We are well into that “Novena” of prayer that anticipates the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, the nine days between the return of Jesus to his Father in glory and his sending of the Holy Spirit. During these days, we pray: “Come, Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of thy faithful with the fire of your love”.
And, in Catholic prayer founded in the Scriptural revelation, the Holy Spirit is called: Comforter. And, thanks to the gift of this Holy Spirit, this Comforter, which Jesus gives his Church, we can call our faith “blessed assurance”.
And it is in that “blessed assurance” that we find an approach to grieving that brings peace and healing – rather than the despair of those who grieve without faith.
The blessed assurance is manifested in the prayer of the Church and that prayer both reflects and shapes the faith of the entire Church according to the principle, lex orandi, lex credenti. For example, in the Preface of the dead, we pray, “Lord, for your faithful people, life is changed, not ended”.
And in the Apostles’ Creed, probably the most ancient catechesis of the Church, we say:
I believe in the Holy Spirit
the holy Catholic Church
the communion of saints
the forgiveness of sins
the resurrection of the body
and life everlasting.
This communion of Saints unites all the baptized – those who are saints in heaven, the holy souls on their way of purgation to heaven, and we the living here on earth. We are all united around Jesus’ cross and resurrection – around the Paschal Mystery that is made present in and through this Eucharistic celebration. And so, in that communion of Saints, we pray for Tony – as did the employee of the chancery with Fr. Parkes when Tony was in intensive care; because “life is changed not ended”, we can still pray for Tony and with Tony asking God to grant him the forgiveness of his sins and to crown him with Life Everlasting.
Last weekend, Sister Linda represented us at Tony’s funeral Mass and burial in Long Island, New York. I thank her for being there as our ambassador – but also for her presence with and to Tony’s family. His sister Marianne was here during Tony’s stay in the hospital – and he never did regain consciousness and so Sister Linda’s presence was important to the family – and was a witness to Tony’s sister – and to his many nieces and nephews – of the love and esteem with which Tony was held by us here in the Diocese of Orlando. His blood relations bid Tony farewell last weekend. And today is our opportunity, the opportunity of his Orlando family, to bid farewell to Tony, and to commend his soul to the mercy of our loving God.
Tony came to the Diocese from Albany in 2001. Bishop Dorsey hired him head up our Diocesan youth office and to implement a comprehensive youth ministry throughout the diocese. And, Tony never betrayed the confidence that Bishop Dorsey placed in him. Tony’s work on behalf of youth ministry here will continue –thanks to the input of our Synod commission members (and Tony was an active participant in our Synod work). I am confident that youth ministry in our diocese will be taken to the next level. And that our prayers for Tony are filled with gratitude for his ministry is itself a gift of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
I would to conclude with a prayer by St. Peter Damian. St. Peter who lived about a thousand years ago was a character. Maybe all the saints were characters in their own right. Once he upbraided a bishop for wasting his time playing chess (I guess they hadn’t invented golf yet). But St. Peter Damian was a man of great piety who aspired to the simple life of a hermit. Almost against his will, he was ordained a priest and then a bishop and then even was made a Cardinal. Finally, he prevailed on the pope to allow him to give up his cardinal’s red hat, his bishopric and the active ministry to return to the life of a hermit. The pope finally agreed – on the condition that he could call on his assistance on matters of Church needs. Peter Damien knew that holiness was not about doing great things, or holding great offices. It was about having great love in all that he did. And Tony did all that he did in his ministry, even when he was behind the scenes, with great love. Here is St. Peter Damien’s prayer, that I offer for Tony:
Lord, set the seal of your holy cross upon his soul and cleanse him by its power. By its merits, claim him wholly and entirely for yourself. When you come to judge the world, may its imprint be found upon him. Thus, likened to his Crucified Lord in his sufferings, may he be found worthy to share his glorious resurrection.”