man Jesus Christ by means of his “Passover”, his “passage”, that has opened a “new way” between heaven and earth (cf. Heb 10:20). It is neither a myth nor a dream, it is not a vision or a utopia, it is not a fairy tale, but it is a singular and unrepeatable event: Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, who at dusk on Friday was taken down from the Cross and buried, has victoriously left the tomb. In fact, at dawn on the first day after the Sabbath, Peter and John found the tomb empty. Mary Magdalene and the other women encountered the risen Jesus. On the way to Emmaus the two disciples recognized him at the breaking of the bread. The Risen One appeared to the Apostles that evening in the Upper Room and then to many other disciples in Galilee.
The proclamation of the Lord’s Resurrection lightens up the dark regions of the world in which we live. I am referring particularly to materialism and nihilism, to a vision of the world that is unable to move beyond what is scientifically verifiable, and retreats cheerlessly into a sense of emptiness which is thought to be the definitive destiny of human life. It is a fact that if Christ had not risen, the “emptiness” would be set to prevail. If we take away Christ and his resurrection, there is no escape for man, and every one of his hopes remains an illusion. Yet today is the day when the proclamation of the Lord’s resurrection vigorously bursts forth, and it is the answer to the recurring question of the sceptics, that we also find in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’?” (Ec 1:10). We answer, yes: on Easter morning, everything was renewed
Death on a Friday Afternoon by Richard John Neuhaus
Such was the curious bond between Jesus and Mary, in the cradle and on the cross. As a baby he first awoke to the Absolute—to “God”—in the loving presence of a mother who was for him the reassuring field of reality. She was the secure field of all being in which he received unqualified permission to be. The alternative to her was not to be, and that alternative was unimagined and unimaginable because she was. Only later, and with difficulty, does the child learn to distinguish between the love of God and the primordial love of the parent. For most of us the distinction is never absolute, and perhaps is not meant to be.
Her heart would break before she fully understood, with a shudder of fear and wonder, what it was that she had been telling him when she whispered to the baby, “You will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. And of your kingdom there will be no end.” Perhaps, she was at times tempted to think, it was a mistake to tell him. But she finally had no choice except to follow, step by step, the way of the strange glory to which she had said yes. She was the instrument, she was the mediator, of the secret into which he would grow. And now his “hour” had come, and it had come to this, here at Golgotha.
In going through the papers of her late husband, Amy Wellborn came across this column Michael Dubriel wrote in 1995 entitled Remembering the Dead.
If my great-grandfather was present when visiting his wife's grave, he would speak to her in his native Polish in a quiet voice as though he was informing her of the latest news. My father was more reserved in the visits to his father's grave, but somehow I knew that these visits somewhat the same purpose -- to keep in touch with those who had formed and shaped our lives by their presence. Even though they were gone, they were still very much present to us.
My parents and grandparents did not forget the past. The visits to the cemetery were an act of reverencing and honoring the memory that was still very much alive to them of their deceased par ents and spouses. They dealt with the image in the rearview mirror by pulling off the road and confronting the image ob an ongoing basis.
What allowed them to do this was a belief that life did not end in the physical death of their loved ones. As believers in God who had rescued their loved ones from death by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, they realized that those who had died were not gone.
That is not all. They believed tha they could still help their deceased love ones complete their spiritual journey toward God. These cemetery visits always concluded in the same way. All who were present would kneel on the ground over the grave, and we would pray, usually an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. These visits kept the memory of our loved ones before us as we remembered the way they lived and the impact they had on our lives as individuals.
Yet such is not the case anymore. During the past 14 years, I have been involved in various forms of pastoral ministry. I have witnessed a new phenomenon that is the opposite of my childhood memories. Rather than remember the dead, people actively try to forget that their loved ones ever existed. The ideal funeral of the 1990s seems to be the following, according to my experience: The deceased is cremated soon after death. The ashes are strewn either over the ocean or over some other peaceful spot. The problem with this is not that it is against any prohibition of the Catholic Church (it no longer is). The problem is that there is no place to reverence their memory or the effect that they still have on our lives.
Amy Wellborn on the death of her husband Michael Dubriel.
There are stages, there are layers, there are bridges. There is a void, my best friend in the world is just - gone. But in this moment I am confronted with the question, most brutally asked, of whether I really do believe all that I say I believe. Into this time of strange, awful loss, Jesus stepped in. He wasted no time. He came immediately. His presence was real and vivid and in him the present and future, bound in love, moved close. The gratitude I felt for life now and forever and what had prepared us for this surged, I was tempted to push it away for the sake of propriety, for what is expected, for what was supposed to be normal - I was tempted to say, “Leave me” instead of accepting the Hand extended to me and to immediately allow him to define my life.
But I did not give into that temptation, and a few hours later I was able to do what I dreaded, what I thought was undoable, to be in a mystery that was both presence and absence and to not be afraid. To not be afraid for him, and for the first time ever in my entire life - to not be afraid for myself , either.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way many people are going to be saved is if they are rescued at the last minute as they are departing this world. In a sense, I’m being spiritually placed in the last hours of souls. When all else fails, I’ll come in to mop up the mess with abundant prayers and offerings of the Divine Liturgy to save the souls who have slipped through everyone else’s fingers.
So, without further ado, I hereby inaugurate the “Abbot Joseph Final-hour Mop-up Ministry.” Now I say this in a somewhat light-hearted manner, but in fact I’m dead serious.
Here’s what’s in it for you. Are there any incorrigible teenagers, irascible old folks, lapsed Catholics, ardent unbelievers, or heedless profligates among your family or friends? Or do you know someone who is dying without faith or repentance or the sacraments? Well, just send their names to me at email@example.com. I will keep a list of these “hard cases” and will pray for them (including them also in the divine mercy chaplets I pray especially for this intention), and I will also regularly offer the Divine Liturgy for their salvation.
Imagining this priest saying prayers every day for those about to die gives me comfort and reminds me of what The Anchoress once wrote
Dame Laurentia McClachlen of Stanbrook Abbey, Sussex once said “a monastery is like a powerhouse; you do not lock up a powerhouse to restrain the power, but to keep anyone from coming in and gumming up the works. A monastery is a powerhouse of prayer, meant to give light to the whole world.”
Prayer is a force, and it has power.
There are things seen and unseen. Things corporeal and things spiritual. Things natural and supernatural. A society bent on utilitarianism serves only the seen, the corporeal, the natural, and neglects the things unseen - at great risk.
Peter Kreeft on the Three Philosophies of Life
There are ultimately only three philosophies of life, and each one is represented by one of the following books of the Bible:
1. Life as vanity: Ecclesiastes
2. Life as suffering: Job
3. Life as love: Song of Songs
The reason these are the only three possible philosophies of life is because they represent the only three places or conditions in which we can be. Ecclcsiastcs' "vanity" represents Hell. Job's suffering represents Purgatory.  And Song of Songs' love represents Heaven. All three conditions begin here and now on earth. As C. S. Lewis put it, "All that seems earth is Hell or Heaven." It is a shattering line, and Lewis added this one to it: "Lord, open not too often my weak eyes to this.
The essence of Hell is not suffering but vanity, not pain but purposelessness, not physical suffering but spiritual suffering. Dante was right to have the sign over Hell's gate read: "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
Suffering is not the essence of Hell, because suffering can be hopeful. It was for job. Job never lost his faith and his hope (which is faith directed at the future), and his suffering proved to be purifying, purgative, educational: it gave him eyes to see God. That is why we are all on earth.
Finally, Heaven is love, for Heaven is essentially the presence of God, and God is essentially love. ("God is love.')
Despair is Job's mood. His suffering is not only bodily but also spiritual. What has he to look forward to except death? He has lost everything, even God--especially God, it seems.
Joy is the mood of love, young love, new love, "falling in love". That is the wonder in Song of Songs: that the beloved should be; that life should be; that anything, now all lit by the new light of love, should be--as mysterious a glory as it was to job a mysterious burden.
Boredom is the mood of Ecciesiastes. It is a modern mood. Indeed, there is no word for it in any ancient language! In this mood, there is neither a reason to die, as in Job, nor a reason to live, as in Song of Songs. This is the deepest pit of all.
The Anchoress eulogizes her "birth" brother who died yesterday after A sad painful life.
I don’t blame him for not having faith. I can’t think of any example of love he ever encountered that did not - ultimately - get distorted or misrepresented or prove itself to be wholly untrustworthy, not to be counted on, not to be believed.
I loved him, but I was much younger than he, and of a completely different nature. I doubt he believed it, that I loved him. He had no tools to believe it.
How tragically sad is that?
I say to hell with that. He was loved into being; he was baptized and sealed. The people who were supposed to teach him the way in which to go spun him madly, incessantly - then allowed him to get dizzy and lost. He lived a sad, tortured life the best way he knew how - quite imperfectly, but then his tools were also very insufficient and his trust was non-existent. I cannot claim to know anything, but I do not believe that a loving God would look upon this much-sinned against man and reject him once again, as he was rejected all his life.
For one thing, none of us know what happens in those infinitesimal moments between life and death, if mercy is offered one more time, and accepted.
Tonight, I am believing that my brother John is finally in the presence of the all-encompassing and unconditional love in which he can finally trust, finally surrender to…or that he has glimpsed enough of it to want more, however long it takes to become fit for it.
The First Five Minutes After Death - A three year study will explore the nature of death and consciousness
After countless accounts of near-death experiences, dating as far back as ancient Greece, science is now taking serious steps forward to explore the nature of the phenomenon. A new project aims to determine whether the experience is a physiological event or evidence that the human consciousness is far more complicated than we ever believed.
the near-death experience could be another state of consciousness with a different set of rules than what we currently understand, and beyond the limits of what current scientific methods can explain.
During the time that people report the feeling of detachment from their physical body, or an out-of-body-experience, they report a perception of floating above their body, or floating near the ceiling in the room where the experience occurs. This aspect of the experience plays an important role in the study.
Some speculate that St. Paul had a near-death experience that may have influenced the New Testament.
When folks have near-death experiences, they often return with a completely different view of the world, and their role in it.
Almost to a person, they become more spiritual. Their accent becomes love. They look at everyday worries -- in the light of eternity -- as trivial.
That question (and it is only a question) arises because of the famous line in 2 Corinthians 12:4, whereby the great disciple, Paul (once Saul), wrote, "I know this man -- whether in or outside his body I do not know, God knows -- was snatched up to Paradise to hear words, which cannot be uttered, words which no man may speak."
The Homily on All Souls Day from the Preacher to the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa
Faith doesn't free believers from the anguish of having to die, but it soothes us with hope. A preface of the Mass (for All Souls' Day) says: "If the certainty of having to die saddens us, the hope of future immortality consoles us." In this sense, there is a moving testimony that also comes from Russia. In 1972, in a clandestine magazine a prayer was published that had been found in the jacket pocket of a soldier, Aleksander Zacepa, composed just before the World War II battle in which he would die.
Hear me, oh God! In my lifetime, I have not spoken with you even once, but today I have the desire to celebrate. Since I was little, they have always told me that you don't exist. And I, like an idiot, believed it.
I have never contemplated your works, but tonight I have seen from the crater of a grenade the sky full of stars, and I have been fascinated by their splendor. In that instant I have understood how terrible is the deception. I don't know, oh God, if you will give me your hand, but I say to you that you understand me …
Is it not strange that in the middle of a frightful hell, light has appeared to me, and I have discovered you?
I have nothing more to tell you. I feel happy, because I have known you. At midnight, we have to attack, but I am not afraid. You see us.
They have given the signal. I have to go. How good it was to be with you! I want to tell you, and you know, that the battle will be difficult: Perhaps this night, I will go to knock on your door. And if up to now, I have not been your friend, when I go, will you allow me to enter?
But, what's happening to me? I cry? My God, look at what has happened to me. Only now, I have begun to see with clarity. My God, I go. It will be difficult to return. How strange, now, death does not make me afraid.
Poland grinds to a standstill on All Saints' Day, says Jonathan Luxmoore, as even ardent atheists head to cemeteries to honour the dead
In the sullen, damp air of an autumn evening, flower-strewn crosses and marble tombstones are illuminated by the glow of candles, flickering in their thousands against a dark backdrop of gently rustling pines and birches. On the narrow walkways between groups of people, young and old, huddle silently over the grave surfaces, carefully weeding and clearing. Over a distant loudspeaker the voice of a priest intones prayers and meditations.
That scene will be repeated at hundreds of locations throughout Poland this weekend as the traditional All Saints' Day observances reach their poignant climax. Anyone who has not witnessed this national festival has missed a phenomenon that has survived essentially unchanged through centuries of war and occupation.
According to surveys 97 per cent of the country's 38 million inhabitants, irrespective of class or creed, converge on the cemeteries for All Saints' Day. A quarter take extra days off work to pay homage to dead relatives, often travelling hundreds of miles, while a similar proportion also places candles and flowers at military cemeteries and national monuments.
Stanis_awa Grabska, a veteran Catholic theologian, explains: "The grave's existence has greatest importance for the living, as a symbol of their faith in the resurrection. We believe the dead are the same people that we knew - with the one difference that they have reached their goal, while we are still on the way."
Strikingly, the most popular Christian feasts in Poland are marked as much by declared atheists as by believers. This suggests that non-Catholics also wish to maintain some link with Church and religion, and to ensure that, when the times comes, their mortal remains will also be treated with fitting reverence.
It also confirms that the survival of the Christian faith is linked to the durability of social bonds and cultural traditions. Come what may, the candles of All Saints' Day will go on shining amid the night breezes of a material world.
Sister Emmanuelle, France's "Mother Teresa," dies aged 99.
Sister Emmanuelle, France's answer to Mother Teresa, who has died aged 99 was an unorthodox nun who spent 20 years helping the poor in a Cairo slum before returning to France to defend the homeless.
The diminutive Roman Catholic nun, whose real name was Madeleine Cinquin, was best known in France for her frequent appearances on television to campaign passionately for the poor and homeless.
She came to media attention with her work with some of the world's poorest people, the residents of the Ezbet El-Nakhl slum in Cairo who eke out their living by scavenging in the garbage produced in the giant city.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Sister Emmanuelle was a woman who "touched our hearts," a "woman of action for whom charity meant concrete actions of solidarity and fraternity."
The Vatican said her work, like that of Nobel peace laureate Mother Teresa, "showed how Christian charity was able to go beyond differences of nationality, race, religion."
Rocco Palmo writes about her funeral in "Life Does Not End For Those Who Know to Love"
Sent off by her expressed request from the small-town convent where she spent her last years, Paris came to a halt yesterday to commemorate Soeur Emmanuelle -- the "French Mother Teresa" who died Monday at 99.
Following her private funeral liturgy and burial at Callian in the country's southeast, the capital's Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois celebrated a nationally-televised memorial Mass in Notre-Dame, its high-watt congregation led by President Nicolas Sarkozy, his predecessor Jacques Chirac and -- in a tribute to the two decades the self-described "rag woman with the rag pickers" spent working among the poor in Cairo -- Egyptian First Lady Suzanne Mubarak, as a crowd of thousands packed the square outside.
She left a message with her publishers.
"When you hear this message, I will no longer be there. In telling of my life -- all of my life -- I wanted to bear witness that love is more powerful than death," she said, according to the text.
"I have confessed everything, the good and the less good, and I can tell you about it. Where I am now, life does not end for those who know how to love."...
Jesse Bering in Scientific American writes Never Say Die. Why We Can't Imagine Death
yet people in every culture believe in an afterlife of some kind or, at the very least, are unsure about what happens to the mind at death. My psychological research has led me to believe that these irrational beliefs, rather than resulting from religion or serving to protect us from the terror of inexistence, are an inevitable by-product of self-consciousness. Because we have never experienced a lack of consciousness, we cannot imagine what it will feel like to be dead.
So why is it so hard to conceptualize inexistence anyway? Part of my own account, which I call the “simulation constraint hypothesis,” is that in attempting to imagine what it’s like to be dead we appeal to our own background of conscious experiences—because that’s how we approach most thought experiments. Death isn’t “like” anything we’ve ever experienced, however. Because we have never consciously been without consciousness, even our best simulations of true nothingness just aren’t good enough.
Yet we can imagine the time before our parents were born. What's the difference?
A fellow at New York City's Weill Cornell Medical Center, Dr. Sam Parnia is one of the world's leading experts on the scientific study of death. Last week Parnia and his colleagues at the Human Consciousness Project announced their first major undertaking: a 3-year exploration of the biology behind "out-of-body" experiences. The study, known as AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation), involves the collaboration of 25 major medical centers through Europe, Canada and the U.S. and will examine some 1,500 survivors of cardiac arrest. TIME spoke with Parnia about the project's origins, its skeptics and the difference between the mind and the brain
What Happens When We Die?
What was your first interview like with someone who had reported an out-of-body experience?
Eye-opening and very humbling. Because what you see is that, first of all, they are completely genuine people who are not looking for any kind of fame or attention. In many cases they haven't even told anybody else about it because they're afraid of what people will think of them. I have about 500 or so cases of people that I've interviewed since I first started out more than 10 years ago. It's the consistency of the experiences, the reality of what they were describing.
Living without God isn't easy. But its very difficulty offers one other consolation—that there is a certain honor, or perhaps just a grim satisfaction, in facing up to our condition without despair and without wishful thinking—with good humor, but without God.
In the New York Review of Books, Steven Weinberg writes about living and dying Without God.
The problem for religious belief is not just that science has explained a lot of odds and ends about the world. There is a second source of tension: that these explanations have cast increasing doubt on the special role of man, as an actor created by God to play a starring part in a great cosmic drama of sin and salvation
The problem is how to integrate the conscious mind with the physical brain—how to reveal a unity beneath this apparent diversity. That problem is very hard, and I do not believe anyone has any good ideas about how to solve it.
I want just to offer a few opinions, on the basis of no expertise whatever, for those who have already lost their religious beliefs, or who may be losing them, or fear that they will lose their beliefs, about how it is possible to live without God.
Warnings for those who want to try it.
First, a warning: we had better beware of substitutes. It has often been noted that the greatest horrors of the twentieth century were perpetrated by regimes—Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, Mao's China—that while rejecting some or all of the teachings of religion, copied characteristics of religion at its worst: infallible leaders, sacred writings, mass rituals, the execution of apostates, and a sense of community that justified exterminating those outside the community.
Worse, the worldview of science is rather chilling. Not only do we not find any point to life laid out for us in nature, no objective basis for our moral principles, no correspondence between what we think is the moral law and the laws of nature, of the sort imagined by philosophers from Anaximander and Plato to Emerson. We even learn that the emotions that we most treasure, our love for our wives and husbands and children, are made possible by chemical processes in our brains that are what they are as a result of natural selection acting on chance mutations over millions of years. And yet we must not sink into nihilism or stifle our emotions. At our best we live on a knife-edge, between wishful thinking on one hand and, on the other, despair.
To survive without God or a god-substitute, he recommends
Humor, the ordinary pleasures of life and the high arts
He admits the loss of great consolation
The more we reflect on the pleasures of life, the more we miss the greatest consolation that used to be provided by religious belief: the promise that our lives will continue after death, and that in the afterlife we will meet the people we have loved. As religious belief weakens, more and more of us know that after death there is nothing. This is the thing that makes cowards of us all.
1. Get married in China
2. Unwind with a few friends
3. Tour the globe as a scandalous work of art
4. Fuel a city
5. Get sold, chop-chop style
6. Become a Soviet tourist attraction
7. Snuggle up with your stalker
8. Don't spread an epidemic
9. Stand trial
10. Stave off freezer burn
Complete gory and gruesome details at Mental Floss via CNN.
With no family or relatives, worried that no one would care about throwing a feast after her death, a rich 80-year-old Indian widow spent tens of thousands of dollars on a feast for 100,000 in the hope it would please the gods and open the doors of heaven.
For nature appears to me to have ordained this station here for us, as a place of sojournment, a transitory abode only, and not as a fixed settlement or permanent habitation.
But oh the glorious day, when freed from this troublesome rout, this heap of confusion and corruption below, I shall repair to that divine Assembly, the heavenly Congregation of Souls!
Now these, my friends, are the means (since it was these you wanted to know) by which I make my old age sit easy and light upon me; and thus I not only disarm it of every uneasiness, but render it even sweet and delightful.
But if I should be mistaken in this belief, that our souls are immortal, I am however pleased and happy in my mistake;nor while I live, shall it ever be in the power of man, to beat my out on an opinion, that yields me so solid a comfort and so durable a satisfaction.
Cicero's Discourse on Old Age
What are your odds of dying? 1 in 1.
What you will die from is a totally different story. Mother Pie tipped me to this wonderful graphic in a post
exploring for the first time the idea of the Singularity.
It's no surprise that some, bedazzled at our technological progress, believe that the same progress can be made with biotechnology. There is a human inchoate yearning for immortality that believers say points to heaven. But to that age-old question Quo vadis or Where are we going, the singularians answer We ain't going nowhere, we're staying.
They fail to recognize the very humanness of our nature, especially our susceptibility to boredom. Even William Buckley, by all accounts a prodigious lover of life, confessed to Charlie Rose near the end of hhis life confessed that he was tired of life. The time will come, no matter how long we live, when the will to live is lost and death soon follows.
An atheist until two years ago, Jennifer visits a funeral home for the first time since her conversion to Catholicism
Yesterday I found myself alone in a room with the body of a deceased person.
What surprised me about that was that it didn't feel all that different from the last time I went to a viewing before a funeral, back when I was a teenager. Not that I expected a chorus of angels or to hear the voice of God or anything, but I guess I thought it would feel noticeably different to see death face-to-face now that I'm aware of God's existence. But it didn't. It didn't feel different because seeing death so close up, then as now, stripped away any high-minded theories or explanations I might try to invoke and left me only with a certain unmistakable feeling, a feeling that came from some primordial part of my mind.
Yesterday, I was able to put my finger on just what that feeling was. I realized in that moment, standing next to a body in an open coffin in a silent room, that I was aware of something at the very deepest level of my consciousness. It was something simultaneously obvious yet easy to ignore, like the fact that there was a ceiling above my head and a floor beneath my feet. It was something I'd felt before, when I looked at my grandmother in her coffin as an atheist teenager so many years ago:
This is only a body. The soul lives on