~ Sermon by Art McDonald
Back in Pittsburgh a funeral director, Bernie O’Brien, would call me to perform memorial services or burials of people who fell through the religious cracks, i.e., had no religion or had faded from any church participation. One time he had an unusual request: a family of four middle-aged adults, raised Catholic, wanted a dual burial for their parents; the mother had died the previous year and was cremated and the father had died recently. They wanted both sets of ashes buried with a ritual. The complication was that the four siblings were in deep conflict over how to do the ritual and who would lead it. Seems that two of the siblings were very angry at the Catholic Church, as was their now deceased father, and wanted nothing to do with a Catholic priest offering prayers for their dad. Meanwhile the other two were perfectly happy with their inherited tradition and wanted a Catholic priest to pray over their mother’s ashes, thus satisfying her wishes. They were deadlocked, so Bernie suggested to them that two ministers preside, one for mom, a Catholic priest, and one for dad, yours truly. It was a brilliant resolution, acceptable to all. Only problem was on the day of the burial the Catholic priest was a no show; we were ready to go to the cemetery and Bernie couldn’t find the priest. So he said to me, Art, you used to be a priest, I’ll call the family and explain the situation and say that you could do separate prayers for each parent given your background. Somewhat surprisingly, despite their familial conflict, they all agreed. On the way to the cemetery Bernie and I joked how unique this situation was and this family was actually getting a 2 for 1 special deal. Despite the tension, and not really knowing how it would all come out, the parents were buried to words of eternal rest and peace!