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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Family Funerals

Larry and I just returned from a funeral for the father of nine of our nieces and nephews. The wake and funeral Mass were testaments to the love and respect these young adults had for their dad. And, as is so sadly true, it provided the infrequent opportunity to connect with extended family. Some of the grand nieces and nephews we had never met (the tiny ones) and most of the others we don't know very well. With our own immediate family numbering ten adults (not counting us) and twenty children, we are doing well to keep up with them. Since we both come from large families, the extended family (just counting our siblings, their children, and grandchildren) is in the hundreds. Whew! I wish I had the time, proximity, and energy to know them all better. But it was a delight to see them, even briefly, and touch each others' lives for that brief time.

Funerals have a way of focusing the mind on what is really important -- dying in God's grace so we can be happy with him in heaven. I was grateful the priest did not canonize the deceased but talked about how we all seek happiness, often in the wrong places, and need God's mercy. Only Mary, and perhaps a few saints who died young (Maria Goretti, St. Therese of Liseux, St. Dominic Savio, and Blessed Francisco and Jacinta come to mind) did not deserve the fires of hell. And we are all subject to original sin, except the Blessed Mother. Thank God for the grace of Baptism that reconciled us to God.

If I were not so aware of the mercy of God, I would spend my days trembling in fear and hiding under the bed. But God is good and he is there when the priest anoints the dying with the oil of salvation, hears his confession, and gives him Viaticum. I pray for that provided death and trust, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, I will not go without the sacraments.

It's good to reflect on death regularly because it is one of the few absolute certainties in this life. Every  year when I go on retreat the priest reminds us of a gravestone he once saw that read: "As you are, I once was. As I am you will surely be." Apparently, this was once a common quote on tombstones used by the Puritans. We would all do well to remember it and think of the only thing that matters -- where we will spend eternity. 

Please pray for Larry Schadegg. His body lies now where we all are headed. But his soul... ah...that is another story. My nieces and nephews can be at peace knowing their dad died in the hope of Christ surrounded by Christ's Church and having received the sacraments that offer the best hope of eternal salvation. Requiescat in pace, Larry. "May the divine assistance remain always with us, and may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen."

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