Every November, Catholics have traditionally honored their deceased loved ones by having Holy Mass offered for them, by visiting the gravesite of our loved ones, and by personally contemplating the mysterious reality of ... death. The ancient Latin phrase is recalled by the Living during November: Memento mori -- "Remember you will die." Here is Part Two of a reflection to help our Academicians enter the Catholic spiritual perspective on living... and on dying.
How does our present culture affect people's religious faith and understanding of death and the afterlife?
I assert that many people's aversion to facing and accepting death began with a commitment to Consumerism (also known as Materialism) and to Consumerism's consort and companion, Sensualism. A commitment to the "consumer culture" removes the reality and proximity of death from everyday living.
Let’s take a brief look at some statistics which indicate the damage done by “consumer culture” to our Catholic beliefs about the afterlife.
A 1986 Gallup Poll reported that 9 of 10 U.S. citizens believe in God. Among U.S. teenagers in 1986, a large majority accept the notion that there is a heaven and hell. But only 58% thought there's some kind of survival after death.
In June 1993, Pope John Paul II addressed the bishops of Spain about the moral and spiritual crises in Spain's social and family life. He said that the media were partly to blame for the increasing religious indifference, especially among young people. Church officials in Spain have been deeply concerned about a study that revealed that less 50% of the young people in Spain believed in the soul, an afterlife, or the concept of sin. Only 57% said they believed in the divinity of Christ.
A 1991 U.S. Catholic Magazine survey claimed that only 50% of respondents stated that, at times, they thought about death and the afterlife! Specifically regarding Catholics and the whole topic of death, the survey claimed that 68% of the Catholics they surveyed fear the death of a loved one more than their own death. Here's an interesting breakdown of the religious views that U.S. Catholic reported to be held by Catholics:
- Only 52% said, "If I had more faith in God, I'd probably be less afraid of dying."
- 67% wanted to confess to a priest before they die; 23% stated they do not want or need to confess to a priest before dying.
- 76% agreed with the statement, "After I die, I imagine I'll have to give an account of my life."
- 96% stated they believed in Heaven; 60% stated they know they are going to Heaven.
- 57% stated they believed in Purgatory; 21% stated they know they are going to Purgatory.
- 78% stated they believed in Hell; only 1% stated they know they are going to Hell.
- 30% agreed with the statement, "After I die, I do not expect to be punished for sins I've committed on earth"; 52% rejected this statement.
Thankfully, our Catholic Faith has never been a religion founded upon opinion polls. The suppositions -- even the consensus -- of a majority never mutate or delete the Truths that God has revealed to us in Christ Jesus and through His Church.
My dear Academicians, it's my hope that you will take some time during November to reflect and pray about our Faith’s assurance of the Resurrection of the dead. And your beloved Catholic Jedi Academy stands ready to assist you in more reliably recognizing which popular views are:
- Misinterpretations of our Catholic Faith
- Barren versions of our Catholic Faith
- Or outright denials of our Catholic Faith in the reality of LIFE after death.
To Be Continued ...