Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Lorraine Helen Ellis, RIP—1 November 2012

19 January A.D. 2013

Readings on the Day of Burial

Funeral Mass

    Lorrie died on All Saints day last year.  Due to my recent illness, this was the first time we could get together to offer Holy Mass for her.  Lorrie was a remarkable lady, a traditional Catholic, and a tri-athlete.  A significant part of our library was her gift to us while still alive, and two or three pieces of her artwork grace the walls of this church.  But Catholics do not eulogize their dead, so this will not be about Lorrie, but rather about her attitude towards death—something that will be valuable for all of us.

    Lorrie already knew that she was seriously ill when she found a brief piece written by the Jesuit Father Daniel A. Lord, entitled “Cancer is my friend.”[1]  Father Lord died of lung cancer in 1955, and before his death wrote a short essay on the good fortune of not dying an un-provided death.   He wrote that before being diagnosed with cancer, he had always assumed that he “would die some day of an unexpected heart attack or stroke, and [he] dreaded that rather Sacrament-less death; cancer seemed kindly....”  What Father Lord was saying, and what Lorrie adopted, was the philosophy that a terminal illness gave one the reason to set one’s affairs in order and to be spiritually—Sacramentally—prepared for death.  One might die in bed, or along the side of a road, without the benefits of the Sacraments our Lord wants us to receive at the end of life—Confession, Holy Communion, and Extreme Unction.  To put it another way, a terminal illness tends to enforce the discipline necessary to die in the State of Grace.  Lorrie and Father Lord seem both to have exercised this discipline.

    But, perhaps we should ask ourselves if there is really any good reason why we should plan to do things any differently.  We are all mortal.  “Seventy is the number of our years, or eighty if we are strong,” says the Psalmist—a few live into their hundreds of years—nobody make it to two hundred.  We know with absolute certainty that everyone here will one day stand before the throne of God, who will weigh the good and the bad we have done in this life.  So why not be prepared for that judgment?  Is anyone here so sure that they will live so much as another day?  As one who recently woke up in a hospital intensive care unit, I can tell you that the night before I had expected at least a few more years, but when I woke up it was clear that I was lucky to be alive at all.  Not everyone gets that second chance.  So the plan is to not need a second chance, but to live every day with the knowledge that today might be the day.  If that seems difficult, consider the fact that Lorrie did precisely that.

    There are a few things that I always think are appropriate to mention whenever people gather like this to mourn their dead:

    We pray for the dead, that we might receive something for ourselves;  that by reflecting on the realities of life and death, of heaven and hell, we might be more motivated to keep His Commandments and receive His Sacraments in order to ensure our own eternal salvation.  These are things not just to talk about, for they are realities;  we might even say the only realities, for nothing else matters if we lose our souls.

     “It is therefore a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins.”[2]  While sins and the punishment due to sin may be forgiven during this life, our Lord speaks of sins forgiven “in the world to come.”[3]

    We pray for the dead that God will swiftly cleanse them of those small sins and imperfections that might keep them temporarily from enjoying the glory of heaven.  That, by His mercy, He might quickly forgive the punishment that is due to their sins in Justice.

    Finally, we pray for the dead, so that they will pray for us.  The souls in Purgatory need our prayers, for which they are eternally grateful.  Remember that they are God's saints, soon to share the glory of heaven with Him;  powerful intercessors on our behalf.  Let us not forget those who have gone before us, lest they forget to pray for us.




[2]   2 Machabees xii: 43-36.

[3]   Matthew xii: 32.



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