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TO A PARENT WHOSE SON OR DAUGHTER HAS DIED

“Death, the sad inheritance of every son of Adam, which no one will escape, is not the end of everything, but rather the beginning of that blessed life which is the only one worthy of being gained. All will pass in this world, from the most humble things to the most grandiose, but eternal life will remain without end, in which there will be no mourning.

MERE WORDS SEEM TO BE OUT OF PLACE IN THIS AGONY

The letter by St Basil the Great: ‘I hesitated to address you due to your dignity, from the idea that, just as to the eye when inflamed even the mildest of remedies causes pain, so to a soul distressed by heavy sorrow, words offered in the moment of agony, even though they do bring much comfort, seem to be somewhat out of place.

But I bethought me that I should be speaking to a Christian woman, who has long ago learned godly lessons, and is not inexperienced in the vicissitudes of human life, and I judged it right not to neglect the duty laid upon me. I know what a mother’s heart is and when I remember how good and gentle you are to all, I can reckon the probable extent of your misery at this present time. You have lost a son whom, while he was alive, all mothers called happy, with prayers that their own might be like him, and on his death bewailed, as though each had hidden her own in the grave.

But our lives are not without Providence, so we have learnt in the Gospel, for not a sparrow falls to the ground without the will of our Father (cfr. Mt 10:29). Whatever has come to pass has come to pass by the will of our Creator. And who can resist God’s will? Let us accept what has befallen us; for if we take it ill we do not mend the past and we work our own ruin. Do not let us arraign the righteous judgment of God. We are all too untaught to assail His ineffable sentences. The Lord is now making trial of your love for Him. Now there is an opportunity for you, through your patience, to take the martyr’s lot. The mother of the Maccabees (cfr. 2 Mac 7) saw the death of seven sons without a sigh, without even shedding one unworthy tear. She gave thanks to God for seeing them freed from the fetters of the flesh by fire and steel and cruel blows, and she won praise from God, and fame among men. The loss is great, as I can say myself; but great too are the rewards laid up by the Lord for the patient.

DO NOT MEASURE YOUR LOSS BY ITSELF, IF YOU DO IT WILL SEEM INTOLERABLE

When first you were made a mother, and saw your boy, and thanked God, you knew all the while that, a mortal yourself, you had given birth to a mortal. What is there astonishing in the death of a mortal? But we are grieved at his dying before his time. Are we sure that this was not his time?

We do not know how to pick and choose what is good for our souls, or how to fix the limits of the life of man. Look around at all the world in which you live; remember that everything you see is mortal, and all subject to corruption.

Look up to Heaven; even it shall be dissolved; look at the sun, not even the sun will last forever. All the stars together, all living things of land and sea, all that is fair on earth, aye, earth itself, all are subject to decay; yet a little while and all shall be no more. Let these considerations be some comfort to you in your trouble. Do not measure your loss by itself; if you do it will seem intolerable; but if you take all human affairs into account you will find that some comfort is to be derived from them.

MERE WORDS I KNOW CANNOT GIVE COMFORT

Mere words I know cannot give comfort. Just now what is wanted is prayer, and I do pray the Lord Himself to touch your heart by His unspeakable power, and through good thoughts to cause light to shine upon your soul, that you may have a source of consolation in yourself.'”
– This letter by St Basil the Great to the wife of Nectarius was published in “De Vita Contemplativa” (Monthly Magazine for Monasteries), issue Number 11, Year VII.

 
 

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WEEP NO MORE! PRAY INSTEAD AT THE GRAVES OF YOUR DEAD LOVED ONES; IT MAKES THEM HAPPY, AND SO THEY MAY INTERCEDE TO GOD FOR YOU AND YOUR AFFAIRS FROM ON HIGH

THEY SEE WHAT WE CAN ONLY HOPE FOR

THE OBJECT OF LIFE

“They sleep below, in the cold ground, your beloved dead. May they rest in peace! What! the mere thought of those who are dear to you causes you sadness? Oh! weep no more; they sleep in the Lord; they rest in the shadow of His cross; they see what we can only hope for. How happy they are!

Pray above their tombs, in order that they may intercede from on high in your favour; pray; for nothing rejoices these dear absent ones like the perfume of your prayers, mounting to the throne of God.

Meditate above their graves, and you will recognise the insignificance of temporal things, you will understand at last that Heaven should be the one goal of our lives, and that our unceasing occupation should be to amass treasures for eternity.”
– Lacordaire

 
 

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TODAY’S BIBLE READING I (1 KINGS 17:17-24)

After this, the son of this housewife became ill. And such was his illness that he stopped breathing. She then said to Elijah, “What did you do, O man of God? Have you come to uncover past sins and cause my son’s death?” He answered, “Give me your son.”

Taking him from her lap, he carried him up to the upper room where he was staying and laid him on his own bed. Then he called on the Lord, “O Lord, my God, will you afflict even the widow with whom I am residing by letting her son die?” Then he stretched himself on the child three times and called on the Lord, “O Lord, my God, let this child’s breath return to him.” The Lord listened to the pleading of Elijah and the child’s breath returned to him, and he lived. Elijah then took the child and brought him down from the upper room. He gave him to his mother and said, “See, your son is alive.”

Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I am certain that you are a man of God, and that your words really come from the Lord.”

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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PRAYER WHEN SORELY MISSING A LOVED ONE WHO HAS DIED

Father of all mercies and God of consolation, you love us eternally and transform the shadows of death into the dawn of life. Look upon our grief; be our refuge and comfort so that our sadness and sorrow may turn into the light and peace of your presence.

In dying, your Son destroyed death; in rising, he restored life. Grant that at the end of our earthly pilgrimage we may be found in his company with our brothers and sisters. There, you shall wipe away every tear. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

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SHORT PRAYER FOR DEPRESSION AND GRIEF

O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.

Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things.
Amen.
– St Ignatius

 

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“THE SIMPLE WAY HOLDS THE KEY TO THE TRUTH OF THE RESURRECTION”

SPIRITUAL LIFE – THE FINAL JOY

“… In the silence, the words of Psalm 41 come to mind:

‘Like the deer that yearns
For running streams,
So my soul is yearning
For you, my God.’

Cardinal Hume said in his homily on Easter Sunday 1983: “Death remains about the one certain fact in the lives of each one of us, and there will be suffering, sorrow and sadness next week as there was last week. As we have the audacity to sing: ‘This day was made by the Lord and we rejoice and be glad.’ Empty words? Tragic escapism? The unreality of religion? Dope to quieten the people? ‘This day was made by the Lord and we rejoice and be glad.’ The greatest gift we have is Christian hope!”

As a child I was raised in the magnificent Salvation Army and later as a (Strict) Baptist, living in the world of evangelism and evangelicals – not a bad world to live in. In this environment I became very fond of the profound writings of the great C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), an English Baptist minister who preached his first sermon at 16 and at 22 was the most popular preacher of his day. His sermon called ‘My Redeemer Liveth’ is most compelling:

‘We would be wise to remember that our Lord has risen from the dead and lives eternally. You are not asked to trust in a dead Jesus but One who, though He died for our sins, has risen again for our justification. You may go to Jesus at once as a living and present friend. He is not a mere memory.’

I remember in my mid-teens, in the early 1970s in Lancashire, trying to see a priest about returning to the Catholic Church. It was nearing Easter. I had hesitated for ages, fearful. It was late on a Saturday evening and finally I had the courage to ring his doorbell – not the best time to visit a priest! A very elderly priest came to the door and, after a few words, I found myself with a copy of the Penny Catechism in one hand and a glass of martini in the other. We became firm friends instantly.

The priest read me the Catechism: Who made me? God made me. Why did he make me? To know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and be happy with Him forever in the next. After a while he heard my Confession and we were at peace. He asked me to do the readings at his Easter Vigil. He died not that many years later, a true pastor of souls, with love and a sense of humour.

I have always found that the simple way holds the key to the truth of the Resurrection. For me, it is the profound example of the saint and poet of Assisi, who spoke of the Resurrection and suffered the cross.

As the late Franciscan friar Fr Murray Bodo once wrote, when St Francis’ friend, Sister Death, came to him, with his friars praying over him, he knew he would be embraced soon by her. He looked at the blurred faces of his friars one by one, loving them with his blindness as he had with his eyes. Then he asked Brother Elias to strip him of his habit so that he could be totally naked on the ground. This was sadly rejected. St Francis was deprived of his own will: to die with nothing of his own on his back. As he lay on the ground the final joy shot through his whole body. He would die now like Jesus, his brother and Lord: poor and clothed only in a borrowed habit, waiting for Jesus to come to him.

O Divine Master
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

The horrific Cross and the crib of life are but one eternal reality – until the Lord comes:

I saw Christ’s glory as he rose!
The angels were attesting,
Shroud with grave-clothes resting.
Christ, my hope, has risen:
He goes before you in Galilee.
That Christ is truly risen from the dead we know.
Victorious king, thy mercy show!”
– This is an excerpt of an article by Fr Michael Seed, published in March 2013 in “The Catholic Herald”.

 

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WHAT HAPPENS ON GOOD FRIDAY?

On this day, when ‘Christ our passover was sacrificed’, the Church meditates on the Passion of her Lord and Spouse, adores the Cross, commemorates her origin from the side of Christ on the Cross, and intercedes for the salvation of the whole world.

On this day, in accordance with ancient tradition, the Church does not celebrate the Eucharist: Holy Communion is distributed to the faithful during the celebration of the Lord’s Passion alone, though it may be brought at any time of the day to the sick who cannot take part in the celebration.

Good Friday is a day of penance to be observed as of obligation in the whole Church through abstinence and fasting.

All celebration of the sacraments on this day is strictly prohibited, except for the sacraments of Penance and Anointing of the Sick. Funerals are to be celebrated without singing, music, or the tolling of bells.

It is recommended that on this day the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer be celebrated with the participation of the people in the churches.

The Celebration of the Lord’s Passion is to take place in the afternoon, at about three o’clock. The time will be chosen as shall seem most appropriate for pastoral reasons in order to allow the people to assemble more easily, for example, shortly after midday, or in the late evening, however, no later than nine o’clock.

The Order for the celebration of the Lord’s Passion (the liturgy of the Word, the adoration of the Cross, and Holy Communion) stems from an ancient tradition of the Church and should be observed faithfully and religiously; it may not be changed by anyone on his own initiative.

The priest and ministers proceed to the altar in silence, and without any singing. If any words of introduction are to be said, they should be pronounced before the ministers enter. The priest and ministers make a reverence to the altar, prostrating themselves. This act of prostration, which is proper to the rite of the day, should be strictly observed, for it signifies both the abasement of ‘earthly man’, and also the grief and sorrow of the Church. The faithful, for their part, should be standing as the ministers enter, and thereafter should kneel in silent prayer.

The readings are to be read in their entirety. The responsorial psalm and the chant before the Gospel are to be sung in the usual manner. The narrative of the Lord’s Passion according to John is sung or read in the way prescribed. After the reading of the Passion, a homily should be given, at the end of which the faithful may be invited to spend a short time in meditation.

The General Intercessions are to follow the wording and form handed down by ancient tradition, maintaining the full range of intentions, so as to signify clearly the universal effect of the Passion of Christ, who hung on the Cross for the salvation of the whole world. In case of grave public necessity the local Ordinary may permit or prescribe the adding of special intentions.

In this event it is permitted that the priest select from the prayers of the Missal those more appropriate to local circumstances, in such a way however that the series follows the rule for General Intercessions.

For veneration of the Cross, let a cross be used that is of appropriate size and beauty, and let one or other of the forms for this rite as found in the Roman Missal be followed. The rite should be carried out with the splendour worthy of the mystery of our salvation: both the invitation pronounced at the unveiling of the Cross, and the people’s response should be made in song, and a period of respectful silence is to be observed after each act of veneration, the celebrant standing and holding the raised Cross.

The Cross is to be presented to each of the faithful individually for their adoration, since the personal adoration of the Cross is a most important feature in this celebration, and only when necessitated by the large numbers of faithful present should the rite of veneration be made simultaneously by all present.

Only one Cross should be used for the veneration, as this contributes to the full symbolism of the rite. During the veneration of the Cross the antiphons, ‘Reproaches’ and hymns should be sung, so that the history of salvation be commemorated through song. Other appropriate songs may also be sung.

The priest sings the invitation to the Lord’s Prayer, which is then sung by all. The sign of peace is not exchanged. The Communion rite is as described in the Missal.

During the distribution of Communion, psalm 21 or another suitable song may be sung. When Communion has been distributed the pyx is taken to a place prepared for it outside the church.

After the celebration, the altar is stripped, the Cross remaining however, with four candles. An appropriate place (for example, the chapel of repose used for reservation of the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday) can be prepared within the church, and there the Lord’s Cross is placed so that the faithful may venerate and kiss it, and spend some time in meditation.

Devotions, such as the Way of the Cross, processions of the Passion, and the commemorations of the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary are not, for pastoral reasons, to be neglected. The texts and songs used should be adapted to the spirit of the Liturgy of this day. Such devotions should be assigned to a time of day that makes it quite clear that the liturgical celebration by its very nature far surpasses them in importance.
– Given at Rome, at the Offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship, 16 January 1988

 

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