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A Catholic Obituary

In loving memory of George N. . . .who passed away on D. . . He leaves his beloved wife Elizabeth and children George Jr. and Tom. George lived a life caught up in the Catholic faith. Early on he learned to love the psalms. He went to Mass whenever he could. One of the great joys of George and Elizabeth’s life was going to Mass together with their two sons and receiving Holy Communion together. The Communion they received was very evidently with Christ and his Church, and among the family.

When they got married, George and Elizabeth soon realized that what they had learned up to their Confirmation simply was not enough. They each shouldered the task of learning more about the Catholicism and especially about all the different aspects of marriage. Obviously they could not leave this to their occasional encounters with the clergy. Most of these serve little purpose in the learning department. So they would sometimes just sit and read few a paragraphs from Scripture or a Church document together, and then discuss it.

They had great confidence that the thought-world of the Church was where their understanding of salvation lay. In that world, they would learn far more than from any movie or other product of the commercial world. As a result, they read Catholic teaching and books by Catholic authors, together. They poured over Chesterton, Bernanos, Dorothy Day; and even Dante and Augustine can be found on the shelves in their home. George and Elizabeth also enjoyed the poetry of the Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins as well as Milton and George Herbert. They knew intuitively that the real truth about life could be found all through the thousands of resources of the Catholic tradition – the things that most Catholics never see.

George and Elizabeth took seriously Vatican II’s teaching that children make their parents holy. So, for example, George and Elizabeth taught George Jr. and Tom their prayers when they were very young. They said the Rosary at the dinner table each night. Each week the family gave some time to serving the poor, helping out at St. Patrick’s kitchen for the homeless. And those dishes did not clean themselves. Then they were at every one of George Jr’s and Tom’s weekend games shouting from the sidelines.

George loved singing, so there was music often playing in the house – most often Catholic hymns. George was one of those men who could stand in Church and belt out whatever hymn was being sung.

A Burial at Ornans by Gustave Courbet, 1850 [Musée d’Orsay, Paris]

George and Elizabeth knew that, as busy as the external world becomes, there is always the interior world of the family where relationships count for more than video games and TV shows. Good conversation abounded, moving between discussing current events with the rest of the family and what books each one was reading.

George did not have much confidence that television could offer very much without a lot of picking and choosing. There is some important stuff that turns up on C-span and some of the other documentary channels. But he also knew that often programs just fill time so he did not allow the TV to be on very often. Early on, his two sons were not happy about this because their friends spent their lives watching TV. But with all of the different skills they learned in their different odd jobs, they came to appreciate the proper use of time and even more to appreciate all of the things that they will be able to pass on to their own kids. Both George Jr. and Tom are married; George and his wife Mary already have two daughters, Alice and Sally.

Elizabeth and George Sr. used to change the appearance of the household in all kinds of little ways for each liturgical season. So not only did the Nativity scene appear at Christmas, but a purple drape was put up for Lent and a papier-mâché empty tomb was hauled out for the great feast of Easter. Then there were the feast days, and each member of the family was allowed to get things ready for their favorite feast day.

A side of George’s life that only became apparent after he had passed on was the network of men to whom he was a kind of spiritual director. Only when some of his directees came forward to offer their respects did we learn that George had been leading a married men’s group for decades. The men got together to reflect on their marriages, their membership in the Church, and how their jobs were going. Reflecting on the Church’s teaching on marriage and how it reflects Christ’s union with his Church was a constant part of their meetings, together with prayer. The group had a particular love for the writings of John Paul II on marriage.

We will miss George and our condolences go especially to Elizabeth and to George Jr. and Tom and the rest of the family. Will we see his like soon again?

Fr. Bevil Bramwell, OMI, PhD is the former Undergraduate Dean at Catholic Distance University. His books are: Laity: Beautiful, Good and True, The World of the Sacraments, Catholics Read the Scriptures: Commentary on Benedict XVI’s Verbum Domini, John Paul II's Ex Corde Ecclesiae: The Gift of Catholic Universities to the World, and, most recently, The Catholic Priesthood: A 360 Degree View.