Saturday, February 27, 2016

Weight of Glory

Does that baby get heavy?  Yes, the one you are bouncing in the crook of your arm during much of Mass; the one that you are toting around in the child-carrier seat; yes, the one that makes you groan, “Oh, you’re getting soooo big!” every time she insists that you swing her up and hold her above your head.  Yes, that one.  Is she heavy?  Of course, it only gets harder to bear when her older brother insists you pick him up too.  And you only have two arms, so what are you to do if yet another clamors for a lift?
The people in the grocery checkout line looking over their glasses at your brood aren’t the only ones who count children as a burden, though perhaps they see them ONLY as a burden.  But sometimes even to you who love them, that twinge in the small of your back; that shrill, demanding squawk when you just cannot respond fast enough; all of these reveal that even the mother’s or father’s love you have for them cannot banish the law of gravity, or stretch the limits of time and human strength.  It’s a lot to carry!
This past weekend, I should have liked to have gone to Justice Scalia’s funeral, but I had to settle for watching a video recording.  Though thousands of people, many famous or important, filled the enormous church, it was very much an ordinary funeral, that is, precisely what the rites of the Church prescribe for every departed Catholic.  There was no eulogy, and no dignitary gave tribute – but that’s the way every Catholic funeral should be.  The homily was about not the deceased, but about Jesus – but that’s the way every Catholic funeral should be.  I am glad the whole country, and even the world, was able to see this funeral and share in the grace it offered.  It certainly filled me with hope!  This is what we believe, and this is what we do when a loved one dies. 
The celebrant and homilist was his son, and my friend, Fr. Paul Scalia.  As I watched him preach and offer the Holy Sacrifice, I was struck by how he referred to the Justice, the great man, whenever he mentioned him:  he called him Dad.  This simple word bored though the enormity of the circumstances, the position, the veneration and the controversy, and revealed the true identity of the man being mourned.  And it was easier to see both why he needed our prayers, and why he deserved them.
This was possible because Justice and Mrs. Scalia raised a son who became a priest.  Doubtless, he will continue to pray in a unique and powerful way for his father.  Did you know that among the various forms of the Mass for the Dead, there is special one for the priest to offer for his father or mother? 
What also struck me was the identities of the eight men who bore the Justice in his casket up the aisle.  These were his other sons, and the husbands of his daughters. They also accompanied his widow, their mother, and supported her literally and figuratively in her grief.  These are the ones who not only carried him to the altar of God, but will also continue to pray for him.  They are the fathers of his grandchildren, who will remember him and pray for him for the rest of their lives. 
You don’t have to have nine children to raise up for God a priest or religious.  You don’t need any specific number of children to receive grateful prayers from generations to come.   But as you try to kneel and pray during Mass only to be interrupted by some small person’s need or demand, rejoice to remember that you know the answer to the question: Who is going to carry your body into the church for your funeral?  Who is going to lift you in prayer to our merciful Father?  Who is going to shoulder you into glory?  And smile and say a prayer for that disapproving person in the checkout line, who may not have anyone, and may not even know what she’s missing.
Enjoy the weariness in your lifting arms now.  It will only make you lighter when you’re the one being lifted!
Monsignor Smith

The statue of Saint Joseph carrying the Child Jesus in our Chapel.
 Who would be the heavier lifter?