Here it is in a nutshell, folks

You are all going to die.

I am going to die.  You are going to die. 

There is no way around it.

When we die, and we will, we will be judged.

Heaven and Hell are the only alternatives.

Both of them are never going to end.

Heaven or Hell are not like going on a really good or really bad cruise.

So, get ready. 

You could die before you click away from this page. 

Or it could be in a few more years.

But it is going to happen.

You might have some warning and lead time.

You might not.

One day that funeral procession that blocks traffic and keeps you sitting an waiting at the light is going to be about you.

Get ready.

You will have to account for what you have done with your life.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. irulats says:


  2. Andy Lucy says:

    Which is why I read the sermons of St Alphonsus de Liguori…. he really hits hard on the Last Four Things (Death, Judgment, Hell and Heaven). It really helps me to keep my perspective on this life and the next.

  3. Mary Ann says:

    Yes, this is a message, a sermon rarely delivered now. Thank you for the charity of clarity and truth.

  4. nzcatholic says:

    St Alphonsus de Liguori is the best spiritual writer. I love him

  5. wanda says:

    That is it in a nutshell, for sure. Something we don’t hear enough about or like to think about very much, really. Thank you Fr. Z. for the reminder. Lord, let us (me) work out our Salvation with fear and trembling, Amen.

  6. Jacob says:

    Is this why statues of St. Alphonsus have skulls at the saint’s feet?

  7. Thomas G. says:

    Most verily, Father, you are right.

    [On a side note, Father, worthy of note is your use the Carriage Return (the ‘Enter’ key) in effective composition. You mean something by it, something that is not as well communicated by a continuous string of sentences united in a single paragraph.]

  8. Mike says:

    Thanks, Fr. Z. A truth always with us, and yet…we act otherwise. On a somewhat related note, once many years ago, I was away from my family for a week. My wife had just had our third child, and her parents were with us. I faced a pretty serious temptation. Then I strolled into a used bookstore, bought a copy of Newman’s sermons (nothing fancy, a random assortment that I have since given to a friend in the hospital), and his sobriety about this very issue you touch upon–yup, we’re going to die, and be judged, every last one of us–really helped me through the temptation.

    I remember the long drive home. Some of the happiest hours of my life, as I realized I could look my wife and children in the eye, and felt very blessed. I am sure my Guardian Angel helped, as did soon to be Blessed Newman.

  9. adagio48 says:

    Jesus,Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, assist me in my last agony. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, let me breath forth my spirit in peace with you. Amen

  10. Melania says:

    Always a good reminder. I never hear it from the pulpit.

  11. Consilio et Impetu says:

    The late Primate of Ireland once recited the following. It may be entertaining but it also has a valuable lesson:

    Patty Murphy went to Mass,
    He never missed a Sunday.

    But Patty Murphy went to hell
    For what he did on Monday.

  12. Cath says:

    I always tell my kids when we pull over for a funeral procession to say a prayer for the deceased because some day it will be them and I’m sure they will want others praying for their soul when that time comes. Great post Fr.

  13. DominiSumus says:

    Thank you for that blunt reminder. We don’t like to hear it because forces us to admit that we are not invincible.and that we have a great many sins and shortcomings. To think about life and death in thay way means we have change how we live.

  14. Brian Day says:

    Lent IS a penitential season, but why the gloom and doom? We are an Easter people, so cheer up! There is no more sin and our salvation is assured.

    OK – sarcasm off.

    Thank you Father for the reminder of the need to go to confession.

  15. Jack Hughes says:

    Note to self

    Frequent reception of the sacraments
    Pray for a Holy death at each Mass I assist at
    Stop oversleeping on Sundays which means I need to catch the evening Mass
    Draw up instructions on what needs to be done when i die (tick)

  16. Tom Ryan says:

    Really? Are you sure, Father? That’s not what I learned in all my years of Catholic schooling.

    Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

  17. B.C.M. says:

    I see Fr. Happy Fun Priest is in full form today. Apparently Father didn’t get his LCWR cool-aid this morning, for he is still on about Hell and other such nonsense.

  18. stgemma_0411 says:

    I always thought Hell was for only really bad people like Hitler and that Heaven was merely where everyone else, who isn’t as bad as Hitler was, goes.

  19. Peggy R says:

    Thank you. I had the opportunity to confess my sins today with our PSR (formerly known at CCD) class I assist in teaching. I really needed to do so this particular week as well. I am working on confessing once a month, sometimes it’s slipped a few weeks beyond.

    I have to say, in spite of some of the sappy clappy liturgical practices of the parish, I was impressed that the pastor, and another priest who came to help, took the time to ensure that PSR kids confessed their sins during Lent and Advent. PSR kids are not treated second class, especially as far as receiving the sacraments are concerned. That’s great. It’s very important that we pass on to our children this practice of examining our consciences and confessing our sins.

    May God have mercy on me, a sinner.

  20. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    True. Unless you are byzantine rite catholic. First there is either hades or paradise at the particular judgment. Heaven and hell after the final judgment.

  21. sejoga says:

    Don’t be so glum Fr. Z!

    Once the Democrats’ health care bill passes today, none of us who make it out of the womb will ever die again.

    Just ask Sr. Keehan and the new magisterium.

  22. I’m reminded of St. Johnny Cash’s The Man Comes Around.

  23. irishgirl says:

    Amen, Father Z-makes one put the paltry things of this world into perspective.

    Such as so-called ”healthcare’ legislation…

  24. ndmom says:

    This really hits home. I spent Friday night at the funeral service for the young man who cut our grass in the summer and plowed the driveway in the winter. He was 33 years old, had just brought his wife and new baby home from the hospital this past Monday, and then went outside to work on one of his industrial mowers. While he was working underneath it, the jack failed and he was trapped underneath. His wife and two older children found him, but he was dead by the time the ambulance got him to the hospital. I have no idea whether he was prepared for death, and would ask for prayers for Jared and his family. Thanks.

  25. Jack Hughes says:

    well the Evening mass went very well even though this one is notorius for the guitars. The priest made a very good point about tempering judgement with mercy, something I don’t hear very often from priests associated with traditionalism, kudos to Father Anil Thekkedathu Paul SVD

    Good point Saint Irenaeus, I’m also reminded of Walton’s “Belshazxer’s Feast”

  26. robtbrown says:

    One of my best friends is 61, has esophageal cancer, and has been given only a few months to live. Acc to the doctors, the cause was acid reflux the for years was unattended.

    He, I, and two others discovered Fontgombault in 1972. The irony is that I have long thought that of all my friends, he was the one who was most likely to live to be 90.

  27. robtbrown says:

    Should be acid reflux, which was unattended for years.

  28. BCM: Fr. Happy Fun Priest is in full form today.

    LOL! Sort of the clerical edition of … who was it… Albie Duncan?

  29. John 6:54 says:

    And we will have to account for how we voted. Whether we are in congress or not!

  30. Maltese says:

    “In the context of the modern world, man forgets about his final end. Let’s realign ourselves: Everyone reading this shall die. We all will end in the grave; our bodies will corrupt until they become bones or dust, until the general resurrection at the end of time, which is a dogma of our faith. Your soul will leave your body, our God will draw your soul. Your body will corrupt. Your skin will “leather”, your eyes will shrink, first into pea pods, but then they will crumble. Your hair will matte, and begin to fall out, until all falls away. Your skeleton will remain for a time longer, as it is of stronger substance, but it too will crumble and fall away. Only your soul will live on, and that is for eternity. Eternity is a long, long time. Imagine all of the particles of sand on all of the sea shores on earth, trillions of pieces of sand, to say the least, and pretend that each piece of sand equals a billion years, and pretend that you spend this amount of time in eternity. That, of course, does not equal even one day of your life in eternity; not even one second of eternity’s time, but of course God is outside of time.”

  31. Maltese says:


    *Once the Democrats’ health care bill passes today, none of us who make it out of the womb will ever die again.*

    *Just ask Sr. Keehan and the new magisterium.*


  32. So what am I doing staring at a computer screen?

  33. B.C.M. says:

    Fr. Z: LOL! Sort of the clerical edition of … who was it… Albie Duncan?

    Yes Father! My favorite show ever! My fiancee and I are watching the entire thing again. We’re somewhere in the middle of season 3 ATM.

  34. jt83 says:

    The priest at mass today gave a homily on the same theme: That the only way we can get to heaven is through death. I wonder if this Dominican friar in Seattle is a WDTPRS-er?

    Kyrie Eleison.

  35. Athanasius says:

    The saints teach that the sinner is the man who does his own will, and in turning to created things which cannot give us life, God gives us what we ask for, death. This should make us wonder about a culture in which everything is predicated on our choice.

  36. KAS says:

    I find this post comforting actually. I love being alive, but heaven is to be more alive than we are now. I think I shall be glad to get there.

    As for being judged, I think it will be comforting to finally have the effort of resisting sin at an end and all eternity in God’s hands without anything left for me to do or fail to do. Getting to the judgment means I can no longer foul up!

    Meanwhile, there is a penance service this Tuesday evening with lots of priests to handle the confessions and I plan to attend and enjoy that blessed sacrament.

  37. TonyLayne says:

    Reminded me of a post by Msgr. Charles Pope on the Archdiocese of Washington blog from 11/4/09:

    In a more recent post, Msgr. Pope wrote of why Catholic preaching is so poor. Point 5 of his explanation is: “Good preaching is edgy.” Did you and he share the same homiletics class, Fr. Z?

  38. Maltese says:

    *The saints teach that the sinner is the man who does his own will, and in turning to created things which cannot give us life, God gives us what we ask for, death. This should make us wonder about a culture in which everything is predicated on our choice.*

    Great point, Athanasius! In loving the created more than the Creator, we distance ourselves from the font of creation. St. John of the Cross said that in owning nothing, we own everything.

    The Rich are the unhappiest, and most burdened souls on earth; because their minds are continually drawn to material things (bills, properties, investments, lawyers’ and accountants’ fees, etc), instead of God.

    Blessed are the poor….

  39. chloesmom says:

    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

  40. catholicmidwest says:

    It’d be refreshing to hear this from the pulpit, just once. Thank you, Fr. Z. for the reminder.

  41. catholicmidwest says:

    And actually, from the point of view of an old-ex-atheist like me, this is all good news. There is life after death and there is grace and hope. God reigns over all, no matter what happens to me. It’s good.

  42. Widukind says:

    Here is a prayer from our old community prayerbook. It was originally in German.

    Life is short – and death is sure,
    The hour of death – remains obscure.
    A soul you have – an only one,
    If that be lost – all hope is gone.
    Waste not your time – while time shall last,
    For after death – ’tis ever past.
    The all-seeing God – your judge will be,
    Or heaven or hell – your destiny.
    All earthly things – will fleet away,
    Eternity – shall ever stay.

  43. dimsum says:

    Thanks for this important reminder Father.

  44. pfreddys says:

    Thanks for the jolt, Father….it worked better than coffee!!!

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