‘Let Evening Come’: Theological perspectives on dying

Stephanie MacGillivray

How can we address our disconnection with an experience as fundamentally human as dying and death? This article looks at contemporary attitudes towards the acceptance of death, and reflects on how Catholic theological perspectives can positively change the way we think about these subjects. Stephanie MacGillivray is project officer for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

It is more likely than not that at some point in our lives, many, if not all, of us will inevitably ask and grapple with the question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ This is a question which arguably has unified humanity throughout the ages, and while we might not be able to come to any particular conclusion, it does not mean we should not try.

One way of looking at this existential question could be by asking: What is the meaning of death? From a Catholic theological point of view, it is precisely because we are to die that every act and human life has meaning at all. Recognising this can be an illuminating and meaningful act in itself. Indeed, the Catholic Church’s two-thousand-year old Ars Moriendi (Art of Dying) states that, ‘“He who always thinks about death is very much concerned with a good work.”

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