The other day was Bastille Day. It’s not one of those days I celebrate much. On July 14, 1790, a year after the storming of the Bastille, an old prison loaded with political significance, the renegade bishop Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord celebrated a Mass, King Louis XVI took an oath to the new constitution, and the party began. For days people drank and ran about the Parisian streets naked, etc. Plus ça change. Eventually the streets of France would run with blood.

One year ago, on Bastille Day 2016, blood ran again upon French streets. Little did 86 people suspect that their lives were to end that evening when Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel smashed through their bodies with a truck on the Promenades des Anglais in Nice. Another 434 were injured.

Speaking of unsuspecting, we don’t know the moment or circumstances of our deaths. When it is our turn, we will die. Our hearts will cease to beat, we will stop breathing, our souls will separate from our bodies and we will die. Then our souls will go before the Just Judge, the King of Fearful Majesty, and our eternal fate will be irrevocably decreed.

We Catholics for centuries have raised our collective plea to the heavens during the Litany of Saints: “A subitanea et improvisa morte … From a sudden and unprovided death, spare us O Lord.” A good petition if ever there was one.

A sudden death can be a blessing. A sudden and unprovided death – in the sense of having no opportunity to receive the Last Sacraments when you are not in the state of grace – is a horrifying prospect.

Provide for your souls, for yourselves and those in your care. Make a frequent examination of conscience and go to Confession, baring all mortal sins in both kind and number.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection