Are You Afraid To Die?

“We are here to get out of here.”

Richard Salbato – December 13, 2011

What I have to say about this subject may surprise you.  Most of you will expect me to say that we should not be afraid to die, but I am surprised that so few are afraid to die or even think about it. How many of you even think about your own death and what that means?

For me there are only three things important, 1. Birth, 2. Life, 3. Death.  Nothing else is important. We cannot control our birth or where we are born. We can be born in the depths of Africa, where life is hard, or to a mother and father who have no real love of children. This can effect how we think of life and of others. However, we can overcome this.  We can live in a nation that has no respect for people and gives no opportunity for a happy life. We can be born to a wealthy family and nation that places no burden on us and leads us to other problems. In the end no matter what our birth or life is we are going to die. What does death mean?

Why don’t we fear death?

Psychology says the only fear is the unknown.  What is more unknown than death?  Even for those like me that think they know what will happen after death, we are very unclear because we have never seen the other side of death and most of it is a mystery.

But let us first look at the entire world and their ideas of death.  In fact, let us look at history and histories ideas of death.  When you look at the Christian-Jewish concept, Cain did not know what death was when he killed Able. Able was probably the first death in history.

Cain’s descendents felt they could bypass death by building a link between earth and heaven. Jews never spoke of Heaven and in no writings do you find this concept.

Confucius was one of the great minds of all times when it comes to living in peace and harmony in this life, but when asked about God he said: “I do not speak about what I do not know about.”

Buddha wanted to find a link between the body and the intellect but never talked of death and the afterlife.

Only after the life and death of Christ do we find people talking about death, the life after, the Kingdom of Heaven, heaven, and Hell.  The Jewish bible talks about Hell 1800 times but about heaven not once. It does mention Paradise but I will get back to that.

Then Mohammad came along combining Jewish and Christian thoughts into one Philosophy and turned both faiths into a physical religion instead of a mental one.

The Philosophers then came and went as far as science and logic could go ----- “I think, therefore I am.” That is good but do we stop thinking when we die, and if we do are we no longer an “am”?

Based on the thinking above it is no wonder that people do not spend any time thinking or fearing death. Because of my Catholic training and faith I think I understand what happens after death, but that does not take away my justified fear of it.  I think I know but I am not sure what will happen.  And the unknown should be feared.

Throughout history people could not imagine that life ended after death so they made elaborate ceremonies over their dead relatives and turned people like Confucius and Buddha into gods.

Others invented reincarnation, some believing they came back as other persons, others believed they came back as animals, and even others to the stars.  But no one knew anything for sure and all this was just to avoid the fear of death, the greatest unknown.

What about Christians?  The Orthodox do not believe anyone goes to Heaven until the end of the world. The Protestants believe that anyone (I assume that includes Satan) who believes in Jesus Christ will be saved. Catholics believe that you must live your life the way that Christ commanded you to live it and then you can enter Heaven.

There is a big war right now in the Catholic Church as to who can enter Heaven. There are the ultra-conservatives that say that unless you are baptized in the Catholic Church, accept its historical teachings and partake in the Eucharist you will not be saved.

The ultra-Liberal Catholics say that all Christians will go to Heaven, each in his own way, because his conscience is his judge. I understand the doctrines that lead to these errors and I call them both errors.


But before we get into the proof that no one knows for sure what happens after death, let us look at the most talked about doctrine which is Hell. Hell is the hardest doctrine to understand because we think of God as all loving.  How can a God put someone in Hell forever and ever and ever just because of how he lived on earth for such a short time? I cannot explain that and will not try, but what I can contemplate is how bad the world would be if there were not a Hell. Even if you will not admit it all of us respond to reward or punishment. We love someone but that love goes cold if that person does not love us in return (reward). We want to punch someone in the mouth because of some harm, but we don’t because of what might happen to us (punishment). This is how societies are formed and how they work to get the greatest harmony.  They decide what is good and bad and then pass laws that create reward and punishment. Why do we think that a God would not do the same thing? For those of us who believe in a Christian God, the reward is beyond our imagination, why then do we wonder why the punishment is beyond our imagination. Why we mistreat someone we do not see it the same way as God, because this person was created by God and He has a great love for that person we mistreated. Our logic can see that every sin has huge ramifications on all the rest of society like dominos but we seldom use that logic, but God always does. We can never understand Hell or ever explain it but there is nothing more reveled by sacred scripture and private revelation than Hell.

The Communion of Saints

For me the greatest advantage I have when it comes to death is the fact that I am a Catholic. The fact that I am a Catholic means that I belong to the Communion of Saints. What is that? That means that the saints and angels in Heaven, the souls in Purgatory, and all the good works of the Catholics on earth I can share in before and during my death.  When Father Malouli died, he was the saint of Our Lady of Soufanieh, Myrna had a vision of him in Heaven and he spoke to her. In spite of that, when I told some Orthodox people that I offered his prayers in union with every Mass I attended they did not understand what I was talking about. “But he is dead?”

The fact that I offer every Mass said throughout the world for my sins is also a great advantage for me because a Mass is offered to the Father every minute of every day throughout the world because the world is round. It is hard to believe that anyone can get to Heaven who is not a Catholic. That is hard for me, but I am not as strict on that as others in my faith. I have reasons for my not being so strict.

Those reasons have to do with logic which comes from extrapolation in reading scripture and concluding that God cannot contradict God.

Let me give you an example of logic through extrapolation. Scripture says that Enoch and Elisha were taken up to Paradise without dying. However, Christ told Nicodemus that “No one has ascended to the Father except He who has come down from the Father.” That means that they did not go to Heaven. Then we find Christ saying to the good thief on the cross: ‘This day you will be with me in Paradise.” Yet, two days later he told Mary Magdalene: “Do not touch me because I have not jet ascended to the Father.”

Extrapolation and logic shows that Paradise is not Heaven.

Using this same logic we have to conclude something about the “Kingdom of Heaven”.  We cannot deny that Christ said, “Unless you are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” He also said: “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” We cannot deny these facts. However, we also know that no one goes to Hell unless he deserves to go to Hell. Where then does no go?  Christ said that there are many mansions in Heaven and He was going to prepare a place for them.  This was all very confusing to me until I read Anne Catherine Emmerich’s explanation of it. Even though this is not Catholic Doctrine it does not contradict Catholic doctrine and has been accepted as worthy of belief.

Emmerich says that Heaven is like a great round disk, with a great Kingdom in the center, and then large outer rings coming out from there and each ring less beautiful from the other but all full of love and happiness. In the center is the Kingdom with the beatific vision and life with God, but the other rings are also Heaven, just not as great.

I am not going to judge God in who belongs in His Kingdom. That is for God to judge. On the other hand I am not so hateful that I think so many people will not make it to Heaven who for no fault of their own are not Catholic.

We should Fear Death

OK, let is get back to FEAR OF DEATH. I believe that we should fear death.  Think of the greatest of all Catholic Saints of the Twentieth Century, Padre Pio.  When he knew he was dying he went to confession.  Then he called for a priest to go to confession again because he felt he forgot something. A few hours later he called again to go to confession again. In spite of his saintly life, he feared death.

The reason for this Newsletter is that I think we should think about death each and everyday of our life no matter how old we are.  We should wake up in the morning and say, “What if this is my last day?” We should go to bed at night and say, “What if I do not wake up?” Nothing is more important in your life than how you die.

  Richard Salbato