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Dear Friends,

 

We have had several funerals this month and we are just at the half way point and we have had several baptisms so far this month…all of this is good news, good news that we are available to people and able to help them encounter Christ in the details of their lives.

 

One of our Synod projects was to develop an all-volunteer bereavement ministry and, I am happy to tell you, we have done just that but given the number of families that we are most likely going to be called upon to provide service and ministry to when they have sadness and death enter their lives.

 

So please give some consideration to offering a bit of your time and your care to some dimension of this ministry.

 

Not everyone would find it easy to sit with grieving families and listen to their stories and help them plan a meaningful funeral liturgy which is not so much as celebration of a life, although it can be that, but is an act of faith in a very imperfect and, often sad and unfair world, an act of faith that we are, indeed, more than health care consumers but beloved children of a very silent and, seemingly remote, God, especially when we get to the edge of life.

 

We need ordinary men and women to offer simple hospitality to those who come here for a funeral. You greet kindly, listen carefully, and are attentive to the need to know where the lavatories are or the participation booklets.

 

Simple but incredibly important to make a funeral that is human and not merely functional.

 

If you have any inclination, please call Debbie Lund in our business office, 865.8956.

Another synod project was to try and implement the teachings of Pope Francis in his encyclical, Laudato Si, in which he redirected our moral focus to concerns about the totality of our environment and the inter-relatedness of all creation in the image and likeness of the Creator.

 

To that end, we have replaced all of our gasoline powered lawn and grounds maintenance vehicles with electric and propane powered equipment.

 

We added more garden space and will expand our spring plantings beyond corn and sunflowers to wheat and grapes.

 

As we look to the future, I see a real need to try and create some kind of ministry to the families who attend to loved ones in the various health care facilities that abound in our neighborhood.

 

Patients and residents have traditionally received pastoral services but I think that families who attend to the patients and residents need some attention. They have to be exhausted, pulled in many directions with all kinds of people to take care of and no one to take care of them. I am sure many of them have lots of angers and guilt issues that take the life out of them.

 

If you have any ideas or thoughts in this regard watch the bulletin because if I get enough interest to just talk about this, we will move more intentionally toward some kind of ministry.

 

In a related issue, the Catholic Tradition of “Last Rites” or “Extreme Unction” still resonates in the minds of people but the chances of that happening as imagined is growing more and more remote which is why the more pastorally sensitive idea of “The Sacrament of the Sick” is properly the wider and deeper theology of Catholic Tradition.

Of course, I will come whenever I am able to take care of a sick or dying person, but we do not have a priest on standby 24/7, so the more time you allow for the Sacrament, the more likely it will happen as you want it to happen.

 

Waiting until the last minute and hoping to get a priest is not a good idea.

 

Personally, I am direction challenged and I do not drive anywhere after dark unless I know exactly where I am going. So please call, sooner rather than later.

 

I am reading and studying to try and understand sickness and aging in a more human and holistic context based on a better understanding of the Gospel stories as we have this weekend.

 

I am looking for language that helps me understand and, hopefully, experience my own path of diminishment, not as a surprise, a punishment for sin, or an unfortunate ending to an, otherwise, great life.

 

I think that it is a tragic waste of our lives that our endings are seen almost without exception as expensive medical opportunities for the health care industry.

 

I believe that there have to be ways to turn our aging, dying, and death into gifts that we give rather than the terribly costly in every imaginable way, the “battles” that they are becoming.

 

The idea of death is fascinating to us, as long as it is not our death, but the reality of our own death is more certain than anything else in our lives.

 

Very little attention has been given in Catholic Tradition to the humanity of death and dying other than “reward/punishment scenarios” and as my generation of baby boomers goes the way of all flesh the potential for chaos is very high.

 

I expect, given the pathological grandiosity of my generation, that we will see massive spikes in suicide and suicide/murder rates as we baby boomers decide that we aren’t going to see all of our money go down the drain of nursing homes and health care.

 

On the other hand, many of us will hang on as absolutely long as we can because we have never experienced a “loss” only “wins” and we aren’t going down without a big fight. 

 

Deacon Phil spoke of a book by Parker Palmer, On the Brink of Everything, last weekend at Mass and he intends to offer some kind of study or reading of this book in Lent, I believe.

 

Look for his announcement as we get closer to Lent.

 

Peace,

Father Niblick