My mother died yesterday. Her name is Claire Nix and her maiden name is Donnelly. She was 100% Irish but born and raised on the South Side of Chicago. I’m going to write more about her death later this week.
When referring to death, the Apostle Paul says someone “fell asleep in the Lord.” That might sound like overly-pious language to most Catholics today, but it is more theologically accurate if we really believe Christ has conquered death, as we know He did on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We especially are reminded that “Christ has trampled down death by death” during Holy Week, as the Eastern Rite Liturgies exclaim. In fact, the Eastern Rite Liturgies (both Catholic and Orthodox) refer to their deceased as those who “fell asleep in the Lord.”
The Western response to that might be: “But how do you know someone ‘fell asleep in the Lord’ if you don’t know they died in sanctifying grace?” It’s a good question, and it is perhaps the reason we Romans/Latins in the West use the term “died” instead of “asleep in the Lord.” The Western Rite grew so large (and often so lukewarm) that we correctly believe it could be presumption to say every Christian who died actually “fell asleep in the Lord.” Does every baptized Christian “fall asleep in the Lord”? Of course not. But back during the times of St. Paul, most Christians were carrying very heavy crosses valiantly to heaven. Thus, the term may have been more accurate back then. Although we have no absolute surety, I’ll blog in a couple days from now on why I have some decent confidence that my mother “fell asleep in the Lord” yesterday.
The picture at the very top of this blog today is “a maniturgium.” It is basically a Catholic handkerchief that I wrapped around my mother’s hands an hour after she fell asleep in the Lord yesterday, the 3rd of April, 2023. What is “a maniturgium”? The maniturgium is a liturgical garment used only in ordination Masses. When I was ordained 13 years ago (during this time of year, in downtown Denver—strangely only three miles from where my mother died yesterday) Archbishop Chaput anointed my hands with holy oil to consecrate these hands for the sacraments. Shortly after that, during the same Mass, someone else then wiped-off the excess oil from my hands with a maniturgium. After all the ordination celebrations, the maniturgium is then kept in a glass-box in the bedroom of the parents of the priest.
One day, the mother of that same priest will be buried with it around her hands. Upon death, it is for that late-mother of a priest to show God that she does not go before His judgment seat with empty hands, but that she gave His Holy Church a Catholic priest.
Please pray for the repose of the soul of my mother as you finish reading this blog post. May God reward you.