The Source of her Devotion — Funeral Homily for Donna Hedler, 88

St. John the Baptist Church is honored to be offering our greatest prayer, the Holy Mass, for our well-known and well-loved parishioner, Donna. We also pray today for you who love her and mourn her passing, for your consolation and the strengthening of your spirits in Jesus Christ. No brief funeral homily can capture the fullness of a faithful Christian’s life, but when I spoke with Donna’s children about her they emphasized her devotedness: her devotion as a wife, her devotion as a mother, her devotion to her friends and extended family, her devotion to her Catholic Faith.

She was married to Jerome for fifty-five full years and was devoted to him even after his passing. She never removed her wedding band and at the first Christmas after his death she set an empty place for him at the dinner table. Yet she did not grieve like those who have no hope. Several years ago, while she was visiting Jerome’s grave in Thorp, she lost her footing and fell down backwards into about one foot of snow. At that, she made a snow angel. Today, her earthly remains will be buried alongside his there to await the resurrection.

Her children tell me of Donna’s devotion to her friends, grandchildren, nieces and nephews; reflected, for instance, in her visits and hosting, in her correspondence and gifts, in her lit-up smile and kindly words. Her kids tell me she was always there for them, desired the very best for them, and gave them a moral compass. What was the source of Donna’s devotion?

When family gathered at her house around her table to enjoy a Polish meal upon her fancy china, Donna led the prayer – an individual prayer she would compose herself, giving thanks to him from whose bounty we have all received through Christ our Lord. While she was able to attend church she sang his praises here, and once poor health confined her to home she gratefully received Jesus in his Blessed Sacrament. Her devotion was like that of the psalmist who wrote, “This I seek: To dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. That I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord.

He, our Lord Jesus Christ, is the source of all our devotion. God is devotion, because God is love, and he calls us to be like himself. But without God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit all human devotion is negated and futile. Without more than just this world alone, the view of the foolish, that the dead are gone forever and their going forth from us is utter destruction, would be right. Instead, like the Song of Songs says, “[As] stern as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion; its flames are a blazing fire. But Jesus tells us, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. And I desire to prepare a place for you so that we all may dwell together always.’

So while we pray for Donna’s soul, that she may now joyfully dwell in our Father’s house forever, let us also learn from her devotion. Reconsider and renew your devotion, for the love with which Christ loves us is true, it is life-giving, and it is the way that leads us to Heaven.

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