Why the Catholic Attitude Toward Death is a Healthy One

Though most states have eased quarantine restrictions in the past few weeks, many people are still feeling a lingering fear about the pandemic. The last few months have been a bit of a roller coaster in attitudes about the coronavirus, and it illustrates the typical American attitude toward death.

This week on Trending with TimmerieTimmerie pointed out that back in February most of the American conversation about the coronavirus was actually in the form of jokes and memes. People were laughing about it. But once the virus hit America the laughing stopped, and people were willing to be quite compliant when restrictions were rapidly implemented across the country.

This points to the fact that secular attitudes toward death tend to be either never think about it at all, or do anything possible to avoid it. It’s one extreme or the other. But neither of these are a Catholic attitude.

For Catholics, the attitude toward death is more of a healthy balance. We know that Christ conquered death, and that if we are in a state of grace our death means union with him in heaven. But we also have a natural fear of dying, and worry about the grief our loved ones will feel when we pass.

Speaking of the difference between the Catholic and secular attitudes toward death, Timmerie said, “I find it interesting because growing up a cradle Catholic I was taught really good attitudes with regard to death. That death is actually a good thing. And not that we get to choose our timing, but the timing is right when our souls are prepared at any moment for death. Yet that’s not the cultural attitude that is prevalent today.”

For centuries, Catholics have maintained this healthy balance in the attitude toward death through a practice called “memento mori” (“remember your death”). Timmerie discussed this tradition, saying, “We are called to have the Catholic approach to death. We actually anticipate our death. And because of that, we’re always prepared for it.”

“It’s an attitude that we’re always to remember our death. And we’ve seen this resurgence of momento mori, preparation for death, in the last few years in the Catholic tradition.”

Timmerie also noted that what has made the past few months particularly unique in anticipating and preparing for death is that during the pandemic (when we are most acutely aware of our need to be prepared) public Masses and sacraments were closed. Now that these are becoming more available, we can hopefully have a greater appreciation of the Mass, the sacraments, and how vital they are.

“This is why Catholics have been so upset about being separated from Jesus Christ in the sacraments, from Reconciliation and Communion,” Timmerie said. “Because we’re struggling to understand how do we stay in that state of grace without the sacraments? The battle has been real over these past few months.”

As the effects of the coronavirus pandemic lessen, and the immediate fear of death recedes from society at large, it is important that Catholics learn from this experience and continue to have a healthy and holy attitude toward death – recognizing its reality but remaining prepared to meet the Lord whenever he calls us.

Timmerie told listeners, “I challenge you to remember this, in the midst of fear and anxiety and animosity in our culture, to have a better attitude about death. And to remember that this is part of what sets us apart as Catholic.”

Listen to the full discussion with Timmerie below, and tune-in to Trending with Timmerie weekdays at 6:00 p.m. Central on Relevant Radio and the Relevant Radio App.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.