Tuesday, December 2, 2008

God's Grace on My Brother's Funeral

This is a beautiful story posted on CMAA forum

[My brother, who] was the oldest of our 11 siblings, had been a server when the changes to the Mass came, and stilled mourned the older form of the Mass, and attended whenever he could. Because he was career military he moved a traveled a great deal, and was hardly ever lucky in finding a good parish to attend. He had even gone to a sedevacantist chapel at one fairly long posting, until he realized from some literature in the vestibule that they were not in union with Rome.We weren't especially close, (personalities and politics,) but because I was involved in Church music, when the motu proprio was issued we actually developed a stronger bond, Liturgy in general and funerals in particular, including what we wanted for our own were something we had discussed in long phone conversations.When he died very suddenly, I told the family what he wanted, and I was asked to be the "point man" in dealing with the parish from which he would be buried, which was almost a thousand miles away.Understand, I am NOT an EF [Traditional Latin Mass] partisan, particularly, I'm more of a Reform of the Reform type, and don't really know a lot about the older rite, especially not the Requiem.None of us had lived in our hometown parish for 15 years, there had been two changes of pastor since then, new music ministers, etc.I had no expectation of success when I spoke to the parish secretary, saying that I needed to ask the pastor if there could be an EF Requiem Mass, as she said the musicians were in charge of all the planning, and would be the ones to contact me. When I told her that they could hardly be in a position to know whether the pastor would allow or was even capable of presiding over the Extraordinary Form and she didn't know what I was meant and gave me the cantor's phone number, I lost what little hope I had. Lo and behold, next day the pastor called me, and said he knew a priest who could say the Mass, knew where black vestments could be gotten, had already set the musicians to organizing what would be needed. etc. The cantor turned out to be someone I had worked with in another lifetime, had sung a zillion Requiem in concert (after the proper at Communion she gave a beautiful rendition of the Faure Pie Jesus,) and was familiar with all the chants except the Dies Irae and In Paradisum/Chorus Angelorum, for which I faxed the Bragers accompaniments to her. A Protestant musician for whose children I used to babysit coached her through them, and helped support the congregation's sung responses. The organist learned everything necessary but was perfectly unobtrusive. During his sermon, the pastor actually thanked US for allowing them the privilege and opportunity of doing something that that parish had not seen fro perhaps 35 years. The musicians were also gracious in thanking the family for the chance to do this.There may have been a little blurring of the forms, (as you can tell, I wouldn't be able to notice the details,) but I'd like to think it was... organic?Congregation responses, posture, etc. was better than at many vernacular OF funerals
It all went off very beautifully, it really was extraordinary as well as Extraordinary.
Almost more than the Mass itself, it was the series of coincidences that made it possible that I find extraordinary. Without the motu proprio, (which in Church time has just been issued,) I would not have felt "entitled" to ask for this for my family, (nor, probably, would I have ever discussed funerals with my brother Michael.) The Parish Book of Chant which we all had just acquired this spring made programs for the faithful possible on short notice (photocopied at 94% its pages fit a tri-fold legal sheet beautifully, incidentally. For future reference.)The young pastor, Fr Brian Plate (he doesn’t look 40,) who was so accommodating and gracious, had just arrived at the parish this summer. (I know many a pastor who would have simply refused the request, especially from people who were no longer parishioners.)The older priest, Msgr. Donald Guenther, who was able to say the Mass had just taken up residency at their rectory.The beautiful vestments that were borrowed for Michael's funeral had just been purchased for the funeral of the mother of a priest of the diocese. I had just, less than three weeks previously, acquired the Bragers book of accompaniment for the Kyriale on eBay, really on a whim. A friend at my parish had just told me of coming across the old black velvet funeral pall in the basement among the discarded burlap and felt banners, (I took it with me in my carry-on when I flew.)The previous pastor had just restored part of the communion rail.
But perhaps most providential of all, I, who otherwise would have had no idea of what to ask for, or do, or expect, had just been able to attend the CMAA colloquium for the first time this year, (although I was so focused on singing i don't remember many details of the Requiem,) and more helpfully had just attended the solemn All Souls' Mass at St John Cantius. Had All Souls, (my brother's birthday, by the way,) not fallen on a Sunday this year, it would not have been transferred to the next day, in the old calendar, and my parish duties would have prevented my attending that. I am so grateful to have been able to do this for my brother, and so grateful to everyone who made it possible. I have some new heroes, and I have new hope for the restoration of the sacred.
(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

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