Saturday, May 4, 2013

AN ECUMENICAL REQUIEM


One of our oldest members, Mrs. Margaret Raney, 98 (would have been 99 in August) died this week. She became a Catholic in the 1960's due to her husband being a Catholic. Her entire family, though, is Methodist and Baptist. As with the majority of our funerals, and weddings for that matter, our congregation was predominately Protestant. At these Masses, the wider community in Macon sees how Catholics worship and many are stunned by the beauty and the "worshipful" atmosphere of the Mass. They feel the "awesome" presence of God, as one staunch Baptist family member told me on Thursday following Margaret's Requiem.

This is the homily I preached:

I was always amazed by Margaret. At Tim and Melissa’s house where she celebrated her 95th birthday, she was sure to introduce me to all who were there and did so by naming each person without any hesitation whatsoever. I remember Margaret also inviting me to have dinner at Tim and Melissa’s house prior to that in order to make sure that she could get a good Catholic funeral. We had a wonderful time and we all tried to reassure her that her wishes would be respected and that we would do what she wanted. Last night we had a wonderful Rosary and I think she would be pleased at how well our Methodist congregation did with it! Who would have thought? I know I would not have thought! I have a blog and this will be a good story for it, practicing Methodists praying the Holy Rosary. I know that Margaret must have been smiling down on that.

Today we commend Margaret, LaVona to her family, to God’s loving embrace as He restores Her completely to Himself made perfect in the image and the likeness of Christ.

There are many wonderful things that we can say about Margaret, but the most wonderful thing is that she participated fully in the grace that God gave her to be faithful to Him and His Church.

Margaret was brought up a very good Methodist. In fact very good Methodists make wonderful Catholic converts precisely because of their very good Methodist upbringing which is very biblically based and expects that a person lives by the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I think her Christian faith first as a Methodist and then as a Catholic enabled her to abide by the teachings of Christ, to be a good member of her family, to be a good wife and co-worker to be a person who wanted to be involved in the life of the Church, whether it was the Saint Monica Guild or the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of Columbus or a volunteer for our Mother and Child Ministry which is now Family Advancement Ministries. She did all that she did out of a love for God and Church.

I am sure the Beatitudes from the Gospel of Saint Matthew was selected for today’s funeral Mass because Margret certainly shows us how to live these Beatitudes. She did so by the grace of God. She knew that by living those as directed by Christ that all of us could rejoice and be glad for our reward in heaven would be great. There was a great peace in Margaret that came from this Blessed Assurance that she had received from God.

Margaret indeed lived a blessed life and was a blessing to all who knew and loved her.

I think what I was in awe most about was her fierce independence and willingness to go, to be on the go, well into her 90’s and all the way up to her death. I was amazed by her driving skills and the two major accidents that she had in her 90’s that were not her fault. The first one a sheriff’s deputy totaled her car and he was at fault and that enabled her to get a brand new car. She was able to drive even when she turned 97 years old. But coming to Mass on Sunday was the highlight of her week, but I normally saw her each Saturday around midday as she did her personal devotions and prayed the Holy Rosary here in the Church. At this Mass we commend her to almighty God and to the eternal Banquet of heaven. She won’t have to drive there, she will be permanently in the presence of the Lord and the communion of saints and she will be praying to our Lord on our behalf. It will be a great reunion for her to be with Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all those redeemed by Christ and to see the angels and saints.

In this Mass we have a foretaste of the heavenly banquet of which the Book of Revelation refers. There shall be no more death but perfect happiness in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living. We pray today that Margaret inherits these gifts as she is made completely new in Christ.

In conclusion we say to Margaret LaVona: "Go forth, Christian soul, from this world in the name of God the almighty Father, who created you, in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who suffered for you, in the name of the Holy Spirit, who was poured out upon you to defend you, go forth, faithful Christian. May you live in peace this day, may your home be with God in Zion, with Saint Mary, the virgin Mother of God, with Saint Joseph and all the angels and saints.”

Requiescat in Pace

May Margaret LaVona rest in peace, Amen.

17 comments:

-Brian said...

She is an amazing person. God rest her soul. Thank you Father.

ytc said...

I hope Requiem aeternam and In Paradisum were sung!

Anonymous said...

So, how do you know that Mrs. Raney will be in heaven? You say, "She won’t have to drive there (heaven), she will be permanently in the presence of the Lord and the communion of saints and she will be praying to our Lord on our behalf."

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Her Christian life, her Catholic spirituality and morality, her sacramental life which included the Last Rites, the Anointing of the Sick and Holy Communion and the Apostolic Pardon she received from my hands: "By the authority which the Apostolic See has given, me, I grant you a full pardon and the remission of all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Plus she then had the Vigil for the Deceased and a Requiem Mass for the repose of her soul. It doesn't get any clearer than that!



Properly administered by a priest, when a person is near death, and along with the other final sacraments, it results in the soul of the deceased being conducted directly to heaven, with no necessity of purgation.

the Apostolic Pardon is an indulgence given for the remission of temporal punishment due to sin.


ytc said...

I suppose we have to be cynical and include the slight possibility that she committed a mortal sin between the time you absolved her for the final time and the moment of her death.

Gene said...

ytc, please....

Anonymous 2 said...

What an incredible lady! And what a great homily!

As to ytc’s comment, let’s not be too hard on him. Sometimes I get the sense that our discourse on the Blog has a hyper-critical “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” quality about it (even though invoking that particular trope may do an injustice to medieval scholasticism in fact). I am glad that Pope Francis seems to be trying to move us away from all that into more constructive and more positive territory.

Gene said...

Anon 2, I have done the math and concluded that
6,237,119 angels could dance on the head of a standard pin.

Anonymous 2 said...

Come on, Gene, admit it: you used a calculator.

Gene said...

Anon 2, In defense of theological and dogmatic detail and precision, often certain arcane theological issues filter all the way down to the laity and ol' Sam on the assembly line or Janie in the front office. I believe you can appreciate this from your understanding of the same regarding what some would call legal minutiae. There is a rather important place for the scholar, the theologian, and the academic, as frustrated with them as I often become. It has taken me a lifetime of theological study to appreciate this but, in times like these, it becomes even more apparent. So, when I hurl academic stereotypes at you in exasperation, understand that it is done as one brother throwing up his hands at another when reaching an impasse.

Anonymous 2 said...

I don’t disagree in principle, Gene, but presumably we have to be mindful of gnats and camels in the endeavor. There is, of course, a parallel in the case of the legal minutiae you mention, when an over-emphasis on technical legal minuitiae impedes the achievement of justice. That said, we don’t want to go too far in the other direction either, as Robert Bolt’s St.Thomas More reminds us.

Anonymous said...

An answer to the dancing angels question:
"Quantum Gravity Treatment of the Angel Density Problem" by Anders Sandberg SANS/NADA, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract:

We derive upper bounds for the density of angels dancing on the point of a pin. It is dependent on the assumed mass of the angels, with a maximum number of 8.6766*10exp49 angels at the critical angel mass (3.8807*10exp-34 kg).

For more: http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume7/v7i3/angels-7-3.htm




Gene said...

Yes, but we have not determined if angels actually have mass. They have substance, but are spiritual beings. We are up against a major ontological problem here...

Anonymous 2 said...

Anyway, apart from such ontological niceties, the Stockholm study is fundamentally flawed. They seem to have got hold of the wrong end of the pin entirely, even though they will doubtless argue that they got the point.

Flavius Hesychius said...

Gene, being from a reformed (Presbyterian) background, maybe you can explain something to me:

Is it the norm during sermons in Presbyterian congregations to mention hell several times? If so, were they included during funerals, when non-reformed Christians were in attendance?

I ask because when I was younger, my family and I often attended a Primitive Baptist church that bordered on Hyper-Calvinism. Often, the preacher would go into long diatribes about hell and damnation (a la Johnathan Edwards).

But, when my grandfather(+) died, there was no such discourses, or even a single mention of hell. Was it because it was essentially an "ecumenical requiem"?

To say the least, I was extremely shocked when he failed to mention the subject even once; especially since he had no problem telling me four years ago, as a fifteen year old atheist, that I "most assuredly had a plot reserved in the eternal hellfire of damnation, and could not be saved, even if I desired salvation".

Gene said...

Anon 2, You are needling me about this and the entire argument is beginning to unravel. Perhaps we should begin a thread in which we might knit together a seamless argument regarding angels. This discussion is frayed...we reap what we sew.

Gene said...

Flavius, First, remember that, in the current Presbyterian church, you will find a wide spectrum of ministers across synods who represent everything from unitarian universalism in their beliefs to strict,hard-core Calvinists. Occasionally, but rarely anymore, you will find a Bible whacking, smoke breathing, send 'em all to Hell, two-seed-in-the-Spirit homiletical terror. I suspect you are more likely to find this in the Primitive Baptist church than in the Presbyterian...btw, "primitive" is misleading...most Primitive Baptist preachers I have met are theologically well-grounded and Biblically astute. Most people don't realize that the name is to indicate their theological differences from their cousins.

Now, about preaching Hell all the time...there is no norm for Presbyterian preaching (unfortunately) and you will find that the mention of Hell or the preaching about it varies greatly. My experience was that most Presbyterians desired to hear as little about it as possible. For years, mainline Presbyterian seminaries have been turning out social gospel types who are embarrassed by Calvin (because they never paid attention in seminary) and who tend toward universalism in their beliefs. Universalism is, ultimately, the logic of Calvinism, but that is a long theological discussion we won't get into.
Remember this, Calvin (and Edwards') emphasis upon Hell, Total Depravity, and Irresistable Grace is for the purpose of glorifying God and His unfathomable mercy through Christ. Theologically, the blacker our sin, the more in bondage our will, the darker our prospects in this fallen world...all the more amazing and overpowering becomes the love of Christ. Calvinism has been described as Christological totalitarianism...there is much to be said for that understanding...except it cuts the Church out of the equation (pretty much) and leads to the above mentioned theological problems.
Hell is a theological reality that needs to be re-emphasized in our understanding. Most Christians today have been fed a steady diet of universalist thinking and have come to view Jesus as some kind of "Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free" wild card. 'T'ain't so. Judgement, retribution, the possibility of eternal separation from God are spiritual and eschatological realities. Protestant faith, for the most part, becomes too smug and self-assured...
"...the abyss of Hell yawns for you who shun Christ; Satan's arms reach to hold you in his seductive embrace, and his bed is laid with the fiery coals of destruction, the ashes of damnation...the smoke from your burning rises up and Satan inhales its sweet scent with delight...Repent, now, even as Christ's arms of mercy reach for you in the blackness of your sin, as His blood washes you and presents you faultless before the Righteous Judgement of the Father..."