This Earth Day, Consider a Preparation for a Happy Death

Earth Day 2024
An inside view of the hermitage at the Bethlehem Hermitage in Chester, NJ.
An inside view of the hermitage
at the Bethlehem Hermitage in Chester, NJ.
Photo by Mrs. Amy Stockinger

By Mrs. Amy Stockinger, Program Coordinator, Province Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry

In recent years, I have learned about the Salesian Exercise for a Happy Death. Although the main thrust of this exercise is internal (through examination of conscience, Reconciliation, reflecting on one’s death, etc.), there also can be an invitation to a physical component (a call to live in a more detached way). As members of the Salesian Family, we either take a vow to poverty (in the case of consecrated religious) or are invited to live in a poorer, more mindful way (in the case of lay collaborators). This Earth Day, I invite you to consider how you live out this Salesian poverty.

One of the best ways to preserve the earth is to consume and own less. Consider your space and the items contained there. It’s both an environmental exercise and a spiritual one. Do you tend to buy and own the minimum necessary, or do you far exceed your needs? By buying and owning less, we have fewer physical things to distract our minds from God. Less time is spent cleaning, sorting, organizing, and storing earthly things. We become less like the man in Luke 12:16-21 who built a new storehouse to hold his harvest only to die that night. Our belongings become less of an imposition on others when we think about our passing. (If we were going to die tonight, what would we want our room to look like?)

When was the last time we asked a friend or neighbor to borrow something instead of buying it ourselves? Instead of owning every item we might need, we can learn to trust that God will provide, and we can turn to community for support and help. We become more reliant on God and others. We become better stewards of God’s creation. In turn, we become more ready for our death.

April 18, 2024 - 8:30am
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