Echoes from the Rectory: ‘Death is not bad’
(POSTED: 11/26/12) November is a special month where we think and pray about our loved ones who have died. It is a time when we think about our own mortality and immortality. We think about carpe diem – to seize the day. Everything is passing. Nothing is static. The experience of time can be very brutal. How often have we said: “I can’t believe this is the end of the week” or “Is it really almost Christmas again?” We are surrounded by mortality. Each time we make a choice, other options die for us. Each time we go to sleep, the experience of day and time die for us. Each time we celebrate a birthday, we are closer to the day when we will be born into eternal life. Many of us are scared of that experience. We try to find all kinds of medications to keep us alive for as long as possible. We cling to this earthly life as if we don’t believe that there is something greater waiting for us on the other side.
Death is not bad. Death is good, even excellent. Death is an experience of liberation. We can finally live without pain, suffering, etc. According to our faith, we can finally see God face to face without any limitations. And yet, it is not easy. It is not easy for those who are left behind on this earth. We miss those who are on the other side of life. We want them to be with us. But what are those, who are on the other side, desiring for us? My guess is that they want us to join them and to experience their life. People who have had an after death experience have said that they did not want to come back to their earthly existence. They wanted to remain there. They wanted to be with the Light – God. Well, the month of November should challenge us, because sometimes some of us behave like an immortal atheist – a person who does not believe in heaven. During November we should deeply look at and challenge ourselves in the way we look at life . . . and death.
—St. Kieran Parish, Chicago Heights, the Rev. Michal Lewon, Nov. 11, 2012
A short while ago, with ashes on our foreheads, we publicly acknowledged our sinfulness and need for conversion. And yet, sometimes the season prompts a mere brief nod as we go about our busy lives. We rely on conversion as being the work of God much more than seeing it as the result of a six week period when we might make special effort to give up something or do something more. Vinita Hampton Wright, in her book, “Days of Deepening Friendship,” asks: “How do we experience conversion, a change of heart? Is it something that happens only to horrible people who decide one day to re-form, to change from being God’s enemy to becoming God’s friend? Or does each person—regardless of that person’s level of good and evil—need to make a change of heart or direction in order to encounter the God who created them and desires their company? Conversion is not something we simply decide to do as though this effort was solely in our power. True conversion involves the gradual reshaping of our consciousness to the point where we begin to view life in a new way. Change our hearts or remain the same! But it takes time to change our hearts. Tragedy, misfortune and longing for something true can be the catalyst that leads us to change. Often, we have to take many detours to finally realize that we have arrived to where we think we should be. But truly, we are never there until we take our last breath. Even when we are highly inspired to change, it is hard. We are creatures of comfort, and every change (even small) requires great effort. Actually, Wright points out that the typical conversion is one of many over a lifetime. By degrees, we turn to God. Wright talks about all the moments of our lives that are conversion folded into a lifelong conversion called faith. Actually, she points out that the typical conversion is one of many over a lifetime. Conversion is a daily effort to become more aware of how vulnerable to failure we are and how dependent on God’s mercy we are. It’s at that point that we let God be in charge of our lives. Let us pray for that grace.
–St. Anne Parish, Barrington, Sister Lauretta Leipzig, Oct. 21, 2012
Friday, October 26, was Cathy’s and my 44th anniversary. Over the course of those years we have been blessed with three wonderful children and eight lovely grandchildren. And of course, my blessing, Cathy. There were also many challenges that we had to face. One major challenge was when Cathy contracted German measles (rubella) when she was six weeks pregnant with our first born. The advice we received from two different doctors was to have an abortion. After many sleepless nights, discussions and prayer, Cathy, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, said there is no way she is not going to have this baby. He is now almost 42 years old and has a family of his own. I cannot think of life without him. Many times God sends us challenges that test our faith. We need to open our eyes and hearts as to where these challenges will lead us. Think about a time during the Liturgy of the Word when your eyes were opened, providing you with an insight which you later put into practice.
—Our Lady of Knock Parish, Calumet City, Deacon Tom Knetl, Oct. 28, 2012
Thanks to our wonderful pilgrims, and especially pilgrimage coordinator Michele Gonzales, our Year of Faith Pilgrimage was a great success! We brought your prayer petitions to the shrines, and we prayed for all of the parishioners at the holy places. Of course Niagara Falls and the trees in the Berkshires were beautiful, but the most beautiful thing was to experience God’s love for us in His Saints. We were present at the Mass of Thanksgiving for Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. There were over 6,000 people there for the event. We walked the grounds where St. Rene Goupil gave his life and also where St. Kateri grew up and was baptized. We experienced in a special way God’s Divine Mercy at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass. We heard a testimony of Deacon Bob Digan who talked about how his wife was healed through St. Faustina’s intercession and how the Vatican accepted this miracle. We also did a special Mass in honor of Blessed Pope John Paul II on his feast day. I believe that Blessed Pope John Paul II guided us on our Pilgrimage. It went so well that maybe we’ll do it again next year. Any interest?
–St. Patrick Parish, Yorkville, the Rev. Matthew Lamoureux, Oct. 28, 2012