This past Sunday was a surreal day. It was a roller-coaster ride of emotions.
Of course, it was Divine Mercy Sunday, marked this year with the canonizations of two twentieth century popes, Saints John XXIII and John Paul II. For my wife and I this was made all the more special since we named our son after Pope John Paul II.
The day began with our usual 30 minute drive to Mass. Several years back we made the decision to switch parishes after our parochial vicar was made pastor at St. Ann’s here in Charlotte. While this meant we would literally pass three parishes every Sunday to go to Mass, it made all the sense in the world.
As a family with a developing appreciation for beautiful liturgy, reverent worship and truth-filled homilies, we never hesitated in switching parishes seven years ago. In the intervening years we have been shown the truth, beauty and goodness of authentic Catholicism, which has included the Traditional Latin Mass.
Another unexpected blessing has been the geographic distance of the parish from my house. Yes, the 30 minute drive is a blessing. Over the years we have discovered that our family can pray a rosary exactly in the time it takes us to get to Church, usually finishing just as we pull into the parking lot.
On this day, as is sometimes the case, we had offered a decade for each one of our children. As a father of five, there is nothing more important to me than praying for my kids, while at the same time showing them how to pray as well.
Here is where the roller-coaster of emotions hit.
As we were heading into Church for Mass, having just finished the rosary, we learned that a seminarian from our parish had passed away overnight.
Charlotte seminarian Michael Kitson was only twenty years old. He had served altar for years at our parish, mentoring many of the other boys during his time. When it was announced two years ago that Michael had discerned a calling to the priesthood, no one was surprised. Collectively we felt a sense of pride and pure joy for this young man and his family.
Having come home for Easter last week, Michael was due to head back to seminary on Sunday. I have been told that he went to confession on Saturday and then assisted at Mass. He returned to his parents house, most likely spending the night in his old room. In the morning, when his parents went to wake him, he was unresponsive. At 7:30AM on Divine Mercy Sunday he was pronounced dead.
As a father I am unable to fathom the pain his family is experiencing at this time. A loss of such a fine young man is a tragedy that is incomprehensible, even to people of faith.
I couldn’t help but think of the final hours of Michael’s life: Confession, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, receiving Holy Communion, and wrapping up a week back home with his family, and then passing away as he slept in his childhood home on Divine Mercy Sunday. If there is such a thing as a beautiful death, is this not it? This may not be a consolation to his family at the present time, but I pray that years from now they find solace in the fact that an abundance of supernatural grace filled those final hours of Michael’s all too brief life.
If you are a parent, please pray with your children. Consider a family rosary. Please pray for your children. We do not know when our Lord will call them home. In addition, help your children, those old enough to receive the sacraments, to remain in a state of grace through frequent confession and frequent Communion.
And please keep young Michael and his family in your prayers.
Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
(Photo by SueAnn Howell, Catholic News Herald)