Sudden, Unprovided Death and You

Pray for the victims of the killer at the Navy Yard.

Friends, this could be you.

Please! Develop the good practice of examining your conscience every day and going to confession regularly.

I implore you! Teach your children to examine their consciences and take them to confession, teaching them what to do and why.

Fathers, these people could be your parishioners.  You will be called to account for the souls entrusted to you.  Preach about sin, about the Four Last Things, about the Sacrament of Penance.

“A subitanea et improvisa morte… From a sudden and unprovided death, spare us O Lord.”

A sudden death can be a blessing.

A sudden and unprovided death – unprovided in the sense of having no recourse to the sacraments when you are not in the state of grace – is a horrifying prospect.

Make plans for, provide for, the needs of both body and soul for yourselves and those in your charge.

You don’t know when your death will come, natural or not.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, GO TO CONFESSION, Semper Paratus and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Geoffrey says:

    I wish more priests heard confessions at regular times during the week. Sometimes Saturday afternoon feels so far away!

  2. amuccini says:

    Luckily by me I have to place where priest will hear confessions anytime during the day. There’s a Passionist Monastery in which you just tell the secretary you want to go to confession and they will call a priest. And a very holy priest who converted part of the rectory into a confessional and you just ring the bell and he comes.

  3. KAS says:

    Thank you for this admonition. I am always surprised by the ho-hum attitude toward this important fact– that we do not know when our end will come– and it is really important to be sure our souls are right with God.

    It is frightening especially as not every hospital has a priest, and even in the Catholic hospitals, if you ask for a priest they will send you a layperson with Eucharist. It is heart-breaking!

    From an unprovided death, spare us O’ Lord!

  4. APX says:

    I wish people would actually come to the DAILY scheduled confession times BEFORE Sunday morning. Our priest spends a lot of time in the confessional. We have confessions scheduled every day before Mass. Our priest will sit in the confessional an hour before Mass on evenings when there is Mass in the evening, as well as Saturday mornings before Mass and in the evening again. When we have two priests, there is confession during Mass. People don’t show up until 15 minutes before Mass starts and then expect that their confession will be heard before Mass. When there isn’t enough time to get through everyone, they expect our priest to spend another 45-60 minutes after Mass to hear their confessions, despite his request for people to show up at the start of confessions; not at the end, as well as to avoid Sunday morning if at all possible because it’s a very busy time for him getting prepared for Mass.

    Why can’t people be more considerate of priests’ time?

  5. Palladio says:

    Thank you, Father.

  6. restoration says:

    Sadly, there are priests who don’t see the value of confession. Here is something from a parish in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL. (big surprise) Check out the parish website of St. Mary Our Lady of Grace and read the pastor’s note.

    “The Church no longer suggests weekly confession. Availing yourself of the Sacrament of Reconciliation after only a few days has been really deemed unnecessary and perhaps unhealthy, spiritually.”

    Wow…Because that is such a huge problem in most Catholic churches today, right? Scrupulosity…such a problem with Americans waiting in huge lines for weekly confession. Really? What planet is this pastor on?

    This comes from a parish that allows only 45 minutes for confession on Saturdays and no confession before or after Mass. I guess the people in his parish live such holy lives that they have little need for confession…what a load of warmed over, 1970s, Dr. Phil-style spirituality crap. I am 37 years old and I am personally sick of the nonsense that regularly comes out of this diocese. This pastor is a Franciscan. It is a disgrace.

  7. lmgilbert says:

    Why confession on Saturday? The natural rhythm of our life as Catholics brings us to church on Sunday, but no one is hearing confessions- not even with two priests assigned to the parish. With both spouses working during the week, Saturdays are for mowing the lawn, doing the laundry, buying groceries, or taking an outing to the coast with the kids. Even the most devout Catholics seem to find it difficult to come to Church on Saturday, for I see that only about three people have signed up for the adoration chapel on Saturday, while every other day of the week has eight or nine hours subscribed. When will our priests adapt the Confession schedule to the real circumstances of their penitents- as requested by Pope John Paul II:

    2. Local Ordinaries, and parish priests and rectors of churches and shrines, should periodically verify that the greatest possible provision is in fact being made for the faithful to confess their sins. It is particularly recommended that in places of worship confessors be visibly present at the advertised times, that these times be adapted to the real circumstances of penitents, and that confessions be especially available before Masses, and even during Mass if there are other priests available, in order to meet the needs of the faithful. (emphases mine)
    (John Paul II, Misericordia Dei, 2002, 1b-2, Lc. 455)

    Doesn’t this cut any ice with anybody?

    Commenting on this in his question and answer column in Homiletic and Pastoral Review for April 24th, 2012 , Fr. Brian Mullady wrote:

    “It is, therefore, important that opportunities for private confession be offered as generously as possible, given the needs of the faithful and the priest. This includes offering them during Mass, even though after Vatican II, some taught that one should not celebrate two sacraments at the same time. John Paul II recommended this highly: ‘It is particularly recommended that, in places of worship, confessors be visibly present […] and that confessions be especially available even during Mass, in order to meet the needs of the faithful’ (John Paul II, Misericordia Dei, 2002, 1b-2, Lc. 455). The Church even extends this to the concelebrated Mass. ‘In the event of a concelebrated Mass, it is warmly recommended that some priests refrain from concelebrating so as to hear the confessions of the faithful’ (Priest, #57).”

  8. theophilus says:

    My father finally caved in to my pestering this summer and went to confession after over forty years. Now he goes regularly. What a beautiful thing:)

  9. jge313 says:

    As Palladio has already said, Thank You Father. These moments show us we do not know when our last day will be. I have never had a problem reaching a Priest who was willing to here my confession. As many saints have said; “Do not sleep in mortal sin”

  10. Therese says:

    And for those desiring some additional perspective on what God sees in our poor distracted souls, do visit this beautiful post on the Rorate Caeli blog:

    Entirely different topic, yet the same sort of wake-up call. May God bless us all.

  11. StWinefride says:

    Thank you, Thérèse. If Fr Z doesn’t mind, I just want to add, that what the Priest is speaking of also reminds me of St Thérèse’s “Little Way”. She looks upon herself as a “weak little bird”, at the end of her story of the “little bird” she says:

    “As long as You desire it, O my Beloved, Your little bird will remain without strength and without wings and will always stay with its gaze fixed upon You. It wants to be fascinated by Your divine glance. It wants to become the prey of Your Love. One day I hope that You, the Adorable Eagle, will come to fetch me, Your little bird; and ascending with it to the Furnace of Love, You will plunge it for all eternity into the burning Abyss of this Love to which it has offered itself as victim.

    O Jesus! Why can’t I tell all little souls how unspeakable is Your condescension? I feel that if You found a soul weaker and littler than mine, which is impossible, You would be pleased to grant it still greater favors, provided it abandoned itself with total confidence to Your Infinite Mercy. But why do I desire to communicate Your secrets of Love, O Jesus, for was it not You alone who taught them to me, and can You not reveal them to others? Yes, I know it, and I beg You to do it. I beg You to cast Your Divine Glance upon a great number of little souls. I beg You to choose a legion of little Victims worthy of Your LOVE!”

    St Thérèse of Lisieux, end of Manuscript B, p.200 “Story of a Soul”, translated by John Clarke, O.C.D., ICS Publications, Washington D.C., 1996.

  12. Gaz says:

    A handy reminder. Thank you Father. At work this week we had a sudden and unexpected death of a colleague and her husband. Please pray!

  13. Supertradmum says:

    Some people die at work. I knew a man that happened to unexpectedly. No one knew he had a heart condition in such a serious manner.

    I have been contemplating hell this morning. Few quotations just to make the point–on the blog.

  14. Lin says:

    Catechesis! Catechesis! Catechesis! It is seriously lacking in the parishes I have experience with. It appears this happened after Vatican II. I’m not sure why. I’m told by others that our pastor does not sit in the confessional even during posted times and confessions are way down. But if all you need is love to get to heaven, why confess?!? I cannot go to him for confession because of his progressive tendencies. His council might be seriously lacking. He also believes that children would not tolerate the “indoctrination” that was catechism prior to Vatican II. I believe this discipline is critical to learning the faith and parents should be responsible for children’s attendance. In my youth, I recall priests admonishing parishioners about these things. What happened? Pray! May GOD forgive us!

  15. VexillaRegis says:

    An old teacher of mine had lots of plans for his retirement but died of a stroke while bicycling to school one of his last scheduled days. He was literally dead before he hit the ground. People say that it was a good dead, he didn’t suffer at all, but that kind of death is dangerous. We should pray for people like Mr. J.

  16. Saint1106 says:

    Often when people speak to us of personal troubles, fears, anxities (either because they trust us in a professional setting as a teacher or researcher, or they know us as a priest, or friend with ability to listen), we can make use of times like this to invite people to make a good confession. I found in most, if not all cases, people really appreciated the suggestion and came back and thanked me.
    Of course, it also takes time to prepare someone who has been away from regular use of this sacrament. There is so much misunderstanding about what is required to even enter into confession, fear of what the priest will say, what type of penance they will receive. In addition, many times people would prefer to go to confession to a priest they have not met before, rather than myself, whom they may know as a colleague in a department. But that is okay too. Happy to arrange this.
    All of us, whether in orders or in the lay state, can be instruments in bringing friends and colleagues back to the practice of regular confession.
    Ministry of the word, being a good listener to people in spiritual conversation, can bring people back to the ministry of the sacrament.

  17. Liz says:

    I think of an uncle who, years ago, was working on his car with three of his friends. (I think they were in their early twenties.) They worked on the car, went to confession and then something went wrong with the car when they were on their way to the movies or some place and they all died. “Wow, that’s SO AMAZING that they went to confession before they died!” I exclaimed, but the elders in the family didn’t seem to think so. Everybody went confession every Saturday night. Hmmm….good habit.

  18. MasterofCeremonies says:

    I’m with Geoffrey ; I wish that confessions were scheduled at more parishes during the week instead of just on Saturdays. Once a week ought to be enough, but as for me, I usually could go more than once a week!

  19. Supertradmum says:

    The best thing about being in Dublin besides the TLM is that Whitefriars has Confessions
    Monday to Friday: 10.30am to 11.30 am; 3.00 to 4.00pm.’Saturday: 10.30am to 1.30pm; 2.00pm to 4.00pm.

    and Clarendon Street Weekdays 11.30 a.m. – 2.30 p.m. and 5.15 p.m. – 5.45 p.m.; Saturdays 11.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. & 6.45 p.m.

    Now, those are both churches with Carmelites Friars, and therefore more than one priest to do the work. But, the people definitely use this grace and so do I. Wouldn’t it be nice if all orders of priests took turns daily to be that long in the Confessional? Look at all the priests on some of the Catholic colleges and universities. What if they had these types of daily hours?

  20. Sonshine135 says:

    Definitely not enough opportunities for confession where I live. It is a crime. When confession is made available at things like the Eucharistic Congress this past weekend here in Charlotte, NC, the people flock to it. The line at one point had 100 people in it. We need more opportunities!

  21. Unwilling says:

    If conscious of mortal sin, how can anyone allow a delay of even one avoidable second before seeking the saving grace of Sacramental absolution?

    If aware of venial sin, how omit to avail oneself regularly of the remedies available in the Confessional? And likewise, for the imperfections we discover in examination.

    Even so, we should without presumption be confident that God has provided for us to end this life at the moment most in conformity with his desire we enjoy the most blessed possible union with Him in eternity. At whatever moment we die, that is the moment lovingly prepared for us in the original creation.

  22. TimG says:

    Sorry. How about a bit of levity? I feel like I’m in the Bernstine Bears story about when Papa Bear was running for city government.
    The Birds; “we need more worms to eat”
    The Worms “we need the birds to stop eating us”

  23. TimG says:

    Not that I am making fun or downplaying the necessity of the sacrament of Confession or any of that. Just that in some parishes there are priests that sit in Confessionals and get no one to come, while in other parishes there are people waiting for Confession and no priest to hear them. That is a sad state of affairs and we pray daily for more vocations (and that maybe one of our five sons will here the Call.)

  24. TimG says:

    Ugh. Hear, not here.

  25. capchoirgirl says:

    The priests at my parish (St. Patrick, Columbus, Ohio–run by the Dominican Friars) offer Mass every single day: after the 11:45 Mass until everyone is heard; Saturday beginning at 4:00, and Sunday, before every Mass. The lines of people are inspiring. People come from all over the city during the week to have their confessions heard.

  26. doanli says:

    Mine is a very complicated situation. Is there an email address I may email you about it, Father Z? Thanks, and God bless!

  27. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Tempus fugit…

  28. lauermar says:

    There is a modern Catholic church near me that was built in the 1990s *without* any confessionals or reconciliation rooms. Confession is held in a tiny parish library in the rectory. Lack of space was never a problem, because it is a large building on a large property. The builders simply took on a Protestant model for its construction, and this is evident when you walk in. Our bishop okayed the plans. Apparently everyone sees need for confessions in the future, because very few people go anymore.

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