this is a rough draft of her funeral homily. Grateful he shared it.
Two years ago Mali Famer came to Jesus Christ as a child of God. She was baptized at the age of 12.
Certainly it was a result of grace. As John says in one of His Epistles. We come to love of God…only because He loved us first. Yet of her own cognition, her own choice, with no prompting from her parents…Mali decided that she wanted to be baptized into the Catholic faith and live the sacramental life of the Catholic Church. SHE chose that for herself. She could see that there was something transformative about being a practicing Christian. Later that year…she makes her First Confession, and along with it, her First Communion. Of her own volition, with no prompting from mom or dad or anybody else. And from that day forward…she was faithful to both confession, and regular Sunday Mass…receiving Jesus in the Eucharist…His Body and Blood; and never afraid to confess her sins to the priest standing in for the Risen Lord.
This is the will of the one who sent me…that I should not lose anything of what the Father gave me…
I couldn’t find Mali’s baptismal or First Communion records. A few days after Mali’s tragic death, I wanted to look at her sacramental records…and I couldn’t find anything.
I asked Joe Rutten, our director of faith formation about it, and he went on the offensive as only Joe can do…to track it down.
It was recorded at St. Mary’s. That’s because Mali was baptized in the Mckennan Hospital chapel by Fr. Krogmanof St. Mary’s…during another tragic time in the family when TJ was seriously injured in a car accident. So, TJ’s accident is cause for Mali’s introspection, as she sees him lying in a hospital bed. She watches as her parents and her sister call upon faith in this desperate moment to ground them and keep them going. As she observes her mother with a new found joy in the practice of the Catholic faith, she decides, on her own…that she wants to own that joy too.
Joe came back from St. Mary’s and showed me therecords. “Here’s her First Communion record….
We look at each other for a moment and become silent. Fr. Lacey stops what he is doing at his desk and slowly turns his head toward us. We are all three thinking the same thing. Is this a sign from God? (She was baptized and had first communion almost to the day of her death) I should not lose anything of what He gave me?
Saints have written that when someone dies close to Holy Week and Easter, that God opens more doors, larger portals for entry into His Kingdom, as unworthy as we are, and as poor as our choices may be, because of His infinite mercy…like our Holy Door of Mercy, that was open for a year in our Cathedral at the bequest of Pope Francis and Bishop Swain, to pass through in order to comprehend that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven.
You know we see our existence very narrowly…onedimensional, maybe two dimensional, by an act of faith.
God sees it in a multi-dimensional fashion. Like a Polaroid picture, the ones that you took and you would have to wait for the image to develop, and you watched as it grew clearer, as it came more into focus, until finally, you really never knew, exactly when, the image was complete. You look at it and surmise, it must be complete now, but yet a picture is always incomplete when it comes to human realism…a picture can never show a person’s true feelings, their internal struggles, the big questions they are grappling with in life.
There is a line from The Little Prince that I think best expresses this analogy: One sees clearly only with the heart…Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.
That’s how it is with us as we mourn and question Mali’s death. The image is a blank right now. But it will slowly develop as life goes on…so that, maybe the question of “Why”? will never be answered, but we will experience healing…surrender…peace…even “good” that can come out of a tragedy…that God will have worked this outaccording to his plan. The scar will always remain; but the wound can be healed.
The hardest part is the void that Mali’s death has left us in the depths of our hearts. We will miss her.
We saw Mali a lot around here. She was server at 9:15 Mass. Celia taught confirmation class and is/was the chair of our Social Concerns committee. Mali’s family is larger than her immediate family – it is this parish; the O’Gorman community; her debate partners; her former classmates and many friends from Edison who have moved on to Lincoln; her softball teammates and coaches; her teachers at all the schools, and music and violin instructors; She had a large circle of family…thank you for gathering around her today.
What great solidarity and strength and friendship you are showing to one another by your presence here this morning; And what great support you offered each other last night at the Wake Service.
I believe you are giving Tim & Celia, Amanda & TJ and other family members, the strength to get through this.
When a person makes a decision to take their life, I don’t think they realize the positive impact they had on people. She obviously left a huge impact on us her extended family. Fr. and Deacon and I will miss her not being around at 9:15 Mass to serve, as well as the other servers she served with will miss her too.
I want to acknowledge the Avera family, Celia’s workplace; and Tim’s colleagues and peers – who have rallied around this family to help bring some comfort and hope at a horrible time in their lives.
Mali always belonged to Christ. She was a young woman of faith. She loved her family dearly; Her family loved her dearly. She believed in the commandments of God. She received the sacraments with great love and respect. She was a girl who loved her faith…and she loved this parish, she was always ready to serve and help out…though I’m sure Celia had to prod her once in awhile. So, as her pastor, I am mourning her as well. Our parish mourns her death. In honor of her contributions to the Cathedral parish, we are closing the offices today.
Now the hard part: There is not one person sitting here who is wondering what went wrong…why did she do this? On the outside, everything looked so good; but on the inside something was not right.
We know Mali was dealing with depression. Everybody who knew Mali knew that she could have not been in her right mind to do something like this. There wassomething wrong; and she didn’t want to bother anyone with it. (Teens…if something is bothering you…we – your parents, pastors, minister, teachers, friends…want to know about it, and want to help.
We can ask the question “why” until we are blue in the face…but it’s not going to get us anywhere. We can search for answers all we want. But there will be none.
I think if Mali could speak to us right now she would say to us: “I did a stupid thing. I did a selfish thing.”
But what is done is done. And so what we focus on today and everyday from here on out…is prayer and mercy.
And that’s why Paul tells us in 1 Thess. to “pray constantly and unceasingly.” Because when we make our lives a constant prayer, we are cooperating with grace…and it is grace helps us to overcome the temptation to make irrational choices; the only way we can get through this is through the help of grace.
God’s mercy is immensely larger than what we can ever conceive of it. This is the will of the one who sent me…that I should not lose anything of what the Father gave me.
Mali was a good girl. She was a fine young woman who made a bad choice. That doesn’t take away from the fine young woman that she was; nor does it delude the fact that she went to confession regularly, ate the Body & Blood of Christ knowing in her heart of hearts that she needed it to survive in this world…and the next.
Oh, the great wisdom of Catholic nuns, sisters…whether they be Presentations or Benedictines where Celia works…or the Adoration Sisters, here, who inhabit our Cathedral and know Celia & Mali.
When I told the sisters of Adoration about what happened, Sister RoseAlba spoke up right away and said, “Father, Jesus and Mary were with her. I know that for a fact. At the last moment Mali said she was sorry, that she didn’t want to do this. We trust she asked for forgiveness when she realized what was happening.”
I have all the faith in the world that that’s exactly what happened in those final moments of Mali’s life.
As I said last night, and at the O’Gorman Memorial Service for Mali – she was a very gentle and sensitive soul and sometimes gentle and sensitive souls suffer the most in here.
We are reminded today, that because of Adam & Eve, all of us…and I mean all of us…have the potential of doing something we thought we would never do.
Tim & Celia; TJ & Amanda…grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles…on behalf of Cathedral Parish, you have our heartfelt condolences and prayers at this tragic time. We pray that the presence of all these people – your friends and colleagues as well as Mali’s friends and colleagues – will help ease the sadness and pain of Mali’s death. It will never truly cease…but it will diminish.
In 2 Tim. 1, St. Paul prays for his deceased friend Onesiphorus. He says, to paraphrase, that his friend “always gave him a new heart, that he loved the faith and was at the service of the Church.” His prayer for his deceased friend goes like this: “May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day.”
That is our prayer today for Mali: We are praying her into heaven.
Mali, we forgive you. We are convinced that you did not know what you were doing.
Let the words of Jesus bring us consolation this morning:
“T his is the will of my Father, that I should lose nothing or no one that he has given me…but raise it up on the last day.”