We had two funerals in our parish in the past week which was a study in contrasts.
The first was of a gentleman who had a long time with cancer. In the last year, Father visited him frequently, prayed with him, anointed him, and gave him Eucharist. The family is close-knit and in the last days leading up to his death, they were with him surrounding him with their prayers and love. The Funeral Mass was a mere twelve hours after his passing, so before the Mass we prayed the Rosary. It was a rare sight to see that the whole family was Catholic. At the homily for the Funeral Mass, Father spoke at length of the Eucharist, the Bread of wayfarers traveling through this life. The last year was especially full of suffering for this gentleman, but the Eucharist strengthened him and in some way helped him to accept the redemptive side of the physical pain when united with the Passion of Christ. Though there was sorrow at his passing, the Mass was imbued with a deep sense of Christian Hope.
The second funeral was for a double murder, a mother and her son were killed by her husband. He then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. The mother and son lived with domestic violence for a long time, each time she remarried, it was with hope for a better life. But it was not to be as each marriage proved to be just a violent.
It's hard to understand the trap which people allow themselves to be ensnared in a cycle of violence. There is no one moment but a series of progressive slides into a cooperative assent to evil until it becomes familiar and so much easier to live through than to stand against the tide and renounce it.
The Funeral Mass was terribly sad. Not only for the violent loss of life, but also for the knowledge that the family had fallen away from the practice of the Faith. The various estranged segments of the extended family were not able to sit together, lingering bitterness a barrier to reconciliation, if just for the observance of this last rite of passage. The two urns filled with the ashes of mother and son were carried up by a cousin and his fiancee. The Church permits cremation, but I wonder if in this case, cremation was another symptom of despair. Perhaps it's judgmental of me to think such thoughts and my time would be better spent praying for the repose of their souls. The grandmother had asked that of me, to please pray for the peace of her daughter's and grandson's souls.
The church was full of young people, friends of the son. And here again was another moment of heaviness. So many of them were clearly unchurched. But perhaps in coming to the Mass a seed has been planted. Father's homily focused on the cross and the Death of Christ for the sin of the world. Grief added upon grief, when at the recitation of the Lord's Prayer, the young people did not know it. Has paganism really advanced that much that this simple yet profound prayer is no longer a point of shared culture at the very least?
Lots to ponder upon. Working for a parish is like a live psychological laboratory. We're dealing with human souls and the eternal destination for each. We battle with the forces seen and unseen hellbent on the diminution and outright destruction of the dignity of human life.
It's Monday morning and I'm tired. Six back-to-back Masses this past weekend have taxed me. I think I'll spend time in the garden and battle with yellowjackets and weeds. There's a lesson there in the spiritual life and the world to come.