Sermon: For Richard Roark

I don’t normally post the sermons I write for funerals, but I’ve decided that I would like to start because it is my way of remembering these individuals, so I suppose these types of posts will be more for me…

Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description.”

During our online Morning Prayer services, when someone makes a comment, I see what they are saying. And almost without fail, there would a “Good morning” from Richard. That was always nice, but it was in the Zoom Rosary service that I could actually see him and for the last twenty months or so, almost every Tuesday at noon, Richard and I would meet and pray the Rosary together. We would occasionally have others join us, but most of the time it was just the two of us. We would visit for a few minutes about life and he would always ask if I thought anyone else would join us (he never quite understood why no one else did), and then we would get down to the work at hand. Sometimes we would pray a Rosary with special intentions, but mostly… we just got together and prayed those ancient words, meditating together on the life of our Savior.

We can read and hear about Richard’s life, which will tell us something about him, but it was this faithfulness in prayer that tells me all I really need to know. The Psalmist says,

You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”
Your face, LORD, will I seek.

And that was Richard. Doesn’t make him perfect, but in his life of prayer, he sought the face of the Lord, which tells me that he did the same in his life. Seeking the face of the Lord in the faces of those he encountered.

Job said,

I know that my Redeemer lives
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.
After my awaking, he will raise me up;
and in my body I shall see God.
I myself shall see, and my eyes behold him
who is my friend and not a stranger.

Richard sought the face of the Lord and now his eyes do behold the face of his Redeemer, who receives him as a friend and a beloved child. The inheritance and reward of his faithfulness, an inheritance and reward that awaits all who call on the name of the Lord. This is our joy and our hope and the fulfillment of God’s promise to us all.

The Salve Regina or Hail, Holy Queen is the final prayer of the Rosary. I prayed it with Richard a few hours before he died: “Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile show us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”

“… and after this our exile show us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” And on this day, for Richard, she has. I am thankful to know that when I pray a Rosary down here, Richard will pray with me from his new home in the Heavenly Jerusalem.

Sermon: The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

It is a rather obscure feast day for Episcopalians, but it is on our calendar: The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a fixed day, always occurring on September 8, which is exactly nine months after a feast day occurring on December 8 that is not on our calendar: The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. None of the information we have for either of these feasts comes to us from Holy Scripture, but rather from tradition and other non-biblical text, such as the Protoevangelium of James, also known as the Gospel of James, which is one of the infancy Gospels of Jesus, covering the time of Mary’s conception through Jesus’ birth.

The narrative tells about Joachim and Anne, the parents of Mary, who like Abraham and Sarah could not conceive a child, but instead of giving up, they prayed all the more fervently. Because of their faithfulness, an angel of the Lord appeared to Anne and told her, “The Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth, and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.”

Hearing the news, they created a sanctuary in their home for the child so that she might remain pure. Following Mary’s birth, she was given to God. James tells us, “And Joachim brought the child to the priests and they blessed her, saying: ‘O God of our fathers, bless this child, and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations’ . . . And he brought her to the chief priests, and they blessed her, saying: ‘O God most high, look upon this child, and bless her with the utmost blessing, which shall be for ever.’”

Reflecting on these great events, St. Augustine, writing in the fifth century said, “[Mary] is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.” Through her, the Messiah was given, and through him, we receive new birth. If nothing else is as it truly happened, that much is. Through Mary’s fiat, her “Yes” to God, our Salvation entered the world.

Did any or all of what James tells us occur? I don’t know, but… I feel that there is some truth behind it, because there had to of been something special about Mary for God to have chosen her, out of all the women to ever be born, to give birth to his one and only Son.

So today is a birthday celebration. The birth of our Savior’s mother, which reminds us of Jesus’ birth, but also ours. They were both born for a reason and so were we… so were you. It is also a reminder and a demonstration of God’s faithfulness to those whom He calls and to those who turn their lives over to God’s will. Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word,” and Jesus declared, “Not my will, but yours, be done.” Both gave themselves fully to God. They did not hold back. Our calling as God’s children is to do the same.

Let us pray: O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, with joy and wonder we seek to make our own your Magnificat, joining you in your hymn of thankfulness and love. Guide and sustain us so that we might always live as true sons and daughters of the Church of your son. Enable us to do our part in helping to establish on earth the civilization of truth and love, as God wills it, for his glory. Amen.

Sermon: Saint Mary the Virgin

Photo by Luca Tosoni on Unsplash

I don’t remember telling you about this before… I know of a man who, while praying the Rosary, had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He had been walking along a country road. On one side of the road was a piney forest and on the other was a field and a pond. As he was walking, he had been searching for the Virgin, but unable to find her, then in the distance, he saw her walking toward him down the road. He quickly turned and ran to meet her, but—and this is probably funny—the closer she got, the bigger she got so that when they finally met, she was able to reach down and pick him up and put him in her pocket.

He tried to see through the weave in the fabric of her dress to see the outside world and determine where she was taking him, but was unable to. Not only that, but the further they went, the darker it became until all was dark. Yet as the light had lessened, he had been able to detect something new: a sound. At first, it sounded like the soft beating of a drum, but a short distance on, the sound was unmistakable: it was the beating of a heart. He began to not only hear the heartbeat, but to also feel it in his entire body. Each beat was like a loving embrace. It was then the man realized that Mary had done what she had always done: she had brought him to Jesus. You see, it was not her pocket that she had placed the man into. No. Mary had placed the man in the wound in Jesus’ side so that the man could be near the beating loving heart of the Risen Lord where he had learned even more of the great love of Jesus. He had been allowed to remain there for a short time and then was sent on his way to try and fulfill the Lord’s will.

There is always much confusion surrounding the role of Mary in the Church and in the life of God’s people, but that confusion only arrises when people fail to understand her purpose. Her purpose is to draw people in so that she can lead them or even take them to her Son… so that she can place them near His heart that they might know of His great salvific love for them.

I encourage you all to take her by the hand and to walk with her. When that walk ends, you will find that you have been brought to Jesus.

Eternal Father,
you inspired the Virgin Mary, mother of your son,
to visit Elizabeth and assist her in her need.
Keep us open to the working of your Spirit,
and with Mary may we praise you for ever.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen

May the Lord bless us,
protect us from evil
and bring us to everlasting life.

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