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June 12, 1998     The Message
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June 12, 1998

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The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana June :. :'! i: 11;7  C o Blessed are those-who mourn By FATHER JOHN CROSSIN, O.S.ES. Catholic News Service Certain rituals surround death. A visit to the funeral home, the Mass of the Res- urrection, cards of condolence, gifts of flowers, donations to charity and visits to the cemetery are some ways we express our grief. The most striking ritual I ever wit- nessed occurred when I was a young deacon. On one sweltering summer day, the associate pastor asked me to per- form the cemetery rites for the first time. Meanwhile, he would celebrate another funeral Mass at the parish church. I was quite nervous in performing these rites for a family I didn't really know. In the middle of the ceremony, and to me quite unexpectedly, three wailing relatives came forward and threw themselves on the coffin. After a few minutes -- which seemed an eternity -- they faded back into the crowd of mourners at the bur- ial site. My reserved Irish-German upbringing hadn't prepared me for this! Later, on the drive back to the church, the funeral director, a distant relative of the deceased woman, explained this rit- ual to me. In a matter-of-fact manner, he told me that two of these women rela- tives were sincere in their mourning but that the third felt "she had to throw her- self on the casket" for propriety's sake. I found his detached analysis as upset- ting as the actual event. I had a lot to learn about funeral rituals and even more about mourning. Various cultures have different ways of expressing their grief. In some Euro- pean countries, for example, people make a habit of visiting the cemetery on All Souls Day in November to pray for and celebrate the lives of their deceased relatives. Thus mourning is expressed publicly in culture and ritual. The time of mourning is also a time when certain familiar rituals end. Many small rituals cease with the death of someone we love. The breakfasts togeth- er, the walks, the sporting events and the family gatherings that we shared now become history. These "little things" which make up the texture of daily life perhaps require the hardest adjustment on the part of those who mourn. It can take a year or even several years to come to terms with this. Mourning takes time. We cannot rush it. We may "know the steps" intellectu- ally, but we have to live through them. We are deeply emotional people, and our deepest emotions take time to heal. Furthermore, each person is unique. We respond to grief in very different ways. So the healing cycle is deeply personal. As I understand it, mourning is a natural human process. This healing process passes through a variety of stages such as denial and anger before arriving at a sense of peace. There is a See BLESSED page 8 "17: "Those who work with grieving people affirm the value in facing the deceased person's final resting place," says Father Lawrence E. Mick. -- CNS photo from Reuters By FATHER LAWRENCE E. MICK Catholic News Servtco have no hope." This is the beginning of one suggested reading for a Catholic funeral, and it summarizes the liturgy's basic response to death. We might call this a response of realistic hope. Realistically, it takes the pain of loss seriously. Neither St. Paul nor the church's liturgy fails to recognize that grief is a valid and even necessary emo- tional response to loss. Anyone who tries to avoid feeling grief when a loved one Mourning the loss of loved ones is a universal human experience, but the way people mourn is not universal. St. Paul suggests one major difference In the way people mourn in his first let- ter to the Thessalonians (4:13): "We would have you be clear about those who sleep in death, brothers; otherwise you might yield to grief, like those who s ./ "Mourning is a natural human process," explains Oblate Father Crossin. "This healing process passes through a variety of stages denial and anger before arriving at a sense of peace .... Only a resolution occur." -- CNS ............. dies is at risk of developing future emotional problems. The only way past grief is through it. The liturgy recognizes the impor- tance of grieving. For example the prayers of the Mass of Christian Burial repeatedly pray for God's compassion and comfort on those who mourn. One petition suggest- ed for the general intercessions prays "for the family and friends of our brother/sister N., that they may be consoled in their grief by the Lord, who wept at the death of his friend Lazarus." That consolation is based on faith. Our hope is based on faith in Christ, who rose from the dead and promised that we will share in his resurrection. Trusting that promise, we grieve, but we grieve with hope. The first Preface for the Eucharis- tic Prayer during a funeral Mass express- es our hope clearly: "In him who rose from the dead, our hope of resurrection dawned. The sadness Of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality. Lord, for your faithful peo- ple life is changed, not ended." Further expression of the liturgy's real- istic hope appears in the service at the cemetery. The liturgy calls for the mourners to process from the church to the place of committal. Sometimes weather conditions sary to celebrate this cemetery chapel, but it is gather at the place Those who affirm the value in .... person's final resting place As with the other ian burial, the prayerS Committal clearly and hope: "Merciful Lord, you of the sorrowful, you are prayers of the humble. ple who call out to you strengthen their hope ia goodness." Father Mick is a of Cincinnati, Ohio,