Recently, I learned that my former boss was placed in Hospice Care. As background, she was a corporate officer at a major health care company with more than 30 years of experience in sales and marketing – a manager of many, and mentor, to be sure. Many of us knew very little of her private life, except that she was happily married, and mother to a 15 year old son. She lit up talking about her son, Jake, and made sure to give him every opportunity in life, including an opportunity to be an exchange student in Mexico when he was about 12 (that’s a topic for a different day).
Sue had been battling a fight with breast cancer for about five years – a cross she carried ever so gracefully. In those years, she never complained about her lot in life. In fact, she wanted nobody to know about her cancer. Secretly, we all knew she was suffering. But I was always amazed at her poise, her beauty and grace during this time. She wore wigs. Beautiful wigs. Wigs that not only looked natural but accentuated her classic beauty. She smiled and laughed often. She enjoyed idle chit chat with employees in the hallway, as if all was good.
From my viewpoint, she could be best described as self-aware yet self-assured; humble yet strong; a peacemaker, to be sure…full of goodness. She never really wanted to fight the corporate battles that sometimes, unfortunately exist. She just wanted to do what was right for the company in the most collaborative and polite way. She never wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings – traits that often go unnoticed in Corporate America.
When I received the call that she was placed in Hospice, I was shocked. I really shouldn’t have been surprised, but given her history and the manner in which she carried herself, no one really thought about this time to come. But, the cancer hit fast and hard. Something came over me to have a Mass said for her. It was Wednesday. So, I called the Parish office to have Mass said for her on Thursday evening. But then, I thought, “Why do we do this as Catholics?” I knew intuitively having a Mass said for someone was a good thing, but I wasn’t sure why. So, as of late, anytime the word “why” enters my head, I Google it. I was exhilarated to find an article on the power of Mass intentions. Did you know for example, that some people have Masses said for their living family members…on their birthdays? Most often, we see Masses intentions for deceased.
Well sadly, Sue passed away on Thursday morning. God rest her soul. Truthfully, I had no idea what her relationship with our Lord was. That was between her and Him. But, now the Mass was going to be said for her deceased soul. The article was not only timely but full of beauty – it revealed the sheer gift we have as Catholics in the ability to have Masses said for others. I pondered, “Why don’t I do this more often?!” Here’s an excerpt of this article:
“One must never forget the infinite graces that flow from the Sacrifice of the Mass which benefit one’s soul. Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical “Mirae caritatis” (1902) beautifully elaborated this point and emphasized the connection between the communion of saints with the Mass: ‘The grace of mutual love among the living, strengthened and increased by the sacrament of the Eucharist, flows, especially by virtue of the Sacrifice [of the Mass], to all who belong to the communion of saints. For the communion of saints is simply … the mutual sharing of help, atonement, prayers and benefits among the faithful, those already in the heavenly fatherland, those consigned to the purifying fire, and those still making their pilgrim way here on earth. These all form one city, whose head is Christ, and whose vital principle is love. Faith teaches that although the august Sacrifice can be offered to God alone, it can nevertheless be celebrated in honor of the saints now reigning in Heaven with God, who has crowned them, to obtain their intercession for us, and also, according to apostolic tradition, to wash away the stains of those brethren who died in the Lord but without yet being wholly purified.’”
To paraphrase this excerpt, it’s as if millions of saints and angels descend upon the altar uniting heaven and earth, carrying up the individual for whom the Mass is being said to Christ himself – praying with the greatest of power to be merciful on her soul and to lift her up to heaven! Truthfully, the article gave me goose bumps as I read it, and once again I thanked the good Lord for this mystery and gift. (Here’s a link to the full article): http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0812.html)
That Thursday evening, the Mass was exceptionally powerful for me. I wept like a baby during the homily, the offertory, the consecration, and while receiving the Holy Eucharist. Yes, because I was thinking of Sue. But, I believe the Spirit was alive in me – making the connections, helping me understand just how powerful this Mass intention really was. It was an interior feeling…so difficult to put in words.
The morning Sue passed, I described to a friend that Sue was full of “goodness” – a word I’ve used only a few times in my life. During the homily later that day, Fr. Bob was referring to the Gospel and discussing how when people live on this earth they choose their destiny, i.e., heaven, by the “goodness” they show to others. In my mind, it was God affirming this Mass intention. An affirmation that will have a lasting effect. Do you need a Mass said for someone? I highly recommend it – there’s goodness in it. Call the Parish office for details.