My Funeral, and the Cross

This post will go from ridiculous to serious and back.  Because that is who I am, dammit!

On Wednesday night, September 18th, my friend Fr John Blewett said a mass for me at Seton.  In union with Fr Peter in Spain, who also offered his mass for me on the same day.  The mass itself was beautiful, my Jack and my nephews served, and it was like old times at All Saints, serving with Fr Francis.

The tall one on the left!

What I wasn’t really ready for was his homily, which was addressed to me.  Directly at me, actually, and I felt as if I were lucky enough to be at my own funeral.  Fr John didn’t canonize me, but he explored our joint youth, our joint spirituality, and offered a way to heaven through my own vocation.  He said, “we are here to celebrate your death.” He also nailed the parts about how amazing Mel is, and how hard it is for her and the kids.  (Thank you, Father, for confirming that, I’ve been telling everyone for years!)  Jack was also not ready for it, and he needed to discretely leave because he was a little overcome.  Father used my own words to liken my suffering to Jesus, and a road map for using it for good.  My chance, like Jesus, to give everything to God, even my very last breath.  And I am blessed with a slower progression, so that unlike Jesus, I don’t have to experience it all at once.

The saddest part, not what had me in tears but what was sad is that he got me all wrong!  Now I have to live up to all those ideals and that is hard and I am lazy!  I mean seriously, I am a grumpy old man!

I got to hang out with Fr John the day before.  Yes, there were delays with Tobii, but I thought it went well.  I hadn’t seen Fr John for twenty years, or since I got kicked out of seminary!  That’s right, I was kicked out and he wasn’t.  But although he knows me at my worst, I still call him friend.  And Fr Peter?  He is literally the priest who kicked me out.  And he was my confessor!  We caught up on everyone, and I am grateful, because I have said that I owe them so much.frjohnandmom

How much?  Well, through their education, I was challenged enough to make easy grades when I came back.  I learned to think.  I gained independence, from having to be accountable for walking around a big city, and having responsibilities of my own that I was accountable for day to day activities.  I did them poorly, because I am lazy, or maybe that is retrospective thinking.  For instance, I was put in charge of the chapel, getting ready for masses and everything.  At sixteen, were you doing that?

More importantly, they gave my Faith a foundation in bedrock.  For all my many sins, never once have I ever thought that anything outside the Catholic Church would be a refuge.  Not the church of nice, nor an idea that I could do whatever I wanted if I accepted a personal Lord and Savior.  Not even the refuge of women, alcohol, and drugs.  (No mistake, I find Mel extremely beautiful and I also like alcohol, but I was blessed to not get sucked in a destructive pattern.)  I have them to thank, for teaching Truth at all times, and building up character in a secular world to be able to fight it.  Never once have I tried to leave the faith, or water it down.

The Master is here, and He is calling you! 

The vernacular and versus populum is not watering it down!

I’ve quoted Quixote enough that you should realize there is something there!  And since Fr John read the Impossible Dream during the homily, let me share with you the evolution of Quixote!  Oh, we all love the first part with the windmills and general ludicrous actions that were meant to mock the novels of the era.  But the second part, that is where understanding creeps in.  The understanding that it takes a madman to try for something so great that it’s unreachable.  The madman, to recognize that just going along with everyone else means nothing of worth.  The madman to point out how things that have become commonplace in our laws and society are vile and contemptible.  The madman to realize that it is not he who is mad for having high ideals, but everyone else is for having given them up.  No one ever talks about that part. 

Well, the Society talked about it, and it stuck with me.  And even though they kicked me out and I am forever changed in the eyes of Mr Westoff and the Gomez family, it’s a fair trade.  I get to be a madman around Virginia, with dad jokes and sarcasm!  It’s brilliant!

I quote here now Saint Cardinal Newman, who said something I echoed when I was kicked out of that school and I didn’t know why.

“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.”

I don’t want to quote all of the homily, but I do want to share some insights I picked up.  Right after this is when I got sick.  I was riding high, then I was cast down. Fr John said that I share a special way with Jesus His passion.  I always thought that it was more like the garden, but I realize that he and Fr Tim are right.  As I can’t move my arms, I’m nailed on the cross with Jesus.  When I have pain from not changing positions at night, I am immobile like Jesus on the cross.  When I can’t breathe, I am hung like Jesus on the cross.  It is presumptuous of me to compare my issues with His, but I beg leave because of the similarities, if I may.

It is now my great privilege to try and offer it up.  Even when I can’t, or I panic, or I don’t think I can take it and I break down.  I have a purpose, and part of that is having this illness.  I am not the great ambassador of NurOwn, nor am I a Lourdes miracle.  I don’t know why, but I don’t need to.  I share that the Society still considers me a brother, and Fr John reminded me that we set out on a great journey, not knowing where the path would take us.  But we both keep on going, even if it seems impossible.carthusian-emblem-2

So I return to the Carthusians and their motto, The Cross Stands while the world Turns.  I have been given that hold, heck I’ve been nailed to it, figuratively.

The worst part is, I’m such a lazy Catholic and I love to virtue signal and get into arguments about stuff that I really shouldn’t.  So don’t be deceived by all that holy talk above, Mel still puts my pants on one leg at a time!  I need more prayers than all of you, except maybe Mel who has to deal with me!

In honor of this, I’m going to share a youthful picture of myself. I have no idea how old I am, just that it was probably fourteen or so.  This was in Spain, and it explains the whole ugly plaid yellow shirt that Mel didn’t like! youngjoeinspain0269.JPG

11 thoughts on “My Funeral, and the Cross”

  1. I know your illness is not a blessing. But if you had not had this thrust upon you, I would most likely have never heard your wisdom, your love, your hope, your courage, your strength, and your devotion to God and your family. Stay strong to the end – and know I will pray for you and your family – always!


  2. Joe, I know that part of your mission on this earth is writing the I have never read anything like it. Every time I read your stuff, I feel this pull of conversion. Just when I think everything is peaceful THEN I read your next post THEN reconversion begins all over again. When I was your next door neighbor, you did not bend my heart towards Jesus. Don’t misunderstand me. You were witnessing devoted dad and husband, but evangelization just did not strike me as your particular gift. Extraordinarily so, God has given you this very special gift of evangelization – the charism that is mentioned in the bible. Your present life is challenging hearts and minds. I know you would agree, it’s not your doing, it’s God’s doing. The God of the universe puts you in a wheelchair then moves powerfully in your quieted soul. I beg you to use that gift until your last breath. My soul feels the greatest need. I have never been attracted to fluff believers. I want to be all in for Jesus although I know I’m not there – yet. Your lack of fluff is one of the reasons God can use you to get my attention. Besides, I believe your words will live on to minister to your great, great grandkids and other’s great grandkids. I hope you deeply understand this and I hope you find some renewed strength in what I am telling you. My prayer for you and your readers: Please God, re-release this gift of evangelization in Joe in a deeper, contemplative way and make the rest of us pay attention.


  3. Thank you for all that you and Mel share. Through your words, I ,for one, am receiving a great education in faith and in how we are each differently blessed.


  4. Thanks for the picture at the end! That’s how I picture Joe Gregory, unless I’m actually looking at you; you can’t be married…there’s no way you can have kids – you’re only ten years old! then I look in the mirror and remember I’m not 17 either. And it goes a long way in explaining how you got so wise; by you, yourself, embracing your lack of wisdom through the years and asking for prayers (I’m learning a lot from you!).
    No one gets to heaven alone – thanks for letting me ride the wake!


  5. We belong to the Lord in life and death.
    Joe,a lazy Catholic?Nope,I don’t think so.
    God is accomplishing many blessings through you.
    Prayers my sweet friend!


  6. Joe, you got sucked into the world of lame “daddy” jokes. Which you shared with us at work. Dragging us into the depths of groans. Wish we could share them with you again. Kicked out of seminary. That must have been a story. Wish you could have told me about it at work. Your embellishments and expressions would have been something I’m sure. Hang in there Joe you are an example to all of us in how to deal with life’s slings and arrows.


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