Are you ready for the jour­ney?

Alas­dair Kay

Derby Telegraph - - LETTERS -

PRIESTS aren’t sup­posed to have favourites, but some parish­ioners find a spe­cial place in your heart. We are only hu­man af­ter all.

I got an email to call a fu­neral direc­tor. I be­gan to take the de­tails of the fu­neral. I then asked for the name of the de­ceased. The fu­neral direc­tor re­sponded with the per­son’s name. Time froze. “Sorry can you say that again please?”

The fu­neral direc­tor re­peated her name. “But it can’t be, I only saw her a cou­ple of days ago, she’s one of my parish­ioners, she brings me a cup of tea af­ter ev­ery ser­vice.”

Tears welled up in my eyes, surely not her. “When did she die?” I said. “On the 4th of Oc­to­ber”. I noted it as St Fran­cis’s day, our church’s pa­tron saint.

Pre­par­ing a fu­neral is a job I take se­ri­ously. In less than three years I have buried a third of my con­gre­ga­tion. Most have died with me by their side. Most were booked for Glory, as I call it, but this one was a to­tal sur­prise, a shock even.

Walk­ing with peo­ple into death is the great­est priv­i­lege a priest has. On many oc­ca­sions I am acutely aware of the pres­ence of an­gels in the room and have even ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple be­ing able to see into heaven as they die.

There is a mo­ment when I be­come con­scious that the per­son’s soul has passed from this life. It is an in­ti­mate mo­ment as, in the midst of great sor­row, God draws in­ti­mately near. My parish­ioner died on St Fran­cis’s day. The saint wrote: “All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sis­ter Death, from whose em­brace no mor­tal can es­cape”.

Ev­ery hu­man has a date with death. Most of us aren’t ready to go and meet with God. For some it will be known that we are dy­ing. For oth­ers, like my parish­ioner, it will be qui­etly in their sleep.

The ques­tion is, are we ready to make that fi­nal jour­ney? What I know for sure is this, for those who be­long to Christ the cross­ing is a wel­come home­com­ing. Are you ready for the jour­ney? Per­haps it is a ren­dezvous you need to pre­pare for by mak­ing peace with God through our Lord Je­sus Christ. My parish­ioner was ready and I know for her heaven will be a blessed home­com­ing.

May she rest in peace and rise in glory

Priest In Charge at St Fran­cis, Mack­worth

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