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08 August 2010


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There's a particularity to it too, and modern research meshes well with the traditional understanding of the body-soul unity. It's not merely grieve-worthy that soul and body are seperated, but that the soul is seperated from THIS body, and we believe (somehow) THIS body will be resurrected, even if in a glorified way that we will not totally recognize. Because THIS body, it's experiences and genetics and nature and nurture and environment and all of the rest of it, shaped the soul that inhabited it, and that soul, and its will and decisions and choices in food, companionship, learning, etc etc etc shaped the body that it enlivened, so that seperate neither is complete.


That's right, Kate... I was thinking not long ago about the sort of existential question you get when you read about neurology or personality disorders or things... who is "I", am I a spirit with free will or are my decisions, reactions, feelings only a product of my brain electrochemistry, subject to whatever psychoactive substances I might ingest or illnesses I might suffer?

I think Catholic teaching comes down to say that it's a false dilemma... "I" am the union of those two things, a brain chemistry AND a soul, not one or the other. Neither fully determined physically nor fully free of physicality. And that "I" is, I supposed, to be fractured, not annihilated, when the two are separated. Such is death.


Third to last paragraph: perfect. That separation is so profound, even if the person has been comatose prior to death. Once at work I walked into a room, stopped, and could tell from across the room that it was just over.

This makes me think how appallingly comfortless it must be to be an atheist and believe that it's all and only about the body.



My husband and I lived with his grandmother in her last days and took care of her. One morning I started to walk past the living room where she slept in her hospital bed and, just from the brief first glance I took into the room, could tell right away that she had died in the night. It was that obvious, even though she was in the same position she'd been sleeping in the last time I'd checked on her.


I just had this discussion with my Mom yesterday. She was saying that we'll be glad to get rid of our bodies and become "pure energy" after death. I was explaining to her that we DO believe in a bodily resurrection and it is stated in the creed we say every Sunday.

She seemed a little more accepting when I told her that our resurrected bodies would be perfected, but she was still pretty insistent that the Church "just made all that up." As if the energy idea wasn't just made up by the New Age movement?

I'm thinking of sending her some Bible verses that speak of the resurrection of the dead and trying to discuss the idea that we aren't Manicheans, believing that the everything earthly, including our bodies, is evil.

Cathie B

Thanks for posting this. I have been following this, vicariously, through your blog. I have a hard time reading it because my biggest fear is losing a child. However, I have to check my fear at the proverbial Catholic door and realize what Christ promises.

Meditating (truly meditating) on the sorrowful mysteries actually touches me to the core. I'm not saying it's at the level she feels when she thinks of her son during the autopsy and cremation, but I have a deep emotional reaction. It is when I keep going and meditate on the Glorious mysteries that I can "move past" because of that promise. I typically have to commit to two full rosaries at a time. I do Joyful and Luminous together and the Sorrowful and Glorious together for that reason.


Well said.

Another error you see both Catholics and protestants slipping into is the talking as if the soul exists before the body... waiting in heaven to be incarnated. But that's not what we believe either. We believe that a completely new soul comes into being at the moment of conception. A new soul which will exist for all eternity regardless of whether that one-celled body continues to grow and develop and is eventually welcomed as a newborn baby or whether that corporeal life ends before birth.

Kelly, you might also point her to the Apostle's Creed, which says at the end: "I believe... in the resurrection of the body".


MelanieB, if we're starting to talk about annoying cultural theology (I guess you'd call it), one of my least favorites is the idea that someone becomes an angel after they die.

We're two different creatures, people! Can't we just stick to "They're in a better place"? But of course, this is almost universally applied to a child or miscarriage, so I just smile and nod.


I remember being on a birth-related mailing list where there was a pervasive belief that the soul of a miscarried child would hang around to be reincarnated next time the parents conceived, presumably at a more auspicious time. That one creeped me out,

Barbara C.

I forget what they call that, Erin. Spirit baby? I read about it in the autobiography of midwife Peggy Vincent (Baby Catcher). I think she claimed that her son came up with that. Don't let that turn you off from checking out an otherwise good book.



That really irritates me too. Like you said, usually you have to cut a grieving mother some slack. But my baby in heaven is not an angel and neither is yours.

Oh and can we please stop assuming that all our dead friends and relatives go straight to heaven when they die? Whatever happened to the practice of praying for their souls. I say to my husband, promise me when I die you will pray and offer masses of my soul, not canonize me at my funeral. (Not that I really have to worry on his account.)

Erin, that is very creepy. Though I suppose if you don't believe in heaven, that's a sort of way of believing that the soul isn't extinguished? I wonder if it didn't develop as a nice excuse for women who have had an abortion... they didn't really cut off that child's one chance at life.

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