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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: March 22, 2021
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during the wake service for his brother, Michael Taylor, in Ponca City, Oklahoma on Monday, March 22, 2021.
Five years ago, we gathered for the funeral of our mother, who died after a long illness, and despite our sorrow, we remembered Mom’s favorite Scripture verse: “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Our sorrow softened by the joy of God’s presence. Two years ago, we gathered for the funeral of our dad, just two weeks after the joyous celebration of his 90th birthday, surrounded by practically all of the family, of which he was so proud.
Any funeral is hard, but both of them were elderly and had lived a full life. They were ready to go. Now we gather for Michael’s funeral, who also died after a long and courageous battle with illness. But he is just 65. And it wasn’t even his main illness that took him — he was making good progress, the leukemia was wiped out and his DNA had now been replaced by my DNA with no evidence of rejection.
No, what defeated him was an unexpected fungal infection in his lungs that took advantage of his compromised immune system. And due to COVID restrictions, we couldn’t even go into the hospital to be with him. I know that he knows of our love, but surely our presence would have been a source of comfort to him and to us — just as your presence is a source of comfort to me and our family today.
With all the waiting for appointments and the results of labs and sickening medications and painful bone marrow aspirations, and everything else, (Michael) grew in patience, kindness, courage and love. He was unfailingly optimistic, always highlighting the positive in his lab results and finding ways to contextualize the negative. He was now ending every phone conversation with “I love you.”
I have known Michael longer than anyone else in this room and over the years I have been privileged to see how he has grown in the faith. We were, of course, raised in the faith by very devout parents, but each person has to make that faith their own, getting to know Jesus themselves personally and each of us has our own path to do so.
In Michael’s case I think especially of the impact of his involvement at St. Peter Church in Grenada, Mississippi, and then at Holy Cross Church in Madill, Oklahoma, where he made arrangements for our family to donate stained glass windows for their new church building. But it was as a consequence of his illness that I saw the most spiritual growth in him. People have asked how I feel about the fact that despite my stem-cell donation he died anyway, and my response is that not only did it give him an additional year of life, look at how he grew spiritually during this time.
With all the waiting for appointments and the results of labs and sickening medications and painful bone marrow aspirations, and everything else, he grew in patience, kindness, courage and love. He was unfailingly optimistic, always highlighting the positive in his lab results and finding ways to contextualize the negative. He was now ending every phone conversation with “I love you.”
He’s the one who started the Marco Polo communications, and all our family enjoyed his Marco Polo messages, especially the goofy ones. For those who don’t know, Marco Polo is an easy-to-use video messaging app. I was also privileged to see Lynn’s devotion. This has been a long, hard two years for both of them, but in the process, they have become very close.
What to say to express Michael’s trust in God as we gather today to return him to the Lord who brought him into this life 65 years ago and has been by his side all these years? When faced with loss, I try to make Job’s words my own: “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” And then I just leave it in the Lord’s hands.
And isn’t that what we do when we pray the rosary. We put everything in God’s hands. We remember the mysteries of our salvation, how every step of the way Jesus and Mary seek to accept and do the Father’s — often hard to understand — will, which often involves adversity and loss. There are joyful mysteries, sorrowful mysteries, luminous mysteries and glorious mysteries.
And today, with our minds cheered by faith in Michael’s share in the resurrection won for us by Jesus, I have asked Joseph to lead us in praying a little bit different kind of rosary that I have composed which focuses on those events in Jesus’ life that most connect with Michael’s journey of faith and speaks to us as we gather to return him to the Lord.
First Mystery: The Fourth Joyous Mystery (presentation of Jesus in the Temple by his parents) and the First Luminous Mystery (baptism of Jesus). Sixty-five years ago Michael’s parents presented him in the Temple, the Church, and he was baptized, beginning his life as a Christian, a follower of Jesus. (Then pray the Lord’s Prayer and first decade of the rosary.)
Second Mystery: The Fifth Luminous Mystery (gift of the Eucharist, the bread of eternal life). As Jesus said in the Gospel of John, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. When he was in second grade Michael received the Eucharist for the first time, and has received Jesus’ true Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, the bread of eternal life, many, many times since. (Then pray the Lord’s Prayer and second decade.)
Third Mystery: The Third Joyous Mystery (birth of our Savior). Here we recall Michael’s joy at the birth of Tom, Lisa, Margaret and Elizabeth, and at the birth of each of his seven grandchildren. (Then pray the Lord’s Prayer and third decade of the rosary.)
Fourth Mystery: The Fourth and Fifth Sorrowful Mysteries (Jesus takes up his cross and dies on the cross). Here we remember Michael’s courageous, self-sacrificing, two-year struggle with disease, and his death on March 15. (Then pray the Lord’s Prayer and fourth decade.)
Fifth Mystery: The First and Second Glorious mysteries (Jesus rises from the dead and ascends into heaven). Here we remember Jesus’ promise that we too will share in his resurrection. On the last day, we will rise from our graves and share with Jesus in the eternal joy of life in heaven. (Then pray the Lord’s Prayer and fifth decade of the rosary.)
The service then ended with the Hail Holy Queen, a final prayer and a final blessing.