Take up for Lent
I have often preached (and acted on my own advice) that it might be better to take on something extra for Lent, rather than give something up. This year I meant to post something on this blog every day of Lent that would benefit my readers.
Well, you can see how well I’ve kept that resolution! But in my own defence, this Lent got off to a dreadful beginning with the news that our Assistant Priest, Fr Lawrence Sipe, had died suddenly. He was found dead in his apartment in Center City, and probably died on Ash Wednesday.
As you can imagine, this news shocked our whole parish and far beyond that. Fr Sipe was also a distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in Children’s Literature, so all his colleagues and students, past and present, are grieving his relatively early death (he was 61).
Much of my time since then has been spent talking on the phone with friends of his who have just heard the news, or answering e-mails and Facebook queries. I have also met with his family and the funeral director to coordinate the arrangements for his funeral. For those of you within reach, the High Mass of Requiem and Absolutions of the Departed will be in St Clement’s on Saturday, the 19th, at 1 p.m. Our Choir will sing the lovely Faure setting, which was Fr Sipe’s favourite.
As well as Fr Sipe’s death, I have also celebrated a Requiem for the Great Aunt of one of our servers, whose funeral is this week. And on Saturday the 26th, I will be singing another Requiem for the mother of Will Bricker, one of our two churchwardens. So it has been a death-related start to Lent for me.
Nevertheless, at the end of Lent comes the great Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord, and the glory of Catholic worship is that the rites of the Departed leave no room for “sorrowing as others who have no hope”, much less the mawkish sentimentality that mars so many secular funerals. Someone asked if there would be a place for personal testimonies at Fr Sipe’s funeral, and I almost laughed when I pictured how he would have gasped at the very idea. He was Church of England enough (he was, in fact ordained in Canada) to have retorted in his precise way: “The place for that kind of thing is in the pub after the Mass!”
May he receive a place of refreshment, light and peace in the Kingdom of Christ.