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An Act Of Faith

by Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci

Originally published in August 1998

The grass has grown in. Now the ground resembles the surrounding area. If it wasnít for the headstone, you would never know that there were two graves present. With head bowed I said an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be over the grave of my mother and again over the grave of my father. They died nearly five years apart. I bent over my motherís grave and made a sign of the cross on the ground with my finger. It is a custom begun on the day of her burial. This ritual of prayer and remembrance is significant to me whenever I visit the graves of my parents. However, on Easter Sunday it possesses an enhanced meaning.

As my mind filled with thoughts of my parents, the cold, spring wind stung my face. Yet, I remained transported to an earlier day. I remembered Easter Sundays past; the joyful atmosphere of the Easter meal; the warmth of family. A key component of the Easter feast was the sharing of the Crece di Pasqua - a heavy cheese bread - made lovingly and faithfully by my mother and me every year. There was always a debate over the amount of pepper or cheese used in the recipe. I recalled how my mother would make a sign of the cross on the dough before it was placed in the warm environment in order to raise. In an Italian home, faith and food have a special relationship.

It seemed odd to stand transfixed at the final resting place of such vital people. Past scenes of love and faith flooded into my mind and heart. I sensed how important were the lessons taught by my parents who wished to leave a legacy of the need for their children to be aware of being responsible and accountable to God for the gift of eternal life. May the Lord help me not to simply live a life, but to give a life.

I wonder if someone would stand before my remains on an Easter Sunday and would think the thoughts that I am thinking now? Remains is an apt word. It denotes that something is left behind from something that has departed.

For me the body is like a glove in which an eternal spirit, an everlasting soul dwells. It is the source of all of that we are and all that we do. One might define it as life. Our Catholic faith recognizes this wondrous entity as eternal. How comforting that is. If we are nothing more than a biological happening with no significance to our living or our dying, then life itself is an absurd joke.

Look at us! We think profound thoughts and feel such deep emotions. We strive for love and meaning in our lives. We rejoice and weep. All of these proclivities speak of something more to life than we know. Faith saves us from understanding life as nothing more than a futile race to the grave. Easter is the proclamation that our origin, our present, and our destiny is founded in love rather than chemistry.

The grave is but a locus where our memories gather and a last contact lingers. It is a place where the essence of resurrection lives. According to J.S. Whale, "Belief in the resurrection is not an appendage to the Christian faith; it is the Christian faith." When you stand at the grave of a beloved one, how complete those words can be.


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