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Boston Catholic Journal - Critical Catholic Commentary in the Twilight of Reason



Sudden Death


Mors Stupebit - Death has struck

“Take heed to yourselves, lest perhaps your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly. For as a snare shall it come upon all that sit upon the face of the whole earth..”   (St. Luke 21.34-36)


A Time to Reap

Last night, as I sat immersed in writing, out of nowhere a tremendously brilliant flash filled the room accompanied instantly by an ear-shattering clap of thunder. There was no lapse between the lightning and the thunder. They came together with utter instanteneity. It appeared that a bomb had exploded against my house. I was startled, unable to comprehend what had occurred, except that it was breathtakingly instant, totally unexpected, completely unanticipated. I had once been told that in thunder we hear something of the judgment of God. It is primordial, instinctual. It is foreboding, fraught with the imminent approach of danger, impending destruction, a distant, muttered anger boding the approach of something inimical to life. Even an atheist, I am convinced, hears something of his sins, and something of judgment, in that portentous rumble that causes the earth to tremble under his feet. It evokes images that all our intellectualizing, all our pretenses, cannot shake.

Last night, 153 people from the Greater Boston area died

For many of them, death came like that clap of thunder. Immersed in many things, and thoughtless of any storm, before they knew what had happened, they had died. They did not get to shut down their computers, turn off their televisions, or put their book neatly on the table beside them. It struck instantly, like a storm ... or a thief ... in the night.

No time for that “Act of Contrition” — indefinitely postponed until it could not be uttered. No time to say:

  • “I love you.”

  • “I am sorry.”

  • “Tell my brother ...”

In the blink of an eye, it all falls away. No time. Not even for words. And no bargaining ... no postponing ...

It will come and find you busy

It will be stunning — for it will have found you utterly unprepared. A millisecond stands between you and death. Hardly time for the realization, let alone preparation. It will have come.

Mors stupebit. Death has struck. It came ... and found you busy ...

That Confession you were going to make “someday”; that amending of your life that you “soon” would undertake; the sins that you had resolved to renounce “beginning tomorrow”; the pardon you would seek from someone you had harmed — in a thundering instant, your pretensions are removed ... and you are stunned, staggered. You were sure, certain of the next minute, the next hour, the next day.

So were many — perhaps most — of the 153 people who died last night.

Think about it. Like the 153 people who, as of last night, are no more among us, chances are that you will wager against God and still think that you can bargain with death. It will come to another 153 tomorrow, and, like the 153 before them, it will find that it won the wager.

It always does.

But you think that you can beat the odds.

You are a fool. There are no odds. There are certainties. Many. And some you will wish you had come to terms with long before that clap of thunder.

One of them is God.

And one of them is either being with Him in Heaven or being forever apart from Him in Hell. And for you, one of them is certain, too. Ultimately you will determine which.

There is a time to sow ... there is also a time to reap ...

Think about it — while you have time.

Or do you ...?

So ... what are your plans for tomorrow?


Geoffrey K. Mondello
Boston Catholic Journal

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Totally Faithful to the Sacred Deposit of Faith entrusted to the Holy See in Rome

Scio opera tua ... quia modicum habes virtutem, et servasti verbum Meum, nec non negasti Nomen Meum 
I know your works ... that you have but little power, and yet you have kept My word, and have not denied My Name.
(Apocalypse 3.8)

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