“Time is a treasure that melts away. It escapes from us, slipping through our fingers like water through the mountain rocks. Tomorrow will soon be another yesterday. Our lives are so very short. Yesterday has gone and today is passing by. But what a great deal can be done for the love of God in this short space of time!”
~St. Josemaria, Friends of God: Time is a Treasure
When I’ve been interviewed and given talks to youth groups in the past I’d often get asked what is the single most important advice I want to give to young people today. My answer: think about death and don’t put off sanctity.
This week we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints, which is a day to remember all those souls who lived lives of holiness and are now enjoying the Beatific Vision in heaven – whether they’re recognized by the Church or not. It’s also a time to reflect on the universal call to holiness – the call of each and everyone of us without exception to strive for sanctity in our own lives. Fr. Robert Barron has some great thoughts on sanctity in his recent video for All Saints Day:
Sanctity, Fr. Barron says, is simply to become a friend of Christ and allow Him to live in you. Like any friendship, this means spending quality time with Christ: making regular time for prayer and receiving the Sacraments – something we tend to put off especially in our younger years as we pursue our education and develop our many other earthly friendships.
I don’t know about you, but when I was younger, it wasn’t so much that I didn’t think that praying or developing my spiritual life was important, but I was too busy with my many other earthly pursuits – school, job, friends, boyfriend, etc… Those were my priorities. Holiness was something that I would worry about later, when I was older and settled down and closer to the final years of my life. Then my whole world turned upside down.
At just 17 years old I was in a car accident that damaged my spinal cord and left me paralyzed from the chest down. You can hear more details about my recovery here and here, but, long story short, after I worked hard to get out of rehab and back to my “normal” life, I soon found myself with a lot of unexpected and very unfamiliar alone time. Much of that time was spent reflecting on the accident, my injury, and what it all meant, and it occurred to me how very easily I could have died in that instant. In the year before my accident several teenagers died on the roads out where I lived. Two of them were from my school, and younger than me. Suddenly I was all too aware of the imminentness of death and I understood that I had to get serious – now – about preparing myself for that fantastic event.
In his book Preparation for Death, St. Alphonsus de Liguroi writes: “My brother, if you wish to live well, spend the remaining days of life with death before your eyes.” Awareness of the certainty of death helps put life in perspective. Not only does it make us to cherish even more our own life and the lives of our loved ones, but it also helps us to remember what we are really living for.
For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come. (Heb. 13:14)
There are so many pleasures, distractions and demands in this life it’s incredibly easy, especially for our youth, to put off what should be our most important goal: becoming a saint.
So, again, my challenge to young people (and everyone, really) is to think about death, often, especially during this month dedicated to praying for the faithful departed. Remember that you are dust, you are going to die, and be aware that the end can come at any moment for any one of you. This seems morbid and goes against our nature as humans beings to fear death and rebel against it, but Pope Benedict reminds us in his general audience this week:
Faith teaches us that the fear of death is lightened by a great hope, the hope of eternity, which gives our lives their fullest meaning. The God who is love offers us the promise of eternal life through the death and resurrection of his Son. In Christ, death no longer appears as an abyss of emptiness, but rather a path to life which will never end.
Heaven. Resurrection. Eternal Life. What we believe, what we hope for, is not merely some lofty philosophical ideal or the fantasy of uneducated simpletons. It is truth, Divinely revealed and able to be known through human reason (CCC 156-59). Therefore:
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man. (Lk. 21:36)
So that when your day finally does come you will not be taken by surprise, for
at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come (Mt. 24:44)
I close with a few questions posed by Msgr. Charles Pope that we would all do well to ask ourselves on a daily basis:
What are you doing to get ready to meet God? Your body and the things of this world are but dust, a mere passing reality. But what of your soul? Are you caring for your soul? Is it nourished on God’s Word and Holy Communion? Are the medicines of prayer, Scripture, Sacraments and holy fellowship (cf Acts 2:24) being applied so that your soul stands a chance?
“There is only one real sadness: NOT TO BE SAINTS.” -Leon Bloy