Funeral Homily - Donna Rayhons
Peace be with you. Let me begin my homily today by turning to Donna’s family to let you know of the prayers of the six parishes of the Archangel’s Catholic Cluster. We have been praying for you and will continue to pray for you as you mourn your loss. Let me also thank the priests who are here today. Fr. Peter Nguyen who is the pastor of St. Joseph’s in Wesley, St. Benedict in St. Benedict, and St. Joseph Church in St. Joe. Fr. Henry Huber was the pastor here immediately previous to me and is now the pastor of Immaculate Conception in Gilbertville and St. Joseph in Raymond. And Monsignor Bleich was Donna’s classmate in school and is a retired priest for the Archdiocese of Dubuque. We’re glad you could all be here for this opportunity to pray together and say goodbye to our friend.
As I was praying over the readings and the obituary this morning, I thought of someone very close to my heart, my grandma. Like Donna, she suffered for years with some form of dementia and I watched as she went from being matriarch to being someone who needed to be cared for. As I prayed, I thought of a song that I first heard in the 1980s called “Veronica” by the singer Elvis Costello. It describes the kind of frustration that we who have had relatives with dementia have when we visit them.
Is it all in that pretty little head of yours?
What goes on in that place in the dark?
Well I used to know a girl and I would have sworn that her name was Veronica
Well she used to have a carefree mind of her own and a delicate look in her eye
These days I'm afraid she's not even sure if her name is Veronica
This is precisely what we are grappling with today. Donna had a carefree mind of her own and a delicate look in her eye, all the way the end of her life. She was deeply in love with her Lord in the scriptures and in the Eucharist. She cared for people through her gifts of honey and baked goods. And, yet, we who cared about her, watched as that became more and more difficult for her to do as her mind and her body started shutting down.
Yet, Donna provided us with four focuses to help us in the process. Three of these focuses are the readings. The first reading from the book of Wisdom describes the aftermath of a battle and the words of consolation offered to those who have lost loved ones. The writer assures us that, even if the person seems to be lost and absent from our lives, they are in fact being tenderly held by God and are at peace. The second reading, likewise, assures us that we who have faith in the resurrection of Christ will share with him the glory that he alone can give. Both of these readings give us hope that Donna is, in fact, in a better place, a more peaceful place. Yet, Donna also wanted us to be challenged today. The Beatitudes in the Gospel of St. Matthew remind us that humility and meekness are traits that are rewarded in the kingdom of God. It’s not a search for power and control that are rewarded but a humble heart. I believe Donna left those beatitudes as challenges for us to seek in order to build up the kingdom of God around us.
The last focus that Donna wanted us to have isn't one that she made or created. But it is one that she treasured deeply in her life; the Eucharist. Donna was a faithful church goer during her life and she received her Lord often in the Eucharist. The Eucharist, for Catholics, is the body of Christ that forms us into the body of Christ, the church. It is our heavenly medicine that guides us to eternal life. In the heart of the Eucharistic prayer, we hear Jesus say that we are to do this in remembrance of him. This remembrance isn’t a simple retelling of the story but a bringing together of the members, a remembering, of his body the church, both those alive and those who have gone before us. We pray today that Donna is a part of that heavenly feast where Father, Son, and Spirit gather all the elect together into a place without suffering and pain and a place where she is sure that her name is Donna because God has called her by name.