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DEAR friends, I have a simple short story that might be particularly appropriate for this month. A very sick man turned to his doctor as he was leaving the room after an examination, and said,

“Doctor, I’m afraid of dying. Tell me what the afterlife is like.”

Very quietly the doctor replied, “Excuse me, but I do not know.”

“But how can you, a committed Christian, not know what is in the afterlife?”

The doctor held the door handle, on the other side of which came the sound of scratching and yelping. When he opened the door, a dog barged into the room and jumped at him with an impetuous show of joy. Turning to the patient, the doctor said,

“Have you noticed my dog? He has never been in this room before. He did not know what was in it. He knew nothing except that his master was here and, when the door opened, he jumped in without fear.”

“I know little of what is on the other side of death,” the doctor continued, “but I know one thing: I know that Jesus is there, and that is enough. And when the door opens, I will go through it without fear, and with joy.”

Through this simple episode of life, the doctor had done nothing more than demonstrate his profound faith in “the resurrection of the body and life everlasting” (Apostles Creed).

St. Francis of Assisi also had a profound faith in life after death, and indeed, sensing the day of his encounter with the Lord approaching, he had another verse added to his famous Canticle of Brother Sun: “All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death, from whose embrace no mortal can escape.” It is undoubtedly a puzzling sentence. How can the Saint of Assisi call death our sister, from which we all try to escape in every way possible, and of which we are so scared that we try to hide it even from ourselves?

Evidently, in that added verse of his Canticle, Francis wished to remind us of the fact that we are all mortal creatures because our earthly life is limited. But at the same time he wanted us to perceive that we are all destined to overcome this limitation because Sister Death is only the gateway to ‘eternity’.

St. Anthony too firmly believed that human beings are destined for eternal life, and he testified to this on his death-bed. After singing his favorite Marian hymn, O Gloriosa Domina, the friars noticed that Anthony was gazing at something, and they asked him what he saw. He simply replied, “I see my Lord!”  Shortly after that, the Saint passed away.

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, which we celebrate every year at the beginning of November intertwines these two existential and spiritual realities: the awareness of being mortal creatures, but at the same time the certainty of a life ‘beyond life’, of a continuity of our existence.

In fact, one of the most fundamental features of our Catholic faith is the belief in the communion between the living and the dead. The bonds of love between the living and the dead are not broken by death. Our love for them and their love for us endure. Sadness, sorrow, grief may fill us, the living, but that is a concrete reminder of the presence and love of our dear departed in our lives.

Therefore, dear friend, during this month, let’s be particularly grateful to God for the people who have shared our lives and who have loved and supported us, and let’s not forget that praying for the deceased is our way of loving them until we see them again face to face in heaven. If we loved them in life, why should we forget them in death?


Updated on November 01 2022