Saturday, September 21, 2013

Learning from the Protestant Minister

On the spiritual page of the Catholic Times, the priest-columnist remembers the day he paid his respects to the family of a friend whose mother had died. He arrived at the mortuary and, believing that a Mass would be consoling to the family, began to prepare for the Mass while the Christians were praying the office for the dead.

In the adjoining cubicle he heard the members of another grieving family singing hymns along with their minister. After the singing, they recited the Apostles' Creed, and the minister began preaching. The brief sermon was so moving, the priest says, that if one of the members from his mourning group  did not come to find him, he would have joined the minister's group.

What was it about the sermon that moved him? There was nothing new being said, the priest said, nothing philosophically interesting or with theological  depth. It was the minister's utter conviction, his earnestness and strength of voice, that moved him. The words of the minister carried so much clarity and sincerity that the natural fear of death simply disappeared on hearing the minister's convincing, reassuring voice. There seemed to be, the priest felt, no room left for the mourners to doubt that the deceased was resurrected.

He was embarrassed, he said. Here he was all set to say a Mass, and that would be it; the thought of giving a sermon never entered his mind. But thanks to the minister, he gave a short sermon, sharing with the members of the family the good news of the Resurrection. He noticed the tears in the eyes of some of the family members as they thanked him for the consoling words of his sermon.

Reflecting on his initial intention of just saying Mass, he admits that saying Mass is the easy consoling answer, especially in difficult times, but at the same time, he is also aware that it might not be enough to meet the needs of everyone. Deep feelings engendered by a death in the family may not always be addressed by only a Mass.

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