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One Monday morning a few weeks ago I was at my cabin catching up on the Sunday newspaper when I heard a loud “clunk” from the living room. I looked up from the paper and saw a bird fluttering around on the deck in a daze. I realized immediately that the bird must have flown into the sliding glass door, only to have the glass bring its flight to a rather abrupt end. The bird appeared to be okay, so I went back to reading the paper.
I hadn’t been reading the paper for more than five minutes when I heard another loud “clunk.” I looked out on the deck and saw the same bird fluttering around once more in a daze just outside the sliding glass door. I watched it for a few minutes, but since it again appeared to be okay, I went upstairs to take a shower, figuring that the bird had learned its lesson this time.
After my shower I had to run some errands and ended up being gone for a couple of hours. When I returned to my cabin, and began unloading some groceries I had bought, I once again heard a familiar “clunk.” This time when I checked, I wasn’t surprised to see the bird fluttering around outside the sliding glass door. What did surprise me, though, was the number of small feathers and other telltale markings that speckled the window pane. Apparently the poor bird had spent most of the morning trying to fly through the glass. I couldn’t help but think what a shame it was that it hadn’t learned a lesson from its first few failed attempts. It occurred to me that if only it had a bigger brain or a stronger memory it might have saved itself a lot of pain and uselessly expended time and energy.
I thought about that bird a few days later, when I caught myself falling back into a bad habit I had been working to change. I couldn’t help but smile at myself as it dawned on me that in this particular case, I wasn’t really all that different from that poor bird. Like that bird, I hadn’t learned from my past mistakes. I had fallen into an old behavior pattern, which was anything but constructive and growthful.
As I reflected on this situation it struck me that something like this probably occurs in each of our lives. There are times when we continue bad habits or patterns of behavior even though they are counter to our growth. It occurred to me that this is what sin is all about. Sin is our failure to break the destructive habits or behaviors that keep us from growing into the people God has called us to be.
Now in some ways the above is a depressing thought. Fortunately for us, though, unlike the bird outside my sliding glass door, we have the ability to recognize our destructive behaviors. Additionally, though, we also have the means available to help us change those behaviors. As Christians, we believe that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is always there for us and with us in our lives. If we are open to it, and if we allow it to work in our lives, the grace of the Lord Jesus can help us change our lives and be better people.
Certainly it is not easy to change habits or patterns of behavior that are sinful and which have become entrenched over the years. Moreover, it may take a considerable amount of effort to do so. However, the work involved in changing these behaviors is certainly preferable to continuing them. For the reality is that if we don’t make the effort to change, to learn from our mistakes and grow, we aren’t a whole lot better off than some poor bird who keeps bumping its head into a pane of glass.
The Basilica, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was built more than a century ago, and was the first Basilica in the United States. And it hosts a great rock concert each summer.
The Basilica Landmark has much to celebrate, from the $2.5 matching challenge gift to the 20th anniversary of The Basilica Block Party. When the event started, it funded emergency “right now” needs. There were about 1,000 registered households, and the building was in great disrepair.
Today, what happens at The Basilica reaches beyond the parish and impacts our community.
- Programming spans from employment to mental health ministry to religious education, and so much more.
- Hundreds of thousands visit us each year attending concerts, art exhibits, and other public events.
- More than 11,000 people attend liturgies on Easter and Christmas combined, and there are 60 weddings each year.
- Outreach programs serve about 50,000 people each year. We give away 7,000 pairs of shoes, 13,000 sandwiches, and hundreds of bus tokens, gas cards, and rental assistance annually.
These programs are all possible because The Basilica Landmark cares for the home for these life-changing and life-saving ministries. The Landmark’s Mission Statement is to “Preserve, Restore, and Advance the historic Basilica of Saint Mary for all generations.” We will advance this mission through giving opportunities including the matching challenge and the Block Party.
Last November, an anonymous donor made a commitment to match new or increased gifts of $1,000+ made to The Basilica Landmark. If we meet this challenge, we will ensure the transition from reaction into action, paving the way for continued growth with major improvements for our campus buildings and Landmark church. If you would like to participate in this opportunity, please call the development office at 612.317.3455.
The Cities97 Basilica Block Party is a great introduction to thousands of people who attend each year, and it is also a successful fundraiser. Each year, more than 1,600 volunteers and 75 committee members make the event come together. In 19 years, more than 400,000 people have attended and $5.2 million has been raised. These funds are directed two places :
- Our St. Vincent de Paul outreach programs, and
- The Basilica Landmark, which is an independent non-profit from The Basilica, specifically dedicated to our mission of caring for the buildings on our campus.
You are invited to be part of this year’s event. Don’t miss the archive exhibit featuring 20 years of block party memorabilia. Raffle tickets are available from volunteers after Mass, and you can purchase tickets and The Basilica Block Party 20th anniversary CD at basilicablockparty.org. The Basilica’s own Choirs are featured on the CD performing with The Jayhawks.
After decades of work and investment and two decades of the “party of a higher order,” we have turned a corner on our campus. Today, we have the opportunity to improve buildings, renovating for growth and the future. This year, The Basilica Landmark will spend more than $2.5 million on campus improvement projects, including the removal of the church insulation which is the first step in the interior restoration. The work we do today paves the way for our dream, the complete restoration of The Building of Hope.
We’ll know we’ve accomplished our goal when we ensure our building — and all the good that happens here — is forever. Please accept my appreciation to everyone who has cared for our historic Landmark Basilica. You have contributed to “The Building of Hope.”
Learn more about The Basilica Landmark.
This coming October, Pope Francis has called for a special Synod on the family. According to Pope Francis, “the Synod will be on the family, the problems it is facing, its assets and the current situation it is in.” In preparation for this Synod, bishops from around the world were asked to seek input and gather information from the people of their respective dioceses. Several individual bishops, as well as conferences of bishops, have released summaries of the input they received. Archbishop Michael Jackels, the Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa, was one of the bishops who reported on the input he had received.
Additionally, though, he offered his reflections on that input. In this regard, he noted that “the responses reflected positions relative to marriage and the family that were varied and opposing.” He also reported hearing a range of opinions about birth control, divorce and remarriage, same-sex marriage, and other issues. While I don’t think anyone would be surprised at this, I am grateful for and pleased by Archbishop Jackels’ candor in acknowledging it.
In his reflections on the input he had received, I was struck in particular by one comment Archbishop Jackels made. Specifically, he said:“The Church is a lot like a family, which is never perfect, often not pretty, sometimes dysfunctional and a source of frustration, even the cause of anger. And yet we still identify with it, claim membership in it, and how dare anyone try and say otherwise. In the Church family we always hold out hope that other members or things in general will change for the better. And what “better” means varies from family member to family member.”
I think Archbishop Jackels really hit the nail on the head with this comment. As I have mentioned previously, I think Church is like a family. In my own family, we have managed to cancel out each other’s votes in the last several presidential elections. And yet we realize that when we come together to share a meal, when we all put our feet under the same table, there is something much bigger holding us together than could ever divide us. And so it is with Church.
When we celebrate the Eucharist we experience the preeminent commitment of God to us. At its deepest level, the Eucharist is a communion of life, a communion of love with our living God. It is a sharing in God’s life, so that our lives can be holy, and we can be united in Christ. In the fourth century, St. Augustine in a homily about the Eucharist said: “So now, if you want to understand the body of Christ, listen to the Apostle Paul speaking to the faithful: ‘You are the body of Christ, member for member.’ (1 Cor. 12.27) If you, therefore, are Christ's body and members, it is your own mystery that is placed on the Lord's table! It is your own mystery that you are receiving! You are saying "Amen" to what you are: your response is a personal signature, affirming your faith. When you hear "The body of Christ," you reply "Amen." Be a member of Christ's body, then, so that your "Amen" may ring true!”
When we gather for Eucharist we come with all our different perspectives, opinions, prejudices, perceptions, views, thoughts and ideas about how things should be. It would be easy for these things to separate and divide us. When we share Eucharist, though, the things that might divide us shrink in significance as we are unified in Christ through the Eucharist that we share in his name and memory. It is the Eucharist that strengthens us, that nourishes and sustains us, and that unites us as we seek to follow Jesus. And in the Eucharist, when we receive the Body of Christ, we become the Body of Christ in the world. We are united in faith, and because of this our differences — whatever they are — dim in comparison to the unity we experience in the Body of Christ.
“The only purpose of the Church is to go out and tell the world the good news about Jesus Christ. It needed to surge forth to the peripheries, not just geographically, but to the peripheries where people grapple with sin, pain, injustice, and indifference to religion.
“But the Church had become too wrapped up in itself. It was too navel-gazing. It had become ‘self referential’ which had made it sick. It was suffering a ‘kind of theological narcissism.’ When Jesus said: ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock’ people assumed he was outside, wanting to come in. But sometimes, Jesus knocks from within, wanting to be let out into the wider world. A self-referential church wants to keep Jesus to itself, instead of letting him out to others.”
The above quotation is part of a pre-conclave talk given by Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis). Another Cardinal, Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, the Archbishop of Havana, said that this speech, given during the cardinals’ pre-conclave meetings, was "masterful" and “clear.” In fact he was so impressed with the talk that he asked Cardinal Bergoglio for his notes and his permission to share them publicly.
I too like these words of Pope Francis. They remind us that our Church does not exist for its own sake and well being. Rather our Church is meant to bring Christ to the world — to be the face, the hands, the body, and the love of Christ in the world.
This weekend we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Mass at The Basilica of Saint Mary. That first Mass has been followed by countless other Masses. Additionally, in the 100 years since that first Mass, almost 26,500 babies have been baptized at The Basilica (161 of them were baptized this past year alone); thousands of weddings and funerals have taken place here; as well as Anointings of the Sick and Ordinations. And in recent years The Basilica has been host to hundreds of Confirmation ceremonies for the Archdiocese. In addition to these sacramental celebrations, The Basilica has also educated thousands in our school, and since 1974 in our faith formation programs. Through our various programs, services and ministries we welcome all those who are seeking to know and follow Jesus Christ in their lives. As I mention at the beginning of every Mass, we welcome people to worship with us whether they worship with us regularly or whether they are just visiting. Whatever brings people to The Basilica and wherever people are on their faith journey, they are welcome here.
In addition to our parish activities, though, for one hundred years The Basilica has also been a beacon of hope on the Minneapolis skyline. The Basilica is a magnet for attracting people from all over the metro area. Individuals from more than 540 zip codes call this parish their spiritual home. They provide critical funds and volunteer hours to help thousands of people. And our efforts make a difference. Since its beginnings at The Basilica over 25 years ago, our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry has served countless people. Some are homeless, some on the edge, and some are working families who just can’t make ends meet. Each year, we serve about 50,000 people. Last year we provided 7,000 pairs of shoes, 13,000 sandwiches, and hundreds and hundreds of bus tokens, gas cards, and rental assistance. The Basilica campus is the home for this life changing and life saving ministry.
Beyond meeting the needs of those in our community to just survive (food, shelter, clothing,) we also provide life skills programs and sessions as well as mentoring. The Basilica’s employment ministry currently serves more than 470 people who are unemployed or underemployed; helping them search for jobs, providing job search guidance, one-on-one counseling and resume building workshops.
In addition to our social ministry, The Basilica of Saint Mary also plays an important role in the downtown community. For a hundred years The Basilica of Saint Mary has been a center for civic and cultural activities including ecumenical prayer services, concerts, art shows and speakers. We need to ensure that this continues in the future.
Thousands of activities fill the calendar each year at The Basilica, involving parishioners and the community we serve. From liturgies to our employment ministry, education programs to to sandwich ministry, concerts to outreach programs, The Basilica Block Party, to art exhibits, we are a thriving community. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Mass at The Basilica this weekend, let us pray that we will continue the proud tradition of being and bringing Christ, not just to our parishioners, but also and especially, as Pope Francis said, to those on the peripheries — to those people who grapple with sin, pain, injustice, and indifference to religion.
Recently Pope Francis, in an action that didn’t gain a lot of attention, added the name of Blessed Peter Faber, one of the first companions of St. Ignatius of Loyola (the founder of the Jesuits), to the company of the saints, short-circuiting the normal canonization process. In an August interview with Antonio Spadaro S.J. for Civiltà Cattolica, a periodical published by the Jesuits in Rome, Pope Francis spoke of Faber as a "model" for himself, both as a Jesuit and now in the governance of the universal church. The Pope said he admired Faber for his ability to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naïveté perhaps, his being available straightaway, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving."
When I read the Pope’s words, my immediate reaction was: what a great idea, canonizing someone who was able to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents." Holding up someone like Peter Faber as a model of sanctity, and a way of life worth emulating, reminds us that as Catholics we should never disregard or disdain those with whom we disagree. Certainly this runs counter to the way many in our church deal with those they regard as their opponents.
In our in our church these days there are times when it is not enough simply to disagree with others. Instead, at times we tend to demonize those with whom we disagree, or worse invite them to find another church. This behavior is not limited to a particular group. I have seen people on both ends of the spectrum --- liberal and conservative --- engage in this conduct. Frankly and bluntly, I find this kind of behavior embarrassing at best.
When Jesus called his first disciples he simply said: "Follow me." There was no litmus test to see if they passed muster. He simply invited them to follow him. And it was in following him that they came to understand what they were called to believe, and how they were called to live as his disciples. And we know from the Gospel that some found his words too difficult and simply left. In fact we are told that as a result of the Bread of Life Discourse in John’s Gospel that "many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him." Notice, though, that Jesus never spoke ill of those who left. He didn’t demonize them. And he never asked them to leave. When people left his fellowship, it was always their decision.
I am excited that Pope Francis has name Peter Faber, S.J. a saint. I am pleased and grateful that he did so because he appreciated Peter Faber’s ability to "dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents." And I am going to pray for St. Peter Faber’s intercession so that I can be more like him in my life.
I’m a seven year-old Catholic. My memory of baptism at The Basilica ranks a close second to the birth of my daughters. Along with many others who lay prostrate in the sanctuary, I experienced a profound conversion through the R.C.I.A. process, the height of which was the Easter Vigil.
As a new Catholic, I returned to the theme of joy and gratitude time and time again. The Easter season seems to point in this direction. New life is everywhere, and this Easter season is rich in encouragement, inspiration and hope. Each time I attend Mass at The Basilica, the reminders are everywhere: Joy and gratitude are proclaimed in music, our prayers and in our communion with one another.
Being honest, I’ve needed that reminder. Especially this year.
Day after day, we hear of the sin, neglect and pain in our local Catholic Church.
And I’ve asked myself I chose this? This ugliness?
The ugliness of the loss of innocence. The ugliness of perpetuating these sins with lack of candor. The ugliness of losing focus on the true victims: the victims of abuse.
It’s hard to feel fresh in your faith when it is hard to distinguish it from the faith embedded in scandal.
Today, I do have great joy and gratitude in my faith, but it isn’t centered so much on people or on the local institutional church. Today, I sometimes worry about the choice I have made to join this church. I chose a church whose focus was not on self, but serving. Whose focus was not on judgment, but on love; a church whose focus guided me to gratitude.
I joined The Basilica.
In this struggle, I found my letter from 2006 regarding why I wanted to join the Catholic Church. Here was part of my response, as I learn about the traditions of the Catholic tradition, I feel encouraged to become a part of this faith community. I love the deep and historical tradition of the faith. I appreciate the necessity of personal accountability. I want to be a part of this community that gives to its parishioners and also gives back to the community. I look forward to participating fully in the worship service and hope to raise my children in this community in the future because of the core values in which it not only believes, but also lives.
To me still today, The Basilica represents what I was searching for, and today, I’m still here by choice. Trying to center on faith, not on those individuals who have made mistakes.
The real loss in what has happened in our local church is faith. Not faith in the church, but our faith in God. Despite this great distraction, I hope we will continue to choose faith. And I hope we will continue to represent all the good that is at the heart of our Catholic faith.
Perhaps now we can be part of the solution. Be honest. Represent our challenged Church by being public representatives of what we love about it, and why we continue to choose it. I see Fr. Bauer’s honesty and leadership, along with his invitation for open conversation as part of the solution.
The Basilica gives me real hope. People are joining, giving and volunteering. And young people are finding their adult religious home in the pews and in the activities of our church. It still speaks, inviting everyone to believe in the good that God has given us. I am so grateful to our parish for reinforcing all that I know about the church I chose eight years ago.
Thank you for being a part of it, and for the collective voice for good, affirming and encouraging so many. You spread the faith by representing it so beautifully, in the pews at The Basilica and in our community. You are the church.
One does not have to travel to the churches mentioned in the Da Vinci Code in search of intriguing stories. Every cathedral, church and chapel has its own secret codes hidden in the building, even The Basilica.
As you walk around you will notice that every chapel has a small wall carving announcing which saint is honored there. A burning heart surrounded by a crown of thorns leads to the Sacred Heart chapel. A star, symbol of Mary leads to the chapel of St. Anne and Mary. A lily, symbol of St. Joseph leads to the shrine of St. Joseph. Strangely, near the chapel of St. Anthony, patron saint of Italy you will find a clover and snake, the symbol of St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland. Might this chapel have been intended for St. Anthony and was the wrong symbol carved in the wall? Or was the carving correct and did the parish have a change of heart in terms of selection of saints?
In his 1932 book entitled, The Basilica of St. Mary of Minneapolis, longtime pastor, Mgr. Reardon mentions the St. Anthony of Padua Chapel. Research in the archives, however reveals that the relic buried in the altar is not of St. Anthony but rather of St. Patrick.
This seems to indicate that the chapel was intended for St. Patrick while today, St. Anthony is honored there. Might this chapel reveal a bit of competition between the Irish and Italian founding families? Today, St. Patrick’s symbol and St. Anthony’s statue coexist peacefully.
Whether there was friendly feuding between our founding families or not, we are deeply grateful to them. Since they celebrated the first Eucharist on May 31, 2014 (Pentecost) over 100,000 Masses have been celebrated at The Basilica while 11,908 couples were married and 26,456 babies have been baptized in our church.
Our community has grown in so many ways since those early days. From a couple hundred families we have grown to over 6000 households. From an Irish and Italian church we have grown to reflect the world church as people from all parts of the globe have joined our church. And from a church marked by an active clergy and passive laity we have grown to be a church where both clergy and laity fully, actively and consciously participate in the life of our church.
On June 8, 2014 (Pentecost) we will mark the centennial anniversary of the first Eucharist celebrated in The Basilica. It will be a celebration of the accomplishments of our founding families. It will be a celebration of all the people who have made us who we are over the course of these 100 years. It will be a celebration of who we are today: great in number, rich in diversity and strong in our faith. And most importantly, it will be a time to call down the Holy Spirit once again to give us the peace, the wisdom and the strength to continue on this rich path for many more years to come.
So, do join us for the celebration of Pentecost on June 7/8. We will have extra music at all Masses followed by festive hospitality. And please wear your favorite red outfit or best ethnic garb.
Come Holy Spirit, Enlighten our hearts and our minds.
A few weeks ago, I texted a friend of mine to ask how his mother was doing. She had some surgery and had experienced some complications after surgery. He texted back that his mom was doing great. In his text message he went on to say: “God is so good. He has bedbugs (sic) so good to her and our entire family.” Now I was pretty sure that he meant to type that “God has been so good to her and their entire family,” but I texted him back just to be sure. He claimed he was a victim of his phone’s autocorrect program, and having myself fallen prey to autocorrect, I could certainly understand how that could happen.
When you are typing fast, and if you have chubby fingers, it is easy to mistype a word. And with autocorrect, you may not even realize your error unless you proofread your message before you send it. Most of the time, when I am sending a text or an email, because I know what I intend to say, I just expect it to be there. I have been surprised on more than one occasion, though, when I mistyped a word, that autocorrect had changed it to a word I hadn’t intended. And in most cases the new word had changed what I intended to say.
I would guess that 95% of the time autocorrect is a good thing. It can save time and effort in our communication efforts when we don’t have to go back and correct typos. Occasionally, though, it can be problematic, especially when a mistyped word is changed by autocorrect into something we didn’t intend, as was the case with my friend’s text message. This experience has been a good reminder to me to always proofread my texts and emails before sending them.
While there are times when autocorrect can change the meaning we intended, we are fortunate that we don’t have to worry about this in regard to our prayer. As we are reminded in Psalm 139, “Before a word is on my tongue, behold O Lord, you know the whole of it.” (Ps. 139:4) Having created us, our God knows us better than we know ourselves. God knows our needs, our wants, our heartaches, our joys, our sadness, our sorrows, our every thought. In prayer we don’t have to worry that we will get it wrong, and/or that God won’t understand what it is we are trying to say. God knows what is on our mind and in our heart without our ever having to give voice to it. Knowing this, we need to trust that the God who loved us into existence, will continue to hold us in that love regardless of the words we use in our prayer.
It is very comforting for me to know that on those days when I’m a bit tongue-tied or the words don’t come out as I want, that God knows and understands my prayer. I don’t need to worry that anything will change the meaning or intent of my prayer. This is true for all of us. Before ever a word is on our tongue, God knows the whole of our prayer. And while God does not always answer our prayer in the way we had anticipated or hoped, God does hear our prayers, and will always give us the grace we need in our lives.
I am inspired on Holy Thursday, as I witness and experience the sacred act of washing one another's feet: All types of people of all ages—being served, and kneeling in humble service. This year, my experience at Holy Thursday Mass was compounded when I connected with Jackie—a homeless woman I have known for close to twenty years (name changed for privacy). Jackie and her fiancé sat down in the pews, and I joined them.
When I first met Jackie, she was living with her children and sister under the highway directly across the street from The Basilica. They came to The Basilica every morning. I could smell gasoline on their bodies—gasoline, seeping down from cars passing overhead on highway 94, being absorbed by their bodies and clothes.
Over these twenty years, Jackie and her family have experienced frequent homelessness. She is homeless again, and has cancer. She is in pain and afraid. As I held Jackie at Mass on Holy Thursday, she wept and repeated a question that she asks a lot lately, "What should I do, Janice? What should I do?"
As Jackie struggled with grief and despair that evening, my heart wanted to respond, “Love, Jackie. Love yourself, love your family, love your friends, love God.” Ultimately, we are all called to love. Love: so easy to say, so hard to live.
Jackie is a good woman. She has a sparkle in her eye and a contagious laugh that exposes a deep joy amid incredible suffering. Deeply committed to her family, she has witnessed tragedy since she was a child, moving to Minneapolis from the Red Lake Reservation. She knows tremendous grief, having lost several children to death on the street. She is a matriarch to a struggling family. What will happen when she is gone?
Jackie asks a question we are all to ponder this Easter Season: What are we to do? When death and betrayal can be found around us each day, what will we do? What will mark our lives, our actions, our attitudes, our choices, our thoughts, and our assumptions? What difference will it make that we have been given the gift of new life through resurrection?
As we washed one another’s feet, my experience with Jackie raised deep and difficult questions in my heart. Brought face-to-face with my own judgments, biases, and fears, I wrestled with reconciling the life I have watched Jackie live and my own actions—as well as the actions of our community.
What does love look like in our community? Our faith calls us to acts of charity and justice. We are called to hold Jackie when she is afraid. And, we are also called to advocate for more affordable housing. This may be the harder part. There are not enough shelter beds, and not enough affordable housing in our community to protect Jackie and her family. We must join the advocacy efforts of Minnesota Coalitions for the Homeless and St. Stephen’s Human Resources to provide safe and secure housing options.
Pope Francis encourages us to “Let the joyous wonder of Easter Sunday radiate through your thoughts, looks, attitudes, gestures, and words.” Let us be inspired by Jackie, and live a life of joy through charity and justice.
A few weeks ago I updated the instructions for my funeral. It definitely was time to do this, as a few of the priests I had suggested as homilists have left ministry to marry. Now please don’t worry or start celebrating, I am not sick and/or dying. Rather, priests of our Archdiocese are asked to plan their funeral so that if we should die suddenly there is clarity about our wishes and intent. It also helps our families who would otherwise be left with the unenviable task of trying to figure out what we would want in regard to our funeral. I think my instructions are fairly simple and when the time comes, I hope they will be honored. I just hope Johan can find the elephants for the procession on short notice.
It is a sobering task to plan one’s funeral. And I did shed a few tears in the process. If the truth be told, however, there was also a certain “rightness” to this task. It was very faith affirming. I say this because it reminded me that while funerals are a celebration of a person’s life, they are also — and from my perspective more importantly — an affirmation of our faith. For our faith calls us to believe that death is not the end; that because of Jesus Christ the promise and gift of eternal life is offered to all believers.
In one of the Prefaces (the prayer that leads into the Holy, Holy, Holy) for the Mass of Christian burial we hear the words: “Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed, not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven.” I like the idea that at the time of death “life is changed, not ended.” For me this speaks powerfully not just of our belief in eternal life, but in the idea of the “communion of saints” —our belief in our fellowship in Christ, not only among us believers here on earth, but also between us and those who have died marked with the sign of faith. We don’t lose those who have died; rather our relationship with them takes on another dimension as we now share the life of Christ with them in a new way.
Certainly the time of death is a time of sadness and sorrow as we mourn the loss of someone who was a part of our lives. For believers, though, because of our belief in the promise of eternal life, it is also a time of hope and faith. On this great Feast of Easter as we remember and celebrate Christ’s resurrection, we also remember and celebrate his promise of eternal life which he offers to all those who believe in and seek to follow him. For it is the promise of eternal life that gives us comfort and consolation at the time of death, and hope as we continue our lives in faith.