Cars don’t fit in Coffins

Eventually, eventually, we travel our way through life and learn to love those we love for whatever their meaning is to us. Sometimes the memory of unrequited love becomes a theme to our lives, and we stay attached to what we couldn’t have as if we had already had it but it was torn from us with great force.

Perhaps, we fall in love with a thing; a favourite toy or keepsake, perhaps with sentimental value. Perhaps it was a moment in the sand of time, a glimmer in which we saw heaven or felt the flames of hell. Then, we are stuck with that recollection through all the rest of the days in our short lives.

But when our last breath draws nigh and the angel of death descends at our last hour, we cannot say “ah just wait, I need my bracelet.” No, we take nothing of our earthly possessions. We leave all things unclaimed, for it matters not then. Our fate is eternal, and though the Lord might send us on a purgatorial quest on earth to some final battle or cleansing fire, we will never again require that which we had previously owned. We see this in the saints, who before us, have perfected humility and non-attachment. It is a virtue we ought to pray for now, since our attachment to the physical object in our ownership is a defining feature: it decides how people look at us, how we compare ourselves to the ‘other’, and which social class or societies in which we mix.

To be truly poor is to be rich. Consider how the great perfect imitator of the Sacred Heart, St Francis, abandoned all his wealth and nobility to pursue true love of his common man, exercising therefore a great understanding of the human condition and of God’s great goodness and love. He one said, “…if you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.” Does this mean to say then that the greatest possession we can obtain is virtue? I think so. In Aristotelian flavour, we can only become virtuous if we practise those virtues. This, we take to the grave because it is the key by which we open Heaven’s gate; it is the seed by which grace is planted and infused by God. Yet, by asking God for His grace, He gives us these virtues, through the hands of His Most Blessed Mother.

Now, this is not to say at all that being rich is at all a vice. Quite the opposite, in fact. Money is not a problem, it is the use of currency which is – its theft, by communism, being a major evil in this world. But, our wilful use of our riches to afford the poor a better living? A true commandment of Our Blessed Saviour, in true imitation of Him.

“Dies Irae” is a text commonly sung at Requiems and at the Office of the Dead. The second verse reads as following:

What horror must invade the mind
when the approaching Judge shall find
and sift the deeds of all mankind!

We don’t hear enough of this, do we? He is to sift the deeds of all mankind. And through which gate will we enter? I pray one with angels and saints.


The Debt of Grief

A few weeks ago, someone I had known, committed suicide.

The mother found her strung up like a fallen power line, having lost, what we are told, a long period of depression. A night so dark and deep, that not even the starlight of her family’s love could reach the pit. This individual was active in the parish, taking responsibility for various children’s endeavours and ministries for the youth. We pray for the repose of her soul.

But where do we go from here? How can a parish, indebted to grief, console her children when a member of the family chooses to end his own life. Suicide is a grave perversion of natural order, and, a violation of the fifth commandment. However, when mental illness is involved, the lines blue. Dana Dillon of Catholic Moral Theology wrote an excellent little treatise on the moral situation of suicide. She writes “our culpability for what we do is measured in large part by our freedom in choosing it.” And this point, exactly, was the homily for Mass preceding the day of the funeral. Where exactly does our freedom end?

Dillon writes, “when someone has severe depression or is living with the hallucinations and delusions of schizophrenia or the challenges of an anxiety disorder, the brain simply does not process information in a normal way.” The mind of someone who struggles with an anxiety or depressive predisposition, is, set apart from the rest. Perhaps the phrase victim soul could apply. Regardless, we cannot stand in judgement of a soul which only God himself peers into. What moves me so, however, is prospects of our future as a society.

What kind of cry for help is death? A reaction to the oppression and violence of this world, a violence often underhanded, in nature. And who can handle the grief of a lost child, especially under these circumstances?  A mother weeps, bitter tears fall like rain upon memories of a body once so small and able to fit in the palm of a hand. The future becomes overcast, blurry, invisible. I write not to answer any questions like this.

I write to sort out the mess of human brokenness.

You may recall that we are all children of the same God. We converge not only by the breath of life but also the actions of our mortal inclination. Each person possesses his own sliver of a shard, which is why the Blessed Lord Himself came to defeat death. To restore in us, our new life, one we receive in baptism.

Our brokenness manifests itself in diverse ways; we all have our own temptations, but it is easier with God and Our Blessed Mother. We are not alone; we are not automatons, just given over to the desires of the flesh as modernity often likes to present ourselves as being. Reject not your soul, reject only the world.

We can no longer be so hard on each other. We can not be guilty of being a shade against our brethren. Do not be afraid to love. Perhaps if we love each other a little bit more, like a spark of light, we will become the light of the adorable Saviour in a culture affixed to darkness.

Let your heart be a broken door, a latch turned to dust, open wide.

Meantime, along the narrow rugged path,
Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith,
Home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.

-Blessed John Cardinal Henry Newman

They are not There

The end of our lives is something that is ultimately inevitable. No one has escaped death; but yet our souls have granted us an immortality that no other creature possesses.

Not everyone is able to comprehend death in this way, and when a member of the family or a good friend has fallen asleep in the arms of Our Lord (please God), we sometimes resort to the inner castle of despair: locking up our happiness in the cells and feasting on the misery of our loss. Admittedly, this is quite natural for us to do. It’s the grieving process! However, would it be fair to say that death is the culmination of life? I don’t think so.

Death is not death in that after which what had existed no longer exists. Our bodies die, our souls do not. What we have on earth cannot be taken up with us, because at death, the bonds of human frailty escape us and our Eternal Reward awaits us. God’s judgement cannot be guessed or presumed. We do know that the saints are in Heaven, joyously before the throne of the King of Heaven and Earth, but we cannot imagine the multitude of souls in purgatory who desperately need our prayers. Nor can we estimate the number of souls that have been cast into Hell.

You might think I’m gone cracked! Reflecting on death when I am so young, when a whole life lays ahead, but it is always right to pray for a good death and to remember that death spares no one. The state of our souls is something that is to be examined each and every day. The state of grace allows us to see the face of God, his Blessed Mother, and the saints and angels. Many people think they can get along and ignore the wounds they’ve placed in their hearts, however the truth cannot escape the reality. Sin is dangerous.

Sin puts our souls into a great state of peril, the washing away of which can only be done through the sacrament that we are most available to: Confession. Remember your penance.

Throughout my life I’ve attended many funerals and wakes, am familiar with all the traditions. Those closest to me have given up the ghost, and I pray for them to this day. It is good to occasionally remind ourselves of this because “…to lead a good life a man should always imagine himself at the hour of death…“, as St Bonaventure says. That simple reminder is enough to inspire goodness in anyone.

I feel like I have gone off topic, but it’s a good branch on the tree to travel on. Someone you knew and loved is no longer here with you, but you will meet again.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die. (Mary E Frye)

This is not the poetry declaring a belief of tenant of faith, but it is a poem of comfort at the time of death. But is there any truth to it? It’s amazing how the simple things described like the “diamond glints on snow” and the “gentle autumn rain” can truly send us back into the memories we’ve had with such a person.

Perhaps the deaths of two people in the last week, two prominent members of the community is getting to me. But I’ll be fine and we’ll all be fine. Prayers are in order!