Yesterday I went to a funeral for a brother priest. He had been a Jesuit, a professor at Boston College, served in two parishes in our diocese, before retirement. In these last few months he had begun to feel weakness and extreme fatigue. He was diagnosed with ALS, and died several days later.
Father John was a wonderful man, a great sense of humour, and most importantly a great love for the Eucharist and the Liturgy. Priesthood was very important for him. We look at people like this, those with great intellects and talent, and think of how unusual it is that they are drawn to the priesthood. And yet I think that he could not possibly have seen his life outside of the priesthood and ministry.
I am always moved also at the sight of the number of priests at a priest funeral. This is especially true when the priest was elderly. There might be a very few family and friends there, but anywhere from thirty to sixty priests. Some would accuse our life as one of loneliness. In reality we belong to a fraternity which extends even beyond our diocesan boundaries. I am reminded of this especially when we concelebrate the Liturgy, but throughout our ministry. And a priest funeral is a time to recall the very beautiful mystery we celebrate in the Eucharist.
At the end of the Funeral Mass the priests sang Salve Regina. A fraternal send off for one who had been so faithful and devoted to the saving mystery of the cross and resurrection. A sad day in some ways, but also a time of great joy and happiness as we return to God one of his gifts.