Tag Archives: death

Now and at the Hour of our Death

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In the Hail Mary we ask Mary to pray for us sinners, “now and at the hour of our death.” These are the two most important moments in life. We have the past and the future, for sure, but they’re far less important than now and the hour of our death.

“Now” is the time we live in, the present moment. Whether it’s a time of joy or sorrow, a time of satisfaction or disappointment, a time of sickness or health, it’s the time we have to love, to give, to endure, to act, to live.

“The hour of death” is God’s time, when God brings us from this life to the next. It may be instantaneous or prolonged, but it’s the time when God who gave us life takes this life away.

Both of those moments benefit from faith. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was a believer who trusted in the power and presence of God through these same moments of life. They’re challenging moments.

After the angel left Mary in Nazareth, no other angel came; she walked by faith from the Child’s birth to the death and resurrection of her Son. As we face the mysteries of life, we ask her in our weakness to be with us as a believer and a mother, who knows the goodness and power of God as it is revealed in Jesus Christ her Son.

“Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

All Souls Day

All Souls Day, says a homily I received in email this morning from the Congregation of the Clergy in Rome, recognizes our fears before the mystery of death. “From the perspective of Gospel wisdom, death teaches us an important lesson because it makes us see reality without filters.  It encourages us to recognise the falling away of all that appears great and strong in the eyes of the world.  Before death every motive of human pride and jealousy is lost and instead all that is truly worthwhile reappears.”

All Souls Day is a frank admission that we find it hard to face death in ourselves and in others. It’s an experience we cannot prepare for adequately, despite all the resources of faith and reason we have at hand.

Yes, the hope of resurrection encourages us. But as a holy bishop says in our readings for the Office of the Dead:

“As we are saying all these things some unknown feeling causes us to burst into tears; some hidden feeling discourages the mind which tries to trust and to hope. Such is the sad human condition; without Christ all of life is utter emptiness.

“O death! You separate those who are joined to each other in marriage. You harshly and cruelly divide those whom friendship unites. Yet your power is broken…We do not really belong to ourselves; we belong to the One who redeemed us.”   (Saint Braulio)

This is day that recognises our “sad human condition” as its struggles to believe.  And as our prayer for today says:

“Merciful Father, as we renew our faith in your Son who you raised from the dead, strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters will share in his resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever an ever. Amen.

Tuesday Night at the Mission

Last night at the mission we thought about death as Jesus faced it and accepted it in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Dying you destroyed our death; rising you restored our life,” we say at Mass. He accepted death and changed it forever. He will  be with us as our Savior at the moment of our death.

The two most important moments of our life are “now and at the hour of death.”

http://www.cptryon.org/prayer/season/agony.html

Tuesday evening our reflections will be on prayer. We need to pray, especially today. Is it possible to pray? How do we pray?

There are some reflections on prayer on Bread on the Waters, http://www.cptryon.org/prayer/index.html and some explanations of the common prayers we say as Christians.

You can learn to help your children pray at that site too.

The important days of Holy Week are coming up this week. Find out about them at this same site. It’s for adults and children.

Here’s a sample for introducing a child to Good Friday:

On Friday,

(We call it “Good”)

Jesus was nailed

to hard, hard wood.

Beneath his cross,

his mother stood

and cried for what they had done.

“Oh, if I could hold him,” she said,

“Hold my only Son!”

“Father, take me,” Jesus said,

“Take me in your hands.”

And God reached down

and took him,

and held his only Son.

“I am God who raises up,

your life has just begun.

I am God of the living,

no grave can hold my Son.”

Raising Lazarus

John 11,1-45

The wonderful story of the death and resurrection of Lazarus helps us appreciate the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Lazarus belongs to an influential family that welcomed Jesus to their home in Bethany, a village about two miles from Jerusalem. Martha and Mary were his sisters. Jesus stayed with them when he visited the Holy City.
When Lazarus died some days before the Passover, Jesus had left Jerusalem because of threats to his life and was staying in the safety of the Transjordan, the region where John the Baptist had baptized. Notified of his friend’s death, Jesus returned to Bethany, unconcerned for himself.
Death in its many forms was what Jesus came to take away, our gospel wants us to understand, and the dead Lazarus was a sign of what he wishes to do for all humanity. Lazarus was his friend, but Jesus, the Word made flesh, befriends the whole human race.
In the stirring conclusion of today’s gospel, Jesus calls the dead Lazarus from the tomb and “the dead man came out,” bound with the burial cloths that claimed him for death. “Untie him and let him go,” Jesus says. Those powerful, hopeful words are said to us too. We are called, not to die, but to live.
Later, on Calvary Jesus himself becomes our sign. A painful death does not claim him, nor will the grave hold him. He is our hope.
The same hope nourished Paul of the Cross: “ You ask me how I’m doing. I’m more sick than well and full of ailments. I can hardly write this…(but) I find it very good. Bearing the chains, the ropes, the blows, the scourges, the wounds, the thorns, the cross and death of my Savior, I fly to the bosom of the Father, where the gentle Jesus always is, and I allow myself to be lost in his immense Divinity.” (Letter 1925)
Like Martha, the sister of Lazarus, O Lord,
I believe you are the Resurrection and the Life.

Mission: Plainville, Ct April 4

Learning from Jesus Christ

We know Jesus Christ through the scriptures, and one goal of the Second Vatican Council was to promote the reading of scripture in the liturgy and catechesis of the church.

Scholars and believers have brought new insights from the scriptures into our faith and our church.  Our task now is to let the scriptures nourish our prayer and our reflections on our faith.

That’s a goal of our mission this week.

In the morning Masses we are going to reflect on the daily readings for Lent.

In the evening services for Monday and Tuesday we are going to reflect on the part of the Gospel of Matthew called the Sermon on the Mount which is read in the first part of lent. Jesus, our Teacher, tells us how to live and how to pray.

On Wednesday, we will go to another mountain, Mount Calvary, to learn from Jesus how to love.

This morning, the story of the official who approaches Jesus asking that he heal his son who is dying draws our attention to the mystery of death. Why does it happen? What does Jesus teach us about death?

He came to conquer death. “Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life, Lord Jesus come in glory.”

The two most important moments of our life are now and at the hour of our death.

Holy Mary, mother of God,

pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

The Sign of Jonah

Jonah himself wasn’t much of a sign, if you think about him. He fled fear-stricken from the mission God gave to preach to the great city of Nineveh, and when  the sailors on the boat from Joppa saw him as the curse that caused a storm and  threw him overboard to drown, he couldn’t stop them. That would have been the end of him  if God didn’t send a whale to swallow him and vomit him up on the shore at Nineveh.

An arrival like that caught the attention of the Ninevites; they listened to this man who came from the belly of whale and responded to his preaching by begging God for forgiveness.

So Jonah wasn’t much of a sign himself. The Ninevites would have ignored him if he just got off the boat from Joppa and preached to them. Instead,  he was someone brought back from death and sure destruction. God made him a sign of life.

In Jesus, a greater than Jonah is here. The mystery of his death and resurrection is at the heart of his mission, his great word, his message of hope, his sign of love for us.

The Sign of Jonah was a favorite theme early Christians used to decorate the places where they buried their death. The whale of death, monster of the sea, would not destroy humanity but deliver it to another shore, where a kingdom was waiting.

Can Haiti Help Us?

I’m reading these first days of Lent a book by Fr. Rick Frechette: Haiti: The God of Tough Places, the Lord of Burnt Men. He’s a priest, a doctor, a member of my community, the Passionists, who has been serving the poor in Haiti for over 20 years.

When the recent catastrophic earthquake struck on January 12, 2010 he was the  director of a 150 bed pediatric hospital for poor children near Port-au-Prince and was responsible for setting up some street schools for poor kids in the slums of the city and a program for bringing clean water into the slums by truck.

All of those projects came to a halt or suffered severe damage in the earthquake that killed over 230,000 people. Fr. Rick is rebuilding now. Not only is he rebuilding, he hopes to do more.

His book,  a compilation of reflections about his work in Haiti over the years, is more than a picture of what he’s doing. It’s more a story of God’s grace shining through human misery. Haiti is a tough burnt land, but God wisdom and beauty are there in a place its people call “Calvary’s Hill.”  God’s grace is always there where a cross is set up.

Frechette’s book, instead of making you ask  “What can we do for Haiti?” makes you ask rather “What can Haiti do for us?”.

What can we learn from the place that most of us don’t want to look at?

When Fr. Rick built his pediatric hospital for the poor, he made it the best children’s hospital in Haiti, because he said the poor deserve the best. That’s not the way we think in our part of the world, is it? With us, the poor more likely get the worst.

We believe in success and think we have a right to it. We can be successful if we try hard.  We  can be winners and we like winners; we don’t like losers.  We like the stars, the celebrities, not the failed and the broken. We grow impatient with intractable problems. We turn away from them. “You’re fired,” we say to them.

The wisdom Jesus teaches is different, however. “Whatever you do to the least, you do to me.” And he told us to bear our cross and to share the cross that others bear.

Fr. Rick’s stories are about beauty and grace in the least and God who reveals himself in the mystery of the Cross.

The ultimate human failure, of course, is death.  And here again, Fr. Rick has  some of Haiti’s wisdom to pass on to us.  As a doctor,  he heals, but as a priest he buries dead as well. The grace of God pursues us even to death.

A few weeks after the earthquake, Fr. Rick’s mother died. He was able to get to her bedside and celebrate her funeral in Wethersfield, Ct and this is what he said.

“My mother was diagnosed with cancer about 8 months ago.  Over these months she had time to think about her life and death, about all those she loved, and about her God.  With the care of the best physicians and nurses, with the full devotion of her husband and children, she met the end of her life in a beautiful way. Slowly dying during mass at her bedside, dying shortly after my sermon on the merciful presence of the Blessed Mother who is with us “now and at the hour of our death”, she died during the consecration of the sacred bread and wine.  I later asked my father, since mom died so soon after my talk, if he thought my words were lethal, and did mom in!  He replied quickly, “your sermon darn near killed us all.”

Imagine, the earthquake caused the death of 100,000 to the present count.  The death of these people was so different from the death of my mother.  Instead of 8 months to prepare, they had 34 seconds.  Instead of constant attention and affection from loving families and skilled doctors, buildings fell on them, trapped them, crushed them and isolated them.  Instead of being honored with a beautiful coffin, the precious white pall, the wonderful incense, they bloat and rot and make you turn your head and vomit.  Instead of being laid tenderly in the grave as we will do to my mother today, they are lifted from the street by backhoes and front end loaders and dumped into huge trucks..  It is so different, so tragic, sad beyond words.  Life has to end for everyone. But the way that life ended for Gerri Frechette is a cause of thanksgiving and joy, and our gratitude should make our hearts burst with zeal, to want to right the wrong for those whose death is a humiliation and a disgrace.

On January 6th as I came home from Haiti to stay with mom to the end, the Archbishop of Port au Prince, Joseph Serge Miot, asked me to let him know when mom died.  He wanted to come and officiate at her funeral.  On January 12th ,  just 6 days later, he was dead.  Within 34 seconds the earthquake threw him from his 3rd floor balcony to the patio below, and the chancery fell on top of him, and the cathedral fell on top of the chancery.  I tell you this for two reasons. First, to remember and pray for this kind pastor and bishop during this mass. And second, as an example of a simple reality.  Did he ever expect to be dead before my dying mother?  What are your expectations of your death?  How secure are you sitting here at the funeral?  Will you still be here in 6 days?  Or maybe will you also be gone, with 34 seconds to prepare?

The point is a simple one.  We cannot escape death.  We should learn everything we can about it.  This mass, this earthquake, should be a profound school of learning for us.  To die the right way we have to know the right way to live.  Right living is the preparation for right dying – even a death  that comes in 34 seconds.”

For more on him, see www.thepassionists.org