Reflections on Requiem |
We have no control over whether our next breath could be our last. Only God knows. But know this: If we don't have a non-stop ticket through living a life of sanctifying grace, then you better hope Purgatory is on the venue. If not you know the alternative. It's best to think about that today, not tomorrow!
"It is good to be reminded of the last things, and not only if you're Novus Ordo, but if you're simply a human being. The more we are reminded of the facts about death, which can come for anyone at any time, the terrible judgment at which our eternal fate will be decided, and the reality of hell and purgatorial punishment, the better. It will help us lead a holier life and be aware of our own mortality and the one thing none of us will escape - the judgment. The more penance, the more suffering we willingly undergo here on earth, no matter how intense, will be significantly less than the fiery purgation after death, which most of us will probably have to endure."
Let me share a story with you. A good friend of mine died in November 2003. Though he was 72, his death came quite unexpectedly, as he was in relatively good health until about 7 weeks before he passed away. He had six children and, in turn, numerous grandchildren, and so at his funeral the church was quite full, as so many of his relatives came to pay their last respects.
The (traditional, of course) priest who prayed the Requiem Mass and presided over the funeral rite used the opportunity to preach to the predominantly non-traditional people gathered there about the last things, i.e. death, the last judgment, heaven, hell, and purgatory. This is something Novus Ordos practically never hear about-it might offend some, you know, and this could mean that they will not come back and the collection money might go down.
It is good to be reminded of the last things, and not only if you're Novus Ordo, but if you're simply a human being. The more we are reminded of the facts about death, which can come for anyone at any time, the terrible judgment at which our eternal fate will be decided, and the reality of hell and purgatorial punishment, the better. It will help us lead a holier life and be aware of our own mortality and the one thing none of us will escape - the judgment. The more penance, the more suffering we willingly undergo here on earth, no matter how intense, will be significantly less than the fiery purgation after death, which most of us will probably have to endure.
Young people sometimes tend to think they're immortal, especially if they're very healthy and in good shape. But we must never let our physical condition blind us to the reality that death can come at any moment at any place for any of us. Remember that popular karate-fighting actor Bruce Lee? Physically, he was in "top shape," was very muscular and strong and had lots of stamina. On July 20, 1973, disregarding conspiracy theories, he died of cerebral edema. He was 32.
My point is that any of us can die suddenly-and not only of a car accident or something like that, but perhaps something even less expected than that, as the Bruce Lee story illustrates. Bruce Lee was admired around the world, and he was a star. But that did not keep him from dying, and dying young. The moment of death is the most important moment in our lives, because it is there and then that eternity gets decided for us. Lee was a star in the eyes of the world-but what was he in the eyes of God? That's the only thing that matters.
My point is not to speculate about Bruce Lee, not at all. I only wish to draw attention to the fact that no matter who we are, how much we are admired and loved by the world, where we come from, etc., none of it matters at the end of earthly life. We cannot take anything with us; we must leave as poor as we came. All we can take with us are our virtues, our good deeds, our penances and sacrifices-and our sins. It would be utter folly to cling to earthly things, therefore. But how often are we tempted to act as though this life were our only life, as though death were the end. It isn't. It is a change: for God's friends, it is a change for the better; for God's enemies, it is a change for the worse.
So many people are spending their time down here on earth trying to build an earthly paradise: more comfort, more convenience, more beautiful houses, a better-looking body, a faster car, etc. It was our Blessed Lord Himself who pointed out the folly of those who are building up treasure on earth, which they will necessarily leave behind and which is subject to decay and theft: "Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through, and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also" (St. Matthew 6:19-21).
If you are building a paradise on earth, stop! It is vanity, and it is folly. If what you do doesn't tend towards your ultimate goal, the Beatific Vision, or if it isn't at least morally neutral, then you must quit it right away. I know this may be easier to say than to do, but it is nevertheless true and needs to be kept in mind.
Let us not be taken in by the world, therefore. This is very difficult, because every day we are bombarded left and right with the subtle message that we should live it up down here on earth because it's all we have. "The good life" is what we are supposed to be after, the "American dream." But let's face it-everything earthly, the "good life" (falsely so-called) and the "American dream" all end at death. Who cares what you did during your life if after death you end up in hell? It was all in vain.
Consider the following "celebrities," all so beloved by the world:
And yet, look at what happens to those who live justly and holily:
- John F. Kennedy-dead.
- Friedrich Nietzsche-dead.
- Princess Diana of Wales-dead.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt-dead.
- John Lennon-dead.
- Martin Luther-dead.
- Karl Marx-dead.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth-alive!
- His Blessed Mother-alive!
- St. John Vianney-alive!
- St. Lawrence-alive!
- St. Joan of Arc-alive!
- The North American Martyrs-alive!
You get the idea.
Now, the Novus Ordo religion is infamous for keeping people worldly. There is no emphasis on denying yourself and taking up Christ's Cross, that we must expiate temporal punishment on earth or else pay the consequences in the unimaginably barbaric tortures in Purgatory. No, rather, the emphasis is on keeping people coming back Sunday after Sunday. The Novus Ordo parish near where I live is gradually becoming an entertainment center. There's always some special event going on. During Advent, some guest priest featured the - hold your breath - "Stations of the Crib," which, as you can probably guess, is an "Adventized" version of the Stations of the Cross. Instead of meditating on our Lord's passion, the "Stations of the Crib" meditate on our Lord's infancy.
Now, don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong about meditating on our Lord's infancy. On the contrary, it is a very pious exercise. But that's not the point. The point is the sensationalism and novelty of the whole affair. As someone once said, if you live by novelty - and that is the essence of the Conciliar religion - then there will always have to be a new novelty. And so it is.
Needless to say, I'd rather not know what exactly those "Stations of the Crib" looked like at that parish (I favor calling Novus Ordo parishes "perishes," as that illustrates more properly what they're making people do). I still remember the "Stations of the Cross" there - complete with heresy and blasphemy. Whereas the true Stations are an act of penance which can gain a plenary indulgence, in which we contemplate our Blessed Lord's horrible sufferings He endured for us and hope to excite true contrition for our sins, receive pardon of our venial sins and temporal punishment, the Novus Ordo church that used to be my parish has made it a multimedia presentation. The parish is invited to come and watch corresponding slides from the movie "Jesus of Nazareth," to each of which the pastor reads a reflection. The lights are dimmed, the children get cozy with their parents as they make it comfortable for themselves, all are seated, of course (yes, I don't think lying down is permitted yet), and the great multimedia adventure begins! Popcorn, anyone?
Heresy and blasphemy in Fr.'s reflections during the Stations were free of charge. True Catholicism - which is priceless and was bought on the Cross for us at an infinite price-wasn't even offered. Forget about merit and penance here. These "Stations of the Cross" were everything but. They were even factually inaccurate. At one of Jesus' falls, the priest said that Jesus fell because he "tripped." That's not true. Our Blessed Lord didn't trip. He fell because the Cross was so heavy. If you think that's a minor and insignificant difference, think again. It was the weight of our sins that made our Lord fall three times, not some stone that was lying in the way over which our Savior stumbled. When the priest then announced that Christ fell because "for a moment [He] lost sight of His Father's grace," I was petrified. I couldn't believe I was hearing such blasphemy! But then again, this was the Novus Ordo, and there anything goes; anything, that is, that is not authentically Catholic.
Back to the funeral.
After the Requiem Mass, everyone went to the cemetery for the burial. But get this: the priest was a bit late and the cemetery had its own "Catholic" Novus Ordo priest on staff. By the time our priest arrived, the Novus Ordo priest had already begun the burial! I couldn't believe it! Needless to say, the Novus Ordo priest was already canonizing my deceased friend ("he's in a better place"), and though I am very certain that my friend is either in Heaven now or on his way there (he had received the last sacraments, made a confession, and was wearing the Brown Scapular), this was absolutely ridiculous. There is no way the Novus Ordo priest could have known whether my friend was in Heaven or not. For all he knew, he might be now in a much worse place. God forbid, but the Novus Ordo priest wouldn't know. Since this is standard jargon at Novus Ordo funerals, it means even less. They want to make the relatives feel better, rather than confront the truth about death and dying and their own mortality.
For the Novus Ordo religion, everyone goes to Heaven - at least everyone who's baptized, which is what the Novus Ordo priest alluded to. My friend had been baptized and Christ died for all, so he's in Heaven. That was pretty much the priest's logic. In fact, he held up a crucifix, pointing at it and saying, "See, Christ didn't do this to waste time." ….True enough. But He didn't do it either so that everyone would get a free ride to Heaven. He did it so that those who die in a state of sanctifying grace will - at least eventually - go to Heaven.
With these on-the-spot canonizations of people who have died, the Novus Ordo is only true to its liturgy. I mean, for funerals, the liturgical color is white - white signifying joy, feasting, Resurrection. In his edifying work The Holy Sacrifice (New York, NY: Frederick Pustet Co., 1945), Fr. Peter Wachter has this to say about the liturgical color of white:
The most joyous mysteries of our Faith are celebrated in white vestments. White is the color of light, symbolical of glory and transfiguration. It is the color of the lily, symbol of purity; it is the color of the lamb, symbol of innocence. (p. 35)
What an appropriate color for a funeral, eh? I mean, Holy Mother Church grants funerals to saint and sinner alike, as long as he was not excommunicated or a public sinner. There is no doubt that countless funerals have been given to people whose souls are in hell. Using white as the liturgical color tacitly says that the person who died is in or on his way to Heaven - something we cannot know with certitude aside from a direct revelation from God.
Concerning the liturgical color of black, Fr. Wachter writes:
The darkness of night follows the brightness of day; the darkness of death follows the brightness of life; the darkness of grief and sorrow follows the brightness of joy. Black is the color of night and darkness; a symbol of death and mourning. We use it when we have to stand at the tomb of those who we have loved in life. (p. 40)
The Novus Ordo religion has banned black as a liturgical color. This is precisely what Pope Pius XII warned against in his encyclical Mediator Dei of 1947:
"[O]ne would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive tableform; were he to want black excluded as a color for the liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues in Churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer's body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings; and lastly were he to disdain and reject polyphonic music or singing in parts, even where it conforms to regulations issued by the Holy See" (par. 62).
By taking the mourning, the darkness, the grief, the gloom - the black - out of the funeral, the Novus Ordo religion takes the mind away from dwelling on the last things (other than Heaven, of course) - but this is precisely what is so necessary for all of us, so beneficial to our souls. For the more we meditate on our last end, on the last judgment and the impact of our sins, the less we will sin and the more we will be inclined to lead holy, virtuous lives. No wonder the Novus Ordo religion doesn't want us to think about these things.
Indeed, "he who remembers his last end in all things will not sin." So let us always remember that our next breath may be our last.
"Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen."
"Requiem aeternam dona eis, Dominae, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace. Amen."
Editor's Note: So many of the post-conciliar bishops today refer to those clinging to the true Roman Catholic traditions that were in vogue for 2000 years prior to the reforms of Vatican II as 'fossils,' 'dinosaurs,' 'old folks who will die off soon.' We beg to differ and offer as proof the youthful wisdom and enthusiasm of the younger generation in the Traditional Insights of Mario Derksen who exemplifies the thinking of many more young men and women today who realize the new thinking of the post-conciliar church does not add up to true Catholic teaching. Thus they long for those traditions so tried and true. His insight shows great promise, optimism and hope for the future of Holy Mother Church.
For past columns by Mario Derksen, see Archives for www.DailyCatholic.org/2004mdi.htm