Two Things a Priest of 30 Years Misses at Funerals These Days


Another great thing about being Catholic is that it’s okay to talk about death and dying in November. In fact, it’s hard NOT to hear talk if you come to Mass every week.  The month opens with the Feasts of All Saints on the first and the Feast of All Souls on the second.  Sunday readings this month mostly deal with being prepared for death, the end of the world, and the judgment all will face after death.   

Here is a theological statement and a prayer or blessing that are no longer part of my experience any more.  

(1)  In the days before email, whenever one of our diocesan priests died, a simple card was  sent to all priests with the details of when and where the funeral would be.  It so aptly sums up what Catholics and some other Christians do as they gather to celebrate the life and mourn the death of one we love. 

We come together to
mourn because we are human,
to rejoice because we are Christian,
to thank God for the gift of his life,
and to celebrate the power of Jesus’ resurrection.

Not only was the card an example of good theology, it was also a reminder that my name and funeral arrangements would one day be so distributed. Alas!    

(2) In what I think was then known as the Rite of Christian Burial when I was first ordained was a beautiful blessing that I’ve never been able to find in the Order of Christian Funerals used since 1989.   What a beautiful expression of our hopes and prayers for the deceased.  

Peace be with those who have left us and have gone to God.
May they be at peace.
May they be with God.

May they be with the living God.
May they be with the immortal God.
May they be in God’s hands.

May they sleep in peace.
May they live in peace.
May they be where the name of God is great.

May they be with the living God now and on the day of judgment.
May they live with God.
May they live in eternal light.

May they live in the peace of the Lord.
May they live forever in peace,
With God in peace.  Amen.

These are gone, but not forgotten.



About Paul Wharton

I am a cradle Catholic, a native West Virginian, and a priest since April 24, 1982. Spiritual Direction has made a tremendous difference in my life and I encourage people to try it out. My motto is "Progress not perfection." I am grateful that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
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3 Responses to Two Things a Priest of 30 Years Misses at Funerals These Days

  1. Kelly Rose says:

    This morning I woke with a dream of my mother in my head. She haunts me. Every little mean thing that I said or did to her in the last six years I cared for her haunts me. I never remember what day is “Dia de los Muertos,” but I always feel guilt about something. That’s what tells me I’m Catholic, that voice in my head constantly reminding me of my faults! That’s what tells me I am, in particular, a Latin Catholic: the guilt, the shame, the remorse! It is what it is.
    I imagine she is in my dreams more than I can remember, because every day she is in my mind. I thought when she died, I would be free. Such was our chaotic home life, that I would tell my sisters, “When they both finally die, that’s when I’ll be free.” Ha!
    In this morning’s dream, she was happy. She had fallen into a group of friends, old women like her, old Puerto Rican women like her. And I recognized one of them. She was a childhood friend’s mother. I knew it because of her nose! It was Nancy Rivera’s nose! So I asked her if she was Nancy Rivera’s mother, and another girl in the dream, who was visiting the group of old women, told me yes. And I knew it. I knew it was Nancy’s mother cause she looked just like Nancy.
    But I was friends with Nancy in grade school in Puerto Rico! I haven’t thought about Nancy in so long! In my waking hours, I coudn’t tell you Nancy Rivera’s name. But in my unconscious mind, in my dream, suddenly it was clear as day that I was speaking to Nancy Rivera’s mother, that her mother was there in my mother’s new group of friends?
    My friend Doreen’s mother, Lee, died in October. Doreen and I, over these last years, called it the “Battle of the Dying Mothers!” We had to laugh. You have to laugh. Doreen’s father was American too, so we were mirror images of each other in Pedro Albizu Campos High School in Levittown, Puerto Rico. I clung to her then. But it has been Doreen who has clung to me all these years since. I thought for sure it was my mother who would win, who would live the longest. They were the same age, our mothers. And they were both tough, but in the end, it was Lee whose spirit held out the longest.
    But Lee wasn’t in the group of my mother’s friends in my dream? Truth is, they never liked each other, cause they were both the same, stubborn and proud. I am sure that my mother has chosen a group of friends that she can lord over. Lee is probably in the other clique, lording over her group? So now I’m envisioning a West Side Story clash of the old women spirits rumble, the Sharks and the Jets? My mother, though Puerto Rican, though born on the beach in Dorado, never learned to swim! So her group is going to have to be the Jets. And Lee’s group will be the Sharks. And I can see them now, taunting each other in their peasant blouses and full ruffled skirts, snapping their Spanish fans in the air, their hairdos the latest style, their lips painted red, their gold Catholic crosses they wear around their necks glinting in flashes from the hot equatorial sun, because surely they are all back in Puerto Rico now, their hearts’ devotion, walking the streets of Old San Juan, buying coconut ice cream from the street vendors, stopping in the Catholic Cathedrals to escape the noon day sun?
    When I looked up the other Saturday in mass and saw my mother’s name on the wall tapestry that hung near the altar, I remembered then, that it was “Dia de los Muertos.”And the shock of seeing her name when she wasn’t, at that moment, in my mind, brought a river of tears to my eyes. My hillbilly father actually died on “Dia de los Muertos.” I didn’t realize it, but that’s what my Catholic aunt Gloria and uncle Jesus remarked upon hearing of his passing, how coincidental it was that he died on “Dia de los Muertos!” The irony that my mother would be remembered in a small Catholic Church in my father’s hometown where his family has lived for over three hundred years is confounding to me? Best, I suppose, not to try and make sense of it all, but just simply to try and go with the flow? I’ll leave the reckoning for dreams.

  2. Can you read this at my funeral?

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