The event was one of numerous efforts Achtman has undertaken since launching a multifaceted cultural project called “Dying to Meet You” on Aug. 1, which seeks to “humanize our conversations and experiences around suffering, death, meaning, and hope.” This mission is accomplished through interviews, short films, community events, and conversations.
In her interview with CNA, Achtman called euthanasia the “opposite of love” and said that premature death “cuts short the capacity to show and receive kindness in the world.”
“Love says, ‘I want you to be! How wonderful that you exist.’ Euthanasia sends the message that we are not sure whether or not it is good for you to be in the world after all,” she explained.
“The presence of euthanasia in a society renders life more precarious for everyone because, as soon as there is a threshold at which life can become ‘less dignified’ or devoid of ‘meaningful activities,’ we are in trouble.”
She continued: “Every euthanasia death short-circuits our opportunities to love. And if someone is asking for euthanasia because they do not feel loved in the first place, then the right response is not lazy indifference … but rather a loving and urgent intervention.”
Achtman pointed out the work Pope Francis has done in his 18-part series of general audiences where he shared the meaning and value of old age.
“Pope Francis is also stressing that a crucial part of the vocation of the elderly is to remind the young that they are a blessing,” she expressed. “Many young people do not know this, and desperately need to be affirmed that it is good they exist. Young and old need one another.”
Although she faced several hurdles while organizing the Mass of a Lifetime, Achtman hopes the seniors took away from the experience that “it is worth going above and beyond to elevate people to a sense of their proper dignity” and that “their community has not forgotten them and is not indifferent to them.”
“We, the young, need all that the elderly are. We need even what they suffer because, by their suffering, they summon us to love, make sacrifices, and become more human,” she said. “Such experiences of communion help us grow in patience, including with ourselves. I think that is why Pope Francis is continually saying that the alliance between old and young will save the human family.”
Thanks to the great success of the event, the executive director of the retirement home intends to provide a similar Mass for the residents at least on a quarterly basis moving forward.
You can watch a highlight video of the Mass of a Lifetime below:
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