The following is from‘What do you Seek?’, a commentary for novices of the Society of S. Francis on the Franciscan way of life by Damian and was read at the Requiem Mass at the Internment of his ashes at Hilfield Friary, March 11th, 2016:
Our feelings about death may not be clearly defined. We may have theological ideas; we may have a strong or vague belief ‘in heaven’; we may have tried to calculate some sort of progress-chart towards our own final resting place. But death and its consequences can remain just a theory until it hits us deeply; a parent dies or someone very close to us. We may apply a reasoned argument that this death mercifully brought to an end a life of pain and suffering, but sooner or later death will strike us, as the Bible suggests, like an ‘enemy’ (I Cor. 15:26). It pierces to the depth of our being. If death is ‘swallowed up in victory’ (I Cor. 15:54) we may still have to struggle before we can appreciate the message.
Bereavement is our encounter with death – in our lives so far – though in the end death will not be about our theories, our theologies or our close encounters. It will be about ourselves submitting to the One who is both intimate to us and yet also beyond our mortal experience. It will be about laying down my body, about letting go of my mind, so that the real ‘me’ may make its ultimate journey in trust towards my Maker, in company with my Redeemer and empowered by the Spirit whose presence I have known over the years.
That journey will be mine at some future point. We do well to prepare for that moment so that our natural fears may be overtaken by a complete trust in God, and our souls may attain the fulfilment of our restless longing. Then we shall welcome Sister Death as a new birth.
‘Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death.’
We are citizens of heaven, and from heaven we expect our Deliverer to come, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transfigure our humble bodies and give them a form like that of his own glorious body. (Phil. 3: 20-21)