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The Words of Eternal Life is a new film program from the Augustine Institute that will equip those facing end-of-life issues with the deep awareness of its spiritual reality. Furthermore, it will provide practical resources for the entire family to walk through such seasons with dignity and grace.
Will you help us support this new program.
He was greatly filled with the fear of the Lord and mindful of his last end in all he did.
—St. Bede the Venerable
As the stock market was plummeting back in March because of the coronavirus shutdown, a donor called to tell me he that was going to give the Augustine Institute a large gift. Surprised, I asked him why he was giving right at the moment the market was in a seeming free fall. Wasn’t he afraid? I’ll never forget his response. He said, “Tim, if you fear the Lord, you will not fear anything else; but if you don’t fear the Lord, you will live in fear of everything else.”
The state of faith in our culture can be measured by the second pandemic we face, which is fear.
The quotation above from St. Bede the Venerable’s characterization of the holy bishop St. Chad (died 672) is especially timely today. This year has been filled with fear, but, alas, perhaps not as much fear of the Lord as the fear of death itself. And amidst all the talk of death and dying, there has been insufficient talk of what comes after death, our true last end.
It is, indeed, good to keep our mortality in mind. Death is inevitable. As St. John Paul II affirmed, “The first absolutely certain truth of our life, beyond the fact that we exist, is the inevitability of death” (Fides et ratio 26). Death is definitive. When King Lear held his beloved daughter Cordelia in his arms at the tragedy’s end, he cried, “I know when one is dead and when one lives. She’s dead as earth” (act 5, scene 3). And death is universal. Yes, Enoch “walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (Gen 5:24), and Elijah “went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11)—but these are the exceptions that prove the rule. And what is that rule? That in Adam, “all die” (1 Cor 15:22).
Yet we who are so fortunate to believe in Christ know that St. Paul had more to say on that topic. “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:21–22).
No Mere Biological Reality
We who believe with St. Martha that Jesus has the power to raise us “on the last day” (Jn 11:24), and with St. Peter that Jesus speaks “the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68), know that death is no mere biological reality. All around us, our contemporaries are dedicating themselves to prolonging their lives at all costs, seemingly without realizing that this life is a passage and a pilgrimage, that we are destined to live forever, and that our true last end is meant to be a vision in which we will see God “face to face” (1 Cor 13:12).
To remind our generation of our eternal destiny and to strengthen our brothers and sisters in their confidence in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, the Augustine Institute is producing a new series on death and dying, The Words of Eternal Life.
The Words of Eternal Life
The Words of Eternal Life is a comprehensive film program that will equip those facing end-of-life issues with the deep awareness of its spiritual reality. Furthermore, it will provide practical resources for the entire family to walk through such seasons with dignity and grace.
Our Faith teaches us that the dignity of life lies in our being created in the image and likeness of God (see Gen 1:26–27); this dignity is not something we earn, but something that we are endowed with by the Father. We as Catholics are in turn called to live our lives with deep respect for this dignity—not just in how we live, but in how we suffer and die.
A Saintly Model
Few embraced the dignity of suffering as strikingly as Pope Saint John Paul II, who endured it throughout his life. In 1995, he stated in Evangelium vitae (no. 67)
Living to the Lord . . . means recognizing that suffering, while still an evil and a trial in itself, can always become a source of good. It becomes such if it is experienced for love and with love through sharing, by God’s gracious gift and one’s own personal and free choice, in the suffering of Christ Crucified. In this way, the person who lives his suffering in the Lord grows more fully conformed to him (cf. Phil 3:10; 1 Pet 2:21).
Pope Saint John Paul II rejoiced in the spiritual dimension of his suffering, ever modeling for us how one can grow “more fully conformed to him.” He has left us with a treasure trove of wisdom for navigating these difficulties, serving as a beacon to all of the faithful.
When addressing the Pontifical Academy for Life in 1999, Pope Saint John Paul II recognized that it is in fact the Church who cares for the dying while they prepare for eternal life.
The Church knows that the moment of death is always accompanied by particularly intense human sentiments: an earthy life is ending; the emotional, generational and social ties that are part of the person’s inner self are dissolving; people who are dying and those who assist them are aware of the conflict between hope in immortality and the unknown which troubles even the most enlightened minds. The Church raises her voice so that the dying are not offended but are given every loving care and are not left alone as they prepare to cross the threshold of time to enter eternity.
In a culture so fixated on prolonging earthly life, how can we as a Church model St. John Paul II’s deep understanding of the “intense human sentiments” that accompany us through the end of our lives? My hope is that The Words of Eternal Life will be a program to do just that.
The Words of Eternal Life will strive to hearten those who are either facing death or those walking alongside them, with the truth of the Gospel. A comprehensive program, it will include the following:
- Film series by the award-winning Augustine Studios, to include both contemplative and theological episodes to help the faithful understand the meaning in suffering and death, along with the Church’s teachings.
- Journal, for those walking through end-of-life issues.
- Death and Dying, a book from our best-selling What Every Catholic Should Know
- Robust website, featuring resources on end-of-life topics such as the following:
- Palliative care
- Ethical and religious directives
- Advance medical directives
- Estate planning
We Need Your Help
In order for this program to be comprehensive and effective, it must be robust. This series will cost nearly $500,000 to produce, write, shoot, edit, and release. With these ambitious hopes, I ask for your help in this hour of need. With parishes and dioceses financially constrained due to closures, the impact on our parish sales requires that we fundraise for this important program. We need your help! Can you make even a small gift to help us produce this? Can you, like my donor friend who gave so selflessly amidst the stock market decline, live with fear only of the Lord, so as to not fear anything else?
Please join me in praying for this program’s swift accomplishment, wide distribution, and success in winning minds and hearts. If you are able to make a contribution to assist in its production and promotion, my colleagues and I would be deeply grateful.
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