Saying Farewell to a Servant of God

Recently we had the sad honor of laying to rest one of our beloved clergymen from a parish we have long served.  There was tremendous sadness in the loss of a personal friend, yet it is an honor to be part of a priest’s final journey home to God.  There are few things quite as awe inspiring and reverent as that of a priest funeral.  No person, regardless of their relationship with God and/or the church, could resist a shiver flowing through their body at the sight of priests, bishops and the Cardinal, processing in formation to pay homage to their brother.  The smell of incense, the sounds of professional vocal tenors and choir, further remind you that something of great significance is happening.


There are so many deep-rooted traditions in the funeral of a priest from the selection of a specific casket, to the uniqueness of the prayer card, to the vesting by his fellow priests; it definitely leaves an impact.  In the life of a funeral director, it is among the most humbling experiences to play a role in preparing one of God’s chosen servants for his journey home.  It calls to mind the spiritual role of a funeral director as they perform a corporal acts of mercy, to bury the dead; a sacred calling indeed.  It can be argued that a funeral director of faith performs their role a bit better.  For they believe there is a life beyond the one which we see and they draw upon that faith to care for both the living and the dead.  A spiritual funeral director is keenly aware that life has not ended, only transitioned.  The fragile line between life and death is where the funeral director stand and it requires a strong, resilient faith to walk that line each day.


The funeral of a priest reminds us of the deep bonds of friendship often formed between priests and parishioners.  In moments of crisis and trouble we call upon our priests for guidance.  In moments of celebration, we call upon our priests to be part of the joy.  When a priest dies a parish mourns deeply.  There is a pervasive sadness as hundreds of parishioners come to pay their respects as the priest lies in state at his parish home.  As they pass his casket near the altar, they call to mind the words of wisdom he echoed at the pulpit just steps away.   They recall the encouraging words he spoke, the prayers he offered and the hope he gave to carry them through difficult moments.  A priest funeral recalls our gratitude to those men of the clergy who have touched our lives and our souls, and we are mindful of the sacrifices they make for their communities of faith.


Rest in peace, Msgr. James E. White.  We will forever cherish your friendship and honor your memory.

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