In fulfillment of the title of his book from several years ago, As I Lay Dying: Meditations Upon Returning, written after a close a brush with death, dispatches from New York report that Fr. Richard John Neuhaus lays dying this morning. He was administered the last rites of the church by his friend, Fr. George Rutler. Fr. Rutler says "that it is appropriate that prayers be offered for a holy death." I am mindful that the fruit of the fifth Glorious Mystery of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the joy of a happy death. Far from being morbid, it is a deep and real profession of faith in the fact that Jesus Christ defeated death, our enemy, by his dying and rising again. Existentially, it is a recognition of our finitude, of the fact that we will, in fact, die.
I am terribly sad as I write this, but I embrace my sadness as a wholesome part of my humanity. I am also thinking of my dear pastor, Fr. Thomas Kraft, OP, another good and holy priest, whose physical health is failing. Part of me, considering the state of things, wants to yell Lord, we need them! Jesus Christ will never abandon us and submitting to him, to his holy will, is obedience, which is a choice I make in freedom. Therefore, I pray in the manner Jesus teaches thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; give us this day our daily bread, which is you, Lord.
Rocco draws our attention to something Fr. Neuhaus wrote back in 2000:
"We are born to die. Not that death is the purpose of our being born, but we are born toward death, and in each of our lives the work of dying is already underway. The work of dying well is, in largest part, the work of living well."Let us uphold him as he works through his pains of labor, being born to life eternal. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.