November 18, 2022

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Holiday traditions
change in the
lifespan of families

Sean Gallagher“Lord, now you let you servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled. My own eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel” (Lk 2:29-32).

These are the words of the holy man Simeon when he beheld the Christ child brought to the temple in Jerusalem by Joseph and Mary.

Simeon had been promised by God that he would not die until he had seen the long-awaited Savior. Knowing through the Holy Spirit that he now saw him in this infant child, he proclaimed to God that he could now die in peace.

This beautiful canticle from the Gospel of St. Luke is prayed daily in Night Prayer (traditionally called Compline) in the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours. Those who are ordained and those in religious life pray this daily according to the promises that they have made.

But many lay Catholics also try to make the Liturgy of the Hours a part of their daily life of faith. With the help of God’s grace, I try daily to do this myself.

On the evening of April 26 earlier this year, I prayed those words of Simeon as I sat next to my father who was lying peacefully unconscious on a hospital bed in his condominium in Shelbyville. I knew he was close to death, but didn’t, of course, know when he would be born into eternal life.

As it happened, he died a few hours after I prayed those words. Looking back on that graced moment, I know I was praying them for him. I was telling God that he could let his servant go in peace.

Dad, in his 84 years of faith, had seen God’s salvation in so many ways: in his faith-inspired good works and through the Church’s sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the sacrament of penance and his sacramental marriage of 50 years to my Mom, who died in 2015.

God’s light had shone through Dad upon all those blessed to be a part of his life in Dad’s loving generosity both to those whom he loved and to complete strangers as well.

It was his steadfast faith through the course of his life that planted and nurtured the seeds of faith in me and in my family as well.

There are many ways to pray for our friends and loved ones in the coming month of November when the Church pays special attention to them.

One way to do this would be to pray the Canticle of Simeon daily for them before you go to bed.

You can offer this prayer as a way to ask God to welcome them into the heavenly wedding banquet. But it can also be a prayer in which we thank God for the light that he still shines upon us through our beloved dead, perhaps many years or even decades after they’ve entered eternal life.

With God’s light shining upon us through the precious memories of our deceased relatives and friends, our eyes are opened even now through their help to the salvation that God mercifully offers us every day.

And, with that help from those whom we still hold dear to our hearts, God is molding our hearts and minds ever more fully to make Simeon’s words our own:

“Lord, now you let you servant go in peace” as we yearn to gaze for all eternity with those who have gone before us upon your loving face. †

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