22 April 2015

On dying well, as seen through Cardinal George

His Excellency the Most Reverend Francis J. Kane, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Chicago, spoke of a conversation he had with His Eminence Francis Cardinal George. "One thing he told me," said Bishop Kane, "was he wanted to die well."

Some time ago, I noted that "in whatever time remains to each of us we can now begin to prepare to die well, and the first step in doing so is living well." When I did so, I recommended to you Saint Robert Bellarmine's excellent little book, The Art of Dying Well. Let me recommend it to you again (the text is available at the link).

One of the Archdiocese's retired bishops, His Excellency the Most Reverend Raymond E. Goedert, was with Cardinal George as he died on Friday morning. Bishop Goedert recently shared something of the experience:
“I was at the breakfast table and Father Dan said the cardinal would like us to come up and pray,” Goedert said. “His eyes were open and Fr. Flens gave him Holy Communion and as the breathing subsided, I said the prayers for the dying…I struggled to get through the prayer. I was afraid I would lose it and he had asked that we sing the ‘Salve Regina’ so we sang the ‘Salve Regina.’ It was kind of a nice way to go. He always was curious about ‘I wonder what it is like’ and now he know. I wish he could come back and tell us.”

Bishop Goedert said the two shared many good times, filled with both serious thoughts and much laughter. He says the official residence of Chicago archbishops, today just feels empty.
It is both beautiful and profound to be in the presence of one who dies well because he lived well. Let us endeavor to do the same.

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