Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Death Bells Toll {Westminster Abbey, BC}

Following the Mass of Christian Burial, Fr. Fulton's body is solemnly processed to his grave in the abbey cemetery.

At first Peter didn't understand why the abbey's solemn bell sounded repeatedly at an uncommon hour on a recent Sunday afternoon.  Soon a priest passed by announcing that Father Michael had died, and asking the high school boys to pray for the repose of his soul.  As the death bells continued to sound, the monastic community began mourning the loss of their departed brother and praying for his swift passing to his heavenly reward.
Lowered into the ground by brother monks and Benedictine postulants, Father Michael is laid to rest following graveside committal prayers on a bitter cold December morning.

Today fewer and fewer Catholic families are opting to include a funeral Mass (or wake or burial) for their deceased Catholic relatives.  Many of the funeral Masses that are being said for our deceased are tainted with abuses, including proclamations that the decedent is 'already in heaven.'  This common and unfortunate occurrence at modern Catholic funerals all but deletes the possibility that the soul may be saved yet suffering in purgatory, relying on our prayers to aid their passage to heaven. 

Father Michael's funeral at Westminster Abbey followed an authentic Catholic approach to burying the dead with the full Rite of Christian Burial: a wake (overnight prayer vigil with the body in the Church), a funeral Mass (celebrating the life of Father Michael within the context of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus), and the graveside committal (prayers of committal and final commendation).  A profound witness for the high school boys, major seminarians, the family and friends of Father Michael and the Westminster Abbey community, this funeral was a reverent, solemn and joyful liturgy; authentic Catholicism in action.

High school seminarians participate in the burial rite of Father Michael Fulton, OSB+ (b. 1926- d. 2013)
Newly acquired official documents made it possible for me to travel to and from the funeral in Canada with our one-month-old foster daughter, Angelina.  Her first funeral, Angelina stayed toasty warm in a fuzzy suit from Owen's family, a handmade hat from Elle, a toasty blanket by Christine, and brought smiles to many faces on this solemn occasion.

Father Peter meets 'Angelina'
A keepsake from Father Michael's funeral included the story of his path from family life to and through his many years as a Benedictine Priest, and also gave a glimpse into his holy death:
On Friday, November 22, he suffered a mild heart attack.  He recovered somewhat in hospital, but on Sunday, November 24, he took a sudden turn for the worse.  When he was anointed, it was the passage of the good thief from the feast of Christ the King that was read to him: "Today you will be with me in paradise."  With characteristic obedience he waited until Father Abbott arrived, acknowledged his presence and then passed to the Lord as the prayers of commendation were being completed.
Peter shares his foster sister with his Benedictine teachers and the monastic community.
As they had so lovingly cared for him and prayerfully aided him throughout his life, the Benedictines of Westminster Abbey, BC, showed tremendous charity for Father Michael in his death.

Dear Lord,
Let perpetual light shine upon him, 
and may the soul of Father Micael Fulton, OSB, 
through Your mercy, Lord, rest in peace.

No comments: