Death, Dying and the Catholic website’s “how to” guide

Death. Dying with dignity. Facing death with courage. Dying well. Bereavement. We all have to face these issues at some stage – but how? Is there an art to dying?

Yes, there is. A new website hosted by the Catholic Church in England and Wales has decided to confront the big taboo and is using Instagram to talk about death.

Called The Art of Dying Well, the website includes an animated film a terminally ill man’s death. His story includes reconciling with his family before his peaceful, prayerful end.

To create the website and film the Church has been working with experts who care for terminally ill people, chaplains – and consulting history.

History – or rather, an historical text, has provided inspiration. The text – Ars Moriendi – or the “Art of Dying” includes information and guidance plus  Catholic rites and special Prayers for the Dying.

The prayers are illustrated in an animated story narrated by English actress Vanessa Redgrave.

The Ars Moriendi are two related Latin texts. They date from about 1415 and 1450 and offer advice on the protocols and procedures of a good death. Their advice includes an explanation of how to “die well” according to the Christian precepts of the late Middle Ages.

However, as Dr Kathryn Mannix, a consultant in palliative care, from Newcastle upon Tyne says, these days most of us have no idea what dying is like.

Unlike our forebears, we haven’t witnessed many deaths during our youth, we live longer than ever before and medicine defers – and at times, defies death.

The process of dying is new territory for us.




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