Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On Dying

Breaking Bread, our semi-annual dinner and evening of spiritual discussion for Notre Dame students and faculty, continues to draw great interest from students and professors alike. While no longer able to boast of the Notre Dame Stadium Press Box as its venue, the dinner nevertheless remains popular among students for its exceptional physical and spiritual nourishment. Attendees enjoy a thought-provoking speaker, intellectually stimulating dinner conversation, and delicious food.

At this fall’s Breaking Bread event on November 18, 2008, Robert B. Sloan Jr., president of Houston Baptist University, delivered a stirring reflection on the Christian’s outlook on death. Sloan, recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, spoke of realizing his own mortality, which challenged him to more closely examine the Christian view of death.

Using the example of Paul and other early Christians, Sloan described how their outlook on death developed as they realized the return of Christ would not come in their lifetime. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul, imprisoned and believing his death to be imminent, wrote to the Church in Philippi to counsel them on the subject of death. Sloan stated that for Paul, his faithful death was the final step in his conformity to Christ. Sloan also discussed Paul’s desire to know God through his death. As Paul said, “[T]o live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Sloan concluded with a word of advice to the students gathered at the dinner. “We are not called to live lives based on apparent success,” Sloan said. He further challenged young people to think more about their own deaths, so that it may direct them how to live.

Those who attended the dinner received a complimentary copy of As I Lay Dying, a meditation on “facing death, and living again,” by the recently departed Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, which suddenly became all the more poignant this January. May he rest in peace.

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