Fr Michael died well. As a Benedictine monk, he’d led a life of great dedication to the people he served, combined with a traditional piety that gave him a firm foundation. He died surrounded by his brethren and fortified by the rites of the Church. His was a happy death, writes Fr Christopher Jamison OSB in the Catholic Herald.
Yet the phrase “a happy death” is for most people today a contradiction in terms. For the Church, it is the most desirable conclusion to a good life. The Catholic tradition has for centuries encouraged us to pray for that grace and the Roman Missal has a set of prayers “for the grace of a happy death”.
What we are praying for is that at the hour of our death we may be reconciled with God and at peace with our neighbour, strengthened by the sacraments of the Church to pass into everlasting life.
In addition to that, each of us will have a particular desire for the time of our death: that an estranged relative might be reconciled or that our country might have made peace with its enemies. Taking all of these together is the happy death for which we pray.
We know that in general we must pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on us. A happy death, however, seems an exception to this because we cannot control our death.
People can, however, take steps to make death happy by means of what project managers call “back-planning”. Starting at the end point (the ideal state at the time of death) people need to ask: in order to be in that state, what needs to be done the day before, the week before, the month before and so on, right up until the present moment.
Then people can discover what they need to do today in order to prepare for a happy death.
This vision is at odds with many contemporary understandings of happiness. The most common assumption about happiness is that it is the same as pleasure; so being happy means feeling good.
FULL STORY The secret of true happiness (Catholic Herald)