“Good” life and “good” death

A depiction of the Battle of Agincourt from the early 15th century (Image Source)

Some months ago I contrasted the outlook of St. Therese of Lisieux, and that of St. Josemaria Escriva – the first with her “Little Way” of childlike trust in God, and the latter with his encouragement to strive (“Esto vir – Be a man!”)

Life is not easy, no matter what your path or state. St. Therese’s way seems attractive – it is attractive. Sometimes I wish God would sweep me up in His arms and clean up my overwhelming messes for me while I sleep. At times He does just this. However, sometimes I find myself wishing life would just stop – that the striving could be done. St. Therese, who endured many pains of body and mind, would not advocate that.

I was reminded this week of King Henry’s St. Crispin’s day speech in Shakespeare’s Henry V.

[G]entlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks,
That fought with us upon St. Crispin’s day.

Of all the teeming billions of human beings ever created, just a relative handful of us are here, now, living out our brief span, assailed by “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” Life is a battle – but I think we are meant to be in it and not out of it – falling down, and getting up again and again as long as we can, until the end.

Lately many have been reading and thinking about Brittany Maynard, the young American woman who chose euthanasia after receiving a fearful medical diagnosis. It was written of her that she “loved life.” That’s just it though – did she love life (not that that is easy) or a limited part of it? Euthanasia means “good death”. What is a good death? What is a good life?

Can you fight like a soldier but have child-like trust? I think, yes. It’s hard to say which part is more difficult.

4 thoughts on ““Good” life and “good” death

  1. Phoebe

    I have been recently thinking many of these thoughts too, minus Escriva- I have never read anything of him. Just finished watching the movie on the life of St Rita- there was striving for you. I was actually thinking of the contrast between Therese and Rita. And how my own little life is and what my own path looks like. Just small. More like Therese. Lots of natural suffering, often suffering due to blessing! (I.e. children…. :D) Knowing I am so small and generally a failure, and that without God’s grace, I would be just that- a failure. But it’s the picking up and fighting on that we do have to do. Participating in God’s grace. And in the fray it’s not always possible to see it. Sometimes I have thought, “If only I could at least get sick, I could have a break.” But I have to catch that thought and see it for the cowardly temptation it is. It’s always interesting to me to find that prayer is a break, but one I don’t allow myself often.

    1. Maria Post author

      I know what you mean about losing sight of the value of the fight while in the fray. As to being small, that’s addressed in King Henry’s speech, too: “[He] today who sheds his blood with me/Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile/This day shall gentle his condition.” We are ennobled in the fight, no less than Henry’s men, though our king, as we believe, is Christ the King.


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