During this Month of November, we remember all of our beloved dead. You may have noticed our Display of Remembrance at the front of the church. I hope you have taken a moment to add the names of your own beloved dead. One of the beauties of human life is our ability to remember intentionally, uniquely, lovingly those who have gone before us. We do well to remember those who went before us. They are our family both biologically and spiritually. That does not mean glossing over shortcomings, but rejoicing in their successes and victories, in the tremendous gifts of their lives. They prepared the way for us. They lived and handed on the Faith to us. They sinned and yet were saved. They wronged and were reconciled. We don’t simply remember those who came before just us to learn from them and their experience (we should do that), but so that we can recognize with gratitude our place and our small part in a much greater story and plan under God’s guiding hand. Pray for those who went before you, so that those who come after may likewise think on you well.
In a recent funeral homily, I commented on a gift the deceased had left to the family: the pre-selected readings for the funeral service. “The readings for today’s gathering were selected by [the deceased]. I find that to be a tremendous gift when it happens. It’s a gift to the deceased, since we can honor them with what they wanted. It’s a gift to the family for they know they will use what [the deceased] wanted and therefore don’t have to guess. It’s a gift to [presiding and preaching priest] because it tells me these readings meant something to the loved one whom we come here to both pray for and remember. I’ll admit, I never had the chance to discuss with [the deceased] why she selected these particular readings. But I can see in the readings how they might apply to her and what she might want us to take away.” I stand by those words. A funeral is meant to honor & pray for the one who has passed, speak to the living in hope, and encounter Christ through it all.
Have you given much thought to your funeral? I don’t say this to be morbid. The saying Tempus fugit, memento mori (Time Flies, Remember Death) has gotten traction in many circles today. Life is fleeting, indeed. As a parent of a recent high school or college graduate. Ask a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Ask a priest-pastor nearing the end of a term. They will all tell you, “it went by so fast.” Life passes us by so very quickly. In part, that is why we must be attentive today to the state of our soul and the quality of our Christian discipleship. There may not be a tomorrow to get around to it. God has given us today. Yet, when that day does come – for even Jesus had His hour – we need to be ready, spiritually, relationally, communally and the like. But I would also add practically! Have you ever considered making pre-arrangements for your funeral? Not only would that include such things as: what funeral home you prefer, what cemetery you want to be buried, whether you desire to be cremated or not (it is permitted by the Church provide there is a final place of rest for the remains – no scattering, etc. And it is preferred that the body be present at the Funeral Mass), questions related to the visitation, who you want to participate and how, but also whether and where you want a Funeral Mass. As some of our younger generations drift further away from lived Catholic Christian faith, if you want a Funeral Mass – and as a Catholic Christian you should want the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at your own passing – you probably need to spell it out in writing. My experience is spouse and children are more than willing, even eager, to fulfill the expressed wishes of their deceased loved one, but if they are not instructed clearly, the will do what they want, which may not include the Mass.
There is some very helpful information on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website for planning a funeral, including a list of suggested possible readings from both the Old and New Testament.
Coming soon, our Holy Family Advent 40 Hours with Mary Adoration from Friday, Dec 2, to Sunday, Dec 4.
+ Nothing Less than saints for the Holy Family of God. +
Holy Family, Saintly Father, Blessed Mother, Divine Son, Pray for us.
~ Fr Jeremy M. Gries