Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


We buried Lisa earlier today. When I say we buried her, I mean it quite literally.

Lisa was in her mid-forties. She was the mother of four, and a happily married woman who worked at the local middle school. She was killed in an ATV accident just under a week ago. She is survived by her parents, numerous siblings, her husband, and the children, the youngest of whom is thirteen. As would be expected of this sort of death, the crowd was enormous. The local parish church was not large enough to accommodate the mourners. We moved to the high school auditorium. That facility seats around 1000 people, and it was packed. The Mass of Christian Burial was what might be expected of a Mass of this size - distracting, less than prayerful, and loud. The family insisted on a variety of "additions" to the rite, including eulogy, a thirty minute slide show, and a tribal proclamation of mourning. These, however, are an unfortunate precedent set some years ago. I was saddened by the whole thing. The funeral Mass has a way of consoling people - it has developed so as to achieve this end through years and years of Catholic practice. Accretions to the funeral liturgy, I think, served only to drag the people back down into the pits of their sorrows. So be it. As I mentioned before, things don't always happen on the Rez the way they happen elsewhere.

The family chose to inter her body on their ranch. Thus, hundreds of people processed the twenty-five miles of gravel road to the gravesite. The hole had been dug by hand. After the prayers of committal, a song, and a poem, the funeral director and his assistant began lowering the body into the grave. As the did so, a Lakota drum group began singing a traditional Lakota "honoring song." This continued until the body had been laid in the vault and the vault itself was lowered into the ground. Once the casket was placed at the bottom of the grave, each of the family members took his or her turn casting a shovelful of earth into the grave. After that, all the men in attendance began the process of filling the grave. It took nearly an hour of furious shoveling before the whole thing was complete.

All in all, this was a beautiful burial. There is something powerful about seeing a father, a son, a husband, take a shovel in hand and participate in the act of burying the body of a loved one. There is something powerful about the strength of a community here in Western South Dakota where the neighbors all come and help a man do one of the most difficult things he will do in his life. More powerful than all these, though, is the promise held out to us in the Cross of Christ. I pray that Lisa's family clings to it in these days of mourning.

1 comment:

David said...

Thank you for edifying pastoral commentary. It's nice to hear about someone else's pastoral assignment.

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