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Theodore's Memorial Video

Monday, April 21, 2008

Homily from Theodore's Funeral

The whole reason for this blog, ie., a venue for presenting my own bad poetry, wandering stories, bad book reviews of books nobody else would read, and somewhat tasteless anecdotes - all 'in union with the Magesterium of the Holy Catholic Church' - has been hijacked for the time being. I don't mean to be a bore, but this family tragedy does bring things to mind which are worth passing along.
The video of the bobble head Pope is not included in the preceding statement.

But here is something worth reading - or hearing, if you go to THIS link:

Funeral Mass for Theodore Gerard
Fr. Paul W.
April 9, 2008

"And Jesus wept."

+ In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen. +

We have no control over the day we come into this world and we have no control over the day we depart. To see the beauty of God’s providence in all of this, one has only to study some of those things, which occurred in connection with Theodore. A chronology if you will.

The day before Theodore passed away was the 3rd Anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II, the pope who brought us the Sunday after Easter, which is now called Divine Mercy Sunday. The Holy Father is identified with that devotion. There is that beautiful picture of the graces streaming from the heart of Jesus and at the bottom it says, “Jesus I Trust In You.” The Holy Father died on the Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday and the following day was Divine Mercy Sunday.

Theodore died the day after the pope, three years later of course. The day before he died was also the National Day for Autism Awareness in this country. I know, just a coincidence. Theodore was autistic and he just happened to die the day after National Autism Awareness day. If Theodore had been told that, he would have told you that it was National Awareness day; he never forgot a date.

Theodore passed away on the first Thursday of the month, which is the day before the First Friday. The First Thursday of the month is always in honor of the Blessed Sacrament and that is where I first met Theodore.[Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Dallas] The First Friday is always in remembrance of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the source of Divine Mercy. And of course, let us not forget Our Lady and the First Saturday.

The context in which Theodore passed away is so amazing. The day after Theodore passed away, in the Divine Office the Book of Revelation has a beautiful picture of Heaven; the Book of Revelation, chapter four has St. John caught up in an ecstasy:

"A throne was standing there in Heaven and on the throne was seated One, whose appearance had a jet like sparkle as of jasper and carnelian. Around the throne was a rainbow as brilliant as emerald. Surrounding this throne were twenty-four other thrones on which were seated twenty-four elders. They were clothed in white garments and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightening and peels of thunder. Before it burned seven flaming torches, the seven Spirits of God. The floor around the throne was like a sea of glass that was crystal clear. At the very center around the throne itself stood four living creatures covered with eyes, front and back. The first creature resembled a lion, the second and ox; the third had the face of a man, while the fourth looked like and eagle in flight. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and eyes all over, inside and out. Day and night without pause they said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty; He who was and who is to come.”

These are the assembled angels and saints in Heaven, whose constant preoccupation is the glory of God and adoration. The second reading from the Divine Office, on the day following Theodore’s death is from a saint who is not featured widely in the Divine Office. We only hear about him once in a while. The second reading on the day after Theodore passed away is from a sermon by St. Theodore the Studite. Now, Theodore was named for St. Theodore Tyro, a soldier, but it is amazing that Saint Theodore the Studite, rarely seen in the Divine Office, just happened to be on the day after Theodore’s death. It is all about a precious gift from God:

"How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light.This tree does not cast us out of paradise, but opens the way for our return."

How fitting that someone named Theodore, someone named St. Theodore wrote these words and they just happened to be included in the prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours the day after Theodore passed away. Further on St. Theodore writes,

"Well might the holy Apostle exclaim: Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world! The supreme wisdom that flowered on the cross has shown the folly of worldly wisdom’s pride. The knowledge of all good, which is the fruit of the cross, has cut away the shoots of wickedness."

Again… The supreme wisdom that flowered on the cross has shown the folly of worldly wisdom’s pride. It would be impossible to find a more apt sentence to describe the life of Theodore. Theodore, who in the light of the “world’s” wisdom is nobody. But the supreme wisdom that flowered on the cross has shown the folly of worldly wisdom’s pride.

If we are honest, today with so many tests being possible before birth, most couples, if they could detect autism would do the “charitable” thing today and abort the child. If we are honest, this is what the culture of death in our country would declare is the “charitable” option. The fact that Theodore lived, Theodore was baptized, he was confirmed, he received Holy Communion and the anointing of the sick, but one thing Theodore never did was sin. The Catholic Church teaches us that whoever is born, is baptized and never sins, upon death they go immediately into the Divine Embrace. They call these people saints. Who knows, if it is God’s will, he may be added to the Canon of Saints officially. But, we can reason from the life of Theodore and the teaching of the Church that one who never sinned, lived, suffered, and died is now in God’s embrace. I am sorry that you too like myself have experienced too many Catholic funerals that give instant canonization of Uncle Joe or Aunt Mary or whoever. That is not possible but this is.

Just days before Theodore’s death Paul Scofield passed away. He played “A Man for All Seasons”, and with a friend of mine I have a running battle about who played St. Thomas More better, Paul Scoflied or Charlton Heston. It is no contest; it is Paul Scofield. He passed away just days before Theodore passed away. Just after Theodore died, Charlton Heston died. So, I guess God has settled it and He too thinks that Paul Scofield did a better job. [Laughter] But, Charlton Heston did a better Moses. One of the lines included in “A Man for All Seasons” shows a battle; it is a battle for truth taking place in England between those who wish to remake the Church in their own image and those who promote the truth of Jesus Christ, Who is the image par excellence of the Church. There is a conversation between St. Thomas More and his daughter, Margaret. Margaret is worried that her father may die and not go to Heaven. St. Thomas More’s reply to his daughter seems very fitting today for this occasion:

"God will not reject one so blithe to go to Him."

You can just imagine how eager Theodore was to walk up to perfect strangers in order to say those beautiful words, “Nice to meets you”, and shake hands with perfect strangers only to look for another perfect stranger; some very miffed about the whole encounter. But think about how eagerly he ran up to perfect strangers and how eagerly this one so blithe to go to God would be running toward his Maker.

Theodore was named for St. Theodore Tyro. How fitting because Theodore’s life was a battle... his goodness in the midst of so much evil. On the back of this program here, if you would look under the Agnus Dei is the “Victimae Pascali Laudes”, which will be chanted during communion. There is a beautiful verse you will hear, “Mors et Vita duello”, “death and life in a battle”, is a decent translation. Victimae Pascali Laudes is a about the battle of Jesus and the strong man of this world and that Jesus has defeated the strong man, so that He could put to death, death. What do they say? There are only two certainties in life, death and taxes, and Theodore’s death and burial actually come before April 15th…just another one of those coincidences. This is a death that had witnesses just as Theodore’s death had witnesses.

Today on the calendar of the Church is the Feast of St. Mary of Cleophas. She was one of the three women, who took spices on the day of the Resurrection to the tomb of Jesus to anoint His body. At the time of Jesus it was very common for the Romans and so many other enlightened people of the world, that upon the death of the individual they would just take the person to the edge of town and leave them there for the birds of the air or the animals. It seemed ecologically sensitive or “green”, as we would say today. Do you notice the care that we take of this vessel, this temple of the Holy Spirit that was Theodore’s body?

The women went to anoint the Body of Jesus but He was not there. The angels told them that He had risen and they went on to tell the apostles. The Divine Mercy of God was poured out for us through the person of Jesus Christ and witnessed by so many people. It sounds too good to be true, but it is true. This is why we are here today; death and life have come together in a war, in a battle, and Jesus has defeated the strong man of this world.

It is interesting that one this date, one of the most important dates in the history of this country, the Civil War came to an end. There is a battle but the battle has been won. Theodore had his part in the battle; he never said “No” to God. How often soldiers weaken and disobey orders and run away. Theodore never ran from God, which is what we call sin. Because of his desire to worship God in this way, in his own beautiful way, God will not reject one so blithe to got to Him.
Theodore’s life was one of adoration; Theodore’s life was a beautiful life, so concentrated on the good and so different from my own and probably yours. In losing him today, it is his gain but our loss. We believe in the power of Christ over sin and death. We ask His help to follow Christ, to carry our cross and to see that the flower of wisdom bloomed on the cross, as St. Theodore said.

The world says that this is folly, but the world also says it is folly to have twelve children. The world is wrong every single day. Every day that you get up and every day that you go to bed the world has wisdom, which is folly. Just witness it on TV, the newspaper, the radio, or speaking to committed Christians, who are against having children or have made that commitment null and void by limiting their children. Theodore was child #3. Most Christians who would discover that their child was autistic would do the charitable thing and not have any more children. How fitting it is today for us to witness this. Which one of the brothers and sisters of Theodore should have been left behind?

It is not easy to carry the cross. I am the poster boy for running from carrying the cross. I don’t like to carry the cross but carrying the cross helps us to imitate Jesus; it helps to humble us. Jesus humbled Himself though he needed no humbling. He was born into this world naked, he left this world naked and in between there were countless humiliations.

It sounds just like the life of Theodore. On the day he died, Theodore was taken to the hospital naked, yet he had died at home in the embrace of his family but he was in the bathroom. Theodore met with the humiliations of daily life, the ones you and I try to plan against but invariably happen. Theodore was humiliated on a daily basis. Somebody had to do this for him, somebody had to do that for him, but they did it and did it with love. In doing so there was an awareness of serving God in serving Theodore, and serving God in taking care of his everyday needs. The humiliations of Theodore would be a long list, but Theodore had the right approach. The day after a humiliation or a setback, Theodore would go on about greeting everyone, playing with his brothers and sisters, drawing, and imitating me. [Laughter] So, that of course will be sorely missed. [Laughter] Yes, it is kind of hard to hear your laugh coming back at you through Theodore.

Theodore will be missed but let us not create a different Theodore so that we can remember a different Theodore. Theodore was treated badly by the world.

“Couldn’t someone do something with him?”

How many times there were that someone thought that, or worse, said it.

“Couldn’t somebody do something with Theodore? Isn’t there a place for Theodore?”

Yes, with the [Noisykids] family in their home and in the midst of people, who loved him. And Theodore will be sorely missed. We see the anticipation of this day in Our Lord’s weeping at the death of His friend, Lazarus, just as we weep today for the death of Theodore. But, we glory that Theodore has gone on to adore God forever in Heaven with all the angels and saints. There every tear is wiped away, the glory of the cross, a bittersweet glory but a beautiful cross. To call upon Theodore for help during the day would be a wise thing. Here someone who was considered so useless by the wisdom of this world can be seen as a helper in so many ways throughout the day.

And Jesus wept.

+ In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen. +


Jeni said...

Father gave a beautiful homily. Know that we have never ceased in our prayers for you and your family. We continue to pray for God's comfort upon you and that His mercy always be with you.

Patricia said...

The homily was interesting and very good. Thank-you for posting it as I'm sure it was a difficult thing to do. It is amazing how poorly people treat these special people who are placed among us with special needs. We think that somehow they are "less" but in fact, it is we who are lacking. Theodore taught his family and all those who met him, some important lessons. He truly was a gift from God and a servant of God - in the humblest of terms.
God bless your family.

celogomama said...

Our prayers are with you all throughout this time of intense sorrow and extraordinary suffering.

May you be cloaked in Mary's Mantle, and may the Divine Mercy be with you always.

The Davenports

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post...thankyou..

Anonymous said...

This homily is a treasure and a tremendous comfort...the day my son who has Down Syndrome was born our close priest friend came to baptize him, as he was very sick, and declared--here is your saint!
Truer words were never spoken.
Theodore was a treasure and a saint and now he is in the embrace of Jesus.
Each day you are in my prayers!

Diane S.

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