After centuries of ministering to the dying, the Catholic Church has a fund of experience to share in what was traditionally called the art of dying well, or in Latin, Ars Moriendi. We sense that this is good time to look afresh at that tradition.
The ‘art’ taught that other people have climbed the same slope that you find yourself climbing and have fallen in the same way that you fall. And other people whose loved ones are dying, have learnt how to support them.
The ‘art’ lies in knowing that you are not alone on the way you have been forced to take. In the past, illustrated books were written to share knowledge of the art of dying.
They were written as manuals, providing advice for the person dying, for the family, and for all the carers including the priest.
Then, with advances in palliative medicine, and with the corresponding need for people to die in hospital so as to control pain effectively, many of the lessons of Ars Moriendi were lost or at least seemed less relevant. We handed everything over to the experts.
But things have changed. Now we are able to access high quality pain relief at home. Once again, with families more able to be involved, we sense that this might be a good time to take the Ars Moriendi as our inspiration and re-present it for our own times.
Today, we have all the great opportunities that modern technology offers in making high quality material for a new Ars Moriendi, and we have the internet and social media to disseminate the content to as many people as might find it helpful.