Who gets the door prize?

Door prize: a prize awarded to the holder of a winning ticket passed out at the entrance to an entertainment or function.

The funeral of Father Don Slaven, a retired priest living at Holy Spirit, was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Epiphany, with the cloud of witnesses – including many of his living brother priests, sisters, lay people, as well as those from the parishes and schools he served. There were many inspirational moments, especially when we sang the “Salve Regina” at the end of Mass.

I was talking to another retired priest. To give you a clue, there is a candy called divinity and the priest is 82 years old, having recently celebrated a birthday. He wasn’t able to attend Father Slaven’s funeral, but feared that there would be acres and acres of empty pews at the Cathedral when his “call” came.

I told him I had an idea to boost attendance.

“How?” he curiously questioned my quip (a witty or funny observation or response usually made on the spur of the moment).

“I will offer door prizes for those who attend your funeral!”

I quickly came up with items I thought would draw the mourners in: A Food and Love Gourmet Basket with sweets, especially French Silk pie, something diabetics can never have; Billy balloons with Snickers bars inside; a license to laugh with examples of the mystery priest giving us his rendition of a simple giggle, a chuckle or a robust guffaw.

One who is unsure about being a lector at his funeral Mass should read what Jerry Seinfeld said.

“Did you know, according to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Should we have two caskets: one for the cleric who was born at St. Joseph Church, 1023 Highway 169, in Bode, Iowa, 50519 and one for the lector, unsure about whether he wants to read at the funeral Mass?

People would be more ready if they read the book Fr. B.D. dearly loves, “The Summa Theologica,” with its many questions and answers which will calm the fears of the only child who worries that acres and acres of empty pews at the Cathedral will exist when his “Call” comes. The brilliant St. Thomas answers those empty pew mortifiers in question 126: “We must now consider two of the vices opposed to fortitude: Fear and Fearlessness.”

Whether fear is a sin?

Priests over 80 have no need to fear the sin, since Aquinas said fear is not a sin. It is a passion. People should be passionate about getting door prizes at the former Schaller pastor’s funeral.

Whether it is opposed to fortitude?

Aquinas says, “It seems that the sin of fear is not contrary to fortitude: because fortitude is about dangers of death,” such as when a Franciscan sister says, “Now, William, offer it up,” and then notices that he is “not” offering it up. A chief reason why a priest is commended for his fortitude is that he exposes himself to slavery or shame, as if he lives in an orphanage.

Whether it is a mortal sin?

It seems that fear is not a mortal sin. Fear is in the irascible (having or showing a tendency to be easily angered). One is not so willfully terrified that one cannot be persuaded to put fear aside and attend the funeral of Little Billy, as Bishop Joseph Mueller called him.

All in all, door prizes may work but, if a Franciscan nun tells potential mourners to offer it up, the pews will be full.

Father Dennis Meinen serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese and Calix; and Faithful Friar of the Garrigan 4th Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus, Sioux City.


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