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In the Philippines and other countries worldwide, the celebration of All Souls day (2 Nov) is marked by a visit to the cemetery to remember loved ones and pray for them. In order to deepen on the reality of death, the Verbum Dei missionaries conducted a retreat for this purpose: to reflect on the brevity of this life, and to prepare our hearts and souls for death, which one day will come, and we hope not too soon.
It was held on 30 October 2019 in the Christ the King parish, with 65 participants. In the introduction, the letter of St Ignatius of Antioch was shared to us. Before being fed to the lions, he wrote “The time for my birth is close at hand” which seems at first unusual because he was about to die. However, he is actually reminding us that in death, life is changed, not ended. The first talk centered on a spirituality of death and dying. We were asked “What would you do if you only had 5 days left to live?” and more importantly “what is stopping you doing it?” “Choose now what you would wish to have chosen at life’s end” as St Anthony Mary Claret advised.
A formation was also given on Catholic church teaching on suffering, dying and eternal life. Points shared include why is there sickness and suffering as well as how to manage the care of dying loved ones. We were informed that “discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of "over-zealous" treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2278). Such teaching is eminently practical and useful as one tendency is to overtreat out of guilty feelings.
The afternoon dynamic was “fun” and interesting - to design your own tombstone! A rosary was prayed together with concurrent confessions nearby. In this sacrament we really touch our “dust-iness” but we also experience God’s eternal mercy. The day closed with a Eucharist, celebrated by Fr Bong Guinoo, and Fr Ismael Barros, the General responsible of the male missionaries, along with Fr James. In the homily we were reminded that love is eternal, and that we have passed from death to life when we love others (see 1 John 3:14).
By considering our end in this way, we can hope to arrive there without too may regrets because we already lived. As we heard in the movie Braveheart “All men die, but not all men truly live.”
Here are some photos of the event:
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