Thursday, September 27, 2012

Affirmation of Life

I read the book Healing the Dying by Mary Jane Linn, Matthew Linn and Dennis Linn, when it was first published in 1979, and – apart from the book itself, which is wonderful – discovered in the notes on Chapter 5 the following Statement on Christian Affirmation of Life, developed by the American Catholic Hospital Association. I have given this to many people over the years as a basis for their own instructions to medical staff, relatives and friends, and I’ve read it a number of times from the pulpit when preaching on the Gospel of Life: 

Statement on Christian Affirmation of Life

To my family, friends, physician, lawyer and clergyman: 

I believe that each individual person is created by God our Father in love, and that God retains a loving relationship to each person throughout human life and eternity. 

I believe that Jesus Christ lived, suffered and died for me and that his suffering, death and resurrection prefigure and make possible the death-resurrection process which I now anticipate. 

I believe that each person's worth and dignity derive from the relationship of love in Christ that God has for each individual person, and not from one's usefulness or effectiveness in society. 

I believe that God our Father has entrusted to me a shared dominion with him over my earthly existence, so that I am bound to use ordinary means to preserve my life, but I am free to refuse extraordinary means to prolong my life. 

I believe that through death, life is not taken away but merely changed, and though I may experience fear, suffering and sorrow, by the grace of the Holy Spirit I hope to accept death as a free human act which enables me to surrender this life and to be united with God for eternity. 

Because of my belief: 

I, __________________________, request that I be informed as death approaches so that I may continue to prepare for a full encounter with Christ through the help of the Sacraments and the consolation and prayers of my family and friends. 

I request that, if possible, I be consulted concerning the medical procedures which might be used to prolong my life as death approaches. If I can no longer take part in decisions concerning my own future and there is no reasonable expectation of my recovery from physical and mental disability, I request that no extraordinary means be used to prolong my life. 

I request, though I wish to join my suffering to the suffering of Jesus so as to be united fully with him in the act of death-resurrection, that my pain, if possible, be alleviated. However, no means should be used with the intention of shortening my life. 

I request, because I am a sinner and in need of reconciliation, and because my faith, hope and love may not overcome all fear and doubt, that my family, friends and the whole Christian community join me in prayer and mortification as I prepare for the great personal act of dying. 

Finally, I request that after my death, my family, my friends, and the whole Christian community pray for me, and rejoice with me because of the mercy and love of the Trinity with whom I hope to be united for all eternity.


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