Column: Cemetery visit helps me lead the way

by Father Mark Goldasich

A funny thing happened on the way to the cemetery. . .

This past Monday I celebrated a funeral Mass for Helen, a parishioner here at Sacred Heart in Tonganoxie. Since she was being buried at Holy Angels Cemetery in Basehor, I told the funeral directors that, rather than riding with
them in the hearse, I would drive myself. (As you know, Mondays are busy production days at The Leaven, so I wanted to head right over to the newspaper after doing the burial.)

As the funeral procession began, the lead car passed me, leaving a gap between it and the hearse. I figured that was my space, so I popped in. All was going swimmingly until we got to the turn north off of State Avenue. Suddenly, the lead car stopped to block the traffic coming in the opposite direction. Out popped the funeral director, who then proceeded to wave me onto 178th St., thus making me the lead car now!

I gingerly made the turn onto the unpaved, rocky road. Even though I’d been to the cemetery numerous times, I was always in the passenger seat, chatting with the funeral director who was driving. I never really paid all that much attention to the route. Did I remember exactly how to get there?

Things didn’t start out well. About 10 seconds after the turn, a huge road scraper was taking up much of the road, smoothing out huge clumps of mud. Thankfully, seeing the funeral procession, he pulled to the side to let us pass.

A quick peek into my rearview mirror showed the hearse, followed by at least 20 cars. I thought about pulling into a driveway and letting the hearse take the lead, but I figured if I tried that move, the whole procession would follow me up some poor person’s driveway. And then how would we get out?

The muddy road soon turned into a dusty one. A glance in my rearview mirror showed that I was kicking up quite a cloud behind me. What is the protocol in a situation like this? Do I slow down even more and hope to not kick up so much dust?

I pressed on and eventually, after several twists and turns, a paved street appeared, leading to Leavenworth Road. Good, but do I go right or left at the stop sign? I chose correctly — left — but the worry was not over. At the cemetery, I had to locate the blue tent over the grave and then figure out how to get there!

It was nerve-racking, but we made it. What a huge difference, though, between leading and following.

I thought about my cemetery adventure as I read the pope’s remarks to the young people at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., last week. He suggested they look to six men and women — whom the church honors as venerable, blessed or saints — and learn from them what faithfulness to Christ means. The six were: Saints Elizabeth, Ann Seton, Frances Xavier Cabrini, and John Neumann; Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha; Venerable Pierre Toussaint; and Padre Felix Varela.

The pope said: “I am struck by what a remarkably diverse group they are: poor and rich, lay men and women — one a wealthy wife and mother — priests and sisters, immigrants from afar, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior father and Algonquin mother, another a Haitian slave, and a Cuban intellectual.” The common thread with all of them, the pope noted, is that they “offered an outstretched hand of hope” to those they encountered.

In other words, the saints are outstanding mentors for us to follow in our journey of faith. But the pope didn’t let the youth off the hook with just getting to know the saints. He challenged them to bear witness to the Good News in their lives “within your families, at school or college, during your recreation activities, and in your parish communities.”

There is in all of our lives a time to follow and a time to lead. Perhaps we can finish up the season of Easter by spending a little time with the saints. Learn more about your patron saint, some other saint that you admire, or one of those that the pope mentioned.

But, don’t stop there. Let your knowledge move you to action. Lead your life in such a way that others will want to follow, to discover the path to a holy and fulfilling life.

I intend to do that . . . right after I thank St. Christopher, patron of travelers, for helping me lead that funeral procession.

 

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