“All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death,
From whose embrace no mortal can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those She finds doing your will!
The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks,
And serve him with great humility.”
(Canticle of Brother Sun by St. Francis of Assisi)
“Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate encounter with the Father.”
(Art. 19c, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)
Some of you might find this reflection a little morbid, but something interesting happened to me on my morning commute. Part of my commute is driving southbound on Rte. 1, from the Northshore to the subway station in Revere, MA. This morning the traffic was getting heavy and slow. A space opened up in front of me, and in slipped a flatbed truck. This one was carrying grave vaults for a local cemetery. For the next 10 minutes, I am following this truck, looking a these vaults, knowing that they will soon be receiving a casket.
It got me to thinking about how much Western culture, especially Americans, are afraid of death, how we fight death to the bitter end, no matter what the cost. There are some doctors who feel personally defeated when a patient dies. Death is that great unknown that we all fear.
Francis of Assisi loved life; in his younger days, he was known to party with the best of them. Even after his conversion, as his relationship with God grew deeper, he loved life even more, enjoyed God’s creation even more. Yet, as his life drew to a close, Francis did not fear death, because he had experienced the Father’s love, because he trusted Jesus Christ and His promise that anyone who believes in Him will have life eternal. When the end came, Francis welcomed Death as a friend.
If we open our hearts to experience the Fathers’ love , if we try to deepen our relationship with God, we too may find the hope and the trust that will enable us to look calmly into the face of Death, and say “Welcome Sister.”