All posts tagged: death

Dying to Christ

“In that day, says the LORD, courage shall fail both king and princes; the priests shall be appalled and the prophets astounded.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD, surely thou hast utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, `It shall be well with you’; whereas the sword has reached their very life.” My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent; for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. Disaster follows hard on disaster, the whole land is laid waste. Suddenly my tents are destroyed, my curtains in a moment. How long must I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet? “For my people are foolish, they know me not; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but how to do good they know not.” I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I …

Priests gathered around the altar at the funeral of Cardinal Francis George

Burial of the Dead: Opportunities and Challenges

 The month of November and the recent conclusion of the Year of Mercy provide a fitting time to reflect on the least-glamorized corporal work of mercy: burial of the dead. Our American culture goes out of its way to sanitize and ignore the reality of death, so we tend to come face-to-face with mortality only if a close relative or friend is dying, or when attending a funeral. Yet death is truly ubiquitous, whether or not we chance upon a funeral motorcade crossing city streets. And we Christians must properly appreciate death as a necessary transition from this life to the next. The Church’s funeral rites offer many beautiful ways for mourners to engage in the process between death and burial. While most of us are acquainted with the wake, the funeral liturgy itself, and the committal at the place of entombment, there are other, more unfamiliar practices that the faithful should be aware of. Participating in Burial Preparation The Order of Christian Funerals exhorts that “the family and friends of the deceased should not …

The Witness of the Martyrs

Laden with highly-charged connotations, “martyr” is one of the most rhetorically and politically loaded words in the English language. Often, for us, “martyr” conjures up images of stubborn ideologues who refuse to be badgered into backing down, or sufferers of avoidable ills in the name of self-righteousness. Often, Catholics imagine specifically early Christian martyrs as put-upon Catacomb Christians sticking to their guns in the face of a government that was determined to beat their convictions out of them. This anachronistic imaging of the early Christian martyrs is influenced by the state-driven religious persecutions of the Reformation. I would like to suggest an alternate imaging of the early martyrs. But first, a quick etymological detour: the word “martyr” did not appear in Latin until it was first used in the first century AD. The Latin word evolved specifically to describe the phenomenon of groups of early Christians, who were, for whatever strange and shocking reason, giving themselves up to death at the hands of the Romans. The word “martyr” is a response to a specific event, …

Tales from the Crypt

I spent Easter in a cemetery. No, I wasn’t exactly visiting the graves of my blood relatives. Nor was I trying to get a part in an episode of CSI. I was at Mass—the Easter Vigil to be exact. Out in the far right corner of the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama is a town called Holy Trinity. There, a little Catholic community founded by the Trinitarian order has a parish church. The Trinitarians also have three cemeteries on their grounds—one for the sisters, one for the priests and brothers, and the one for the public. On Holy Saturday night, I found myself, along with 40 parishioners, there in the public cemetery, standing somewhere between the living and the dead. I’d like to tell you about some of the people buried there as well as how we celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus in their midst on that night. Here lies Leon Domingo—a 23-year-old African American from Jersey City, a former soldier. He rests here after being falsely accused of raping and murdering a White girl in …