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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: April 29, 2016
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during the wake for his mother at Trout Funeral Home Chapel in Ponca City, Okla. on Friday, April 29, 2016.
“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!” (Psalm 118:24) This has got to have been my mother’s favorite Scripture verse. She hand wrote it on all our birthday cards as far back as any of us can remember and it appears on the programs and holy cards printed for her funeral.
“This is the day the Lord has made ...” and even though it is a time of loss for us, “let us rejoice and be glad!” This is doubly appropriate in her case because for the faithful Christian, the day of our death is also the day of our birth to a new, much fuller life.
Job, in a time of great suffering said: “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” While it is true that “the Lord has taken away” this is a time of blessing and here’s why.
The way my parents lived their faith was convincing because it was so sincere and so unpretentious. Of course we never missed Sunday Mass even when on vacation, but we also knew that they prayed privately every morning and evening: This was just normal in our home.
We pray for a happy death but as we see, a happy death is not necessarily an easy death. My mother did not have an easy death — it was a long and difficult illness. And while hospice and her caregivers did an excellent job of making her as comfortable as they could, she still suffered a lot especially as she lingered far longer than usual … she’s gotten a lot of her purgatory taken care of, which I guess is a blessing.
None of us who have accompanied her through this lengthy struggle would call her back to this vale of tears even if we had the power to do so. But there are other ways in which hers is a happy death. She remained close to Jesus throughout her ordeal. She received all of the sacraments of the Church and we celebrated Mass with her every day for the last 10 days of her life — the last week gathered around her sick bed along with the traditional prayers commending her to the Lord, and sometimes she moved her lips as we were praying.
She received countless cards from well wishers assuring her of their prayers and love, especially the ladies in her bridge club, and frequent contact with all of her children. My brother, Joe, called her almost every morning for over two years. Mary and Paul took such good care of her and Dad throughout her illness — all those trips to
Each of us had the opportunity to say goodbye during her last days and among the last things she heard were the extended farewells over the telephone of sons and daughters living in
People of faith die differently and people of faith grieve differently, and my parents are people of faith. One of the first things I learned from the Baltimore Catechism was the answer to the question: “Why did God make us?” The answer is: “God made us to know him, love him and serve him in this life, and to be happy with him forever in the next.”
And that was my mother’s greatest goal in life: to help us, their children, grow into adults who truly did know the Lord, love him and serve him in this life. The way my parents lived their faith was convincing because it was so sincere and so unpretentious. Of course we never missed Sunday Mass even when on vacation, but we also knew that they prayed privately every morning and evening: This was just normal in our home.
Their Catholicism was not just a question of their identity or something inherited from the past, it was rooted in a living relationship with Jesus. They drew on this relationship with Jesus to find the strength to deal with adversity — be it the trials of raising seven children born in such quick succession, including periods when they had five teenagers at once and the expense of putting all of us through college; be it the trials of caring for their own parents in their last years; be it illness and infirmity in their own lives.
My mother loved Jesus and served him as a wife and mother, making many personal sacrifices for our benefit. And now we pray for her, that having served the Lord so faithfully in this life, she may now “be happy with him forever in the next.” And that is why we can say with faith and confidence that despite our own feelings of grief, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!”