(Reflections from a Homily delivered at the
Funeral Mass of Deacon Vincent J. Perticone-Aug
C.S. Lewis, the great
English-Christian apologist, once said that
followers of Jesus, are called not only to be
saved from despair and separation from God, but
are also called to become "Little
Christ's"-"mirrors" of Him on Earth.
Deacon Vince became a Little Christ.
As I begin this homily
I'm reminded of how Vince used to prepare his
homilies, and how he would ask Agnes for her
input. Vince listened and went back to change a
piece here or there, and then Agnes would listen
again and make more comments-"make it uplifting"
or some other helpful hint. Sometimes Vince
would agree, sometimes not. By the time Vince
got to Church to deliver the homily, with Agnes
sitting in the front row, she wouldn't recognize
homily! It was all changed and different!
Last night at the
funeral home many friends of Deacon Vince said
how they would go out to lunch with him-Nick on
Thursday, Joe on Tuesday and others on different
days. Fr George, the pastor of St Joseph Church,
and presider of the wake service, said:---"Is
that all he did, was go out to lunch?"
Word and Sacrament-that
is what a deacon is about: Preach the Bible and
celebrate the Sacraments. That's how Deacon
Vince became a "Little Christ".
Today's readings are
about the Heavenly Father's Plan-his Divine
Providence for His children in this world. We
have these readings for Vince's good and our
own: Do I really trust Him to take care of me?
In the first reading from Ecclesiastes, we hear
of how there is "an appointed time for
everything under Heaven. a time to be
born, and a time to die; a time to mourn and a
time to laugh; a time to seek and a time to
lose. " (3:1-6). We have "lost" a dear
friend. Coming to the funeral home last night I
met a friend and said, "We've lost a dear
friend." And his immediate reply was: "One of
the greats." Yes, one of the greats.
Ecclesiastes is a
pungent, no-nonsense view of reality, realistic
and terse, in unflinchingly describing the
trials and tribulations of reality, and the
challenge of facing it all. It would be
fatalistic if it was not for God saving us, if
not for Jesus' coming to rescue us from the
"vanity of vanities" (1:2 ). Vince's death was
stunning and beautiful. Agnes, his lovely wife
of forty-six years, was there throughout four
days of Vince's suffering, belabored breathing
and struggling. Vince's children-Vince Jr.,
Craig and Janine--were also there, along with
the grandchildren. One of them slept at Pop-Pops
feet, gently holding and sometimes caressing
them. She held a rosary in her hand, as did
others. As Vince died, they were praying the
rosary, singing songs, hearing Bible readings,
and the "Ave Maria" played on a tape recorder.
Agnes said the picture on the television,
previously displaying the Crucifix of Jesus, now
showed the Tabernacle in the Chapel-Jesus in the
Eucharist--He was near Vince and his family.
Amidst all the torments God was comforting them.
And Vince's suffering
was extended these last few days for a reason.
Like a St. Bernadette who used her suffering,
after seeing the Blessed Mother at Lourdes, and
later becoming plagued by tuberculosis, offering
up her suffering for the saving of souls, Vince
used the opportunity to do the same. St Peter,
the first Pope said: "Christ suffered for you
and left you an example to follow in His
footsteps" (I Pt. 1:21) Deacon Vince's death was
beautiful and it affected everyone. This trial
was not in vain. Fr Sal said the Blessed Virgin
Mary orchestrated it so he would come to
Jesus-in "an appointed time to die".
Today's second reading
says: "Nothing can separate us from the Love of
Christ. "Will anguish or distress or persecution
or peril. ? Neither death nor angels.
nor any other creature will be able to separate
us from the love off God in Christ Jesus our
Lord" (Rm. 8:35-39). With grandchildren,
friends and family, Vince was always with God,
reminding others of Him. His weekly lunches with
Nick Dieter were filled with conversation about
Jesus: "We would always talk about the Lord,"
Nick said. Nick's wife, who joined them a couple
times over two years, said, "You said the same
thing last year!"
One time we went to meet
Mother Teresa on Vince's birthday. I can't
exactly remember what Mother Teresa said to
Vince, but I can remember that he was, on his
birthday, like a little child-beaming. I think
she said: "Listen to Agnes when she comments on
your homilies." No, just kidding! But she did
give him a Miraculous Medal of the Virgin Mary.
For Vince, the Virgin Mary did not separate him
from Christ but rather led him to the Lord. In
praying the Rosary and thru his devotions to the
Mother of God, Vince was led to Jesus and closer
to a holy way of life. Perhaps you have not
prayed the Rosary or it is a little "dusty,"
maybe placed out of the way. Pick it up, pray
the Rosary, or pray a decade-with your
heart--and, like the Pope encouraged in his
recent encyclical on the Eucharist, embrace,
with Mary, an "enraptured gaze upon the Lord".
Mary brings us to Jesus.
Vince loved the Bible.
We just heard one of his favorite readings, in
Romans, chapter eight. While preaching on this
text, Vince once said, "This is one of the most
moving verses in all of Scripture: 'Come to Me
all you who are weary and I will refresh you.'
(11:28). Now, the Lord is refreshing Vince. So,
daily, try to read the Bible as Vince
did-cultivate a love for it and never be
separated from God. Become a "Little Christ".
When Vince belonged to
St Isaac Jogues Parish, he started a Vincent
DePaul Society. He wasn't a deacon yet, and he
didn't have to begin this venture, but because,
as someone said last night, he loved the poor,
he wanted to help them. He wanted no one to
separate from Christ and took concrete steps to
find Jesus in His "disguises". In this way he
became a "Little Christ.". As far as I
know, Deacon Vince was not perfect-Agnes, you
can have equal time here (!). He was not without
sin-we are all sinners (Rm. 3:23)-all of us,
laypersons, priests and seekers need God to
polish us into "Little Christ's". Vince knew
this. And so he partook of the Sacrament of
Reconciliation: he regularly confessed his sins
because he trusted in Jesus to forgive him. In
this Sacrament we have a kind of portal or door
to freedom and healing, thru the ministry of the
priest and the Church. St. James says: "Is
anyone among you sick? He should pray.
pray over him and anoint him. If he has
committed sins he will be forgiven" (5:13-15).
Vince was not separated from God, because of
this Sacrament, and, in a way because of it, he
became a "Little Christ".
One time Vince and Fr
Sal took a trip to Florida, to visit the
baseball camps of spring training. Vince was a
Baltimore Orioles fan and Fr Sal a New Yankees
fan-what a trip that must have been! But, along
the way of this vacation and journey, they were
never separated from Christ: they prayed,
attended Mass and spoke of spiritual things.
Vince is on a trip to Heaven now. We can pray
for him that God remove any imperfection in him,
fix any undone work and purify him totally to
make him ready for the Beatific Vision--to be
with Mary in God, the Most Blessed Trinity.
In St John's Gospel,
Jesus said, "In My Father's House there are many
dwelling places. I am going to prepare a
place for you that where I am you also may be"
(14:2). Jesus does not leave our Heavenly
pilgrimage to chance or mere coincidence, but He
goes before us "show us the Way"-so we may be
with Him forever. That Way is not always what we
have planned. Vince said at the beginning of
this year that, when he received news of his
illness, he was praying for three things: "That
I accept this sickness. I ask for a healing, and
that, no matter what, God's will be done." Those
are words of a holy man. Vince knew, a la
Ecclesiastes, that suffering and trials are part
of life-and so he accepted God's allowing him
this sickness-he was at peace with suffering for
Jesus. In this way he was becoming a "Little
Christ". But, like a Christian man, and is
encouraged for us to do in the Bible and in our
Religion, Vince asked for healing if it was
God's will-that's intercessory prayer and
trusting in God as a providential Father. And
then, most importantly: He trusted God and His
Will to be done, not his own. Like Jesus Who
prayed the same prayers and sentiments, Vince
was becoming a "Little Christ". He taught us how
to live. and how to die and suffer. Become
a "Little Christ".
Last Fall Vince and his
cousin Vince Perticone and Fr Sal, came to the
Grotto and trip to the mountains. We had a great
time laughing, talking, touring, and even went
swimming-although the guys chickened out. After
our venture we all decided, before getting
dinner, to make a holy hour-praying before Jesus
in the Tabernacle in the glass chapel-church.
There was a family there before we arrived,
elegantly and quietly sitting facing the altar
and Christ in the Holy Bread of angels. We asked
them if they would like to join us for a holy
hour of prayer. They eagerly said "Yes!" and,
and the little boy with them-about age three-sat
there in holy silence the whole time, praying
and loving the Lord. Vince loved this-adoration
and comfort, peace in Holy Communion.
In yesterday's Sunday
Gospel, Jesus says: "He who eats my flesh and
drinks my Blood, will abide in Me and I in him"
(6:56). Deacon Vince loved the Mass and the Lord
in Holy Communion. We all knew this. Through
Communion Vince became a "Little Christ". In
yesterday's Mass, as she approached the Altar
and Communion, Agnes said she got chills,
recalling Vince's words: "Remember me in the
Mass-you can always find me there around the
Altar." Deacon Vince became a Little Christ
St Augustine once
stunningly said, and Vince took these words to
heart: "Receive what you believe, eat what you
receive and become what you eat.". Deacon
Vince, we love you.
Meditations: How can I
become more holy- and follow Jesus more?
How can I go to Holy Communion, and Confession
and let Jesus shape me into a "Little Christ?
How can I pray the Rosary with my heart and
meditate upon the Bible to let God's Word dwell
within me? How can I devote more daily
time to the Holy Trinity in meditative prayer?
St Irenaus reminds us of our high-highest
calling: to become "Little Christ's"-like God
Himself: "God gave us Himself to us through His
Spirit. By participation of the Spirit, we
become communicants in the Divine Nature.
.For this reason, those in whom the Spirit
dwells are divinized."
St. Augustine on
"Friendship": "There were other things done in
their company which completely seized my mind:
to talk and to laugh with them; to do friendly
acts of service for one another; to read
well-written books together; sometimes to tell
jokes and sometimes to be serious; to disagree
at times, but without hard feelings, just as a
man does with himself; and to keep our many
discussions pleasant by the very rarity of such
differences; to teach things to others and to
learn from them; to long impatiently for those
who were absent, and to receive with joy those
joining us. These and similar expressions,
proceeding from the hearts of those who loved
and repaid their comrades' love, by way of
countenance, tongue, eyes, and a thousand
pleasing gestures, were like fuel to set our
minds ablaze and to make but one out of many."
The Confessions of St. Augustine, IV, 8.
Drawing Life From The
Eucharist - The new Encyclical of Pope John Paul
II: "In the Eucharist the Church is completely
united to Christ and His sacrifice, and makes
her own the spirit of Mary. This truth can be
understood more deeply by re-reading the
Magnificat in a Eucharistic key. When Mary
exclaims: 'My soul magnifies the Lord and my
spirit rejoices in God my Savior'. she
praises God 'through' Jesus, but she also
praises him 'in' Jesus and 'with' Jesus. This is
itself the true 'Eucharistic attitude'. At the
same time Mary recalls the wonders worked by God
in salvation history in fulfillment of the
promise once made to the father (cf. Lk 1:55),
and proclaims the wonder that surpasses them
all, the redemptive incarnation.
Mary sings of the 'new heavens' and the 'new
earth' which find in the Eucharist their
anticipation and in some sense their program and
plan. The Magnificat expresses Mary's
spirituality, and there is nothing greater than
this spirituality for helping us to experience
the mystery of the Eucharist. The Eucharist has
been given to us so that our life, like that of
Mary, may become completely a Magnificat!"
Bible Readings: Jos
24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b; Ps 34:2-3, 16-21; Eph
5:21-32; Jn 6:60-69
If You can Help!-we are
asking for donations to help pay for the recent
renewal of our parking lot. Any donation would
be greatly appreciated! Please mark check or
donation "Grotto maintenance." We sincerely
thank you for your charity!
Grotto Story: Just
recently, a lady from Scotland was visiting and
spoke of how her son, age 24, was sick with
cancer. They came to the Grotto to receive
healing and blessing prayers. Months later, in a
diagnosis, the son's cancer was in remission.
Now, fifteen years later, he is living a full
life in work and is devoted to God in his work,
family and travels. Remember: one percent of the
work of a miracle is ours-fully disposing
yourself to receive God's mercy and healing,
becoming more supple and open-hearted. And
one-hundred percent is God's-it is the Lord Who
heals and grants favors. As you visit the
Grotto, any shrine or church, or ask for healing
in your life, ask for God's miraculous healing
and also always remember: "They will be done".
The mom's ebullience and thankfulness was
evident in returning to thank God for His grace.
other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi