WHEN A FRIEND CROSSES THE BAR . . . A Jesuit funeral sermon, February, 2000

Pat preached. He had two points to make, he said, “before I get to Peter.” Peter was the deceased, his friend of 49 ½ years, since the two of them entered the Jesuits. Pat’s two points were that he stood on “holy ground” there in the retirement center for Jesuits of eight upper Midwestern states and that their suffering (as sick, invalided, dying) was “salvific.”

This “salvific” is related to “terrific” in its ending. The s-a-l-v part is related to “salvation,” as of souls. If something is salvific, it makes for, contributes to salvation of souls. It’s a Latin-word-turned-English, a staple of the course on divine grace – God’s gift to people that brings them around to (a) straight-and-narrow-path behavior and (b) everlasting life.

If you knew the vocabulary, as the Colombiere Center congregation did, you got Pat’s message: Pete, stricken with polio 45 years earlier, had not wasted his life. Pat was telling Colombiere regulars and visitors that there was no waste in putting up uncomplainingly, as Pete did, with the nonsense and worse that comes with incapacity.

He compared Pete favorably to men he had known “in the war” in Viet Nam, where he’d been a chaplain, men who had died so others could live. Peter, he said, had shown heroism every day. He commended some in the congregation, contemporaries of Peter in the Jesuits, for overnighting with him at the Louisville hospital where he was recuperating, in the weeks after he was removed from the iron lung.

I was one of them. Pete set the course for the rest of his life in those days. He was easy to be with. Months earlier, he had been a superb athlete. Now he was hoping to walk again – and did, though shakily, for many years, teaching high school, then working as a counselor for college students and couples, before becoming wheelchair-bound some 15 years ago. Life would never be the same after the Louisville hospital stay. But he never complained.

Handshaking time at holy mass, quick thinking under fire

Aggressively sought today by a fellow worshiper two pews ahead of me for what was sure to be an aggressive handclasp, I held back.

It didn’t matter. My fellow worshiper was not to be denied. I knew I had to act and act fast, or all was lost. Come up with something or be crushed by this enthusiast. In a flash it came to me, and I said it, holding up the threatened limb: “Bad hand.”

Without a blink, wink, or nod, like a quarterback deciding to run, he reached across the aisle to make the flesh-pressing contact he desperately needed.

A friend once suggested that a person might claim leprosy and thus fend off such a handshaker. Never tried that, but now I have a better way. Keep it simple. Say “bad hand.”

Hot title here from Fr. Rutler: Meditations from a man on whom his erudition hangs lightly . . .

Sample bon mot from chapter about what to do with your imagination.

Narcissus [a] moral idiot. He became enamored of his reflection in the water. He wanted to discover, in the jargon of our day, his “inner child.”

But anyone who wants to find his inner child without locating the source of life in God is condemned to a perpetual infancy, an arrested development of the soul. The autonomous self ignores the voice of the other, all others.

And so it was with Narcissus, for Echo called to him, bidding him to come and be her lover. Narcissus was so involved with himself that her voice fell, literally, on morally deaf ears. She dissolved into nothing but her voice, which is how we get the word “echo.” Narcissus ended up dissolving into a plant that is named for him.

Wit, gentle humor, pointed, memorable, from pages of this book:

Rutler, George W. . Grace and Truth: Twenty Steps to Embracing Virtue and Saving Civilization (Kindle Locations 377-382). EWTN Publishing, Inc. Kindle Edition.

Also in paperback, of course.

Pope at Angelus: May our whole life be a “yes” to God – Vatican News

Says Pope Francis today:

“Openness to God is found in the openness to take on the needs of one’s neighbor”.

The wise Francis here. Now if he would do away with his inveterate ambiguity in matters of doctrine. You don’t have to trash the brand to urge its application.

Decline and fall of a sermon-time doze

From a dissident pulpit . . .

Blithe Spirit

I was neither flummoxed nor gobsmacked when the preacher tossed off a reference to “Captain Grimes in Decline and Fall” this morning.  I was, however, wakened from that pious semi-slumber that too often attends sermonizing.

Of the Roman empire? I wondered, distracted from my fascination with the family of mother, father, and seven kids aged an estimated six months to 10 years old in the pew in front of me.

No, I quickly decided.  Decline and Fall as by Evelyn Waugh.  Said and done.  Without explaining, as in saying, “I was reading a novel the other day called Decline and Fall, by the English Catholic writer Evelyn Waugh, and in it he said . . .”   Blah, blah, and blah.  What you hear in your average parish.

So it goes.  Point he was making would not have been lost, however, on the listeners who got not the reference: Captain…

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Memento Mori: Facing Death as a Fount of Life

An Advent thought . . .

Blithe Spirit

Anne (of Green Gables) meditates on her friend’s facing death with fear at its being nothing she’s used to:

How often do we fail to long for Heaven and instead fear that it will be unfamiliar? Do we consider the beatific vision and worry that eternal worship may be boring rather than glorious? If we are living for this world, the next world cannot attract us. If we build our lives around the temporal, the eternal will not be, as poor Ruby explained, what we are used to.

She clings to the lesser thing.

via Church Life Journal | University of Notre Dame

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