Gospel of the family in Amoris Laetitia

holyfamilyAmoris Laetitia (AL) is a long and comprehensive document that addresses many questions. It applies some of the guiding principles of Pope Francis’s pastoral approach to the possibilities and challenges of the New Evangelization today. Among these guiding principles are: the Church is a kind of “field hospital” that has to “reach out” to humanity suffering in many ways; pastors are called to “smell like the flock” and “make a mess” when confronted with the real needs of the faithful; and, perhaps most importantly, the “name of God is Mercy”. As such, pastors are called to accompany couples and families before, during and after their marriage ceremonies. In order to undertake effective pastoral action a proper understanding of marriage and family life as a vocation is needed. In fact, marriage and family life itself “pulpits” for proclaiming the Gospel of the family today. Consider these passages of AL:

200. The Synod Fathers emphasized that Christian families, by the grace of the sacrament of matrimony, are the principal agents of the family apostolate, above all through “their joy-filled witness as domestic churches”. … Enabling families to take up their role as active agents of the family apostolate calls for “an effort at evangelization and catechesis inside the family”.

201. This effort calls for missionary conversion by everyone in the Church, that is, one that is not content to proclaim a merely theoretical message without connection to people’s real problems.

204. Good pastoral training is important “especially in light of particular emergency situations arising from cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse”. All this in no way diminishes, but rather complements, the fundamental value of spiritual direction, the rich spiritual treasures of the Church, and sacramental Reconciliation.

Marriage as a Vocation: The proclamation of the Gospel of the family, of course, stems from the view that marriage and family life possess a vocational character. The notion of married and family life as a divine vocation is not new to the Church, yet, since the Second Vatican Council its importance has been increasingly emphasized. Some important points from AL in this regard are the following:

72. The sacrament of marriage is not a social convention, an empty ritual or merely the outward sign of a commitment. The sacrament is a gift given for the sanctification and salvation of the spouses, since “their mutual belonging is a real representation, through the sacramental sign, of the same relationship between Christ and the Church. The married couple are therefore a permanent reminder for the Church of what took place on the cross; they are for one another and for their children witnesses of the salvation in which they share through the sacrament”. Marriage is a vocation, inasmuch as it is a response to a specific call to experience conjugal love as an imperfect sign of the love between Christ and the Church. Consequently, the decision to marry and to have a family ought to be the fruit of a process of vocational discernment.

73. Mutual self-giving in the sacrament of matrimony is grounded in the grace of baptism, which establishes the foundational covenant of every person with Christ in the Church. In accepting each other, and with Christ’s grace, the engaged couple promise each other total self-giving, faithfulness and openness to new life. The couple recognizes these elements as constitutive of marriage, gifts offered to them by God, and take seriously their mutual commitment, in God’s name and in the presence of the Church. Faith thus makes it possible for them to assume the goods of marriage as commitments that can be better kept through the help of the grace of the sacrament. Consequently, the Church looks to married couples as the heart of the entire family, which, in turn, looks to Jesus.

74. Sexual union, lovingly experienced and sanctified by the sacrament, is in turn a path of growth in the life of grace for the couple. It is the “nuptial mystery”. The meaning and value of their physical union is expressed in the words of consent, in which they accepted and offered themselves each to the other, in order to share their lives completely. Those words give meaning to the sexual relationship and free it from ambiguity. More generally, the common life of husband and wife, the entire network of relations that they build with their children and the world around them, will be steeped in and strengthened by the grace of the sacrament.

75. In the Church’s Latin tradition, the ministers of the sacrament of marriage are the man and the woman who marry; by manifesting their consent and expressing it physically, they receive a great gift. The natural order has been so imbued with the redemptive grace of Jesus that “a valid matrimonial contract cannot exist between the baptized without it being by that fact a sacrament”.

Marriage Preparation: Given its vocational aspects, integral and complete Christian marriage preparation is crucial, taking into account some specific challenges facing those persons committing themselves for life to God and one another. Some of those challenges and obstacles are: affective immaturity; materialism; chastity; and false idealism of married life. Some relevant passages from AL addressing these pastoral challenges are:

206. The complexity of today’s society and the challenges faced by the family require a greater effort on the part of the whole Christian community in preparing those who are about to be married. The importance of the virtues needs to be included. Among these, chastity proves invaluable for the genuine growth of love between persons. In this regard, the Synod Fathers agreed on the need to involve the entire community more extensively by stressing the witness of families themselves and by grounding marriage preparation in the process of Christian initiation by bringing out the connection between marriage, baptism and the other sacraments.

207. There are a number of legitimate ways to structure programs of marriage preparation, and each local Church will discern how best to provide a suitable formation without distancing young people from the sacrament. Marriage preparation should be a kind of “initiation” to the sacrament of matrimony, providing couples with the help they need to receive the sacrament worthily and to make a solid beginning of life as a family.

209. The timely preparation of engaged couples by the parish community should also assist them to recognize eventual problems and risks. In this way, they can come to realize the wisdom of breaking off a relationship whose failure and painful aftermath can be foreseen. Nothing is more volatile, precarious and unpredictable than desire. The decision to marry should never be encouraged unless the couple has discerned deeper reasons that will ensure a genuine and stable commitment.

210. Couples need to be able to detect danger signals in their relationship and to find, before the wedding, effective ways of responding to them. Sadly, many couples marry without really knowing one another. They have enjoyed each other’s company and done things together, but without facing the challenge of revealing themselves and coming to know who the other person truly is.

211. Both short-term and long-term marriage preparation should ensure that couples do not view the wedding ceremony as the end of the road, but instead embark upon marriage as a lifelong calling based on a firm and realistic decision to face all trials and difficult moments together. The pastoral care of engaged and married couples should be centered on the marriage bond, assisting couples not only to deepen their love but also to overcome problems and difficulties.

214. At times, the couple does not grasp the theological and spiritual import of the words of consent, which illuminate the meaning of all the signs that follow. It needs to be stressed that these words cannot be reduced to the present; they involve a totality that includes the future: “until death do us part”. The content of the words of consent makes it clear that freedom and fidelity are not opposed to one another; rather, they are mutually supportive, both in interpersonal and social relationships.

217. It is important that marriage be seen as a matter of love, that only those who freely choose and love one another may marry. When love is merely physical attraction or a vague affection, spouses become particularly vulnerable once this affection wanes or physical attraction diminishes. Given the frequency with which this happens, it is all the more essential that couples be helped during the first years of their married life to enrich and deepen their conscious and free decision to have, hold and love one another for life. Often the engagement period is not long enough, the decision is precipitated for various reasons and, what is even more problematic, the couple themselves are insufficiently mature. As a result, the newly married couple need to complete a process that should have taken place during their engagement.

222. The pastoral care of newly married couples must also involve encouraging them to be generous in bestowing life. In accord with the personal and fully human character of conjugal love, family planning fittingly takes place as the result a consensual dialogue between the spouses, respect for times and consideration of the dignity of the partner. In this sense, the teaching of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae (cf. 1014) and the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (cf. 14; 2835) ought to be taken up anew, in order to counter a mentality that is often hostile to life… Decisions involving responsible parenthood presupposes the formation of conscience, which is “the most secret core and sanctuary of a person. There each one is alone with God, whose voice echoes in the depths of the heart” (Gaudium et Spes, 16).

227. We pastors have to encourage families to grow in faith. This means encouraging frequent confession, spiritual direction and occasional retreats. It also means encouraging family prayer during the week, since “the family that prays together stays together”.

Crises: The moments of crisis that take part in all marriage and family relationships must be approached with charity and pastoral sensitivity. Pastors need to truly accompany those married and couples that are suffering setbacks of all kinds. This challenge is brought up extensively in AL, from which some more relevant points are:

232. The life of every family is marked by all kinds of crises, yet these are also part of its dramatic beauty. Couples should be helped to realize that surmounting a crisis need not weaken their relationship; instead, it can improve, settle and mature the wine of their union. Life together should not diminish but increase their contentment; every new step along the way can help couples find new ways to happiness. Each crisis becomes an apprenticeship in growing closer together or learning a little more about what it means to be married.

234. Crises need to be faced together. This is hard, since persons sometimes withdraw in order to avoid saying what they feel; they retreat into a craven silence. At these times, it becomes all the more important to create opportunities for speaking heart to heart. Unless a couple learns to do this, they will find it harder and harder as time passes. Communication is an art learned in moments of peace in order to be practiced in moments of difficulty.

237. It is becoming more and more common to think that, when one or both partners no longer feel fulfilled, or things have not turned out the way they wanted, sufficient reason exists to end the marriage. Were this the case, no marriage would last.

242. The Synod Fathers noted that special discernment is indispensable for the pastoral care of those who are separated, divorced or abandoned. Respect needs to be shown especially for the sufferings of those who have unjustly endured separation, divorce or abandonment, or those who have been forced by maltreatment from a husband or a wife to interrupt their life together.

243. It is important that the divorced who have entered a new union should be made to feel part of the Church. “They are not excommunicated” and they should not be treated as such, since they remain part of the ecclesial community. These situations “require careful discernment and respectful accompaniment. Language or conduct that might lead them to feel discriminated against should be avoided, and they should be encouraged to participate in the life of the community. The Christian community’s care of such persons is not to be considered a weakening of its faith and testimony to the indissolubility of marriage; rather, such care is a particular expression of its charity”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Royal treatment in a Catholic nation

IMG_4111Being at World Youth Day 2016 was a blessing on so many levels. Of course the spiritual tone and piety of the young (and young-at-heart) people were moving, and the presence of Pope Francis and his inspiring messages to us participants are the clearest memories of the event. It was a surprise, however, to discover how Krakow’s rich secular and political history captured our attention as well. Coming from a nation that prides itself on revolution from the shackles of royalty (US Election 2016?) I found myself suddenly intrigued with the royal traditions of the Polish kingdoms, with their legends of heroic kings and queens leading the people into history-changing alliances and battles.

Krakow is particularly saturated with Catholic memory and culture. Its cathedral, Wawel, houses the relics of St. Stanislaus, one of the greatest of all martyr-saints. But like many European cathedrals, Wawel also contains the tombs of many Polish kings and queens. This secular presence of the great rulers of the Polish-Lithuanian kingdoms adds much to the collective experience of this Catholic nation. In other words, the Christian heroes of Poland are not only bishops, priests or religious monks and nuns (though there are plenty of those). Its secular rulers play a prominent role in the experience of the country. Among them is perhaps the greatest of Polish kings, Jan III Sobieski, who led the Christian armies to battle and victory at the Battle of Vienna in 1683, and who Henryk Sienkiewicz immortalized in his historical novels of the late 1800s ( I still gotta read those!) I found it particularly moving to visit and pray at the relatively simple tomb of Sobieski, “The king who saved Europe.”IMG_4148

Though World Youth Day is definitely not intended to be a celebration of battles and victories, still those elements of Polish culture are an undeniable feature of the Christian faith of this nation. Below is a clip from a recent movie depicting the Battle of Vienna, which took place on September 11, 1683. In Krakow Pope Francis encouraged us to continue to pray and work for peace through fraternity in this world, and hopefully the military campaigns of the past don’t have to be repeated. Through God’s mercy, may all forms of violence recede farther and farther into the past of all cultures and nations.

 

 

 

The Sacrament of Confession 101

IMAG0623_1There are many misunderstandings about Confession, and it’s a shame because it’s such an easy Sacrament, really, if we know what we are doing, and this means we are prepared. I put this post together to help outline the sacrament in a 3-part sequence: First, Next, Finally… What could be easier? If you are a Catholic who wants to go to confession, confess properly your sins, and receive absolution, then check out the outline below (works every time!)

First, review your life since the last time you went to confession. This is for many a seemingly difficult task, so I offer below some questions to help with this review. They are based on the ever-classic Ten Commandments…

  1. Do I pray, and do I trust God? Am I superstitious, or have I participated in occult activities? Have I rejected Church teachings, or denied I am a Catholic?
  2. Do I use God’s name without respect, or use foul language? Have I disrespected the Virgin Mary, other saints, or the Church?
  3. Have I willfully missed Mass on Sundays and other obligatory holy days? Am I late to Mass? Have I received Communion unworthily (in a state of sin)? Do I work unnecessarily on Sundays, neglecting my rest and family obligations?
  4. Do I respect my parents and other authorities? Am I helpful at home? Do I give others good example (siblings, children, friends)?
  5. Do I fight and argue, and have I physically harmed others? Am I cruel in my speech? Do I detract or gossip about others? Do I always defend the dignity of human life? Do I abuse drugs or alcohol, or do I eat excessively?
  6. Have I acted impurely, either alone or with others? Have I sought out impure entertainment (movies; Internet sites; magazines; music, etc.)? Am I modest in the clothes I wear, in my conversation, and in my general lifestyle? Do I respect and defend true marriage—one man, one woman, for life? Am I open to having as many children as God wants in my family?
  7. Do I respect others’ property? Have I taken things that are not mine? Do I return what I borrow? Do I cheat to win or look good? Do I respect others’ “intellectual property”? Am I generous in sharing my things, time, knowledge, etc?
  8. Do I lie to look good or to avoid punishment? Have I lied so that someone else looks bad or gets in trouble?
  9. Have I willfully enjoyed impure thoughts? Am I vain in my actions, speech, and imagination? Am I jealous of my neighbor’s spouse, friends, material goods, successes, or talents?
  10. Am I thankful to God for everything he has given me?

Next, Find a priest, ask him to hear your confession, and tell him the last time you went to Confession.

Then, Tell the priest all your sins, based on your review (don’t rush, don’t ramble). The priest will then give you some advice and a penance to do afterword. Pray an act of contrition to show you are sorry, and receive the Sacramental Absolution: “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (You say “Amen”).

Finally, Do your penance, give thanks to God for his grace and mercy, and next time bring a friend!

A rare travel log

IMG_20160604_141406I normally don’t write travel logs, as I don’t really get to many places, but last weekend I made a brief stop in Manhattan to visit friends. There were some scenes that I thought worthy of passing on. They were, for me, moments that for whatever reason at the time, sparked my interest enough to get out my Android and take a shot. Like the picture above: a street fair so common in NYC, but this time right in front of the Opus Dei headquarters on the corner of Lexington and 34th Streets. I had never been welcomed to my dwellings with such a party before, and I felt especially at home by the greeting! My travel companion wanted to go to Saturday Mass for the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and so we walked to the pretty Church of St. Agnes nearby, and did just that. Priests of Opus Dei (not me) are soon to staff this church, and it was a special moment to pray for them and the parish (interior below). IMG_20160604_120723

In Greenwich Village later in the day I visited the very peaceful Albert’s Garden on the corner of 2nd Street and Bowery. The space once served as a stage for the photo shoot for the legendary power-pop album, The Ramones. This album changed a lot about music in the 1970s, with its simple melodies and simultaneous distorted guitars. Here’s a picture of the Garden:

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And the song, “Listen to my heart” with the band lined up against the very same wall (40 years ago!):

I have to admit that it was difficult to imagine Johnny, Tommy, Joey, and Dee Dee favoring such an idyllic spot, which has improved so much since 1976! In honor of the event, Mike Aquilina, the writer, and yes, my companion for this trip, agreed to pose in front of a nearby mural of Joey Ramone (RIP). Mike’s on the left…

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But our visit was not all about rock-n-roll and churches. We spent a moment of silence in front of Alexander Hamilton’s grave in the cemetery of Trinity Church near Wall Street. Since we didn’t have time or the money to see the mega-hit musical Hamilton, we thought it a good substitute:

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Despite such a short visit, I felt blessed to have seen so many interesting places in such a short amount of time. I sensed God’s presence through it all, and travel always makes one appreciative for home once again. I was thrilled to fly over my home (for the moment), Pittsburgh, clouds and all, and know God’s presence there as well!

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Passwords and Pentecost

IMAG1737(1)Last week we celebrated yet another national-something-day, this time National “Change Your Password Day”. I admit it was a good reminder, and in fact I generated and changed a few of my own. Hopefully I’ll remember them! We are reminded to NOT use the same passwords or pass codes for more than one site, especially if those sites have something to do with money or personal contacts. Of course the challenge is how to keep so many distinct passwords separate while at the same time remembering them. A forgotten password really is a personal failure, because it shows that one really doesn’t care about the information being protected. We should care enough to remember a line of numbers, letters, and symbols that block others from accessing our stuff. In our culture memory is not as highly valued as it once was. Computers now do much of the work that human memory once required: remembering phone numbers, spelling words and basic computation, for examples. Passwords and, more particularly, remembering different personal passwords sharpens our memorization skills in new mental and muscular ways. I find it fascinating that when I pound out a password on a keyboard it is often without thought; finger muscles are trained to reach for different keys to make the magical phrase that will open my treasures. It is a bit like muscle training in sports or music. In fact, one comes to realize as we train ourselves to memorize a password that we could do this many times over. We can.  Because human experience is so rich and personal, our passwords become attached to our experiences, our favorite foods, our loved ones. Our electronic world, in fact becomes a kind of extension of ourselves, as it should.

On a more spiritual/theological level, the issue of memory is crucial. Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit to help us remember all he has taught us (cfr. John 14;26). In a way, the Apostles’ mission is simply one of remembering and proclaiming the wonders of Jesus’ Resurrection to the world. Memory is what makes them witnesses. As St. John says in his first letter, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched: this we proclaim…” (1:1). As we prepare for the coming of Holy Spirit this Pentecost, may we unite our memories to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, and proclaim our love of God openly to everyone, no passwords needed.

This group goes to 11 (for now)

thomasThe days of the Easter Season are all about Jesus and his Resurrection. Obviously. Yet focus is placed on the Apostles and other disciples as well, since they witness the event. In the first place we see Peter and John running to the tomb, soon after the holy women discover it is empty and report the fact. Then we see the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, encountering the Lord on the way. Next, Jesus appears to ten Apostles, and a week later, to eleven (now including a repentant Thomas). The gathering of the Eleven is significant because the week long episode provides us with (once again) a snapshot of our own life of faith and the struggles that make Christian discipleship real and connected with its historic roots.

Jesus patiently encounters the Apostles and followers “where they are”: tired, broken, scared, and distrustful of the others. Jesus, however, shows them (and us) that he still trusts them (and us), and that is all important. Jesus doesn’t “clear the table” and get a “new-improved team” together. In fact, he insists that what is left of the original Twelve must be gathered to form his Church which will then spread the Gospel. Perhaps this confidence of our Lord is no where better demonstrated than by Thomas’s conversion. After one whole week of absence and stubborn doubt, Thomas encounters the Risen Lord, who insists that he touch Jesus’ wounds and “not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-8). Thomas is fully reinstated; eleven Apostles are stronger than ten, and the Good News will be proclaimed boldly through the ages. They are reassured in their vocation. The Kingdom of God is growing; it’s time to get loud about the Resurrection of Jesus!

 

Holy Week binge

1380991895274The last days of Lent, also known as “Holy Week”, are a “binge moment”. After six weeks of self-control through fasting, alms, and prayer, Christians are invited to a kind of holy excess of dramatic liturgical and spiritual expressions. Beginning with Palm Sunday and continuing through Sunday of the Resurrection, we enter into a kind of “real time” with Jesus and his disciples. We witness Judas’ treachery, see the right ear of Malchus, the servant of the High Priest, lopped off by Peter and replaced by Jesus, and receive the promise of the Holy Spirit at the Last Supper. Through the words and songs of the liturgies (for example, the reading of the Passion or the Exultet chant of the Easter Vigil) a kind of holy indulgence takes place in our lives. Practical considerations like errands, politics, and travel fade in importance, as we focus on the central events of our salvation. More than scheduling, we operate on the level of the grace of the season. Let yourself be carried away this Holy Week into a “holy binge” with Jesus and the Church. Attend all the Holy Week services and customs, and follow the Lord!

Few places compare with Andalucia, Spain for its dramatic Holy Week customs!

Public penance and confession

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Recently I gave a short class on the history of confession in the Catholic Church. Among other interesting topics covered was the ancient practice of public penance. In the first centuries, sinners guilty of particularly serious sins, especially homicide, adultery and idolatry, were required to publicly confess their sins and beg for prayers so that they be publicly readmitted to communion by the bishop during Holy Week. Needless to say confession was not very popular for its “public humiliation” component.

Over time, and especially through the compassionate practices of Celtic monks, the Church began to see individual and private confession as the most effective and gospel inspired practice. This, Deo gratias, has become the common practice to our day, at least in the Western Church tradition. Some elements of public penance still remain, such as priests’ use of a violet stole and the raising of his right hand (showing public authority), the public space of a church for the sacrament, and the imposition of a penance at every confession. The intercessory prayer of the priest following absolution recalls the prayers of the Church for those early penitents, who were, of course, not so very different from us. Insert yourself into this tradition, and get to confession during Lent… and pray for confessors!

Here’s a fun account of the steps for a good (private) confession …

Book Review: “Finibus” by Jonas Perez

wp-1455051424482.jpgTexas writer Jonas Perez has taken on an epic task, literally. He has written and recently published Finibus (of the end things) an epic poem in 13 songs (sections) about the end of the world. All the familiar main characters and events are present, from the last battle between the good and bad angels, to the Second Coming of Christ, to the Final Judgement, all of them powerfully portrayed in metric narrative. Among the nuances of the story is its narrator, the damned priest Jonas (not the author!) who is condemned to hell (for sins against the 6th Commandment) despite being martyred (traditionally considered a sure path to Heaven). Jonas serves as a witness and commentator from hell describing the dramatic and terrible battles, triumphs and sufferings that occur when God closes history and reestablishes final justice.

The language used throughout the poem is simple, clear and powerful. Consider this account of Jonas’s damnation:

As the Angel held me I knew…

I knew…as I stared down from here…

Peace

I stole one last glance at his hue,

His eyes of fire, their fiery sear,

And he threw me into the air.

I fell slowly into loud hell.

The narrator would like to be able to repent, but does not contradict his condemnation. He knows that he deserves it, and in a strange way Jonas continues to praise God’s justice. The account of the final battle between God and the Devil, between Jesus and Satan, thus becomes an objective description, and maybe even the more powerful for being recounted by the damned priest, as recounted by the final verse (spoiler alert!) “I know that God is truth, he holds this still… Beyond me he bears all his free will.”

I really hope Finibus gets a wide and enthusiastic reading. In our day, it is beyond important that the traditional “Last Things” of Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell be given a fair and open hearing and defense of their place in Christian theology. In our era of mitigated responsibilities and horror of becoming “judgmental”, it is refreshing to see that judgement has a legitimate role in human history. Given the somewhat graphic (though didactic and poetic) account of Jonas’s sins at the beginning of the poem, I would recommend it to mature readers. The poem is available here at Amazon.

And how would a review of a poem about the end times be complete without R.E.M.’s anthem?

Burying David Bowie

2014_09_18_Calvary_Cemetery_02Having grown up with the music and many styles of David Bowie I was admittedly moved when I learned about his sudden death (at least to me). His battle with a host of medical problems finally over, in a flash he was gone, at least physically. I started looking for the funeral plans of this pop genius, sure that they would attract some of the most famous people in the world (and maybe Mars, too!) only to find out that upon death Bowie had been immediately cremated, in what funerary terminology is “direct cremation” defined by the NY health department as “the disposition of human remains by cremation without a formal viewing, visitation, or ceremony.” I guess this was Bowie’s wish: to go without a fuss and let the legendary music eulogize him. That’s understandable, but it’s also sad because proper memory and burial of the dead is very helpful not only to the deceased but especially to the living.

In this Jubilee of Mercy I have been thinking a lot about “Burial of the Dead” which is a corporal work of mercy in Catholic teaching. How we hope to be remembered and buried upon our deaths is an important, maybe the most important, contribution we really make to understanding our lives. I don’t advocate arranging every detail of our funerals. That’s weird. However, allowing ourselves to be remembered, albeit briefly and sincerely, is an act of sharing the most important elements of our lives: our inner-most beliefs and actions with those wishing us well and looking to us for good example. Death is a very life-giving moment.

I mention these things because I recently helped do some “shopping” for burial sites in my city, which might indeed be the place of final rest for me (give it a few years, I hope). Talk about an interesting consumer activity! The Catholic cemetery being considered is certainly a beautiful one (pictured above: Calvary Cemetery, Pittsburgh). Instead of being a sad occasion, it actually gave me a kind of joy to look at possible grave locations, especially when considering how others might enjoy their visits to my grave: the view, the climb, the peacefulness, the distances, and yes, the neighbors too. Though it’s true that we pass into eternity (Deo gratias!) it’s not presumptive to look after the living after we are dead. We do that financially through wills and trusts; why not spiritually through generously allowing ourselves to be loved and remembered after we have left this “vale of tears”? Even death (especially death) in that way, “isn’t about us”. I, for one, still remember David Bowie in my prayers and even at Mass. I actually owe him a lot, and I look forward to meeting him one long day…

Please enjoy Bowie’s later-year rendition of Ziggy Stardust. I especially like his blessing at the end!