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A New Experience

Today I did something that I haven’t had to do in seven years of priesthood and I would have preferred if I never needed to do it.

In a little over seven years I have probably done over 180 funerals (some Masses, some services outside Mass, and some simple graveside services).  The oldest person I ever did a service for was 107 years old.  Before today the youngest person was in their mid-thirties with the rest all over 45 and most over 60.  The younger ones all had health issues for a long time.

Today I did a funeral for a 17-year-old.  A month ago he was a typical 17-year-old but then he was diagnosed with Leukemia.  The initial prognosis looked good but in the past two weeks things deteriorated quickly and he passed from this world.

My Pastoral Associate and I met with his parents on Thursday to plan the funeral.  It was not an easy time but it was a grace filled time.  Yesterday (Friday) my day started with daily Mass and then a funeral for a 94-year-old woman followed by a couple of emergency anointings.  About 3:30 pm I finally sat down to write the homily for today’s funeral of the 17-year-old.  It was the most difficult funeral homily I have ever written (even more than for my own grandfather and mother).

Knowing it would be difficult I began with a prayer for God’s help and then looked over the readings his parents had selected and my notes.  I knew I did not have an answer as to why God allowed this to happen. I did not know what to say.  I haven’t experienced a loss like this in my own family.  As I began to actually write the homily I said another prayer asking for God to give me the right words to say.  Before long the homily was done and shortly after I left the office.

With the funeral at 10 am I arrived in the office about 7:45 this morning to tweak the homily and do a few other things. After tweaking the homily, I tried to do some other work but found myself too anxious. By 8:30 I went over to church to putter getting things ready for the funeral and to pray for God’s grace to help me.  At times during the funeral I was feeling very emotional but made it through.

A couple of people told me that I did a good job.  I don’t know.  I already said I don’t know why God allows things like Leukemia. What I do know is that if it was a good homily and funeral, it is because of God’s guidance through the Holy Spirit.  All I did was try to listen.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

 

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