Developing the Desire For All that Really Matters

We live in an age where our comforts are many: air conditioning, electricity, running water, cars,  many of us have large house compared to fifty years ago, consumer products are abundant, cheap and easy to find, medical advances have staved off many diseases and improved the quality of life.

But comfort can confuse us and rob from us the one thing most necessary, the desire for God and to be with Him in heaven. This desire is our most essential desire and should be the focus of our whole life. It is to direct us to our proper end which is God and the things waiting for us in heaven. Jesus rebuked Martha for her focus on worldly concerns and told her that Mary, who preferred communion with him had “chosen the better part” and the “one thing necessary.” (cf Luke 10:38-42)

Creature comforts, when available to us in abundance as they are here and now have a way of misdirecting us. We are fooled into thinking that they are the source of our happiness and so we are always looking for the next worldly trinket or charm instead of God.

Even the way Church going Catholics and other Christians pray is alarming. Very often verbal prayers are heavily steeped in requests for better health, better finances, a new and more lucrative job, a more cooperative spouse, the success of some project and so forth. It is not wrong to pray for these things but when they so dominate our prayer it is almost as though we were saying to God, “Make this world a better place for me. Give me enough health, friends, and creature comforts and I’ll just stay here forever.”  Pretty sad really, but even our prayers can become too focused on this world and manifest that we have become forgetful that the greatest gift is God himself.

Our more recent fore-bearers saw things differently. A little as the 1oo years ago, most people in this world experienced life as brutal and short. Long hard days of physical labor, food supplies that were less sure, disease and poor medicine all led to lives that were  far less comfortable and more suddenly brief that what we in the west usually experience today. Some of the prayers of that time expressed that life was a vale (or valley) of tears and longing for heaven was a more common focus of  prayer.

We understandably have a natural fear of death, but as Christians we should increasingly long to be with God. With strong faith we can come to see our approaching death not as something to loathe but as the fulfillment of all our longings, for death opens the door toward God. The early Christians had an expression as recorded in the Didache Let grace come and this world pass away. Maranatha (Lord come). Amen (Did, 10)

Getting There – There’s an old Gospel Song that says, “I heard my mother say, ‘Give me Jesus. You may have all this world; just give me Jesus.’”  In my own life I heard people get to the mature point in their life when they could really say those words without any simulation or exaggeration. In particular I have in mind those I’ve been privileged to accompany toward death. For many of them these words become very real. My own mother died suddenly so I did not have the privilege of making that journey with her along the way. But My Father died after a year-long illness and my Grandmother too. I was able to walk with them in their final stages and I heard them say these words. And I knew it was time because only God can get you ready to say those words in a true and authentic way. I knew they really meant it and God was getting them ready for the great journey over to the other shore.

In the end, we have to desire heaven more  than this world and only God can cause this change and purge us from the many attachments we have to this world. It usually takes the dying process to get us there, though I suppose it shouldn’t have to. But, painful though it is to see, there is something quite beautiful about the  approach to death. I often see a letting go in those who approach death;  perhaps it is of worldly glories, old grudges, preoccupations and many worries. Little by little these things fall away and the “one thing necessary” replaces them. It is merely this:  that we sit at the feet of Jesus and wait for him to bring us over. There comes a moment when those who are dying with faith can truly saying the words of Psalm 27 : There is only one thing I ask of the LORD; this alone I seek: That I  may dwell in the LORD’S house all the days of my life and gaze upon his  beauty.

What do you want? What do you long for? Maybe it’s God! I know, its probably a lot of other things too. But if you’re faithful God can get you to the point where you can truly say: Give me Jesus. You may have all this world. Just Give me Jesus.

Pray to desire God above every thing and everyone. Pray along with this beautiful rendition of the Old Song: Give Me Jesus

The Four Last Things

Traditional Catholic theology has distinguished the “Four Last Things” : Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. We are admonished to meditate upon these things frequently. We WILL die, be judged, and spend eternity either in Hell, or in Heaven (likely after some time in purgatory). All men are appointed to die once, and after that face The judgment (Hebrews 9:27) The video posted below is  of a song by Johnny Cash on the topic of judgment. Here are some of the words:

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time, run on for a long time
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down
Go tell that long tongue liar,
go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter
Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut ‘em down.

We will all one day die, or as the song puts it, be cut down. We will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (cf 2 Cor 5:10;  Heb 4:13; 1 Peter 4:5).

The reality of judgment and the possibility of Hell bothers a lot of modern Christians who have had God’s love emphasized to the exclusion of just about everything else about God. For example that He is Truth, and utterly Holy, that nothing unholy can tolerate His presence and so forth.

How to explain the possibility of Hell to a generation with a rather simplified notion of God? Perhaps the word “respect” can help. God want to save us all and have us live with him forever. This is clear in Scripture. But God has made us free and wants us to freely love Him and accept His invitation. This is His respect for our freedom. Now everyone want to go to heaven as they describe it. But NOT EVERYONE wants to go to real heaven which is God’s Kingdom in perfection. You see, in heaven, God’s Kingdom,  there is love for the truth, love for chastity, love for the poor, love for justice, love for one another, mercy and forgiveness are esteemed and God is at the center. But NOT EVERYONE wants these things. Not everyone wants the truth, wants to be chaste, not everyone wants to forgive and love everyone. Not everyone wants God to be at the center, they prefer that spot for themselves or some other idol. As we discussed a couple of days ago many people can’t stand to go to Church at all, or if they do they want it to be as short as possible. If we don’t want to spend time with God here what makes us think we will want to do so after death? If the liturgy is boring or loathsome to someone now what makes them think they will enjoy the liturgy of heaven? And The Scriptures clearly describe heaven as primarily a liturgy of praise (cf esp. Rev 4-8) centered on God. So God invites, but not all accept or are interested in the real heaven to which God invites them. In the end, God respects our choice and this is why there is Hell, it is for those who do not want what the Kingdom of God is. God still sustains the souls in Hell but he ultimately respects their choice to reject the Kingdom and its values.

So we ought to pray for a deepening desire for heaven. Death is on the way, sooner or later we will all be cut down. And the Lord Jesus will judge us among other things with this question: “What is it that you want??”  Do not think that we will magically change at that moment. By that time our choice for the Lord and his Kingdom or for something else will be firmly fixed. Behaviors become habits, habits become character, character becomes destiny.

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years(Deut 30:19-20)

Ponder this video:

A View To Die For – 32 Story High Rise Cemetery!

Well I guess I am not surprised to learn that as land values continue to rise, space for cemeteries gets scarce! I have seen more and more mausoleums be built at the local cemeteries and they are getting taller as the years go on. But the picture to the right really takes the concept to new levels! The picture is  The Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica III, a vertical cemetery in Santos, Brazil. It  is the world’s tallest cemetery, with burial spaces on 32 floors. There’s also a restaurant, chapel, lagoon and peacock garden. It has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Santos.

I don’t know what to say really. There is nothing wrong with the concept insofar as Catholic teaching goes and perhaps it is a better or more efficient use of land than our current American approach. It just takes some getting used to. I might have some concerns too in the event of an earthquake or the like. Also, will the building be maintained well once it is full? But that is a problem even with traditional cemeteries. Here in DC we have had several non-Catholic cemeteries that were full and then went into terrible disrepair (eg. Woodlawn, Congressional and Rock Creek) requiring the local community to come to the rescue. Once a cemetery fills and no longer has an income stream it tends to be neglected. Recent laws require cemeteries to establish an endowment to provide for perpetual care. Hopefully that is the case here.

While we are on the topic, a few random thoughts on Christian burial and cemeteries to offer:

  1. Regular visits to cemeteries have declined in recent years. As the practice of praying for the repose of the dead has fallen (shame on us) there are also fewer visits to gravesides. It is true many are busy but such visits provide us a way to honor those who have preceded us in death and gives us a context in which to pray for them and remember our own mortality.
  2. When I go to cemeteries I experience a strange kind of peace. As I look about and see all the head stones it occurs to me that all these people had struggles like me. They had worries, joys, successes and failures,  gains and losses. Perhaps like me they got all worked up about things from time to time. But all that is over now. If they were faithful they have gone on to God, perhaps by way of purgatory. Nothing here remains for long. We all return to the dust and our soul flies away. Cemeteries give me a kind of perspective that brings peace. An old spiritual says “Soon I will be done with the troubles of the world, goin’ home to live with God”
  3. The Church does not encourage but does permit cremation. I am seeing more of it in recent years. But a concern has also arisen as this practice increases. It seems to me that not all families are arranging for immediate burial of the ashes. Too often long periods of time elapse after the funeral but before interment of the ashes. On a few occasions I have had to call the family and gently remind them of the requirement for proper burial or repose in a mausoleum. When there is a body, burial is soon for obvious reasons. But ashes don’t present the same urgency to many. So the funeral Mass comes and goes and the family says they have arranged burial at a later time. But the phone does not ring and I get busy and forget. Let’s be clear, the fireplace mantle is NOT an appropriate place to retain ashes. Proper burial or placement in a cemetery is required and essential. Neither is it ever appropriate to scatter ashes. No matter how meaningful this may seem,  human remains are not to be scattered.
  4. Catholic Cemeteries are preferred for the burial of Catholics because the ground is consecrated. It is true that a priest can bless a grave in any non-Catholic cemetery. But the consecrated ground of a Catholic cemetery is special. Further, the Catholic practice of regular prayers for the dead are properly observed in Catholic cemeteries. Each year on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (Sept. 15) and also on Memorial Day  masses are offered at Catholic cemeteries. Other devotions, such as stations of the cross and rosary processions are also offered and all the dead buried there benefit from the help of these regular prayers. Catholic Cemeteries are special places for Catholics.

Remember to pray for the dead. Prepare also for your own death by regular recourse to confession, Holy Communion every Sunday, daily prayer, daily scripture, repent of your sins and pray to be delivered from a death sudden and unprepared. Requiescant in Pace (May they rest in peace).

Death to Life


 The second thing that struck me about Rome was death. Tombs, funerary monuments, dead bodies (corrupt and incorrupt), instruments of torture, catacombs, etc. I felt such gravity.

As I reflected on this, I realized something that I had known rationally before but perhaps not spiritually, that brutal murders, decaying bones, and marble coffins aren’t an end but a doorway.

A few weeks before my trip, a priest at my parish had reminded us that each time we hear the Mass we recall that we live this life in view of the next:

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I guess I was experiencing some anxiety about seeing all these physically dead people, but once I realized that they were spiritually alive and well in Heaven, the whole experience took on a new meaning.

It became like making new friends! Like, “Hey St. Catherine of Siena, how’s it going?” Or “Wow St. Monica, is that really you?” It was very moving saying “Thank you, St. Josémaria Escriva” as I was kneeling before his tomb.

My journey from the darkness of death to the hope of eternity with our Savior was yet another spiritual fruit of my trip to Rome. I’m sure other fruits will emerge, but I’m very grateful for the two I’ve written about here!

On the”Beauty”of Dying

As a priest it has been my privilege to accompany many on their final journey as they prepare for death. Some have gone quickly others have lingered for years in nursing homes. From a pure worldly perspective death seems little less than a disaster and a cause for great sadness. But from a perspective of faith there is something “beautiful” going on. I know you may think it bold that I describe it this way but in the dying process something necessary and beautiful is taking place. It is born in pain but it brings forth gifts and glory if we are faithful.

In particular I see two scriptures essentailly fulfilled in many who are dying.

  1. And Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3). When I walk the halls of nursing homes I behold a rather astonishing thing: Men and women who raised families, ran businesses, protested bravely in the Civil Rights Movement, fought wars, gave sage advice to their children, commanded respect in their workplace and communities, most of these have become like little children. Some can no longer walk, some need to be fed, some cry and need consolation, some hold dolls, many wear diapers, some can no longer talk, many need constant care. “Ah, how tragic,” the world says. But an increasing part of me sees a beauty,  for they are changing and becoming like little children. A kind of innocence is being restored and a complete dependence without which they may never make it to heaven. Now their status as little children is fully evident and theybecome humble enough for heaven. Painful but beautiful, very beautiful. A very dear friend of mine died a couple of years ago. Catherine had been the Pastoral Associate and business manger of the parish of my first pastorate. I depended on her for practically everything and she knew just about everything, having been at the parish for over 50 years. Rather suddenly she came down with a rare and aggressive form of Alzheimer’s disease. Within 6 months of diagnosis she no longer remembered anyone. And yet there was a childlike joy that came over her. She had a favorite doll she hugged close and when I would walk in the room she would light up. She no longer recognized me as far as I could tell but she loved company. And she would sing, without clearly understood words but it seemed a kind of childlike nursery song. A remarkable thing to see. Here was a woman I had so thoroughly depended on now in such a state. But she was happier than I had ever seen her. She had become like a little child and it was clear  that God was preparing her for heaven. That was a gift, though a painful one.  And another great gift was this: Almost to her last day she never failed to recognize Jesus in the Eucharist. Long after she had stopped recognizing anyone else she still received communion with great devotion. She might be humming or looking around but as soon as I reached in my pocket for the pyx, she stopped, looked and made the sign of the cross and folded her hands. That was years of training and faithfulness. It was a beautiful testimony of her undying faith in the Eucharist and her last lesson to all of us.
  2. There is only one thing I ask of the Lord, this alone I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life and gaze on the beauty of the Lord within his temple.(Psalm 27:4)  Now I suppose most of us who are still healthy and reasonably active would have a hard time really praying this prayer absolutely. The fact is we want a lot of things: a pay increase, creature comforts, good health, for the project we are working to go well, and yes, somewhere in all that, God too and heaven, but later. You understand, heaven can wait. And yet how obtuse our desires can be. It’s really quite strange to want anything more than God and heaven, but, fact is, many struggle to want God more than the things of this earth. Somehow God has to gently purge us of earthly desires so that, little by little, all we want is Him. And here too the dying process is so important and beautiful. Little by little in life we give back to God our abilities, our health, many of our loved ones. And finally we are led to that place in our dying days when we are given the grace to give everything back. I remember my father saying to me in his final weeks, “I just want to be with God.” I heard my grandmother say that too and many other I have accompanied on their final journey,  “I just want to be with God.” And they meant it too. It wasn’t  a slogan now. They had given everything back, their treasure was now in heaven. They had sold all they had for the “pearl of great price.” Now they could sing the words of the old spiritual: “You may have all this world, just give me Jesus.” For just about all of us it will take the dying process to get us to the place where we too can say, “There is only one thing I ask of the Lord, this alone I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life and gaze on the beauty of the Lord within his temple.”

And so there it is, the “beauty” of dying. It is a strange and painful beauty to be sure but it is beautiful nonetheless. In an age of euthanasia that sees no purpose, no value in the dying process, we do well to behold and proclaim its strange but true beauty. We ought not fail to recognize the dignity of the dying who fulfill scripture as they make their final passage. Surely we grieve but through faith we also perceive a strange and wonderful beauty.

One of the finest hymns about dying was written by Henry F. Lyte in 1847. He wrote this as he approached his own death from tuberculosis:

  • Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
  • The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
  • When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
  • Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
  • Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
  • Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
  • Change and decay in all around I see—
  • O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
  • Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
  • Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
  • Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
  • In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Good Grief

As a priest I walk with a lot of people in their grief. It’s a regular part of priesthood but lately it’s been hard and heavy:

  • A parishioner lost her 4 year old nephew when, climbing on a dresser, it fell over on him and he was killed
  • Another parishioner lost her 25 year old son, know well to us all, when he was shot to death.
  • Our beloved receptionist at the parish went home last Friday, apparently healthy,  and died in her sleep.
  • The mother of our previous pastor, known and loved by all in this parish died last week after a long illness.

Grief is one of the most painful and terrible emotions we can experience. It can crush us like a ton of bricks or loom over us like a dark cloud. Sometimes in sudden loss we just go numb only to discover that numbness is not a lack of feeling at all. It is a feeling, a kind of general malaise lurking in us like a low grade depression. Grief sometimes comes in cycles. One day we think we are finally getting better and suddenly we’re back in the soup, for no particular reason we can discern and we wonder what we did wrong.

Grief just has a life of its own. I often tell people that you can’t get around grief you just have to go through it and experience it to its top. It seldom lets us off the hook. It has something to say to us, something to give us.

I have often thought the gift that grief gives us is love. Many years ago Simon and Garfunkel sang the song “I am a Rock, I am an Island.” The song celebrated a loveless solitude and declared “If I never loved I never would have cried.” The final line of the song said, “And a rock feels no pain, and an Island never cries.”  Perhaps they do not. But we who love do cry and grieve. And it is precisely the grief that can deepen our love.

Many years ago (1990) my sister died in a fire. She had been mentally ill all her life and I struggled to relate to her. In many ways I feared her. When I first got news she had died in the fire I just went numb. We in the family wondered if we might be able to view her body or not. The funeral director told us we could view her privately but since her skin has been singed in the fire it was too delicate to touch her. Further, because of this,  he had not been able to adjust her face in any way. Nevertheless he thought she was presentable enough for the family to have a private viewing. We I looked upon my sister and saw her face it was very clear that she was crying when she died. For the first time in my life I wept for my sister and lamented the awful mental illness that had caused her such hardship. For the first time I understood her dignity. I guess I am sorry that it took her death for me to come to that appreciation and love of her. But that was the gift that my grief gave me, it intensified my love for my sister. I still cry from time to time when I think of that moment. It was painful but it was a gift and it remains so.

If we let it, our grief will bring us gifts in strange packages. Because of it our love and respect for those we have lost is intensified. Our longing for union with them one day again is deepened and our memories of them become more precious. It is true that the intensity of grief may lessen over the years but most of us know it never completely departs. Why should it? If we love there should always be a part of us that cannot bear to be apart from those we love. We grieve because we love and thank God we love, thank God we love.

Nothing can fill the gap when we are away from those we love, and it would be wrong to try and find anything. We must simply hold out and win through. That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time it is a great consolation, since leaving the gap unfilled preserves the bonds between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap. God does not fill it, but keeps it empty so that our communion with each other may be kept alive, even at the cost of pain. Dietrich Bonhoeffer  – Letters from Prison

Here is a video that depicts grief. I hope you’ll listen closely to the words of the song for they eloquently describe grief. The video portion shows a young woman lamenting the loss of her boyfriend. She struggles to be free of her grief even to the point of tearing up one of his letters. But the problem is not on the paper, it is in her heart. The only way to respect her grief and be free of its strongest shakles is to accept the gift it brings, love undying.

I’m in the Holy Land this week until November 8th. I have scheduled blogs that will appear each day while I’m away so stay tuned! My participation in the comments however may be a little light since my time with the internet will be sporadic. Comments will be moderated by someone else on the team and I’ll participate when I can. – Msgr Pope.

Grateful and Brokenhearted


Sadness of Death

Recently, in response to an expression of sympathy, one of my wife’s colleagues was thanking friends and neighbors for their prayers after the recent death of her mother. She signed her thank you note, “Grateful and brokenhearted.”

This colleague is a faithful Christian and professes her belief in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Nonetheless, the grief of such a loss is very real and, at times, very painful. My wife and I thought that her signature, “grateful and brokenhearted,” captures the feeling many Christians experience as we mourn the loss of a loved one while remaining thankful to a merciful God.

All Souls Day

As we approach The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day), I would like to take the next few posts to explore grief and the ways a faithful Christian can express, and perhaps overcome, grief.

It begins with All Souls Day. At Masses throughout the world, we will hear the Evangelist John tell us that Jesus said, “For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day.”

Let us start tomorrow by being grateful for a merciful God that loves us so much that he sent his only Son to save us. Let us also pray that God will mend our broken hearts as we remember the faithful departed in our prayers.

More on this in the coming days!

I Wonder If We Forgot Something Important

I was busy Saturday….A wedding and later another Mass….So I didn’t get to see wall to wall coverage of the funeral for Senator Edward Kennedy. So… I may have missed something and you will correct me if I’m wrong. But here is my question: Did we pray for the happy reposeof his soul? As I went back and forth preparing this and that I saw parts of the funeral on TV. Surely I heard lots of praise for Mr. Kennedy. But did we pray or merely praise? Particularly alarming were the intercessory prayers of the congregation where the congregation prays for the deceased. They were directed not to Mr. Kennedy’s reposeor to the dead in general but rather to praise of his vision and the prayers for various causes. Not wrong per se but out of place at a funeral Mass at the very time we should be praying for the happy repose of of the deceased. Did we pray?

When I die please promise me that you’ll pray for me. You see, I’ll  have a journey to make. I have an appointment to keep. The scriptures all say it but we like to ignore it:

  1. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.  (2 Cor 5:10-11)
  2. For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God. (Rom 14:10-11)

So when we die we are judged. We ought to pray a lot for those who have died. It is an awesome thing to go to God and to render and account. We who remain behind ought to offer heartfelt prayers for the faithful departed. And so I must indicate so frustration with many Catholic Funerals I have observed, both televised and not. Too often there are bold proclamations of how the deceased is in heaven now, in a better place, etc. Confidence in God’s mercy is good, but to completely ignore the  judgment that Scripture promises and make no mention of it is poor pastoral practice and robs the dead of the prayers they are due.

Consider this, what if I were to say at a funeral “John Jones is in Hell and there’s no use praying for him.” Now you would be rightfully angry and tell me that I was “judging him.” And you would be right. I would be making a judgement I had no right to make. But don’t you see, if I say “John Jones is in heaven now” and do not ask you to pray, that I am sitting in the very same judgement seat and making a judgment that is NOT mine to make?

“But Father, but Father….What about confidence in God’s mercy and joy?”  These are fine and have their place but they should be balanced with a sober appreciation that the dead can use our prayers. AND I actually HAVE God’s mercy in mind when I say we ought to pray for the dead who go to judgement. Remember, God has made a promise to us that when he was finished with us that we would be perfect as the heavenly father is perfect (Matt 5:48) Now are you there yet? What if you died today? Do you think the Lord will leave his work undone in you? That’s not very merciful. St. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to completion.” (Phil 1:6) God is faithful to the promises he has made and he will not leave anything undone in us. But again let me ask you, if you died today are you perfect yet? You know you’re not. We all fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). All of us are carrying things in us that we cannot bring to heaven. Not just our sins, but also sorrows, regrets, painful memories and hurts. You know you can’t bring this stuff to heaven, it wouldn’t be heaven! So the Lord has to purge these things from us.  Maybe that is what Scripture means when it says of the dead that Jesus will wipe every tear from their eyes (Rev 21:4).

Hence, when we die we are judged by God. But the judgement is not just between heaven and hell but as to whether Jesus’ work is complete in us yet. If it is not he will see that it is brought to completion. Here is the Catholic Dogma of Purgatory. It is purgatory where we let go of things for the last time, where we have tears wiped from our eyes and we have false notions corrected and where we shed the final vestiges of the world. Does it take tiem? How long? I don’t know. What is time even like after we leave this world and if there is the passage of time there, how does it square up with our assage of time? I don’t know. Just pray. Our beloved dead can use our prayers.

So, when I die, will you pray for me? Don’t talk too much at my funeral about what a great guy I was, only God is good. Don’t make silly statements about how I’m up there leading the music in heaven. Just pray because I’m probably, off to purgatory and could use your prayers. If I died today (not planning on it) I know I’d  have some tears to be wiped from my eyes, some rough edges to my personality that need smoothing, some intellectual misunderstandings to be set right, some attachments to be freed of. I cannot judge myself, but applying Catholic doctrine to my situation it’s looks like I’d be bound for purgatory. So pray.

Finally let me ask you again, in the funeral rites yesterday for Senator Kennedy did you pray? Did WE pray? Oh, I know we said the usual prayers in the ritual. But honestly, things seemed more than a little out of balance to me. Celebrate what is good? Sure. But Edward M Kennedy shares the human condition and we all fall short of what God has in store. I am not his judge, but I can pray. If he is like me, purgation may well be necessary. I don’t know what sins or hurts he brought to the grave with him. But he did go to judgement and we ought to pray. And yes, I’ll mention the unmentionable: he was wrong on abortion and several other Catholic Moral teachings. Where we are wrong, the Lord needs to set us right. Mr. Kennedy was right on other moral issues and the Lord can grant reward for that as well.  But just pray. Pray for him and all your beloved dead. Our modern understanding  of death needs to come back to a proper focus: hope and confidence in God’s mercy? Yes! But balanced with a sober appreciation of judgment that awaits us all.