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Sunday, December 23, 2018

Ditto Ed Peters' Remarks: "God Bless Fr. LaCuesta!"

Despite having cancer at 39, caring for both my parents on their deathbeds, sitting beside my father-in-law at the moment of his death and dealing with serious situations with my children, I never really knew the depth of suffering until my grandson committed suicide on May 2nd.

The pain and grief defy description, so my heart goes out to the Hullibarger family who are grieving over Maison's suicide. But the media attack on their pastor, Fr. Don LaCuesta, for his funeral homily beginning with Fr. James Martin's ignorant tirade is a disgrace. And I'm disappointed in the Archbishop's decision to punish this priest instead of standing by him. It reminds me of Cardinal Wuerl punishing Fr. Marcel Guarnizo for refusing Communion to a lesbian Buddhist at her mom's funeral.

Recently someone in a com box on Facebook took issue with the term "committed suicide." She, in her widsom, scolded the person using the term and said the proper way to refer to it was "died by suicide." We don't, she said, say people committed their death when they die from self destructive behaviors like drug abuse, eating disorders, etc.  What she ignored was the fact that in those cases people generally die accidentally, an unintended consequence of their behavior (unless, of course, they are using those means to "commit" suicide). 

The word commit comes from two Latin words: com the preposition meaning "with" and mittere the verb meaning "to put or to send." The connotation of the word is that it is a deliberate action. That's what suicide is, a deliberate choice to "send" oneself out of life, self-murder. Of course, the free will of the person may be impaired and often, maybe even most of the time, there is diminished responsibility. How responsible the individual is for the act of suicide only God knows. But the fact is that unless the person accidentally killed himself (e.g., jumping off a bridge with a bungie cord longer than the drop), the individual deliberately intends death which is part of what makes it so horrible for family and friends left behind. What could we have done to save our loved one? What signs did we miss? What actions did we neglect? These are questions that torture families until you can put them in the hands of the Creator and say, take my suffering and use it for the salvation of this beloved soul.

Which leads me to Fr. LaCuesta's homily and the absolutely insane attack on him by the family and in the media over the past few weeks. READ THE HOMILY before you continue. It was compassionate and full of hope. It also made clear that suicide is a moral evil. Does anyone in his right mind think it's a moral good? Is that how we wanted it presented to other young people, siblings, etc.? Is no one concerned about the fact that suicide increases the likelihood of MORE suicide?

Someone sent me an email after my grandson killed himself (Her nephew committed suicide a few years earlier.) saying she thought suicide was brave. I know she meant to comfort me, but I was horrified! Courage is a virtue! If suicide is brave, shouldn't others emulate that virtue by killing themselves too? Isn't this exactly why we have a suicide epidemic because we glorify it? Doesn't it present a seductive appeal for the depressed and discourage?

The homily Fr. LaCuesta gave was completely on target. But the family was upset. Why? Because they wanted to ignore the suicide and "celebrate" their son's life. Is that the purpose of a Catholic funeral? NO! It's to pray and urge others to pray for the salvation of the dead soul. Is celebrating going to help that young man? NO!

Since my grandson committed suicide I have begged for prayers, Masses, and sacrifices for him. 

At Fatima, the Blessed Mother said many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray for them. That is NOT going to happen to our Brendan. I pray for him every day. My husband and I have Masses said for him every month. We offer our daily rosary and we continue to beg all the angels and saints and, especially, the Blessed Mother to intercede for him. 

Fr. LaCuesta didn't need to apologize for addressing the serious nature of suicide and he sure doesn't need anyone reviewing his homilies. As Ed Peters said, his homily should be sent to all the priests in the diocese to emulate. I agree and I'm going to write and tell him so. Bishop Vigneron did him a great injustice removing his independent preaching faculties. I'm going to write to Archbishop Vigneron as well. One can only wonder what kind of catechesis this family has experienced. Funerals aren't about canonizing the deceased, they are about praying for God's mercy. That's what Fr. LaCuesta obviously understands. It's a shame the diocese doesn't.  Penalizing good priests for doing their duty and covering up for the evil of bad priests is getting really old. It's time to JUST STOP IT! 

My heart goes out to the Hullibargers. I am walking the same lonely road in deep grief over Brendan's suicide. I pray for them and for their dear son Maison. There was certainly a point at the end of Mass to remember Maison's life. My son-in-law, Brendan's godfather, spoke about the amazing young man he was (and is, even though he's separated from us) before the final blessing. It was a beautiful testimony to Brendan's commitment (There's that word again.) to serving others as a lifeguard, a student mentor, a son, a brother, a cousin, a friend, etc. It was touching and lovely, but not the most important thing.

What was absolutely necessary for the hundreds of young people at that funeral to hear was that suicide is wrong and that they need to pray for Brendan. I wish the priest had made that point a little more clearly at the funeral.

Flowers and stuffed animals are no substitute for prayers and sacrifices. Fr. LaCuesta emphasized the mercy of God. He acknowledged the pain and tragedy of Maison's suicide. There was nothing wrong with his homily. In fact, it belongs in Homiletic and Pastoral Review as a model for funeral homilies.
Fr. LaCuesta has apologized to the family for not being as sensitive as he could have been to their grief. That should be the end of it. Demanding his removal from the parish is unreasonable.

It's easy to be angry when you're grieving. The anger being misdirected at Fr. LaCuesta should be turned to something more helpful, perhaps at NETFLIX for their sick series, Thirteen Reasons Why that glorifies suicide as revenge.

Thank you and God bless you, Fr. LaCuesta!


  1. I am glad you have brought up this case again. When I read your first mention a few days ago, it struck me especially odd that the parents had "requested a particular kind of homily."

    I have never been tasked to plan a Catholic funeral, so maybe this is not out of the ordinary, but it seemed to me their biggest gripe was the fact the priest didn't use the occasion to praise their child and ignore any and all painful truth that may have involved them.

    In other words, how dare you, Father, say anything that would detract from what we see is our perfect family, including our perfect son.

    They wanted a pep rally and what they got was a dose of Catholocism. Maybe a Unitarian service would have met their expectations.

    The saddest thing here is that these parents do not recognize any need to pray for Maison. Their son, of course, was perfect in every way.

  2. It is also a failure in catechesis. As Bishop Strickland (who I believe is 61) said when he met with us during the bishops' meeting in Baltimore, his CCD experience was "Jesus loves you; go make a banner." These parents probably got even less. Let us hope that the "new evangelization" goes back to the tried and true "old evangelization" that really taught the faith. I'm praying for this family and for all who face the tragedy of suicide. But I'm also writing to Archbishop Vigneron. Punishing this priest is unjust (and stupid)!


  3. Good post Mary Ann.
    Thank you.
    Best wishes for a happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year.

  4. I too will write to Archbishop Vigneron asking him to reconsider his decision about Fr. LaCuesta. Also, Rorate Coeli website provides the blessing of a PURGATORIAL SOCIETY, composed of approximately 75 Priests, who offer the Traditional Mass on a weekly basis. as their schedule permits, for those whose names are sent to them through email ( Happy and Holy Christmas to you and yours.