Archive for the ‘Funeral Homilies’ Category

Msgr. Urban Baer’s Funeral Homily

November 20, 2016

This is the text of part of the homily given by Fr. Francis Mulligan of St. John Church, Wilton, Wisconsin at the funeral Mass for Msgr. Urban Baer, former diocesan rural life director, former veterans’ chaplain, and former pastor of St. Wenceslaus Church in Eastman. Father Mulligan was a classmate of Msgr. Baer and he concelebrated the Mass of the Resurrection with La Crosse Bishop F.W. Freking and other priests in St. Wenceslaus Church in Eastman on November 19, 1973.

       What shall we say about our friend on this occasion? He had the faith and appreciated it. It may have come to him through God-given channels of a good home, good parents, good schooling, good priests and sisters. He has a special vocation: he was called to serve God and he answered that call. He knew what it meant; he was an adult, capable of making a serious decision. There was no turning back.

       I stopped to see him shortly before Fr. Charles Brady celebrated his 40th anniversary in the priesthood, and because he could not attend, I asked him to send greetings. “Just tell him the words of Father Feber,” he said: “To the noble shrine of love divine my lowly feet have trod; I ask no fame, no other name than this, a priest of God.” This was his own life motto.

       In these days when the boat is being rocked by thoughtless children, we hear much about identity and fulfillment, personality and growth. Who would dare say that Monsignor Baer did not have all of these qualities? …

Msgr. Urban Baer       We knew him as a man who knew his vocation and loved it. In it he walked the way of humility and obedience and dedication. The capital sin of pride was not in him, whether he served as assistant or pastor. He worked for the salvation of people and the honor of the Church of God. When he served in the army, he was there to bring men to God. His highest rank was that of a priest of God. When he was sick and suffering, he bore his pains like a Francis of Assisi, knowing it was God’s will, and he knew that “Brother Body” would soon return to dust.

       Father Urban loved the Church, and the Holy Father, and his bishop, and all men. He saw the need for her attributes of authority , infallibility and indefectibility. His theology was that of his Master, “obedience is better than sacrifice.” Among his theology books were the Holy Bible, the Missal, the Breviary, and the Crucifix. Of course he had read and learned the decrees of Vatican II. But he knew that the purpose of the Council was to make men holy.

       His theology was not destructive or rebellious. Confession before or after first Communion, or receiving Communion in the hand or on the tongue — these were not disturbing questions for him. These were pastoral problems that could easily be solved. He also knew that “he who eats the Pope dies of ulcers.”

       He was sad when his friends turned away and walked no more with him. He was pleased with aggiornamento, which cleaned out the dust of ages and made the house ready for renewal. But he was violently opposed to those who pull down the house because they wish to play with novelty.

       Father Baer loved people—particularly the little people, and with them he identified himself. He knew that every man has the stamp of God and is a work of art.

       Father Baer: I am here to express our thanks to you for all you have done for us. On a few occasions you told me that I should preach your homily when you died. It was presumptive to say that I would. We walked the road together, and walking with you was an experience and an inspiration. We met in St. Louis, in September of 1925, when we entered Kenrick seminary. Four years later we marched up the aisle together to be ordained priests. Nervously but unhesitatingly we made our commitment: “We are here.”

       We offered our first Mass together, concelebrating with Archbishop John Glennon (later first cardinal of St. Louis.) After Mass he gathered us around him at the altar, where he spoke words that were not given to the rest of the congregation. He spoke about the priesthood and priestly service, of the honor and dignity connected with it. We were young, but we were old enough to make a decision and know that it meant. Gradually we advanced in the knowledge of our own ignorance and proceeded to grow up. We became fools for Christ.

       I watched you work as a curate and saw you serve as a pastor where you were sent. It did not take an “act of Congress” to change you from one assignment to the next. You served in the little places, but you knew there were no little people.

       When you served in the army, you were there to bring the men to God. The men knew their padre, and your greatest rank was that of Catholic priest. They knew you were like them, a civilian soldier. When the war ended, you returned to be appointed pastor here in the town of Eastman, where you served well for 15 years. This was your home, and now your body will rest with the people you loved.

       Here you showed your ecumenical spirit. You served in the ministerial association and occasionally presided at meetings. You were an active member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. But you were always the padre and you wore your uniform.

       You were interested in farmers and farming, and you were appointed head of the rural life program in the diocese. Your activities branched out far beyond the limits of the diocese. I am sure that many here today visited farmers’ meetings at which you put on your act for better communication. We recall the red handkerchief and the corncob pipe with which you distracted us sometimes from a heated discussion. You were suited for this office, and I know that your book of advice on farming adorns a bookshelf in many homes.

       Father Baer taught in season and out that every good gift comes from above. Of old the farmer had been described as a man “with the emptiness of ages on his face and on his back the burden of the world.” But Monsignor helped to change that idea. For him farming was the most dignified profession and the one closest to God.

       For him this was God’s work, and this was loving his neighbor. In all of his service to people, he did not neglect his parish. First things came first. He administered the sacraments faithfully, offered the Holy Sacrifice daily, said the divine office for himself and all the people, for this was his business. He took care of the sick, and buried the dead, and you loved him and he loved you.

       Then came sickness, eight years of sickness, and I suppose, loneliness. For he was human and the world was busy, and friends were slow to visit the sick. He helped where and when he could for a time. He accepted all of this as God’s will. He never seemed to lose his sense of humor, because, I think, humor is a daughter of charity. He knew he was dying. Each of us should know this. The sentence was passed when we began to live.

       Today, Father Urban, the evidence is all in. Your case has been submitted. For you, I think, there will be a short hearing. This is your Father’s house. He has been waiting. Here is your Brother Christ. You were an Alter Christus. You communicated Christ to others. And here is Mary from whom the Word was made Flesh. Hail her again, as you did so often during your life and sickness. You know her, for she wears a rosary. And when you look around in astonishment at the wonder of it all, take a little time out to ask the Mother of God to pray for us sinners here below.

       Father Urban, as a member of the Church Triumphant, help us who are still soldiering, sometimes plodding alone where the mud is heavy, and our eyes blinded with filth and the devil’s pollution, and our shoulders ache beneath the pack, our own and those of the fallen. Help us to keep looking up, beyond the margin of the earth, where we have not a lasting city, but where we seek one that is to come.

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The Greatest Vacation — Funeral for Angela Ernst, 88

April 2, 2011

In the summer of 1923, when Angie was just eight months old, the Ernst family embarked for a new life in America. Little Angie traveled simply, but probably quite comfortably, in a basket, a memento that she kept among her possessions for the rest of her life. I think we can easily romanticize what it was like to immigrate to this country back then. We do not think about how intimidating, how daunting, how unnerving it was for people to leave behind what was well-known to come and live in a whole new world. I’m told that Mr. and Mrs. Ernst were not initially thrilled about life on these shores, but eventually they warmed-up to it, embraced this land and its people, and it became home for them.

I’m told that Angie was full of life and fun and love towards her family and friends for all these past eighty-eight years that she lived here in Marshfield. Yet, a wanderlust, a desire for travel, to see new places and meet new people, was always a part of her, whether it was with her brother Joseph, or later with her sister Rose. Angie traveled east to Europe multiple times and visited family in the old country. She traveled out west and backpacked in the mountains. She traveled further west still and enjoyed the beaches of Hawaii. She traveled north to Canada and south to Mexico, and wherever she went she sought out the Lord in His houses, His beautiful churches. Angie lived her life close to Jesus Christ and His Church with a great love for others that is reflected in your love for her. Therefore, I am confident that Angie is now enjoying the greatest adventure of all her travels. Every interesting, beautiful, and friendly place we can travel to on earth reflects something of Heaven, yet none of them compare. The journey to Heaven is the greatest of all vacations.

We all have a natural aversion to death, and that’s a healthy thing. But sometimes this aversion can be too great of an anxiety.  Even with our Christian faith, the idea of dying and leaving behind what is well-known to go and live in a whole new world can feel intimidating, daunting, and unnerving. Yet there is no cause for us to fear or grieve like people who see no hope. Instead let us remember this, if you and I live in Christ, dying shall be the greatest adventure of our lives. Do no be afraid to be comforted by the truth. It’s a wonderful thing to visit the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, as Angie did several times. But how much better must it be to travel to an encounter with Our Lady of Guadalupe herself. It’s fun to visit Jesus in His many earthly houses as Angie liked to do. But how much better must it be to visit Jesus in the Father’s house. I trust that Angie is now fine, “just fine,” as she would say, but just in case her journeying to Heaven continues let us help her with our prayers, especially at this Mass for her.

In Her Image — Funeral for Carol Beck, 87

February 15, 2011


I never got to know Carol in life, but what I have been told of her is very good; that she is a sweet, peaceful, good and devoted woman of God. And from what I am told, she is clearly a woman of quiet strength.

On December 7th, 1958, Carol’s husband Robert, the father of Steve and Kathy, after nine years of marriage, unexpectedly died of a heart attack. That infamous date, December 7th, happened to be Carol’s birthday. I’m told that when Carol got married she was perfectly happy with the thought of being taken care of for years to come, but when Robert died she was called to rise to the occasion and take charge. This widow raised her children to maturity, and Steve and Kathy indicate that she raised them rather well. Though he was not visibly present in an unveiled way, I bet that Robert was never far spiritually, helping her through the trials.

Carol was simple and meek and seemingly ordinary in the world, but at the same time she was a quite stunning in appearance, with dark hair and beautiful brown eyes. Though everything, she remained close to her Lord, Jesus Christ. She drew strength from daily prayer and the grace of the sacraments, and with her beautiful voice she sang praises to God. Now she has passed on, to go where her bridegroom has gone before her.

We should pray the purification of Carol’s soul, as we do for all the dead, but I have no fear for her future. Carol’s life on earth has been as an image, an icon, of  Christ’s Church on earth. The mystery of the Church was reflected through her life.

We call the Church a she, because she is the bride of Christ. As we hear in the Gospel, the day He died was the birthday of the Church. The Church is a mother, and with love and concern she raises her own children to maturity. Though her bridegroom is not visibly present in an unveiled way, He is always near her and helps her through every trial. She is stunningly beautiful, and yet she is simple, meek, and seemingly ordinary in this world. Though everything, she remains close to her Lord, Jesus Christ. She is strengthened through her daily prayers and the grace of the sacraments, and with one beautiful voice, she sings praises to God. And one day, she too will pass on from this world, to where her bridegroom has gone before her.

Please pray to God for Carol’s soul, but do not be afraid. I am confident that when all is said and done, Jesus shall present her in splendor to Himself, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she may be holy and happy with Him forever. Those who live in the Church’s likeness are promised her reward.

The Divine Perfectionist — Funeral for Joseph Stockheimer, 76

October 9, 2010

I never got to know Joseph while he lived on earth, but in preparation for this homily, I talked to Helen, his wife of 51 years, and his daughter, Vicky, and asked them what sort of person Joseph is. They described a man who lived faithfully, piously, and with high standards. These qualities expressed themselves in a certain perfectionism throughout his life.

He worked his farm for 35 years. Not only did he keep to the cows’ daily milking schedule, but I’m told his field rows were perfectly straight and cleared every stone. Even the barn (the barn) was clean! After retiring from farming, Joseph turned his efforts to working the flower garden and cleaning the house, two activities that pleased Helen greatly. Their house was always clean and his nails were always dirty. Sometimes Joseph would be work in the garden until 11:30 at night.  There wasn’t any light to see, but he still kept at it. Joseph also worked in the kitchen at the Knights of Columbus hall. They called him “Scrubby” because he never quit on cleaning the pans. He would talk to you while he worked, but he wouldn’t stop scrubbing.

Joseph’s attitude was, ‘If you start a job, get it done, and get it done right.’ In this, Joseph bears a likeness to an attribute of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The Lord works as a perfectionist too. Jesus says, “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me… …This is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.” Jesus is not content to save just some of what the Father gives Him. He is not willing to save only some of those who come to Him. ‘For this is the will of His Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and He shall raise them on the last day.’ There is hope and consolation for us in this: we are the Lord’s field, we are His house, we are His garden, we are His pans, and  Jesus does not willingly give up on His work.

It is a good thing that Christ is a perfectionist, for nothing imperfect can bear to stand in God’s fully unveiled presence. The fact is that you and I will refuse to enter Heaven until we are perfect, so Christ must make us so. Even if we are good and faithful, the pan-bottoms of our souls may still need some hard scrubbing at the end of our lives. This is what we call purgatory, the joyful but challenging time after death when our souls are scrubbed clean of every imperfection.

Now I am confident that Joseph is bound for Heaven, since Jesus does not reject those who are His own. But I think we do well to assist Him with our prayers to help Him get his last job done and to get it done right—the job of perfecting His soul for Heaven. So talk to Joseph, for he can hear you, and pray for Joseph, especially at this Mass, so that he may have eternal rest and fully enjoy the reward of his labors.

Alive in Christ — Funeral for Lila O’Brien, 94

March 3, 2010

On behalf of Christ the King parish I wish to offer to you, Lila’s family and friends, the sympathies and prayers of this community. I also want to give special recognition, praise and thanks to Lila’s children, who provided her with around the clock companionship and care, allowing her the blessing of dying at her home with her loved ones.

In these last months, I had the privilege to visit Lila at home on two occasions. The first time I came, I anointed her with holy oil, to strengthen her for the share in Christ’s passion which laid before her. The second time some of her family and I gathered and pray with her the prayers of commendation for the dying.

When I ask people about Lila they tell me that she was friendly and feisty. That she was ever active and always on the go. That she was funny, a bit goofy, and unpredictable. They tell me that she was very independent, yet also very personable. Lila was a neat lady. Let us not forget that she remains a neat lady.

It is the habit in our culture to refer to people who have died using the past tense. For instance people say, “So and so was such a loving person,” and they say the person “would have really enjoyed being with us today.” Even if unintentionally, these words implies that the dead love no longer and that they are no longer aware of us.

Yet after death, a person who is loving in this life becomes still more loving. It seems quite likely that each of us will be aware of our own funerals, just as I believe that Lila is aware of our gathering today.

Though we fall into speaking of the departed in the past tense, we do not really believe that death is the end. Dying does not annihilate those we love. As Jesus said, ‘The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.’

Nor does dying make a person less fully themselves than what they were before. “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” And as Jesus said in the gospel, to the good thief crucified with Him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Lila has passed on, but if you would like to talk to her, just go ahead and pray. She will hear you and she will appreciate it. And be sure to pray for her too.

In her years on earth, Lila did not like to travel far from home and she didn’t take long trips, unless the promise of a casino jackpot awaited her. But now Lila is making the human soul’s furthest trip, the journey to full and heavenly presence of God. She has an incredible jackpot to motivate her, the promise of supreme and perfect happiness, however receiving this reward is not a matter of luck. It requires the purification of her soul and the help of our prayers, so offer this morning’s mass and your continued prayers to God for her.

Lila has died, but Lila is not dead. If the woman we remember has changed it is only to become more perfectly who she really is, in all her unrepeatable uniqueness. Lila was, and she remains, a friendly, funny and feisty lady.

Then and Now — Funeral for Fabian “John” Wingert, 80

February 5, 2010

John did not know when the day would come, but he knew it was coming, and so he was proactive in making preparations. It was 1952, and our country was at war on the Korean peninsula. John knew that his army draft number was low and that he going to be called up for service any day. John was proactive, and he heeded the advice of his father, who said, “Join the navy. It’s better to have a bed than to sleep on the ground.” John enlisted in the navy two days before his army draft number came up.

Later, when it came time for him to ship out, John took the initiative again. John had met Beverly two years before. He would later say they met at a dance in Rozellville. She insists that it happened earlier at an ice rink. But in the week before he was to ship out they were in perfect agreement about what they wanted to do. They were wedded in Los Angeles at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, beginning 57 years of marriage. They enjoyed the sweetness of their too short honeymoon together, and then he left, as he had been called to do by higher-ups.

Beverly tells me that this time without him was lonely, and that she would worry about him, too. They wrote to each other every day, though the mysterious mechanisms of the mail service made the letters arrive in clumps. Finally, John came home, and he and Beverly began raising children and living happily, together.

Today we gather to mourn and pray for John, who suffered his last days’ passion in Christ’s likeness, and whom we trust will be raised up in Christ’s likeness. John has been called up for service by the Higher-Ups of heaven.

There’s a sadness in this separation, but there is no need for fear. It is you who sit here who remain in the war, while John is heading home. We need not fear for him, for unlike the mail, he cannot be lost now, but we pray for him while experiences the mysterious mechanisms that perfect souls until they reach their final address.

And if you have anything you wish you could tell him, you can, for like our connection to the love of Christ, nothing can separate our spiritual connection with John in Christ.  If you would like to talk to him, just pray. You might even sense him speaking back.

This life has the happiness and incompleteness of a too short honeymoon. But if we proactively respond to God’s grace, in not too long, we will all be joyfully reunited. And we will live happily, together, forever.

Funeral for Robert J. Wallig, 89

August 18, 2009

In late 1942, at the young age of twenty-two, Robert Wallig went off to war. He bravely answered his call and helped in winning the Second World War. He served as an army medic, in the European theater, earning a Bronze Star. Bob was going to go on to become a medic after the war, but the coming of the first of his five beloved children and changed his and Donna’s plans. I am told that Robert never liked to talk very much about his wartime abroad—which is a strong indication that he witnessed and experienced some very difficult things back then.

There are not many World War II veterans still around, but I tell you, there is still a world war being fought today, and you and I are in its combat theater. I am not speaking so much about the War on Terror or any other particular war between peoples or nations.  Such wars among flesh and blood are just the manifestations of a broader, less visible war.  The World War I’m speaking of is a spiritual war being waged between Christ and the principalities and powers who oppose Him.  We cannot see this spiritual conflict directly, but we can see in our world the consequences of its victories and losses.  We can feel and recognize its skirmishes being fought inside of us.  The battle is for our souls. This is why the Church here on earth is called the Church militant, and why St. Paul so often uses military language—because we are in a war.

 Our demonic adversaries in this campaign are more evil than the Nazis and manipulated by a leader far more dark than Hitler. Yet we should not be afraid.

For “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Fear is the only real weapon our enemy has. Their strategy is to make us mistrust our Lord and to choose another, renegade path of our own, to divide us, apart from God and apart from one another. But we fight together as a band of brothers on the side of Christ, who has already won the greater part of the battle. Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” The only way a Christian can be lost in this war is through surrendering to the enemy.

Occasionally, we may be wounded by sin during this cosmic battle, but these wounds can be healed, through the sacraments which Christ, our field medic, has provided for our care. Yet even after the gapping wounds of our sins are closed through the sacraments, scars can often still remain; scars of fear, guilt, sadness, bitterness, resentment, regret, and the like. After we have fought the good fight by the grace, and are honorably discharged from this life, such scars can still remain an can delay our entry into the Church triumphant in heaven; where the saints now fully enjoy their victory won. Instead, our scars may keep us just outside heaven, in what is called the Church suffering, or rather, the Church healing, for the path to our healing can be painful. This is a place of hope called purgatory, where souls are being healed, completed and made perfect for heaven.

Like the general of Israel, Judas Maccabeus, whom  we heard about of in the first reading, let us offer sacrifice and prayers for our fallen brother.  Our prayers, united to the one and perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which we really encounter here at the Mass, can help to heal Robert of any and all of the scars he might have.

I’m sure that all of you know Robert far better than I, you know what sort of man he is, and from what I have been told that is very good, so you have the well-founded hope that he is well on his way in Christ. But I ask of you, a favor for him, the same favor that I would ask for myself if it were possible for me to preach at my own funeral:  to please pray for him. It can only do him good, and perhaps very great deal of good.

In the decades after the war, Robert did many, many things. Among these, Robert worked as a custodian for one of God’s own homes, a church in Kenosha.  He also worked as a manager for others’ residences, including apartments here in Marshfield. He repaired the boilers, emptied the trash, painted the walls, cleaned what was dirty, and did whatever else was necessary for the place to be ready and just right. Jesus tells us, in our Father’s house there are many dwelling places. Christ has been at work, busy preparing a perfect place for Robert. So let us help Robert to get moved in, and to become completely settled, in this new home.