14

Grace in the Face of Death

As faithful readers of this blog know, I am a great admirer of the virtue of courage.  Nowhere does this virtue shine brighter than when someone meets death with grace and hope:

 

Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts gives us a current example of this grace:

Last week was a bad week for celebrities.  The suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade shed light on a problem that has been well known, if not overly covered, for several years now.  Suicides have been growing fast in the US, and continue to increase.  And it’s not just in the United States either.  Countries around the world, in and out of Europe, are seeing increases in suicide.  It’s almost like the same factors that have brought the new phenomenon of mass killings might somehow be linked to suicide.  It’s almost as if something in the last half century or so isn’t working.

I know, I know.  Suicides have always happened, are complex, and can impact those in and out of religious circles.  But here’s the thing.  We can appeal to past suicide rates all we want.  Never in human history has there been such an emphasis on psychological and emotional well being as now; never has there been so many safeguards erected for the sole purpose of preventing such mental spirals as that which could lead to suicide.  And yet, once again, we’re seeing that after tearing down almost everything the old world said was right and wrong, good and bad, we’re left at best with problems as bad as they ever were.  In some cases, we could argue they are worse.

I’ll leave others to scramble for a cause.  Suffice to say I’ll listen to materialists insist it’s all physical, and Christians and other religious individuals look to spiritual causes.  I will not listen at all to Christians, no matter how trained in mental health, act as if they never heard of God or the Holy Spirit, it must all be a matter of chemicals or biological deficiencies.  Nope.  Not going to go there.

As if the suicide news wasn’t enough, Charles Krauthammer announced that he has weeks to live, owing to a terminal case of cancer.  He has been Nazi and Commie to so many who themselves have a history of being disastrously wrong, I can’t help but think he brought something of value to our national discourse.  Unlike the previous two celebrities I mentioned, however, Mr. Krauthammer chose to endure.  Despite receiving a life altering injury that left him crippled for good, he persevered and chose life.  And like Lou Gehrig before him, he departs this earthly stage with grace and class, not self pity or resentment – at least none he has shown.

I don’t know.  Perhaps it’s a matter of perception, of attitude, of the way in which we look at life and the world around us.  I became a Christian almost 30 years ago, and in that time, Christians sound more like the world of agnosticism I left than the world of agnosticism sounds like any traditional manifestation of Christianity.  Yet there are still those who hearken back to a world in which our place is within it, not above it; an age when we had jobs to do and duty to ideals higher than ourselves.  Not a world in which the only reason God decided to exist in the first place was to create a universe centered around the awesomeness of me getting whatever I want, as soon as I want, with whomever I want, as often as I want, free of charge and if things go wrong it’s everyone else’s fault.

A clash of world views I suppose.  I get what I want, others be damned, or I don’t always get what I want, because I have other things to consider. Who knows?  Perhaps that ‘me’ focused approach isn’t something new, nor is the idea that we owe to others above ourselves.  And you never know.  Perhaps looking at the history of those differences could reveal something when considering suicide through the ages.  I dunno, just thinking out loud.

But prayers for the loved ones left behind.  I will not celebrate or make martyrs of those who killed themselves and left their loved ones behind to agonize for the rest of their lives.  Early on I was told that suicide is the most selfish of all sins, and I’ll keep that.  Nonetheless, I do pray for their souls and their loved ones who must shoulder the burden they were given.  I will pray for all who take their own lives, as well as their loved ones, in that manner.

I will also pray for, and give thanks for, those who through no fault of their own are smitten with ill fortune and decide to make all of the gift of life they can, thinking of their contributions to the world, of their loved ones, and all who know and care for them. May God bless them and give them the strength they need to die well, and shower blessings and grace upon those who benefit from their example.

Go here to comment.  We bring nothing into this Vale of Tears but ourselves, and we take nothing out.  However, each of us leaves behind an example of how we lived our lives, and for many of us what will be most remembered is how we meet our own death.  May we all meet it with grace and courage, as Christ did.  Before the battle of Lepanto the priests of the Christian fleet preached sermons on the theme of no Heaven for cowards.  Christians are meant to be brave, and must be brave, something we have lost sight of over the past half century.

 

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.

William Shakespeare

27

The Death of Hope

The gallows in my garden, people say,

 Is new and neat and adequately tall;

 I tie the noose on in a knowing way

 As one that knots his necktie for a ball;

 But just as all the neighbours–on the wall–

Are drawing a long breath to shout “Hurray!”

The strangest whim has seized me. . . . After all

 I think I will not hang myself to-day.

To-morrow is the time I get my pay–

My uncle’s sword is hanging in the hall–

I see a little cloud all pink and grey–

Perhaps the rector’s mother will not call– I fancy that I heard from Mr. Gall

 That mushrooms could be cooked another way–

I never read the works of Juvenal–

I think I will not hang myself to-day.

The world will have another washing-day;

 The decadents decay; the pedants pall;

 And H.G. Wells has found that children play,

 And Bernard Shaw discovered that they squall,

 Rationalists are growing rational–

And through thick woods one finds a stream astray

 So secret that the very sky seems small–

I think I will not hang myself to-day.

ENVOI

Prince, I can hear the trumpet of Germinal,

 The tumbrils toiling up the terrible way;

 Even to-day your royal head may fall,

 I think I will not hang myself to-day.

G.K. Chesterton, The Ballad of Suicide

 

 

 

 

 

(With all the recent news of celebrity suicides I decided to repost this post from 2014.  The simple truth is that despair comes to most of us during our travail here below, and without a strong faith an ever growing number of people engage in self-murder as a result.  There is no suicide problem per se, but rather a problem, and an increasingly critical one, of all too many, many people who live lives devoid of faith, hope and charity.)

 

My view on suicide is the traditional one, that absent insanity it is usually the coward’s way out.  Contemporary views on suicide of course would view that attitude as harsh and Neanderthal and usually blame everyone but the suicide for their act of self murder.  I therefore found refreshing this article on suicide by Emily Esfahani Smith, the managing editor of The New Criterion:

The rise in suicide has been accompanied by a loss of the moral questions that once surrounded it. G. K. Chesterton was one of our last full-throated critics of suicide. His insistence that suicide is immoral sounds strange to our individualistic ears: “Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin,” Chesterton wrote: “It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world.” Chesterton goes on to say that the act of suicide is selfish: “A suicide is a man who cares so little for anything outside him, that he wants to see the last of everything.” It would be difficult to imagine anyone writing such a polemic today. We do not consider suicide the moral catastrophe that people like Chesterton once thought it was.

Rather, our contemporary culture treats suicide as a medical problem—a “public health concern,” as Joshua Rottman, a psychological researcher, recently told The Atlantic. According to his new research, religious and non-religious people have a moral bias against suicide, and the bias stems from “disgust reactions” they have when confronted with stories of suicide. Committing suicide, people think, taints the soul. To Rottman, this is a problem. These reactions are irrational and, therefore, harmful: “The million-dollar question,” Rottman says, is “how to de-stigmatize suicide as impure.” Continue Reading

14

Prayer Request

 

LarryD at Acts of the Apostasy has the dreadful news that his nineteen year old nephew took his life.  I would regard it as a personal favor for prayers to be offered for LarryD, the young man’s family and the repose of the soul of the young man.  I have long believed that before we reach our end, God throws a rope to us.  Let us hope that the young man grasped it before his soul left his body.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

32

Suicide and the Death of Hope

 

The gallows in my garden, people say,

 Is new and neat and adequately tall;

 I tie the noose on in a knowing way

 As one that knots his necktie for a ball;

 But just as all the neighbours–on the wall–

Are drawing a long breath to shout “Hurray!”

The strangest whim has seized me. . . . After all

 I think I will not hang myself to-day.

To-morrow is the time I get my pay–

My uncle’s sword is hanging in the hall–

I see a little cloud all pink and grey–

Perhaps the rector’s mother will not call– I fancy that I heard from Mr. Gall

 That mushrooms could be cooked another way–

I never read the works of Juvenal–

I think I will not hang myself to-day.

The world will have another washing-day;

 The decadents decay; the pedants pall;

 And H.G. Wells has found that children play,

 And Bernard Shaw discovered that they squall,

 Rationalists are growing rational–

And through thick woods one finds a stream astray

 So secret that the very sky seems small–

I think I will not hang myself to-day.

ENVOI

Prince, I can hear the trumpet of Germinal,

 The tumbrils toiling up the terrible way;

 Even to-day your royal head may fall,

 I think I will not hang myself to-day.

G.K. Chesterton, The Ballad of Suicide

My view on suicide is the traditional one, that absent insanity it is usually the coward’s way out.  Contemporary views on suicide of course would view that attitude as harsh and Neanderthal and usually blame everyone but the suicide for their act of self murder.  I therefore found refreshing this article on suicide by Emily Esfahani Smith, the managing editor of The New Criterion:

The rise in suicide has been accompanied by a loss of the moral questions that once surrounded it. G. K. Chesterton was one of our last full-throated critics of suicide. His insistence that suicide is immoral sounds strange to our individualistic ears: “Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin,” Chesterton wrote: “It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world.” Chesterton goes on to say that the act of suicide is selfish: “A suicide is a man who cares so little for anything outside him, that he wants to see the last of everything.” It would be difficult to imagine anyone writing such a polemic today. We do not consider suicide the moral catastrophe that people like Chesterton once thought it was.

Rather, our contemporary culture treats suicide as a medical problem—a “public health concern,” as Joshua Rottman, a psychological researcher, recently told The Atlantic. According to his new research, religious and non-religious people have a moral bias against suicide, and the bias stems from “disgust reactions” they have when confronted with stories of suicide. Committing suicide, people think, taints the soul. To Rottman, this is a problem. These reactions are irrational and, therefore, harmful: “The million-dollar question,” Rottman says, is “how to de-stigmatize suicide as impure.” Continue Reading