Funeral Homily for Lucia Love
St. Louis Church, Clarksville
March 19, 2021
Surrounded by Prayer
Father Bianco, Father Bob Kilner, and dear friends, Let me first offer my loving condolences to you, Bob and to your family. You and Lucia have been married for 46 years and I can only imagine how deeply you and your family will miss her.
I also offer heartfelt sympathy to Teresa, Bobby, Patrick, Joseph, Michael and Matthew on the passing of your dear mother from this life into eternity. And, at the same time, my sympathy to Lucia’s whole family, her sisters and brothers, her 22 nieces, nephews, as well as cousins and many friends.
To those who are in church this morning and those joining us virtually, we are gathered in sorrow for it is hard to lose the earthly presence of one so beloved and tears come naturally as the pain of separation caused by death dawns upon us.
Yet, even through our tears, we see the hope of unending life shining on Lucia, an unending life she first shared in the holy sacrament of Baptism when she was immersed in the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.
This is the new and indestructible life that she nurtured throughout her life, by devoutly receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in the celebration of the Eucharist, by confessing her sins in the sacrament of Reconciliation, by her daily prayer, by joining with you, Bob, and living faithfully the vocation of marriage and family, that symbolizes the love of Christ for his beloved Church.
And as her earthly life was drawing to a close, Lucia eagerly and gratefully participated in the fullness of the Church’s sacramental life, in the Anointing of the Sick, Penance and Viaticum. And so with great confidence and love, we entrust her today to the arms of our merciful and loving Savior, Jesus Christ. For, as she shared his life here on earth, we believe she shall reign with him in heaven.
And not only that: you who are Lucia’s immediate and extended family surrounded her with prayer, gathering on Zoom on 9 successive nights to pray a novena to Mother Mary Lange. I was privileged to join your family on the last night of the novena and many times since then I have reflected on what it blessing it is to be surrounded by the prayers of a loving family of faith, as Lucia was. To be sure, Zoom is not always a very personable way to communicate but that night the faith, hope and love of your family was palpable. We held her aloft in our prayers – and we were not alone.
We can be sure that Filomena and Pasquale were also praying for their daughter, for it was they who first formed her so deeply in the faith of the Church.
As I was preparing for today’s Mass, Lucia’s son, Patrick, sent me helpful hints. Among them is the fact that Lucia’s middle name is Assunta, Italian for Assumption. Her mother, Filomena chose that name for her daughter because she attended Mass on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1951, two days before she gave birth to Lucia … and here we are surrounded by stain glass windows from the Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore.
Not only that, in today’s second reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul speaks about our future resurrection and, if you will our bodily assumption, that happy day when our mortal frame will be clothed with immortality and we shall shine like stars, reflecting brilliantly, the light of Christ. The mystery of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, then, prefigures the wondrous destiny of all those who, like Mary, followed Christ faithfully. Filomena knew what she was doing when she chose the name, Assunta!
In the Gospel, Jesus confirms that this glorious destiny of those who follow him. Speaking to us words that should deeply console us in this time of sorrow, he says:
“This is the will of [the Father] who sent me, that I shall lose none of those he has given me, but raise them up on the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks upon the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life and I will raise them up on the last day.”
In these days so close to Holy Week, when we solemnly celebrate our redemption, let us take to heart and trust in our Redeemer’s promise of everlasting life. Let us hold fast in hope to that promise, for Lucia, for ourselves and for our loved ones.
A Missionary Disciple
There is another facet to Lucia’s life on which I should like to focus, and it is this: Not only did she embrace the faith of the Church wholehearted and throughout her life, ‘thirst for the living God,’ as we sang in Psalm 63, she was also what Pope Francis would call “a missionary disciple” – for she shared her faith and her passion for the faith … with her family first of all, but also with the young people whom she taught and so carefully prepared to receive their first sacraments.
As Archbishop of Baltimore, I want to pay tribute to Lucia as an outstanding second grade teacher
at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Ilchester, who knew and loved her students and formed them in the faith of the Church.
It is said that we bring into eternity only what we have given away on earth. If so, Lucia brought with her into eternity a faith that shined brightly because she spent so much of her life sharing it with others. And more than that, she would never hesitate to offer to anyone an explanation of the Church’s faith and the reasons for her hope. May she who shared the faith on earth reap its rewards in heaven!
These few reflections would not be complete without a reflection on her suffering. Suffering is always hard to understand, especially when it strikes close to home as surely it did in the devastating diagnosis Lucia received only last September.
Her brother John let me know about it and I put her on my prayer list and finally, some weeks ago, I was able to visit Lucia and Bob at home. As we spoke, it was clear to me that Lucia’s main concern was to do the will of God and that included decisions still to be made about her medical treatment and care.
Adversity did not weaken her faith but rather strengthened it even more, for she knew that those who follow the Lord must also share in his Passion, that the way to eternal joy passes always the way of the Cross. Her final illness was but the earthly completion of what had begun in her Baptism: she was to share palpably in the death of the Lord in the hope of resurrection.
Yes, suffering will always remain mysterious to us who do our best to keep it at bay, yet the today’s words from the Book of Wisdom ring true, especially for Lucia: “As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.”
In her sufferings, Lucia’s faith was purified and perfected, like fire-tried gold. We can be sure that she did not suffer in vain or merely for herself. Her sharing in the passion and death of our Lord will benefit many, for the Lord knows how to distribute among his people whatever we offer him. Her sufferings now over, we pray that she is already with the Lord in glory.
St. Joseph Opens the Door to the Father’s House
Finally, it should not escape our notice that Lucia’s Mass is on the Feast of St. Joseph and all of us who hail from a certain peninsula that juts into the Mediterranean Sea realize that, next to Christmas and Easter, this is the most important feast of all!
With what love we do we commend her to the prayers of St. Joseph, the loving husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the earthly guardian of Jesus. Just as Joseph, at the bidding of an angel, welcomed Mary into his home, so too may St. Joseph through his prayers welcome Lucia into her true home, where with Mary and all the saints and angels God is adored and praise for endless ages, world without end. Amen!