A parishioner of mine once left his prayer book behind at church after Mass. I did what any person might do after finding it — I opened it up to see if I could find out to whom it belonged.
I found the name in the front and noticed a prayer that was taped on the inside of the book. The prayer was for his deceased wife. I immediately thought of how beautiful it was that this widower prayed daily for the soul of his wife.
The prayer said, “O Lord, please watch over my dear spouse who was my love, my friend, and my heart in this life. I pray that you lead her into your presence with tenderness and mercy. I pray that we will be reunited in heaven, just as we were united in married life here on earth.”
As a pastor, when I meet with families to plan the funeral for their deceased loved ones, I suggest different scripture readings which will be proclaimed during the funeral Mass. In the case of a husband who has lost his wife, I begin with the recommendation of Proverbs 31. I always think the opening words are so fitting and appropriate: “When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.”
As I sit and listen to the stories of how they met and the experiences they had together, that statement becomes very real to me and to everyone at the table. The husband has indeed entrusted his heart to his wife. She brought him good all the days of her life.
I’ve also found the ending of our first reading today to be fitting for the homily: “Give her a reward for her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.”
At the funeral Mass, our prayer is that the Lord will give a heavenly reward to the person who has died. I imagine the city gates being the Heavenly Jerusalem and how one must give an account of their life before God. In so doing, one’s good works act as praise before the Lord.
In Proverbs 31, the author praises the deeds of a woman, writing, “the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” While the text refers to a wife, we could extend it to so many of the women we admire in our life. Who are the women in your life who have personified Proverbs 31? Your mother? Your wife? A sister? A teacher?
The mystic, Venerable Maria of Agreda, even attributes Proverbs 31 to the Blessed Virgin Mary in volume one of her four-volume “Mystical City of God.” As we approach Thanksgiving Day, let us be grateful for the wonderful women whom the Lord has graced us with in this life. If they are living, let us be grateful for the time we still have. If they are deceased, let us await with great longing our heavenly reunion at the city of gates.
Fr. Looney serves as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Shawano, and as priest celebrant of St. Martin of Tours Parish, Cecil. He hosts the podcast “How They Love Mary.”