A Time To Die: Monks on the Threshold of Eternal Life
Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction
- Davis, Cortney
- Date of entry: Jan-21-2020
Nicolas Diat is a French journalist who, over the course of many months, traveled throughout France visiting a number of monasteries. Because monks live their lives in many ways preparing for death, for eternity, Diat wondered if they had special insights about our final days on earth. "A Time To Die" contains a foreword by Robert Cardinal Sarah; comments by the author ("Extraordinary Stories); eight chapters, each the story of a particular monastery and particular monks; an epilogue; and closing remarks by the author.
Modern day caregivers have much to learn from these monks and their stories. Especially touching is the physical and spiritual care giving to dying brothers--and the monks' refusal to give in to the tedium of such repetitive ministrations. In speaking about the time consuming daily bathing and dressing of another monk, Father Jean-Philippe says, "There is a temptation to give care quickly . . . . How can we avoid a kind of dehumanized routine? The infirmary monks need to be vigilant so as not to transform a brother into a thing they take care of mechanically and as quickly as possible" (p. 61). He adds, "I need to know how to lose my time for the sick." This book contains lovely stories, pertinent insights (both spiritual and secular), and lessons that caregivers, lay or professional, might embrace.
At the same time, these monks do not choose suffering. Pierre Cardinal Veuillot, who "fought a long fight against painful leukemia," said on his deathbed: "'We know how to say beautiful things about suffering. I myself spoke about it with warmth. Tell the priests to say nothing about it: we do not know what it is, and I have cried about it.'" The author comments: "In front of a man who is suffering, fine speeches are useless. They can only satisfy the healthy" (p. 94). Fully aware of the reality and burdens of suffering, the monks do all they can to relieve and accompany the sufferer.