Tag Archives: funeral



“Go into a graveyard; consider all these skeletons, and above all, hear the words which each one addresses to you: ‘See what has happened to me, and learn what shall happen to you.’
Again, give heed to your surroundings; those family portraits, these walls, these rooms, these garments, these beds, all these things which you have inherited, have power to awaken thoughts of your own death, by recalling that of your parents and kindred.

How can you doubt that you have to die? On a certain day you were inscribed on the [register of births]; another day will come, a day already fixed upon by God, when you shall be inscribed on the register of deaths. Today you say, in speaking of your dead relatives: ‘my late father’, ‘my late uncle’, ‘my late brother’; soon those who survive will be speaking in the same way of you. In the past you have often heard [the death of others announced; some day your death will be announced in the same manner – and you shall be in eternity.]


A man has just died, and the news spreads, ‘He was a man of honour’, says one; another adds: ‘what a loss! He was so amiable, so good!’ Some regret him because he pleased them and was of service to them; others rejoice at his death, because they reap certain advantages from it. At the most, there will soon be no more talk of it; after to-morrow he will begin to sink into oblivion. His nearest relatives will avoid awakening the remembrance of him, for fear of renewing their grief. During the visits of condolence the conversation turns on everything except him who is the occasion of them! And if, per chance, someone is about to introduce him into the conversation: ‘For pity’s sake,’ they cry, ‘do not mention his name!’

No doubt, your family will weep for you at first. But soon the pleasure of dividing your property will banish these tears and grievings; and the very apartment where you have breathed your last sigh, and heard your Final Sentence from the lips of Jesus Christ, will be the scene of family reunions and parties of pleasure. And your soul, where will it be?”
– Laverty & Sons (eds), 1905


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“Can you think back and recall the last funeral you attended? The tragic occasion, the grieving relatives and sad hymns at the Mass all went to make the occasion memorable and very sad especially if it was the funeral of a loved one who would be tenderly missed, a parent, a child, a friend, a priest, someone whose relationship you cherished immensely.

At this or at many other moments like it you may have simply made the Sign of the Cross while passing the bier or when you threw a fistful of earth over the closed coffin as it was being lowered into the grave at the cemetery. Probably only you and God knew what that meant. But it seemed the shortest prayer that rose up asking God to take the dear departed soul into his loving embrace.


It was certainly a prayer, an invocation, a visible act of faith, something intensely in the context of a very public liturgy. It was a reminder of how precious and universal that gesture is: to bless yourself in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

You spot people blessing themselves on all sorts of situations: absent-mindedly on the way into church; solemnly at the end of Mass; in joyful delight when one of your favourite Premier League players scored a goal. Then poignantly you are hauled back to the moment at the funeral when you made that Sign of the Cross which was equally significant. In extreme sickness, when the brain can no longer form words, the only way we can turn to God may be with our feeble fingers, forming a cross on our breast or our brow. This sign can grow hurried and thoughtless through custom, but in moments of crisis and deep emotion, there are few gestures as rich in meaning as blessing ourselves.”
– This is an excerpt of the article “The Sign of the Cross” by Paul Andrews SJ published in “Don Bosco’s Madonna” issue September 2013. For subscriptions or to support seminarians please visit (external link) or (external link).


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The tale of Tobit son of Tobiel, of the lineage of Asiel and tribe of Naphtali. In the days of Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, he was exiled from Thisbe, which is south of Kedesh-Naphtali in Upper Galilee, above Hazor, some distance to the west, north of Shepat.

At our feast of Pentecost (the feast of Weeks) there was a good dinner. I took my place for the meal; the table was brought to me and various dishes were brought. Then I said to my son Tobias, “Go, my child, and seek out some poor, loyal-hearted man among our brothers exiled in Niniveh, and bring him to share my meal. I will wait until you come back, my child.” So Tobias went out to look for some poor man among our brothers, but he came back again and said, “Father!” I answered, “What is it, my child?” He went on, “Father, one of our nation has just been murdered; he has been strangled and then thrown down in the market place; he is there still.” I sprang up at once, left my meal untouched, took the man from the market place and laid him in one of my rooms, waiting until sunset to bury him. I came in again and washed myself and ate my bread in sorrow, remembering the words of the prophet Amos concerning Bethel:

Your feasts will be turned to mourning,
and all your songs to lamentation.
And I wept. When the sun was down, I went and dug a grave and buried him. My neighbours laughed and said, “See! He is not afraid any more.” (You must remember that a price had been set on my head earlier for this very thing.) “The time before this he had to flee, yet here he is, beginning to bury the dead again.”

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


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“King Richard III is one of the most maligned characters in English history. Shakespeare portrayed him as an evil scheming hunchback who murdered his own nephews. Every English student knows Laurence Olivier’s gruesome depiction of him in the 1955 classic film. In recent years however, historians have begun to revise their opinions, and an astonishing discovery last summer has reawakened widespread interest in the man and his life. Rather than revealing a wicked tyrant, fresh research seems to show he was a brave, dutiful young man, and a devout Catholic ¬†with links to the Franciscan Greyfriars.

Richard, the last of the Plantagenets, had one of the shortest reigns in English history. Killed, aged 32, at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, which left the way clear for Henry VII to take power, it seems he was hurriedly buried in a Franciscan church in Leicester. Known as the Church of the Greyfriars, the structure was completely destroyed 50 years later at the Reformation. While the true whereabouts of his grave was forgotten, rumours spread that his body had been dug up and thrown into a river. From the time of his death, the Tudor propaganda machine began spreading defamatory stories about him that echo to the present day.


Not everyone, however, was convinced of these. There is a good deal of contemporary evidence to show that he was a just and popular leader. Cambridge University bravely held a Requiem Mass for him for about 80 years after his death. The Richard III Society have held annual Requiem Masses for him since the 1920s. The Society has long campaigned to restore his reputation, and searched for years to discover where he was buried. Last August, an archaeological excavation by the University of Leicester, discovered the location of a Franciscan Friary (on Friary Street!) in Leicester, under a car park. Philippa Langley from the Society was convinced Richard was there. Amazingly, in the first trench they dug, a skeleton was discovered. ‘It’s almost as if he wanted us to find him,’ said Philippa.

The bones were those of a man about 30 years old. His spine showed signs of a quite severe spinal scoliosis (curved spine), which doctors think would have begun when he was about 12. They said it might not have been very visible if someone was clothed, but it could have been quite painful. There was also evidence of a number of battle injuries, including a large gash on his skull which was probably the blow that killed him.

On 4 February 2013, the University of Leicester confirmed that the skeleton was beyond reasonable doubt that of Richard III. This conclusion was based on mitochondrial DNA evidence; historian Dr. John Ashdown-Hill discovered it was an exact match to a living descendant of the king’s sister; soil analysis, and dental tests. The physical characteristics of the skeleton were also highly consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard’s appearance.

Philippa Langley said, ‘When Richard fell in the battle, he was stripped naked and his scoliosis became known and was used to denigrate him. Today, we find the idea of using physical disability against a person as abhorrent. Let this now be a break from the Tudor medieval mindset.’


On 5 February, Professor Caroline Wilkinson of the University of Dundee constructed a forensic facial reconstruction of Richard, based on 3D mappings of his skull. It bears a strong resemblance to a contemporary painting of him. She described the face as warm, young, earnest and rather serious.’

Following the discovery, the Mayor of Leicester announced that the king’s skeleton would be re-interred at Leicester (Anglican) Cathedral in early 2014, and by the same date a Richard III museum will be opened in the Victorian school buildings next to the grave site.

While campaigners welcome plans for the museum many are also calling for the last of the Plantagenet Kings to be given a Catholic funeral and burial.

A petition has now been set up, which reads: ‘The remains of Richard III have been discovered and exhumed. The suggestion is that he will be buried in Leicester Cathedral. However, it seems wholly inappropriate and disrespectful to bury the former Monarch in the grounds of a church of which he never was a member, and which was created by the son of the man responsible for his death and ingnominious burial. I am not petitioning on religious or sectarian grounds, but I believe the dead of any persuasion have a right to be interred in a place appropriate to their beliefs.’ To see the petition go to:

Dr Ashdown-Hill said, ‘Having played a major role in the recovery of Richard III’s remains (by finding the living DNA link which proved his identity, and as a Catholic who, for many years organised annual Requiem Masses for Richard III and his family, I’d like to support the idea that Richard’s remains should now be given a Catholic reburial. He was a sincerely religious man, and I believe this is what he would have wanted.’


Richard III appears to have had links with the Franciscans. Dr. Ashdown-Hill said, ‘We don’t know why he was buried at the Franciscan friary in Leicester. There were many religious houses there at the time. We don’t know if they were asked or offered to take him. But we know historically that the friary did support his family’s cause. We know Richard III had a Franciscan Friar as his chaplain.

‘Another thing which is intriguing, is that Richard’s sister, Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, chose to be buried in the Franciscan Friary at Michelin in Belgium. Her instructions were rather strange. She asked to be buried under the steps leading to the choir. This is exactly where we found Richard III at the Friary in Leicester – under steps leading to the choir.’


Dr. Ashdown-Hill doubted that the story of Richard III killing his nephews (the Princes in the Tower) is true. The Princes in the Tower were Edward V of England and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York. Then 12 and 9 years old, they were lodged in the Tower of London by Richard himself, who was then the Lord Protector, the Duke of Gloucester. This was supposed to be in preparation for Edward V’s coronation as king. After Richard became king, it is assumed that they were murdered. This may have occurred some time around 1483, but apart from their disappearance, the only evidence is circumstantial.

However, the historian added, ‘There were many other people who would have benefited from their deaths, and the case for their being murdered at all is very shaky. There are accounts of a physician visiting the Tower, and there are also medieval records of Edward (the eldest child) dying of an illness.’

Dr. Ashdown-Hill continued, ‘Richard III’s name has been blackened. But it is completely overlooked that the man who took the crown from him, Henry VII, systematically killed all his opponents.’

The historian went on to say, ‘Richard and his wife Anna were devout Catholics. They gave many chantry endowements (prayers for the dead). They endowed King’s College and Queens’ College at Cambridge University. Richard planned the establishment of a large chantry chapel in York Minster, with over 100 priests.’


Dr. John Ashdown-Hill, author of ‘The Last Days of Richard III’, revealed other fascinating details, ‘Richard’s prayerbook is at Lambeth Palace in London (the headquarters of the Archbishop of Canterbury). Many people had these beautiful illuminated Books of Hours – often they were like a modern coffee table book to browse into occasionally. But Richard III’s is not like that. He has added little prayers and notes of his own. That shows that he didn’t just have one, but that he used it. It’s interesting the way it has survived. Contemporary records say a prayerbook was found in his tent at the Battle of Bosworth. They say it was given to his sister Margaret. The one at Lambeth Palace has her name on it. So it’s likely that’s the one he used before the battle. It is also said that he owned a Bible in English. His sister was also very devout and, like her brother, a reformer aswell.’


In his short reign, Richard achieved a number of progressive reforms. In 1483 he instituted what later became known as the Court of Requests, a court to which people who could not afford legal representation could apply for their grievances to be heard. He also introduced bail in January 1484 to protect suspected felons from imprisonment before trial and to protect their property from seizure during this time. He banned restrictionson the printing and the sale of books, and ordered the translation of written Laws and Statutes from the traditional French into English.

Philippa Langley is a writer and is currently working on a film script on the life of Richard III. Dr. Ashdown-Hill is writing a book about Richard’s sister Margaret, and he is also investigating the story of the Princes in the Tower. The scholar concluded, ‘What we have achieved is not the end. As a historian I’m concerned about finding the truth and respecting people’s reputations.'”
– This article by Josephine Siedlecka entitled “Villain or Hero?” was published in “Messenger of Saint Anthony”, issue May 2013. To subscribe, please contact: Messenger of Saint Anthony, Basilica del Santo, via Orto Botanico 11, 35123 Padua, Italy


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Dear Brothers and Sisters, six years ago we gathered in this Square to celebrate the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Our grief at his loss was deep, but even greater was our sense of an immense grace which embraced Rome and the whole world: a grace which was in some way the fruit of my beloved Predecessor’s entire life, and especially of his witness in suffering. Even then we perceived the fragrance of his sanctity, and in any number of ways God’s people showed their veneration for him. For this reason, with all due respect for the Church’s canonical norms, I wanted his cause of Beatification to move forward with reasonable haste. And now the longed-for day has come; it came quickly because this is what is pleasing to the Lord: John Paul II is blessed!

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter, which Blessed John Paul II entitled Divine Mercy Sunday. The date was chosen for today’s celebration because, in God’s providence, my predecessor died on the vigil of this feast. Today is also the first day of May, Mary’s month, and the liturgical memorial of St Joseph the Worker. All these elements serve to enrich our prayer, they help us in our pilgrimage through time and space; but in heaven a very different celebration is taking place among the angels and saints! Even so, God is but one, and one too is Christ the Lord, who like a bridge joins earth to heaven. At this moment we feel closer than ever, sharing as it were in the liturgy of heaven.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, today our eyes behold, in the full spiritual light of the risen Christ, the beloved and revered figure of John Paul II. Today his name is added to the host of those whom he proclaimed Saints and blessed during the almost twenty-seven years of his pontificate, thereby forcefully emphasising the universal vocation to the heights of the Christian life, to holiness, taught by the conciliar Constitution of the Church ‘Lumen Gentium’. All of us, as members of the people of God – bishops, priests, deacons, laity, men and women religious – are making our pilgrim way to the heavenly homeland where the Virgin Mary has preceded us, associated as she was in a unique and perfect way to the mystery of Christ and the Church.

Finally, on a more personal note, I would like to thank God for the gift of having worked for many years with Bl. Pope John Paul II. I had known him earlier and had esteemed him, but for 23 years, beginning in 1982 after he called me to Rome to be Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I was at his side and came to revere him all the more. His profound humility, grounded in close union with Christ, enabled him to continue to lead the Church and to give the world a message which became all the more eloquent as his physical strength declined. In this way he lived out in an extraordinary way the vocation of every priest and bishop to become completely one with Jesus, whom he daily receives and offers in the Church.

Blessed are you, beloved Pope John Paul II, we implore you, to sustain from Heaven the faith of God’s people. You often blessed us in this Square from the Apostolic Palace: Bless us, Holy Father! Amen.


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