Happy Mother's Day! A Tribute to All Mothers
As a tribute to all mothers – whether they be mothers who have born, adopted and raised sons and daughters, or spiritual mothers who have born “spiritual children” by sharing their wisdom and gifts with others – I offer these words of gratitude. This is the homily that I gave at my mother’s Mass of Christian Burial in December of 2009. The tenderness with which I spoke these words about my mother I now give to all women who have said “yes” to God and who have given new life to others with their love and service, and often with their suffering.
Homily at the Mass of Christian Burial for Ida Celine Savoie Edlefsen
St. Joseph Co-Cathedral, Thibodaux, Louisiana
By Fr. Frederick Edlefsen, December 30, 2009
On behalf of my family – my father Mr. Marty, my sister Kirsten and her husband John, and their three children, Jack, Sawyer and Amelie – I want to express a special thanks to all family and friends who have been so kind and supportive during this time of grief.
And indeed, there is much grief in my mother’s death. But in our sorrow, there is also Hope, which turns our hearts to the promises of Christ. Sorrow reminds us that even the best things in this life are pale compared to the beauty and glory of life after death, for those who die in a State of Grace.
My mother died last Sunday, on the Feast of the Holy Family, as the Church honored the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. As mom became weak that morning, I was privileged to say the Mass of the Holy Family at her bedside. I gave her absolution, anointing of the sick and her last Holy Communion.
This last Communion is what the Church calls “Viaticum”, which means in Latin, “I go with you.” As my mother was dying, it was clear that she was doing, as they say, something that only she could do. Even though we sat with her, we could not join her in the experience of passing from this life to judgment. Only Christ, who conquered death on the Cross, could do that. And so, when she received Viaticum – that is, her last Holy Communion – Christ personally took her by the hand (so to speak) and said, “I go with you.” And I cannot think of a better way to leave this world – to leave behind family and friends – than to do so with the Risen Christ in Holy Communion.
This morning, I am honored to send my mother’s soul to God the Father, in this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Little over four years ago, I did the same thing for her father – my grandfather, Charles Savoie, Sr. – whom she loved deeply. As I reflect on all of this, one thing comes clear: that the best of what my grandfather had to offer, my mother in turn handed on to us, to her family. She gave us what my grandfather gave her: that is, the same Faith that Christ gave to his Church, and commanded it to teach until the End of Time.
It has been said – sometimes in jest – that my mother was traditional. She was, without apology, a stay-at-home mom and an art teacher, faithful to the duties of home and heaven. She looked at the world with an empathetic and benevolent eye, as artists often do. She had a list of people she prayed for daily – a list that, when read aloud, seemed would only end with time itself. It didn’t take much to get her to say a rosary for someone, or to talk about her Catholic Faith. And so, today, I will say that my mother was indeed traditional. But I do not say it in jest. It’s a serious compliment.
It is an act of love when a parent passes on to their children the best way of life and the best wisdom that heaven and earth have to offer. And for the child, it’s an act of gratitude, in line with the Fourth Commandment (Honor your father and mother), to accept with love the good things given by a parent, especially the things that can be passed on to future generations. When this happens, it’s called “Tradition.” Tradition is an Act of Love. This is what my mother did. For she was a link in the Tradition of the Church, which goes back to our Savior, who said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
This all came clear to me last Sunday morning as I read the first reading at my mother’s last Mass. The reading was from Sirach, which said: “God sets a father in honor over his children; and a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons….he stores up riches who reveres his mother.” Though no one would have noticed, I wept silently when I read these sacred words over my dying mother.
There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind – nor has there ever been – that my mother’s greatest act of love, second only to her love for God, was the passing of the Catholic Faith from her father’s generation to mine. With great tenderness of heart and conviction, my mother has put into the hands of our family “the pearl of great price.”
In gratitude for what she has given, I pray that she, who is now in the merciful hands of God, will be consoled by the Holy Sacrifice of this Mass. For this Mass has a two-edged purpose: first, to give glory to God; and secondly, to purify my mother’s soul, so that she can see God. As Christ said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”
At times like these, there are lots of memories. But there is one memory that we must not forget – that is, the memory of the future, namely, the End of Time. It is an Act of Hope to remember the Last Judgment, when all will rise from the dead. The saved will enter a New Paradise – that is, a New Heaven and a New Earth. Remembering the Last Judgment – that is, remembering the future – should console us with this thought: God will have the last word on everything. As we suffer in this life, God seems silent. He even seems absent. When we suffer – or see others suffer – we often ask, “Where is God?” But things are not what they seem. God may be silent for now, but his presence is powerful and wise. And, he will break his silence – and reveal his presence, his power and his wisdom – at the Second Coming of Christ, at the Last Judgment, and the Resurrection of the dead.
Before she died, my mother was very weak. It was difficult watching her suffer. But, if we are Christians, we must look at suffering with Faith and Hope. It is a matter of Faith that Christ turned suffering into something good. It’s his way of letting us join him in purifying the world from its sins. And it is a matter of Hope that Christ will come again, and have the Last Word. And those who love Him will rise from the dead in a glorified body, like Christ at Easter.
And so, I now send my mother to God, through the prayers of the Mother of God. Mom was devoted to the Virgin Mary. And she was right. For all Grace has been given to the Virgin. May Mary embrace my mother, and present her to Christ. May every prayer and sacrifice that my mother made in this life now bear fruit for us who still remain in this life, and who wait in Hope for Coming of Christ, and the Resurrection of the Dead.