A reflection on the death
of don Mario
text in red italics from
Cardinal Ratzinger’s homily
at funeral of don Giussani
In these hours don Mario is returning to the home of the Father. Already we miss the beauty of his full-of-God gaze, his eyes alive with enthusiasm. We no longer hear his voice, his gentle encouragement, focused on Christ and vibrating with the romance of this divine and ultimate relationship.
“This love affair with Christ, this love story which is the whole of his life was however far from every superficial enthusiasm, from every vague romanticism. Really seeing Christ, he knew that to encounter Christ means to follow Christ. This encounter is a road, a journey, a journey that passes also—as we heard in the psalm—through the “valley of darkness.””
Don Mario has been returning to the home of the Father since he was baptized as a child. And don Mario has taught me that I am fully alive on earth only when I know that as a 20-year-old, a 40-year-old, a 60-year-old my life on earth is an hourly process of returning to the home of the Father.
And there was a great temptation to say, “for the moment we have to set Christ aside, set God aside, because there are more pressing needs, we have first to change the structure, the external things, first we must improve the earth, then we can find heaven again.”
In our years of communion and friendship on earth we understand that every day we are being born. We experience the tension of this. We suffer the daily pain. Like the child who feels torn from the mother’s womb in the experience that we (from our human perspective) call birth, to that little child that birth feels like death, separation, parting, loss and grief. While there may be grieving as the child leaves the home of the womb, we wait fully of excited anticipation on earth as family and friends to welcome this child.
The Lord says, “Whoever seeks his life, will lose it and whoever loses his life, will find it.”
The death at the end of our earthly life is really this same kind of experience of birth, but from our perspective we too often only see loss and parting.
In these hours in the heart of this November month of Holy Souls. with our prayer and the beautiful funeral liturgies of the church, we accompany don Mario to the gates of paradise. There we stand together with him commending him into the kind keeping of the Mystery who embraces us with love as Christ calls don Mario to enter the fulness of life. Then in these funeral rites we feel the parting and the separation since as our father and brother Mario is carried forward into life, we are left to return to our daily earthly routines of family and work. It is difficult yes, but this glimpse of paradise has renewed our hope and given new confidence to our faith. This experience changes us for we have touched eternity.
Through don Mario as he lies in death awaiting resurrection Christ is touching us here on earth. We are not alone.
“I fear no evil because I know that You are with me, and I will dwell in the Father’s house.” This was his great strength, knowing that “You are with me.”
For don Mario life is changed, not ended. And for each of us the death we taste in the difficulties of daily circumstances we are being reminded this world is not our real home, but a passing womb of growth and preparation for eternity in the embrace of the Mystery.
“Now your dear friend …has reached the other world, and we are convinced that the door of the Father’s house has opened, we are convinced that now this word is fully realized: they rejoiced to see Jesus. He is rejoicing with a joy that no one can take from him. In this moment we wish to thank the Lord for the great gift of this priest, of this faithful servant of the Gospel, of this father. We entrust his soul to the goodness of his Lord and ours.
With don Mario & Carlo at Castione in August 2019