Momento Mori

“Remember death”

My family and friends gathered recently to celebrate the funeral Mass of my 99 year-old mother.  Through both of my parent’s deaths, I have found that travelling the path of death and burial in the Catholic tradition is truly a consolation to the grief we experience.  So many elements of our Faith are brought together in the funeral liturgy: the remembrance of being born to anew in baptism; being united to the Body of Christ in the Eucharist; the Angels and Saints being called upon to accompany the soul of the departed into heaven; the repetition of “eternal rest grant unto them O Lord…”; the justice of God at the judgment – Heaven, Hell or Purgatory.

Catholics celebrate death by facing the reality of the circumstances of the Fall.  Our Faith teaches us that our sins are not just covered by Jesus’ saving act of redemption; we are restored to Sanctifying Grace in the waters of Baptism.  Yes we fall into sin, but we have the Sacraments to bring us back to grace.  At the end of our lives, we can receive the Last Rites, preparing us for the journey through death to meet our Divine Judge.  And finally, we have the Mercy of God extended to us if we are still not perfected – Purgatory.

Many other Christian faiths lack this completeness of reality.  Perhaps it is founding in the principal of “God and me” which leaves out the elements of the visible Church and Communion of Saints, especially the role and support of the Church Militant.  Much of it may be due to the accepting the concept of “once saved, always saved”.  I have attended non-Catholic funerals where the pastor, while admitting to not knowing the deceased, was yet very confident that the deceased was enjoying the joys of heaven.  Later, family members struggle with a contradiction – “he had a lot of faults, but I believe all is good now because he believed in his Savior…”

Are we living our lives as if it were our last day on earth?  I remember when growing up that our family would regularly pray to St. Joseph for a happy death.  Remembering death rather than avoiding the consequences of the fate is the way Catholics do and should live. We pray that all others will come to the fullness of the true Faith in this sense.

It has become our tradition at a family member’s funeral Mass for a soloist to sing Pie’ Jesu composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber.  The English translation follows:

Merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus
Father, who takes away the sins of the world
Grant them rest, grant them rest
Merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus
Father, who takes away the sins of the world
Grant them rest, grant them rest
Lamb of God, Lamb of God, Lamb of God, Lamb of God
Father, who takes away the sins of the world
Grant them rest, grant them rest
Everlasting, everlasting
Rest

One comment

  1. Timshel says:

    Nice post, Artemus. May the soul of your mother rest in peace!

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