Grace notes: Don't wait to get your soul in shape

I was sitting in a psychology class at the University of Florida when the professor said something that deeply impressed me. At some point in everyone’s life there comes a realization of mortality, and the thought: "One day I will no longer exist."

I hated that remark. At 19, I had given up my faith in God-- and the soul -- but I fervently believed in medical advances. I knew scientists were working to increase the human lifespan to 100 years or more – and on to eternity.

“I will never die,” I assured myself.

I didn’t share my belief with anyone for fear they’d smirk: “Oh, sure, you’re not going to die! And I’m the Easter Bunny!”

Still, all these years later, I believe my insight harbored a grain of essential truth. This is not to say that we won’t die, but rather that we will discover a new kind of existence after death.

In my younger days, I scoffed at such a notion. As a materialist, I figured people came into the world by accident, stumbled around a bit on the planet and then died. And that’s where the story ended.

Still, materialism has a fatal flaw. This theory claims that if you can’t see, touch, taste, or hear something, it doesn’t exist.

But what about the sacrificial love of a parent who will die for a child? Or the hope that keeps a husband at his wife’s side through a long illness? Just like the soul, love can’t be studied in a laboratory, but it’s the very core of human existence.

Today I definitely believe in the immortal soul, although I sometimes procrastinate about caring for it. I exercise each morning, take long walks and watch my weight. As for my soul, it’s tempting to think I have plenty of time to get it in shape. When I’m 70 or 80, I assure myself, I’ll start then.

In the fall of 2008, my husband and I had lunch with a wonderful man in his late sixties. We’d never met Msgr. Thomas A. Kenny before, but we quickly understood why his parishioners at the Cathedral of Christ the King loved him.

I was shocked when I picked up the paper a week later, to learn that he had died in his sleep.

Life, in the deepest sense, really does last forever. But our earthly lives can vanish in a heartbeat. So if we have people to forgive, let’s pick up the phone now. If we feel distant from God, let’s say the first prayer.

When it comes to getting our souls into shape, let’s not wait until tomorrow. It may not come.

Lorraine’s latest books are “Death in the Choir,” a mystery set in Decatur, and “The Abbess of Andalusia: Flannery O’Connor’s Spiritual Journey.” Her email address is