Fr Kevin's observations reflect two things that I think are of wider significance, things that make this more than just a testimony of faith in an individual situation. The first of these is what this testimony says about the moments, or perhaps days, during which someone is dying. Such a time can be very difficult, and that is quite a natural experience. But at the same time, they can be lived as a gift, a grace that is received; and this is not something that is limited to those who have a religious belief, though this testimony is given in the context of a strong faith. The second thing is the dialogue between male and female in the question of a vocation in the Church. At one level this can perhaps be seen as an accident of particular family circumstances. But the same dialogue of a man and woman in the founding of charism in the Church occurs time and again in the history of the Church. St Francis and St Clare, Chiara Lubich and Igino Giordani, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr, Marthe Robin and Pere Finet ... One of the more memorable conversations I have had in my life was in a coffee bar in Dublin Airport, on the subject of what it was that meant that some families succeeded in handing on the practice of the faith to their children and others didn't. The example of mothers featured strongly in that conversation - my interlocuter relating a story from her family of how a group of women had rescued the Blessed Sacrament from a Church destroyed by republican forces during the Spanish Civil War.
Dear Friends in Christ
The last ten days have been one of the most emotionally difficult and challenging of my life. On 29th October my Mother suffered a major heart attack from which she never regained consciousness. She died very peacefully on 2nd November. My Mother – Marie Winifred - suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for over twenty years and for most of that period was very debilitated. During the four days Mum was in Hospital, she was completely surrounded and lifted-up by prayer. We kept a round-the-clock vigil at her bedside and she received the last Sacraments each day. Several priests came to pray with her and bless her; there were continual Rosaries offered and there was a most wonderful atmosphere of peace in her room, and a sense that a great grace was happening. When I received the news of her death, I was just about to celebrate the midday Mass on Monday; I was able to offer it for her eternal repose. How very kind of Almighty God to call her to Himself on the very day when the entire Church is praying for All Souls!
At this moment I can only thank God for the eighty-one-and-a-half years of her life and the fifty-five years of my parent’s marriage. Far from feeling desolate, I am completely buoyed-up by our faith in the promises of the Resurrection. I have been filled with great comfort and hope in these days, especially supported by the prayers and Masses of so many kind friends and Parishioners. My close friends – especially the priests – have been like guardian angels to me and I cannot express the kindness I have experienced. The Mother of a Priest is a very special person. She is the worthy woman of whom Scripture speaks. We only have one Mother, and she is the most special person in our lives; that does not change in death.
After God, I have always believed that my vocation was inspired by her and has been sustained by her these last twenty-five years. I believe now that she will be looking after me even more! Her Requiem Mass will be celebrated on Monday in the Catholic Church in South Woodford and I would ask you to please keep her, my Father, and all the members of the family in your prayers.
With every blessing!
Fr Kevin Hale