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Monday, May 7, 2012

Strangers on the surface only...

It is not too often that we see charity played out in our day-to-day lives, but I recently not only witnessed it, but experienced the most beautiful manifestation of this act at it's finest.  This post is not about my journey through grief, but how we truly matter to each other, even in death.  It demonstrates how intricately we are all connected, and how the death of a total stranger left a lasting impression on me and others present on that fateful day.  This is an excellent example of how a simple man's death brought a community together...

  “We are One Body…”
Every once in a while we are given small glimpses of heaven; today was such a day.  Earlier in the week I had been told by my pastor that a gentleman had died, and that sadly he had no family or friends.  He explained that the funeral director had called him, and wondered if he would be willing to say a few words at the grave.  Strongly believing that every child of God deserves a proper funeral complete with Mass, he told him that he would have a funeral Mass for this man.  The response was not out of the ordinary, “Father, it will just be you and I at this Mass.” 

But our pastor is a determined man, and began to share this man’s story.   He reached out to the parish community, via the St. Vincent de Paul Society; the Charismatic Prayer Group; Parish Council; Music Ministry; basically any one he came in contact with.  He spoke to the principal at the parish school and elicited her help as well.  He asked me to get the word out, knowing I would use my Facebook connections to reach as many people as possible.  He simply reached out on behalf of this man, for this man.  I promised I would help spread the word, but was not sure if I would be able to attend; but would do my best to be there. 

This man’s funeral was held at 9 a.m. few days later; I arrived a few minutes early.  There were a few people already gathered and I thought to myself, this is a good number of people.  As I sat waiting for Mass to begin, slowly more people began to enter the church filling in the seats all around me.  About a few minutes before the Mass began, the students, faculty and staff of the school made their way to their reserved seats. 

Music programs were distributed bearing the name of the deceased, and for all outward appearances the church was filled with family and friends of the deceased.  It looked like any other funeral I had attended, so what made this one so different.  This man was unknown to any one of us gathered; we knew nothing about him other than his name.  He too, more than likely did not know anyone present.  Yet here we all were. 

To my amazement, when the funeral Mass began, the church was full, a special occasion kind of full.  I could feel a profound sadness at this man’s plight, but also an overwhelming joy at how people can and had pulled together when there is a need.  I felt a connection to this man that I cannot or will not try to explain.  There was a special bond, a profound unity with the deceased and everyone present at this Liturgy.  We truly were one body, we were the arms and legs, the eyes and hands, we were ‘Church’ in the truest sense of the word.  This was the true definition of “universal church,” this is the community the Apostles speak of in Acts. 

As I headed back to work, I could not help but think to myself, this is Church, this is the family I am proud to be a part of.  This is what keeps me rooted to my faith, it is these and other simple, yet profound acts of mercy and charity, that remind me of why I am Catholic, why we are in fact considered the “universal church,” and why I call my faith community – home. 

My sincerest gratitude goes out to the many parish communities that were present; several of the area churches were represented.  People from all walks of life sat together as one, in communion with one of our own, one of our baptized brothers.  This was by far one of the most beautiful experiences I have had, this was a magnificent image of Christ represented in his body the Church. 

All this because one man truly believes we are all brothers and sisters in Christ through our Baptism.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.

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