This precious little baby spent months with us in the classroom as her mother carried her, and then, at three weeks after her birth, she was already sitting at the feet of great theologians as we learned about life, death, limbo, purgatory, and heaven. And she returned, making cute baby noises the following month, the last of our semester. She was so well behaved, so sweet, and we all rejoiced as she grasped and held our fingers in her strong grip, and for those who were blessed enough to have time to hold her...well, these are now just memories.
All of this passed through my mind this morning as I approached her tiny coffin, the tears in a waterfall. It occurred to me that this is one of the world's unknown Saints; for she'll likely never be canonized. Yet she is without sin in the innocence of her infancy, and she has received all the sacraments; she has gone home to the Father a perfect being. So as I said goodbye to her, I kissed the tips of my fingers and laid my hand on her for the last time, realizing that I was crying because, like everyone else there, I loved her, too.
Even during his homily, Father spoke of heaven differently than he would in a funeral for an adult; usually, he said, he encourages people to pray for the deceased, but today, he suggested it may be more proper to tell us to pray TO this little one for we know that she had lived to experience the fullness of grace available in this life.
He also spoke of the Cross, and what her life taught us all about picking up our Crosses and following Christ. He spoke of the prayers; for in the last several days people have asked him why their prayers weren't answered? They prayed, they fasted, they sacrificed, they offered Masses, they prayed novenas...and God allowed her to die. And yet, Father pointed out, those prayers were answered, although not in a way we can understand. God hears every prayer, and He responds to every one; there could be miracles yet unrecognized.
This child was, from the day of her birth, unified with Christ in a way most of us will never be; she lived, as it were, crucified, and her parents along with her. They were both crucified and kneeling at the foot of the Cross, knowing suffering, embracing suffering, always trusting in spite of the agony of their impending loss.
This is the second child they've offered back to our Heavenly Father, and yet, the parents witness even in their grief the hope that remains and the love they have for God. I spoke briefly with her mother, my friend this morning about the theology we learned in class, and we both acknowledged that although it's great to know the theology, it doesn't make the grief any easier. Grief is powerful, but as this family has taught us all, Faith, Hope, and Charity can overcome it, and those virtues were in abundance today from all sides.
The Cross may seem to be a folly to the world, but even in the greatest darkness, we can see the glory of it that draws us all to Jesus Christ. In Him we find our Hope, in Him we are granted Faith, and in Him we learn true Charity. Life and Death make no sense without the Cross.
Today as I gazed upon that tiny infant in a coffin that should have been a cradle, the brutality of death came home to me in a way that it never has before, even though I've suffered the losses of my own loved ones. Death was never intended; it is the result of the entrance of sin into the world, and eventually, we are all called to this brutal reality. But it doesn't end there; the Resurrection reveals eternity. Even as we spend our days in tears, we know we are not at the end and we know the grief will fade and become manageable.
I was grateful today to be present with this dear little child, so dear to God that He called her home to be embraced in his arms for eternity. And I was grateful to share the tears of her parents who loved her so much that they are willing to let her go, knowing that there is glory in suffering, and love is revealed profoundly in death.
Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine,
et lux perpétua lúceat eis.
Requiéscant in pace. Amen.
Ora pro nobis.