Are you able to go to daily Mass? Several friends have told me that Masses are few and far between where they live because of the death of Catholic priests or the demographics. Holy Spirit Retirement Home in Sioux City is blessed because we have daily Mass and the availability of a chaplain to attend to the residents if they require confession or the sacrament of the sick. I always pray that families considering a retirement home for their loved ones would consider Holy Spirit because of the availability of these precious sacramental ways of spiritual nourishment.
I want to tell you about a Catholic resident who recently died. Her name was Josephine, although most people called her Jo. Some time ago, Jo came up to me and requested that a Mass be offered for her daughter-in-law Marla who had died of cancer a few months ago. When I had the date for the Mass, I told her, and she was so happy. She replied that she would certainly be there. Unfortunately, Jo died. The date for her funeral mass was May 19, 2016, the day I had scheduled a Mass for her daughter-in-law per her request. I felt that Jo was certainly there.
Jo knew the value of Daily Mass. Perhaps the Catholic nuns had told her that St. John Chrysostom said, “When the Eucharist is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim sacrificed on the altar.” Or when St. Jean Vianney said, “If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy.” Maybe she read the words of St. Teresa who was overwhelmed with God’s goodness and asked Our Lord, “How can I thank you?” Our Lord replied, “Attend one Mass.” Jo knew the Daily Eucharist was food for her journey.
On one of my evening rounds, I stopped by Jo’s room because I knew she was declining. In fact she hadn’t eaten for several days, nor did she open her eyes and talk to her devoted family members who attended this sacred vigil. I prayed one of the most beautiful prayers of the church, after I anointed her and gave her the sacrament of the sick. This prayer is heard only by a few, usually on the deathbed of a loved one.
As I began praying, she opened her eyes and barely kept them open throughout the prayer. It was as if she wanted to be especially present during this sacred time.
I prayed, “Jo, I commend you to almighty God and entrust you to your creator. When God wills, may you return to God who formed you from the dust of the earth. May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints come to meet you when you go forth from this life. May Christ, who died for you, admit you into his garden of paradise. May Christ, the true shepherd, acknowledge you as one of his flock. May he forgive all your sins and set you among those he has chosen. May you see your redeemer face-to-face and enjoy the vision of God forever.”
Then Jo’s lips began to move. Her daughter bent closer and tried to hear what she was saying. Her tiny whisper expressed the joy she must have felt. She said, “I am so happy!” And then, she quietly closed her eyes and waited for the call that would come a few days later.
On the day of her funeral, we celebrated the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith, the same Eucharist Jo received every day. Deacon Fred Karpuk led the family out to the cemetery for the graveside ceremony, where they committed her body to the earth, believing that God would change her mortal body to be like his in glory, for he is risen, the firstborn from the dead.
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.