Saturday, April 2
It has occurred to me in these past few days how seldom we pray for a happy death anymore. Perhaps it is the postmodern, nihilistic culture by which we are surrounded, which simultaneously fears death for the wrong reasons and embraces it when it shouldn't. Our Faith teaches that we need only fear being unprepared for our death, and may embrace our new life with joy when it comes in God's own time. Still, as we struggle to live in this world and not of it, we can't help but absorb some of that attitude that would skew our views of life and death.
Another reason might be our natural tendency to desire instant gratification. We pray for what we want, when we want it. "Lord, please heal my sister (now)," "Lord, grant me patience (now)," "Lord, please grant me a happy death ... now?" For as enlightened as we think we are in the 21st Century, or perhaps because of it, we are still rather superstitious, as if speaking of death will bring it. I remember the first time I prayed Compline, several years ago, how I was struck by the conclusion: "May the all-powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death." How counter-cultural; maybe even a tad morbid-sounding to our American ears. Why? Because we don't talk about death unless it is either very near, or far removed from us personally. People don't die; we lose them, they pass on, all in very hushed tones. Somehow, we have forgotten how to cry, "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?"
My point in all of this is that we have, perhaps, been remiss in failing to pray for a happy death for the Holy Father. I have known several good Catholics throughout the years who would refuse, even in the days of his better health, to talk about the death of the Pope, or about a post-JPII Church, as if we would somehow tempt the evil eye by such conversation. Publicly praying for the grace of a happy death for the Pope would certainly have drawn black looks.
"To whom much is given, much will be expected," and certainly there is no one on this earth who has been given such great responsibility. Therefore, while we might feel sheepish at praying for the preparedness of a soul which is almost certainly more ready to enter into eternal life than our own, we are certainly remiss and ungrateful if we do not do so. It is often the greatest saints who need the most graces in their final hours. I have no doubt that Papa will die as he lived, in the grace and peace of Christ, but he would be the first to acknowledge that this has always been done through our prayers.
Let us pray, then, that when the angels come to lead our Holy Father to Paradise, that they might find him ready to walk straight into the arms of his Mother Mary.
Fiat voluntas tua.