Homily at Funeral Mass - Dolores M. Gullickson
Holy Cross Parish, Hutchinson, KS
30 January 2013
I: Wisdom 3:1-9
Resp. Ps. 27… The Lord is my light and my salvation.
II: Romans 5:5-11
Alleluia: John 6:40
John 19:17-18, 25-39
The Pillar of the Cloud by Blessed John Henry Card. Newman
LEAD, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor pray'd that Thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile. (At Sea. June 16, 1833.)
“Lead, Kindly Light…”! Bookends, if you will on the Christian experience are the two great feasts of Christmas and Easter: two tiny lights, the star of Bethlehem and the Easter candle entering the darkened church of our Easter Vigil; the two rough wooden structures which bore our Savior, the Manger or feed trough of Bethlehem and the Cross of Calvary. Despite our own hardships, a Christian’s path through life is not so much conditioned by the darkness of our world, that is, by Newman’s encircling gloom, as by the seemingly tiny and kindly light of Christ, which leads us on, where? “O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till the night is gone…”
Some of you are here with us today to say goodbye to Dolores, to our dear Mother, and that is absolutely wonderful. We are grateful; we are most appreciative. For those of you, Catholic or not, who may not know, who may not exactly understand how we Catholic Christians do that, let me explain that we do it by the light of the Easter Candle and in the shadow of the Cross, caught up by Christ’s will in the song and celebration of the angels in the courts of heaven in this the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Today in our prayer, on Dolores’ behalf and on our own, we have three things to say to God: “Thank you, Lord, for Dolores!”, “Lord, forgive Dolores!” and “Lord, forgive me, a sinner!” We all say these three things today as official Church and each of us will continue to repeat them in our daily prayers for as long as we live.
“Thank you, Lord, for Dolores!” As the baby of her family and at 87 she outlived an awful lot of relatives and friends. In 1985, she buried our father, her husband Leon, and previously, in 1980, together they had to bury their son, our brother, David. God gave her to us, her children and grandchildren (unto a first great-grand) as a kindly light, a source of strength and teaching. As parents are supposed to be, as baptized people are supposed to be, she was a steady and powerful witness to Christ for us. “Thank you, Lord, for Dolores!” Give her rest now from her labors as a good and faithful servant.
“Lord, forgive Dolores!” Mother was all too aware of her own sinfulness and that of others. She did her best always to pray for others who had died, as well as pray for the living, recommending them to God’s love and to His mercy. She made no secret in these last years of her struggle to be charitable toward those who got on her nerves. Mom would be offended if we tried to glorify her or make of her a saint. She believed in the Church’s teaching about Purgatory; it made perfect sense to her, as it does to any thinking person, that our sins have consequences, that the God Who loves us would not only have us seek forgiveness in Confession, but would also have us purged of the consequences of our sin after sacramental absolution, would have us refined like gold in a furnace through self-imposed penance in this life and if need be a winnowing or threshing process after death and before heaven to eliminate what chaff might yet be left clinging to us to be eliminated such that we might come before Him and be with Him in glory forever, without wrinkle or spot or anything of the sort. In this Holy Mass and in every Mass and prayer we offer for the repose of her soul or for our own dear departed family and friends, we beg the infinite merits of Christ our Savior for them and for her: “Lord, forgive Dolores!” Please, do not fail to pray and sacrifice for the Poor Souls, do not forget to remember Dolores at the Altar. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord! And let perpetual light shine upon them! May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace!
And thirdly: “Lord, forgive me, a sinner!” Newman again: “I was not ever thus, nor pray'd that Thou shouldst lead me on. I loved to choose and see my path, but now lead Thou me on! I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears, pride ruled my will: remember not past years.” The Church wills funerals not only for the deceased and for the consolation of those left behind. The Church, God really, our Creator and Savior wills funerals for all of us too! A certain fear and trembling should be part of the experience for us all. I pray that this celebration would inspire us one and all to seek repentance, to seek Christ’s mercy for our sins and failings: “Lord, forgive me, a sinner!”
Each year for about five years now in January, as the Christmas Season in Ukraine begins to wind down, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Kyiv celebrates a social evening to raise funds for the new cathedral. At this year’s event, a friend of mine introduced me to a young woman who had already received the status of professor; she had published books in various languages and gained a measure of international acclaim. Not five days later, I received notice of her death in a one car accident, when the driver of the car in which she was a passenger lost control on a patch of ice and went off the road. We know neither the day nor the hour.
We certainly have, by the grace of God and His favour, a mission to accomplish for the sake of the life of the world, on behalf of the salvation of those whose lives we touch. Will we be Christ for others during a short life or long? Does it really matter whether our days allotted be many or few? Life is not ours to plan; 8 or 80 years, what matters is this one step and how we witness to Christ today. “Lord, forgive me, a sinner!” In the light, the kindly light of Christ, let us seek to move forward, despite mistakes, despite our sins, praying that He will direct our path through the darkness which surrounds us. If only I had…. If only this…. or that… or these… If only then well those…. Well what? Funerals should remind me to live as a penitent, in intimate and humble communion with Christ’s Church, at one with Him in faith, hope and love. “Lord, forgive me, a sinner!”
At the Foot of the Cross the Blessed Virgin Mary, sinless from the very moment of her conception and despite her perfection of body and soul, would no doubt rather have had things turn out somehow differently. Caught up as she was in the agony of her dearly beloved Son, it was but a little light there for her. We stand with her in the shadow of the Cross grateful as she to take life one step at a time.