Tuesday, June 01, 2010

in memoriam



My Dad served in the US Navy for both World War II and the Korean War.  He died of Leukemia in 1998 just six months after my younger brother Joe was killed by an underage drunk driver. Although my father never talked about his military experience, he was nevertheless proud to have served his country in time of war. He and his two brothers went to war like the rest of the nation to fight the German Nazis, Imperial Japan and Mussolini's Blackshirts.  As our nation observed Memorial Day yesterday, I often think of the millions of Americans who never or just rarely pay their respect to the brave fallen heroes who died defending our land from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Many Catholics neglect to visit the cemetery to honor the dead and to pray for the souls of the faithful departed. It is becoming more rare for living relatives to have Masses offered for the deceased since many priests and deacons canonize the dead at their funeral. If no on is in Purgatory, why do they need a Mass (some ponder)?  Even those who do have the departed souls remembered at Mass sometimes neglect their natural law obligation to HONOR the dead by visiting their graves. Doing so on birthdays and anniversaries is a tradition which is disappearing, sad to say. I know of relatives of mine who could not find their own parents' grave if you asked them. Burying the dead is a corporal work of mercy.  Visiting the grave is part of that along with PRAYING for the deceased AND having Masses offered for them. It is NOT a question of EITHER ... OR but as Pope B16 often reminds us, it is BOTH ... AND.


7 comments:

Karen said...

Wait, those that die serving our country are canonized? Why?

Padre Giovanni Trigilio said...

NEVER said that. Those who die in service to our nation deserve HONOR and RESPECT. Canonization is about holiness and sanctity, which of course, are not exclusive of patriotism. My point is about honoring the dead as well as praying for the dead. Unlike radical Islamic Fascism which considers every fallen soldier a martyr, Christianity bases on heroic virtue and the sanctity of the life. Christian martyrdom occurs when one is an innocent victim and is killed merely because of your faith.

I have heard of a few cases where military personnel died heroically and with special zeal for souls that their holiness coincided with their patriotism and they are up for possible canonization.

Karen said...

Okay, that's what I thought. What did you mean then by "Masses offered for the deceased since many priests and deacons canonize the dead at their funeral."?

Padre Giovanni Trigilio said...

Fair question. What I meant was that too many clergy preach about the deceased as if they were recommending them for an award. While it is good to mention the good qualities of a departed soul, we should never forget we are all sinners and are all imperfect beings who make mistakes. That is why I try to briefly remind the congregation it is a proper thing to pray that the Good Lord FORGIVE 'any and all' sins and mistakes committed in life by the deceased AS WELL AS to reward him or her for all their good deeds, too. Yes, a soul can go directly to heaven but I suspect MANY must first be purified in Purgatory and some of the homilies I have heard make it sound as if the deceased were in heaven RIGHT NOW. If everyone believed that, then no one will pray for the poor soul. He or she may be in Purgatory and our prayers CAN and DO help only if we actually make them. If I presume most people go directly to heaven, I see no need for prayers or Masses for the dead. Being a priest 22 years and having MANY relatives on both my Polish and Italian sides of the family, I can honestly say most of my family were not bad enought to go to hell but not so good as to go directly to heaven. The only exception was my little brother Michael who suffered tremendously for his entire 26 years of life with Muscular Dystrophy. I beleive he is in heaven NOW. My other younger brother who died may still be in Purgatory, and he died at the age of 33. I pray for him and for my Dad and for my grandparents daily. If one or more are in heaven, it is not a waste of time as God sends His grace to someone else in need. However, were I NOT to pray for anyone, then no help is given at all. We should not trash the dead or speak ill of them via gossip, calumny or slander or even detraction. But neither should we casually 'canonize' every dead person as if they were Mother Theresa their whole life. We know better. Mediocrity is not sanctity. Holiness is not the absence of sin, it is the deliberate persuit of doing the will of God.

Karen said...

Thank you for the clarification! I understand what you were saying now. I didn't think that a priest had the power to canonize someone a saint, particularly only because they served our country. Although serving our country is a wonderful thing, and those people should be honored(like you said), that doesn't make them automatically saints. I figured it doesn't hurt anyone to pray for them or offer masses for them. It can only help. Whenever I pray for someone who died, I always ask God to apply that prayer to the poorest soul in purgatory if the one who I am praying for has already entered heaven.

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...

About "too many clergy preach about the deceased as if they were recommending them for an award"

I'm sorry to hear that the 'eulogy' custom is practiced in some Catholic churches. I've only heard something like that once, in a funeral mass where someone (unwisely, in my opinion) let a relative of the deceased give a speech.

That part of your post makes me appreciate the local customs even more. We say nice things (usually) about the deceased - but that's after the Mass, when we get together to socialize. 'Just lucky,' or somebody's looking after us. My vote is for the latter.

Padre Giovanni Trigilio said...

Better if the local bishop (everywhere) forabd eulogies at all Catholic Funeral Masses and only allowed them OUTSIDE of Mass, at the funeral parlor OR at the cemetery.

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