Sunday, November 01, 2009

Communion of Saints

Resurrexit sicut dixit.  After nearly three weeks of battling flu like symptons which later developed into bronchitis, I am finally on the mend, just in time for All Saints and All Souls

When I was a child, I would immediatey turn to the comics page of the newspaper. As a seminarian, I would read the editorials. Now, at age 47, I read the obits just like my mom and dad did when we were growing up. I'm not old enough to be looking for classmates and contemporaries, mind you. I read the obituaries to see if there were parishioners or fallen away Catholics in my area who died but who did not have any funeral Mass or Catholic burial rites. Sadly, I see more and more. Former daily communicants or at least regular Sunday church-goers having only a viewing at the parlor and private ceremonies at the cemetery. Often, the adult children of the deceased who no longer practice their baptized religion, deny their own parents the last precious gift, a Catholic funeral and burial. Just because Johnny and Susie are in their fourth or fifth invalid marriage and cannot receive Holy Communion is no reason to deny their mom or dad a Catholic funeral. But it happens. Other times, even the deceased is lukewarm or non-practicing. Many times I get a call from the undertaker and do not recognize the name of the deceased because they have not gone to Mass in more than 20 years.

Read some of the obits. "Liked fishing" "enjoyed scrabble" "loved travel" etc.  RARELY, if ever, do you read: "was devout Catholic Christian" or "faithful church-goer and parishioner". Earthly accomplishments fill the obit. Don't get me wrong, I think we should honor the dead who served our nation and community. My dad was a WWII and Korean veteran from the Navy. A Knight of Columbus.  A loving husband and father. But he was also a God-fearing Christian; a devout Catholic. It is pathetic that virtually no spiritual connections or activities are found in many obituaries. Community service, yes.  Unless the person were a church secretary, however, you rarely read about their exemplary giving of time volunteering at their local parish. Then the funeral homily almost canonizes the person. No need for Masses for the dead, right, if the deceased must be in heaven already. What happened to PURGATORY? My two parishes get so few Mass intentions despite the usual number of deaths and funerals. Why? Because too many of my colleagues never preach on purgatory and on the efficacy of the Mass for departed souls. When I was a kid growing up in Erie, PA, everyone had a two day (afternoon and evening) viewing at the funeral parlor. Flowers were abundant but equally were the Mass cards from all the guests. No one would dare come to a Catholic viewing and not leave at least one Mass intention. Normally, the local parish (or the missions) received those and numerous Masses throughout the year were offered for that dead person.

Today, people only want a Mass IF they can attend as well. That means weekday Masses are the most forgotten. Yet, if only the priest and a server are present, the Communion of Saints is still at that Mass. The Saints in Heaven and the Souls in Purgatory as well as the universal church participate in the Mass for that deceased man or woman. The primary fruit of the Mass is for the departed soul but another fruit is the donor (as well as the priest who offers and those who attend the Mass). But today, minimalism rules. One token Mass intention is often the extent some Catholics remember their dead. I have to beg other parishes and dioceses to get weekdays Masses since we do not get enough from our own people. Yet, there are many dead parishioners with surviving relatives. As a priest, I very deliberately and carefully mention the name of the deceased at the proper place in the Eucharistic Prayer. Other priests mention it at the Prayers of the Faithful. Some only do it quietly at the altar. No matter how it is done, every priest offers every Mass for some intention, be it the departed soul or the special intentions of the living or for the people of the parish (pro populo). The Mass is the highest and most eloquent of all prayers and sadly, many Catholics deny this awesome gift to their deceased loved ones. If in heaven, it is no waste as the merits of the Mass are applied to someone else in need. But if our loved one IS in purgatory, how grateful will he or she be that we remembered AND assisted them the best way possible?

I will have to leave a note in my will to designate a certain amount of the estate (modest though it may be) be allocated to Masses for my immortal soul. IF I am lucky enough to get to Purgatory, I will WANT and NEED every Mass possible for my departed soul.


Dawn said...

Father, Glad to hear you are on the mend. Prayers for continued healing.

Anne said...

I love the chant!

Thank you for this reminder. I had sent in a prayer card to our Seminary asking for prayers for my deceased parents and baby, but there are so many more who I neglected, who could probably use the prayers. I think I'll send in an additional request with a few more souls names.

Catholic Mom of 10 said...

Same age as me!

Mary Jane said...

I stumbled across this posting and found it enlightening. As a church musician, I'm surprised when I read the obituaries and see Catholics having a service at the funeral home or graveside only. I thought it was just economics. Now I realize another dimension - that the family may not be interested or think it's important. Or may have their own personal issues with the faith (or total lack of interest therein). Of course, since most believe we either "go to sleep" like puppies or go straight to Heaven, who can blame them?

Thanks for the food for thought, Father.

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