Funeral for Sr. Cecily Graves | 2017 - All Souls Day
By Bishop Emeritus Frederick Henry
For a Catholic, with the Feasts of All Saints/Souls it would be hard to pick a better time for a funeral.
For some time now, scientists have been sending signals into the cosmos, hoping for a response from some intelligent being on some lost planet.Even if inhabitants outside of the solar system existed, communication with them would be impossible, because between the question and the answer, millions of years would pass.
The Church has always maintained a dialogue with the inhabitants of another world -- the saints. That is what we proclaim when we say, "I believe in the communion of the saints." Here, though, the answer is immediate because there is a common centre of communication and encounter, and that is the risen Christ.
We are like the embryo in the womb of a mother yearning to be born. The saints have been "born" - the liturgy refers to the day of death as "the day of birth." To contemplate the saints is to contemplate our destiny. All around us, nature strips itself and the leaves fall, but meanwhile, the feasts of the saints/souls invite us to gaze on high; it reminds us that we are not destined to wither on this earth forever, like the leaves, or to be covered up by snow.
Sr. Cecily’s Funeral reminds us that our bodies will one day give out. Somewhere, sometime, sooner or later, we will experience the startling reality of death. Then what? Is it all over for the individual? Nothing but extinction, absolute silence, darkness? Will there be no more love, no more joy, no more laughter?
Jesus assures us that there is a future for us. He has personally walked ahead of us through the doors of death and came back and say there is light, love and laughter and rejoicing in the presence of God.
Our funeral liturgy reminds us of Job: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, ....”
Listen again to the consoling words of Scripture:
Paul to the Corinthians: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died... and then at his coming those who belong in Christ”.
John 12:26: “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am. There will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.”
Instead of looking back at Sr. Cecily’s life, we all bring to this celebration so many memories of her, and various experiences and events, and it would be easy to fall into a nostalgia-like experience but I tried to imagine what she would say to us today and here is what I came up with.
Sr. Cecily might very well say: The first thing to do would to overcome our indifference and insensitivity to the poor. What we are to do for them in practice can be summed up in three words: love, help, and evangelize.
- Love the poor. Loving the poor means first of all respecting them and recognizing their dignity. Francis of Assisi would remind us that they are not simply our "fellow men" or our "neighbours": they are our brothers and sisters!
- The duty of loving and respecting the poor is followed by that of helping them. It is not about getting angry with God in face of the misery of the world, but angry with ourselves."Oh God, where are you? Why don't you do something for that innocent creature?" But an inner voice replies: "I have done something -I created you!" Sr. Cecily, from time to time, would came to my office with a tale of woe from near or far and say : “Bishop, what are you going to do about it?” I would say - good issue, bad question - “What are we going to do about it?”
- Finally, evangelize the poor. This was the mission that Jesus recognized as his own par excellence - reading from the scroll of Isaiah:”The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor." The poor man does not live on bread alone but also on hope, and on every word that comes from God's mouth.
Her imagined words are not surprising as they are based in the Franciscan tradition: Quote from a letter of St Francis of Assisi - the Office of Readings for October 4. “Furthermore, let us produce worthy fruits of penance. Let us also love our neighbours as ourselves. Let us have charity and humility. Let us give alms because these cleanse our souls from the stains of sin. Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For these they will receive from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve. We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh. Rather we must be simple, humble and pure. We should never desire to be over others. Instead, we ought to be servants who are submissive to every human being for God's sake. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on all who live in this way and persevere in it to the end. He will permanently dwell in them. They will be the Father's children who do his work. They are the spouses, brothers and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Praying for those who have died should be a quiet fondness for them before the Lord. We pray for Cecily today with a quiet fondness.
Remembering our departed loved ones like that, praying for them, keeps us in ongoing communion with them. We believe that they are with the Lord, who is also with us in this life.
In accordance with canon 401 § ii of the Code of Canon Law, his Holiness Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Most Reverend Frederick B. Henry as Bishop of the Diocese of Calgary due to health concerns.
Most Rev. Luigi Bonazzi, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, announces that the Holy Father has named Bishop William Terrence McGrattan, currently the Bishop of the Diocese of Peterborough, as his successor.
The installation of the new Bishop will be on Monday, February 27, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. which will be at St. Mary’s Cathedral. This is a ticketed event, details to be announced soon.
In the meantime, Bishop Henry has been named Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Calgary.
We thank Bishop Henry for his unstinting service, and we welcome Bishop McGrattan to our Diocese.
To read Bishop Henry’s resignation letter sent to Pope Francis, click here.
Edmonton, September 14, 2016 The Roman Catholic Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories have issued some new guidance for priests, deacons, and pastoral workers in caring for individuals and families in difficult contemporary situations.
One document aims to answer the call of Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, particularly to assist priests in their duty to accompany those Catholics who are divorced and remarried without having received a decree of nullity.
The other follows the legalization in Canada of assisted suicide and euthanasia (“Medical Assistance In Dying”), and focuses on spiritual and sacramental considerations in caring for individuals and families who may be considering death by these means.
“The ultimate aim of these guidelines is to help the faithful understand the beautiful teachings of the Church on sacramental marriage, the dignity of the human person, and the inviolable sanctity of human life,” said Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, who serves as president of the Alberta-NWT Bishops.
“We know that many Catholics, often due to the messages they receive through the secular culture, have come to some serious misunderstandings around life and family issues,” he said.
For example, a Catholic who is divorced and remarried without having a decree of nullity for their first marriage may be under the misapprehension that they may receive the Eucharist as long as they simply speak to a priest (there is more to it than that). Another example would be someone who sees assisted suicide or euthanasia as a gesture of mercy (rather than a grave sin), and asks for the Sacrament of the Sick on behalf of a loved one who plans to die this way.
“When our people face these very difficult life situations, we want our priests and our parishes to be well prepared offer them a listening ear, patient understanding, and good spiritual guidance – to be the kind of ‘oases of mercy’ the Holy Father talks about,” Archbishop Smith said.
Both are dated on the Feast of the Exaltation ofthe Cross and signed by the six bishops who serve a Catholic population of more than one million in five Catholic dioceses:
- Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton
- Most Rev. Gregory J. Bittman, Auxiliary Bishop of Edmonton
- Most Rev. Frederick Henry, Bishop of Calgary
- Most Rev. Gerard Pettipas CSsR, Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan
- Most Rev. Paul Terrio, Bishop of St. Paul
- Most Rev. Mark Hagemoen, Bishop of Mackenzie-Fort Smith
The guidelines can be viewed here:
- AB-NWT Bishops' Guidelines for the Pastoral Accompaniment of Christ's Faithful who are Divorced and Remarried Without a Decree of Nullity
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Catholic education takes its lead from Jesus Himself: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Mt 28.19-20) Simply, this means announcing the Good News of Jesus Christ and helping one another to become His disciples.
We do this by first listening to the proclamation of the Gospel. Then, after having received the Word, we begin to integrate it into our lives. We let Jesus’ words and actions shape us and form us to be his disciples, his witnesses to others. Then, as Jesus’ disciples, we can be his hands and feet and eyes to spread the Good News.
Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world, Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.… Christ has no body now on earth but yours. (St. Teresa of Avila)
As an integral part of the Church, Catholic schools have been given the responsibility to deliver Catholic education. They are part of the Church’s evangelizing mission in the world and are “the privileged environment in which Christian education is carried out.” (The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, Congregation for Catholic Education, 1997, n. 11)
They form a community to spread and deepen the faith; to form the human person with an outlook to his or her final end as well as the common good of society. In developing their physical, moral, and intellectual talents, they help their students acquire a more perfect sense of responsibility and the right use of freedom. (cf. Gravissimum educationis, n.1) Fidelity to the truth of Christ ensures the effectiveness of their mission.
As we celebrate Catholic Education Sunday, it is good to reflect on the importance and the need of Catholic education, not only for our students, but also for the good of our communities and society as a whole.
May Christ the Teacher inspire us and guide us in the coming year to be his disciples, his hands and feet and his eyes to all those we encounter. God bless you.
Catholic Bishops of Alberta and NWT
☩ Most Rev. Richard Smith
☩ Most Rev. Gregory Bittman
☩ Most Rev. Frederick Henry
☩ Most Rev. Gerard Pettipas, CSsR
☩ Most Rev. David Motiuk
☩ Most Rev. Mark Hagemoen
☩ Most Rev. Paul Terrio
To view the letter in full, click HERE.
During his years as premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev denounced many of the policies and atrocities of Joseph Stalin.
Once, as he censured Stalin in a public meeting, Khrushchev was interrupted by a shout from a heckler in the audience. "You were one of Stalin's colleagues. Why didn't you stop him?"
"Who said that?" roared Khrushchev. An agonizing silence followed as nobody in the room dared move a muscle.
Then Khrushchev replied quietly, "Now you know why."
Theme: Moral courage is always in short supply. It is the fashion to keep our heads down and go with the herd; but this is not the way to follow Christ.
“BE NOT AFRAID”
Jeremiah is dropped into a well to die, but is saved by a foreigner
Persevere with Jesus, for we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses
Jesus calls for total loyalty, even if it causes severe dissension
Jeremiah’s role was to condemn idolatry and help his people rebuild their faith. But the ruling elite blocked all his efforts and even wanted to kill him, trying to make it seem that he died of the general famine afflicting the country. As a shy young man, Jeremiah’s whole being shuddered before the vocation he felt, which was “to tear up and to knock down, to destroy and to overthrow” (1:10). In his own descriptions we see him on the verge of despair. “The word of the Lord has brought on me insult and derision all day long” (20:8).
Jeremiah inner struggle was intense. “Why is my suffering endless, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?” (15:18). He even goes so far as to say, “Cursed be the day when I was born” (20:18). He was going through what St John of the Cross would later call “the dark night of the soul,” when someone specially chosen by God seems abandoned by him. By such suffering the heart of Jeremiah was purified, making him a mighty prophet.
Instead of preaching externals like Law, circumcision, sacrifice and Temple, Jeremiah preached a religion that was inward, a more personal relationship with God. Deep within his people’s psyche God would plant his Law, writing it on their hearts (Jer 31:33). Jeremiah’s role was to condemn idolatry and help his people rebuild their faith
Jesus says in the Gospel: “Do you think that I am come to bring peace on earth? No. I tell you, but rather division.”
Each time Jesus decides to follow the Father’s will, it divides him off from those who won’t take the step with him
The problem is that we’ve lost sight of how disruptive and unconventional Jesus was. He talked of Samaritans saving Jewish lives! He praised the father who embraced the son who shamed him! You were to share your cloak and tunic, all you wore, literally! The soldier in the occupying army was to be accompanied not just the one mile but another mile, unbidden.
Jesus parted company with the self-centred behind, not because he wished to but because they did. His open-handed approach to others provoked a clench-fisted reaction in them. They would have to be rid of this challenging presence. The crucifixion was meant to silence him for good. Instead, it gave him the final, supreme option. It not only capped his life of sacrifice but raised up a symbol to disturb us over the centuries. The sacrificed life of Jesus indicates the price to be paid if we are to reach the peace he calls us to.
WYD - CROSS OF CHRIST
The government of Polish Prime Minister Jaruzelski had ordered crucifixes removed from classroom walls, just as they had been banned in factories, hospitals, and other public institutions. Catholic bishops attacked the ban that had stirred waves of anger and resentment all across Poland. Ultimately the government relented, insisting that the law remain on the books, but agreeing not to press for removal of the crucifixes, particularly in the schoolrooms.
But one zealous Communist school administrator in Garwolin decided that the law was the law. So one evening he had seven large crucifixes removed from lecture halls where they had hung since the school's founding in the twenties. Days later, a group of parents entered the school and hung more crosses. The administrator promptly had these taken down as well.
The next day two-thirds of the school's six hundred students staged a sit-in. When heavily armed riot police arrived, the students were forced into the streets. Then they marched, crucifixes held high, to a nearby church where they were joined by twenty-five hundred other students from nearby schools for a morning of prayer in support of the protest. Soldiers surrounded the church. But the pictures from inside of students holding crosses high above their heads flashed around the world. So did the words of the priest who delivered the message to the weeping congregation that morning. "There is no Poland without a cross."
Pope’s Homily at St. John Paul II Shrine: “Jesus sends. From the beginning, he wants his to be a Church on the move, a Church that goes out into the world”
“After the great sign of his mercy, we could say that there is no longer a need to add another. Yet one challenge does remain. There is room left for the signs needing to be worked by us, who have received the Spirit of love and are called to spread mercy. It might be said that the Gospel, the living book of God’s mercy that must be continually read and reread, still has many blank pages left. It remains an open book that we are called to write in the same style, by the works of mercy we practise. Let me ask you this: What are the pages of your books like? Are they blank? May the Mother of God help us in this. May she, who fully welcomed the word of God into her life, give us the grace to be living writers of the Gospel. May our Mother of Mercy teach us how to take concrete care of the wounds of Jesus in our brothers and sisters in need, those close at hand and those far away, the sick and the migrant, because by serving those who suffer we honour the flesh of Christ. May the Virgin Mary help us to spend ourselves completely for the good of the faithful entrusted to us, and to show concern for one another as true brothers and sisters in the communion of the Church, our holy Mother.”
Be not afraid - Persevere with Jesus, for we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.
Bishop Frederick Henry
August 14, 2016