Headline-Making Homily after Young Man’s Suicide

by Steve Ray on December 17, 2018

Must-read: the headline-making homily delivered after a young man’s suicide

Ed Peters has the scoop: 

If the text recently sent to me really was the homily that Fr. Don LaCuesta preached at the funeral Mass of a young man who suddenly killed himself a few days ago, for which homily LaCuesta has been savaged in the print and electronic media and even (temporarily, I assume, while the facts are sorted) deprived of faculties for preaching, all I can say is, God bless Fr. LaCuesta.

An excerpt:

Is there any hope to offer in this moment? Must we only speak of our profound grief, our indescribable sorrow, even our anger and confusion at how such a thing could have happened? Is there any word from God that might break into our darkness like a ray of light?

Yes, yes, a thousand times. If we Christians are right in believing that salvation belongs to Jesus Christ, that it does not come from us–and that our hand cannot stop what God allows for us, then yes, there is hope in eternity even for those who take their own lives.

Having said that, I think that we must not call what is bad good, what is wrong right. Because we are Christians, we must say what we know is the truth – that taking your own life is against God who made us and against everyone who loves us. Our lives are not our own. They are not ours to do with as we please. God gave us life, and we are to be good stewards of that gift for as long as God permits.

The finality of suicide makes this all the worse. You cannot make things right again. Neither can [REDACTED]. And this is much of the pain of it all. Things are left unresolved, even if it felt to [REDACTED] like this was the only way to resolve things. You want to turn the clock back and say, “Please don’t give up. We can work through this pain together. ” But now you will have to work through this pain by yourselves, or with those close to you now who will need to lean on you even as you lean on them.

On most people’s mind, however, especially of us who call ourselves Christians, on our minds as we sit in this place is: Can God forgive and heal this? Yes, God CAN forgive even the taking of one’s own life. In fact, God awaits us with his mercy, with ever open arms. Sacred Scripture says clearly: God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). God’s abiding mercy is what sets us to ask for it. Although God doesn’t dangle his mercy like a carrot, waiting for us to ask for it in order to receive it, we do have to believe in our hearts, express with our words, and show in our actions – that it is always there. God wants nothing but our salvation but he will never force himself on us, he will not save us without us. That’s how much he loves us. Because of the all embracing sacrifice of Christ on the cross God can have mercy on any sin. Yes, because of his mercy, God can forgive suicide and heal what has been broken.

Read it all, with additional commentary, at Ed’s blog. 

Needless to say, if this text is accurate, this reads as something far different from what was described to the media a few days ago. This comes across as compassionate, catechetical, thoughtful — and uplifted by cautious, prayerful hope.

Which is what a good funeral homily should be.

While this isn’t exactly the feel-good homily some might have wished for, neither is it a fire-and-brimstone judgmental screed.  I’d be curious to know where the text came from and if the family can confirm these are the words spoken at the funeral. What, exactly, do they take issue with?

We’re left to wonder just what the family actually heard — and why an otherwise solid piece of preaching has become a lightning rod for anger and criticism.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jennifer DeFillippo December 23, 2018 at 3:16 PM

I agree with you 100%. How can a funeral eulogy such as this one be considered anything but insightful, merciful, encouraging in the darkest of moments…a family’s heartache at a young man’s suicide?
I have never been through such a tragedy as this one, and I can certainly understand if they come back at me with both barrels here, and I would never presume to know what they are suffering. But I cannot fathom what could possibly be wrong with what this priest said? God can forgive ANY sin, even a suicide. We do not know what this young man had in his heart or his head when he took his life. And it is not for any of us to try to figure it out, either.
It is up to God Himself, who will judge us all using His yardstick of justice tempered by His loving mercy.
Is the family upset because they didn’t want the sermon to be about his suicide? Was it supposed to be more about his favorite pastimes? or his scholastic achievements? or his family life? or what?!
I don’t get it. And I would love it if someone could fill me in. Because if he were my son I would want to hear that God has taken him home. And that there was still a chance that I would see him again in the next life.
I wish all the best for this poor family; I have suffered loss in my life too (I am a widow). But everyone’s grief is their own ~ and I pray that God will grant them peace and healing. They will be in my prayers.

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