This life is essentially meaningless. It’s what happens at the end.

October 9, 2017



When my mother died in June 2004, I went through what probably many people went through — the marking of certain anniversaries. The first birthday of mine she was not here, the first Christmas, the first Notre Dame game of the season, the first this and the first that. That first full year after a loved one dies is so difficult because every day or week or holiday is full of reminders that they are no longer here. And then it just occurred to me one day that my perspective was totally wrong. In my sorrow, I was not looking at things as a faithful Catholic.

I was marking the days since her passing like the pagans, counting the growing number of days since I had last seen her — the ever-increasing gulf in time. It’s been one week, one month, one year, almost 14 years. Instead, I should have been realizing that with every passing day, I was actually getting another day closer to seeing her again. The number of days between today and seeing her again continues to grow shorter and shorter. It’s all a matter of perspective really. Worldly perspective versus the perspective of faith.

It’s easy to get caught up in the worldly way of counting because you are grieving and in deep sorrow. Sorrow and grief can overwhelm our intellects but so can sin. In fact, sin can keep us in darkness and oftentimes does. This is why the horror of Church leaders not preaching on the reality of the end — our end, the end of our lives, for each one of us as the most important thing — is beyond description. They preach as though people are never going to die but we do. And when someone dies, they preach as though the person is simply escorted into Heavenly bliss and all is good when the long-held view of so many great saints and mystics and holy men and women in the Church is that most of humanity is damned.

In theology, there is something referred to as the Eschaton. You probably have never heard of it or if you have, probably only in passing. It’s a Greek word, referring to the Four Last Things. Those last things are Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell, and every human being ever conceived will deal with three of the four. Death and Judgment happen to each of us, and some enter into Heaven and others are cast into Hell.

A handy dandy little book was written in the late 17th century by a German Capuchin, Fr. Martin von Cochem. Unlike another book recently published by another Fr. James Martin, this one actually is motivated by a love of the authentic faith. The book we’re talking about is called The Four Last Things, and it is a terribly sobering look at these last and everlasting realities — call it a spiritual reality check.

Practically everyone who picks it up is greatly disturbed, which is a good thing. Thinking on our final ends can bring about a strong commitment to holiness once you get over the dread. It can be a source of great grace to rouse us from our spiritual lethargy and understand that the point of this life is actually not this life but the next. And for the record, this is how the Church used to talk, the vocabulary She used to use to great effect — not coddling sinners in their sin but embracing them and awakening them to the horrors that awaited them if they did not repent and the great joy that would be theirs if they did.

Just a brief look at some of the table of contents would be worth a glance:

PART I. On Death

  • On the Terrors of Death
  • On the Assaults of Satan at the Hour of Death
  • On the Apparition of the Spirits of Darkness
  • On the Fear of Hell
  • On the Judgment
  • How the Damned Will Ask in Vain for Mercy and Will Be Cast Down into Hell
  • How the Blessed Will Go Up Into Heaven After the Judgment
  • On the Fire of Hell
  • On the Hunger and Thirst Suffered in Hell
  • On the Vile Odors of Hell
  • Some Other Torments of Hell
  • On the Company of Hell
  • On the Loss of the Beatific Vision of God
  • The Worm that Dieth Not
  • On Eternity
  • On the Number of the Saved

And that’s just a small sampling.

This Fr. Martin was an extremely holy priest who used to preach and write in Germany during and in the aftermath of the Thirty Years War and was deeply worried by the lack of catechesis that so many soldiers had as they lay dying. So he resolved to make teaching the Faith and its ultimate realities his life’s work, and unlike today, his superiors actually encouraged him to do so.

We strongly encourage every Catholic to get this book and read it seriously. It’s not that long, although the gravity of the material may cause you to have to put it down from time to time — take a breath — and pick it up again but this needs to be said. It needs to be known. We have the book in our store, which you can order by just clicking on the link. Or you can get it from other suppliers as well. What matters is that you get it and make the knowledge your own.

As we hear in the seventh chapter of Ecclesiasticus, “Remember your last end, and thou shalt never sin.”

Read the source: