Monday, August 4, 2014

Funeral for a Priest

As an Oblate of the Precious Blood, I feel compelled to pray, not only for living priests, but for the souls of deceased priests as well.  Last May I attended a funeral for a good and holy priest, Fr. Joseph Baran.  According to his long-time friend, Fr. Norbert Kieferle from Indiana, "Fr. Baran was the oldest Polish priest in the Badger State.  He was 92 years old when he died from a sudden heart attack, although he didn't have heart disease, and his mind remained sharp until the end."  The funeral Mass was sparsely attended which made me sad.  I've always imagined that people would be spilling out of the church at the funerals of priests as a witness to all of the lives that they have touched, but perhaps, due to his advanced age at passing, most of the lives he had touched had gone before him.  Hopefully the few people there prayed all the more for Fr. Baran's soul and made up in fervor for what was lacking in physical presence.

I didn't know Fr. Baran personally, although he had sent me a letter with a donation for Roses for Our Lady a few years previously.  His letter and donation gave me great encouragement in my work with Roses for Our Lady. When I heard of his passing I wanted to pray for him at his funeral in gratitude for his kindness to me and the organization that is so dear to my heart.

Fr. Baran had pre-planned his funeral and chose his friend, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz from Nebraska, to preside and preach.  Bishop Bruskewitz drove through the night to reach Milwaukee in time for the Mass as his flight had been canceled.  He gave a beautiful and brilliant homily.  He said, "We're not here to canonize Fr. Baran, but we are here to pray for him, to shorten his time in purgatory.  Any dust that has collected on his garments through the years, any mud that gathered on his shoes, we are to pray that clean so he may hurry to the moment when Christ will meet him and say ''Well done my good and faithful servant.'"  He spoke about the dignity of the priesthood and the great role that the humble parish priest has in the lives of his parishioners, and then shared just a few memories of the great friendship that he shared with Fr. Baran when the bishop was still a priest in Milwaukee.

I was especially grateful for Bishop Bruskewitz's comments about purgatory and the necessity of praying for Fr. Baran's soul.  In the words of the Purgatory Lady, Susan Tassone, "No one is more dead than a dead priest because no one prays for him.  We tend to leave off too soon praying for our deceased priests and religious. We tend to "canonize" our clergy and loved ones immediately after death. They are the most abandoned souls in purgatory including those souls whose families do not believe in the doctrine of purgatory and  our protestant brothers and sisters.  We say  they have suffered enough, they are in Heaven. We determine the state of their soul at death. Only God can judge their souls. If they are in Heaven, praise God! Our prayers are never wasted.

There is a great shortage of priests. We do not know whether we will have the privilege of having a priest at our side at the hour of our death. Pray for our deceased priests in purgatory. Beg them to intercede to grant the grace of final repentance for you and your whole family and all future generations until the end of time and in exchange you will pray for them. At the hour of your death, you will be surrounded by all the priests for whom you opened the door to Heaven.  

In turn, they will escort you to the heavenly banquet."

Not only did I pray for Fr. Baran at his funeral and continue to pray for his soul daily, but I also pray to him, certain that he now has a special place in the heart of God and can intercede ever more strongly for those who pray to him.  On the Feast of St. John Vianney, patron of priests, won't you join me in praying, not only for living priests, but for the souls of all of those priests who have passed this earthly realm, as well as to ask for their intercession on your own behalf and on the behalf of your loved ones?

The Holy Cure of Ars by E. Cabuchet
A Prayer For Priests  from the Sanctuaire D'
(my words in italics)

Lord Jesus, with Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, we entrust to your care all the priests we know, those we have met, those that have helped us, those you give to us today as fathers, and those who have passed from this life.

You have called each by name.  For each one, we praise you and we beseech you:  keep them faithful to your Name.  For you consecrated them so that, in your Name, they might be our pastors.  Give them strength, confidence and joy in accomplishing their mission.

May the Eucharist that they celebrate nourish them and give them courage to offer themselves with you on behalf of the lambs that we are.  Plunge them into your heart of Mercy, so that they always bear witness to your forgiveness.  May they be true worshippers of the Father, so that they teach us the true path to holiness.

Father, with them we offer ourselves to Christ for the Church:  may She be a missionary Church moved by your Spirit.  Teach us quite simply to love our priests, to respect them and to receive them as a gift that comes from your hand, so that together we accomplish better your work for the salvation of all.


O God, you raised Your servant, 
to the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ, 
according to the Order of Melchisedech, 
giving him the sublime power to offer the Eternal Sacrifice, 
to bring the Body and Blood of Your Son Jesus Christ down upon the altar, 
and to absolve the sins of men in Your own Holy Name. 
We beseech You to reward his faithfulness and to forget his faults, 
admitting him speedily into Your Holy Presence, 
there to enjoy forever the recompense of his labors. 
This we ask through Jesus Christ Your Son, our Lord. 

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