“My family—sisters Deb and Lisa, brothers Bob and Pat, plus numerous nieces and nephews—and I, are grateful for the tremendous outpouring of sympathy, support, and prayers following the death of my dear Mom, Shirley Jean Radcliffe Dolan. In place of my regular column, allow me to share with you, my spiritual family, my homily from the Memorial Mass in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral this past Saturday, March 19th, the Feast of Saint Joseph.”
That all of you would gather with me at this grand and glorious cathedral to pray with reverence and gratitude for my dear mother, Shirley, means the world to me.
We buried her on the eve of St. Patrick’s day at her home parish of the Immaculate Conception in Maplewood, Missouri;
And now we gather on this Feast of St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary...and the patron saint of a happy death.
While the Bible tells us nothing of his death, our Catholic tradition holds that he died with Jesus and Mary at his side. That’s a happy death!
And Mom had a happy death: Ninety-three years old, a brief illness, and a grand send-off.
While Mom was not itching to die, she sure was ready. Often, especially when one younger than she would pass, she’d ask, “I wonder why the Lord would not take me instead. I’m ready and I’ve sure had a good long life.” “Still” she’d conclude, ”He knows what He’s doing, even if I do not!”
So, I praise God for her life and her death, and, most of all for the fullness of everlasting life which, I trust, she, by the mercy of God, now enjoys. That all of you are here to thank the Lord with me is a gift for which I will ever be grateful.
St. Joseph is as well the Patron of families, as he was head of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and himself.
This past week I have been close to my own family back home, and am sure glad my youngest brother, Patrick, is here this morning. As I mentioned at her funeral Mass, the wise among us teach that, while faith is the Lord’s best supernatural gift to us, to grow up in a united family, raised by loving parents, is His choicest natural gift to us. And Pat, Deb, Lisa, Bob and I sure did. To lower Mom’s body next to Dad’s, who dropped dead forty-five years ago when mom was but forty-seven, Pat only twelve, brought a tender sentiment of peace and resolution to us.
And now I’m here with my spiritual family. Your love, prayers and assurances of sympathy this past week, your company this morning—dear brother bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians, religious women and men, ecumenical and inter-religious colleagues, community leaders, friends, neighbors, folks I cherish here in the archdiocese and community—reminds me mightily that you, this community, the Church, is my divine family...and I sense the embrace of Holy Mother Church this morning.
Are we not all members of God’s family, His children? Are not Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the saints and all those who have gone before still close to us in this divine family, the “communion of saints,” the Church? Do we not live with hope in being together for all eternity?
This is sure evident to me this morning...thanks to all of you!
St. Patrick’s Day happened to be the fortieth anniversary of the death of one Jeremiah L. Callahan, our parish priest growing up. Father Callahan had been an army chaplain in the bloodiest carnage of World War II. His brother, John, also an army chaplain, had been killed in the line of duty during the war, and Father Callahan had given me his brother’s chalice when I was ordained as a priest. Father Callahan reckoned he had been with nearly four hundred soldiers as they died. Two words, two words, he recalled, were almost always on a dying hero’s lips: “God”—there is one word; and “mom”—there is the second. “God” and “Mom”. No surprise!
God reveals Himself to us as a Father, but He also reveals that His tender love of us is like a mother for her child. A mom loves us as God does; mine sure did.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!
I give you my heart and soul!
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!
Assist me in my last agony!”
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