Saturday, September 3, 2016


Well done, good and faithful servant! 

                                                  There was also a certain prophetess, Anna
                                                  by  name. She  had  seen  many  days. She
                                                  was constantly in the temple, worshipping
                                                  day and night.                            Luke 2: 37

I can’t help it, I’m an old lady magnet. No matter what parish I’m in, no matter how old I get, there is always an old lady or two who latch onto me like white on rice. They must see me as an abandoned puppy or an orphaned child, but whatever it is, it happens over and over again. As one dies, another moves in to take her place. I once told Archbishop Kelly that one of my “old lady friends” had died. He responded without batting an eye, “I’m not worried! You’ll have another one before sundown!”  

Edna Mae was one of those women. I think we have known each other a little over thirty years. I am not sure how it started, but I think it started when Ed Buchart and his mother, Celanaire, introduced her and Helen Morehead to me at the Cathedral when I was pastor there. Masses led to dinners – hundreds of dinners with her, Helen, Edward, Tom and myself! Birthday dinners! Christmas dinners! Easter dinners! Dinners just for the hell out it! We consumed large amounts of wonderful food over the last thirty years.

There are a lot of things “special” about Edna Mae, but one in particular. We are related! She was descended from one Breckinridge County Mattingly brother and my mother from another. We were what you might call “kissin’ cousins.”  That gave me a right to kiss her on the forehead the other day, about 20 minutes before she died.

When I heard that Edna Mae had died, I immediately thought of two Scripture readings. We read them both.

The first one was from the Book of Proverbs. It is a description of the ideal Jewish wife of ancient history: strong, industrious, creative and eternally faithful in her role as mother and wife.  She made her husband and children proud and the community had a deep respect for her and her husband.

I remembered another widow, an eighty-four year old woman named Anna from the gospel reading, who liked to hang out in the temple in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. Anna and Edna Mae have a lot in common.

Anna was a widow. She had known sorrow, but she never grew bitter. Sorrow can do two things to us. It can make us hard, bitter, resentful, and rebellious against God. It can make us lose faith or it can make our faith grow deeper. It all depends on how we think of God. If we believe that God is mean, we will resent him. If we know God as a friend, we grow even closer to him. Like Anna, Edna Mae loved and trusted God, even in her losses.

Anna, of the gospel reading, was eighty-four years old. Even though she was widowed early in her marriage, she never gave up. She pushed herself, she got out of the house and she went where she could mix with people and make new friends. Age can take away the strength of our bodies, but age can do worse. It can take away the spark in our hearts and make us grimly resigned to a life of despair. Edna Mae, like Anna, never gave up. She stayed connected to life, to her friends, to her family and to her church as long as she could.

Anna, in the gospel readings, never ceased to worship and pray.  It says “she never left the temple” and “day and night she worshipped with prayer and fasting.”  No minimal “Sundays and holy days of obligation” for Anna. She had an intimate relationship with her God and enjoyed living in his presence. Like Anna, Edna Mae and God were close, daily companions and friends. Like most Catholics her age, Edna Mae was faithful to her religious upbringing even when she was not able to get to church any more.  

Family and friends, we are not here to mourn the end of Edna Mae’s life. We are here to celebrate her entry into eternal life. Edna Mae lived long and well. There was nothing more here for her to do. She squeezed all she could out of this life and prepared herself for the next. What else can we do, but celebrate with her and thank the God who created this faithful and committed woman, sustained her for so many years and now calls her to his side?

Emory, Billy, Edna Mae and Mary Ellen, I want to thank you for sharing your mother with the rest of us! Be proud of yourselves for the love and care you showered on her! I thank Edna Mae, as well, for her faithful friendship over the last 30 plus years!

Finally, I would like to end with my favorite prayer from the funeral rite. “Edna Mae, may the angels lead you into paradise. May the martyrs come to welcome you and take you to the holy city. Where Lazarus is poor no longer, may you have eternal rest.”

Edna Mae, may you and your dear husband, Emory; you and your parents, William and Edna; you and your many friends and relatives who have gone before you, rest in eternal peace.

“Well done, good and faithful servant, well done indeed!” 

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