“We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that,
just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life.” - Romans 6:3
What is the most important truth a parent wants his or her child to know?
As an institution of learning, if there was one idea we strive to successfully teach our students, what would it be?
What is the singular least deniable truth in our shared common humanity?
One day, we will be somewhere else. Now, where is this elsewhere precisely located, or rather, what state of being shall we transcend into when we are no longer here? That is the question. Will we be where we were made to go or will we choose elsewhere?
At the end of it all, do we not want our children to know that although death is inevitable, death is not the end?
Very recently, I asked a mom and dad where they thought the source of their motivation originated, and their collective response caught me off guard, because they both agreed that death is what motivates them to live this life well. As primitive as that is, it is the most real consequence we all confront despite our differing circumstances or distinctive paths.
I propose these questions: Is it bad to teach children about death? Is it inappropriate to discuss how a child can prepare for their eternal welfare?
Last Sunday in the Tremblay household, we returned from Mass and ate brunch (we call it brunch, but it is really breakfast). That is usually more comical than formative, although they all know the question that is coming as soon as we satiate ourselves with some hearty eggs, bacon, and homefries. “What did Fr. Michael say in his homily today?” This will segway into our family faith formation, and while we were discussing the sacraments of initiation and what the signs both signify and effect, I somehow mustered up the courage to ask my children: “Why do you suppose parents choose to baptize their children immediately after they are born?”
Andre piped up (probably thanks to having Mrs. Moorehouse as a teacher!), “because of death.” I paused - AGAIN - shocked in my seat, more so because he wasn’t wrong - rather because he was so concise.
The words of St. Paul then came to mind:
“Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.
For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin.
For a dead person has been absolved from sin. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.
We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.” (Romans 6: 3-9)
In short, death is not bad news for the baptized. And perhaps death is the singular truth of our humanity that we must be unafraid to impart to our children.
This is what we do here at Mount Royal for the whole month of November. We pray for the souls in purgatory. We pray for our lost loved ones. We pray for those souls who have no one to pray for them. At lauds on Fridays, we pray the Office for the Dead for all our relatives and benefactors who have gone before us.
And I trust the intuition of a child sometimes more than I trust my own. The children pray so earnestly and faithfully for their loved ones who have gone elsewhere.
For a final thought on this topic, you can hear the words from the man who inspired mine and I therefore certainly can’t claim them as my own. Here is what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said on the commemoration of All Souls’ back in 2011:
“Human beings have always cared for their dead and sought to give them a sort of second life through attention, care and affection. In a way, we want to preserve their experience of life; and, paradoxically, by looking at their graves, before which countless memories return, we discover how they lived, what they loved, what they feared, what they hoped for and what they hated. They are almost a mirror of their world.
Why is this so? Because, despite the fact that death is an almost forbidden subject in our society and that there is a continuous attempt to banish the thought of it from our minds, death touches each of us, it touches mankind of every age and every place. And before this mystery we all, even unconsciously, search for something to give us hope, a sign that might bring us consolation, open up some horizon, offer us a future once more. The road to death, in reality, is a way of hope and it passes through our cemeteries, just as can be read on the tombstones and fulfills a journey marked by the hope of eternity.”
May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
- Derek Tremblay, Headmaster