The ‘Day for Life’ is celebrated each year by the Catholic Church in Ireland, Scotland, and in England & Wales. It is a day dedicated to raising awareness about the meaning and value of human life at every stage, and in every condition. The theme for this year is ‘Cherishing Life, Accepting Death’, and it will be celebrated in Ireland this Sunday on 4 October. Printed copies of the bishops’ brief Day for Life pastoral message ‘Cherishing Life, Accepting Death’ will be circulated at parish Masses this weekend. The text of the pastoral message is available in the English (see below), and in the Irish and Polish languages on www.catholicbishops.ie.
In their pastoral message for 2015, bishops share a reflection on end of life matters: “At the end of life there are two thoughts that can help guide us all. The first is that we love life. Every person is loved by God and every life is a precious gift never to be destroyed or neglected. It is wrong to hasten or bring about death … The second is that we accept death. This means that there is no obligation to pursue medical treatment when it no longer serves its purpose – that is when treatment is having no effect or indeed is harming the patient.”
A special web feature on Cherishing Life, Accepting Death includes:
- reflections from Pope Francis on care for the elderly and on cherishing life
- an interview with Bishop Brendan Leahy, Bishop of Limerick
- video resources on cherishing life and accepting death
- Day for Life prayers and reflections
- principles from Catholic teaching on end of life decisions
For those who wish to explore the invitation to ‘Cherish Life and Accept death’ in greater depth, the faithful are advised to read End of Life Care: Ethical and Pastoral Issues which was published by Bishops’ Committee for Bioethics in 2002. It can be accessed at:
Day for Life pastoral message for 2015: ‘Cherishing Life, Accepting Death’
‘How great a lie … to make people think that lives affected by grave illness are not worth living!’ – Pope Francis
Kathleen, a much-loved grandmother, collapsed at home one Saturday morning and was rushed to hospital. Early signs pointed towards a stroke. The doctors talked about the next twenty-four hours being critical; it seemed like Kathleen might not even survive. The priest was called and Kathleen received the anointing of the sick. Doctors were talking about brain damage and whether interventions might be possible. Suddenly the family was faced with big questions. What would Kathleen have wanted and how could the Church help guide any decisions? How do we accept death when it comes and cherish life while we can?
There have been remarkable medical and technological advances so that the chronically ill can receive life-saving treatments. We can be truly thankful for such advances. And yet at some time or other we will all die. These same advances have led to more complex decision-making about appropriate treatment for those who are gravely ill.
At the end of life, there are two thoughts that can help guide us all.
The first is that we love life. Every person is loved by God and every life is a precious gift never to be destroyed or neglected. It is wrong to hasten or bring about death. God will call us in his own good time.
The second is that we accept death. This means there is no obligation to pursue medical treatment when it no longer serves its purpose – that is when treatment is having no effect or indeed harming the patient.
We need to prepare to face life-threatening crises. Ideally these difficult and important decisions need to be faced with others – our spouse, our siblings, our extended family members. The family, after all, should be the privileged place where mutual support and understanding occurs.
Sometimes difficult decisions need to be made and the views of family and experts should be taken into account. In such situations these two basic questions can guide our decisions:
- is this decision loving life?
- is this decision accepting the inevitability of death?
Depending on the situation we should seek ways to answer yes to both, as life itself is a gift from God, and death but the gateway to new life with Him.
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678