Owning property is a new experience for me. But it was quite inexpensive, is maintenance-free, I have very quiet neighbors, and the association promises perpetual care. The size is somewhere in the neighborhood of six feet by three feet.
Actually, I was visiting the St. Catherine Parish Cemetery in Catharine, where many of my relatives are buried. I find the cemetery altar a quiet and moving place to spend a few moments in prayer and stop whenever I can, usually on my way out west.
While visiting a little over a week ago, I noticed a man walking through the cemetery with a large map in his hands. I went up to him and discovered he was the cemetery director, busily outlining a grave for an upcoming burial, but he took a few moments to verify that there was a plot available next to my grandparents. He wrote in my name on the master ledger. I mailed a check. And thus, I have a place.
I find it oddly comforting to know that I have a place. I know of course that some people have no desire at all to consider such things. In my case, maybe it’s my years of presiding over funerals, or the way I’ve watched the best of my brother priests face death with great faith and hope. Perhaps it’s the gentle influence of St. Francis who reminds us that death, our greatest of ancient foes, has — in Christ — become our friend. Or maybe it’s just the way my brain is wired. Whatever the reason, I like knowing that matters are handled and that I have a place.
Meeting the cemetery director was not, in my opinion, accidental. Indeed, as I sat with the day’s event in prayer, I grew to believe that the incident was driven by grace. We’re in Lent, and perhaps more than anything else, this season asks us to consider the essentials. We look within, pondering what really matters on our life’s journey, where we may have gotten off track, where grace has brought us back, where we’re now going, and where we pray — with grace — the journey will end.
And while this body of mine will one day need that place at St. Catherine Cemetery, it is actually my hope that I will not need the perpetual care offered in the contract. In the fullness of time, I hope to share, through the great mercy of Jesus, in the glory of his resurrection and to take leave of that place, finding instead a lasting home, a place prepared for me in eternity.
And so, if you’ve not pondered it, you might want to ask yourself prayerfully if you have a place. It’s not a bad Lenten exercise. Indeed, like all true Lenten practices, it doesn’t get mired down in sadness or guilt but eventually leads us to renewed hope. Contemplating our need for a place will eventually direct our thoughts to Easter, to resurrection and to that place we Christians know as our lasting home.