This reflection was written for a Service of Remembrance at St Joseph Hospital Chapel, in Hamilton, Ontario in July 2017. Greta DeLonghi is a resident in spiritual care (chaplaincy) at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. She has an MA in Ministry and Spirituality and a diploma in spiritual direction from Regis College, University of Toronto. She lives in Guelph with her husband, two sons and their beloved dog. 

The poet Mary Oliver writes that death, when it comes, is “like an iceberg between the shoulder blades.” Imagine that for a moment. An iceberg between the shoulder blades. Death is a huge, sharp, cold mystery. It has such an immense impact. Even when we see it coming, it comes as a shock. And it hurts.
Our personal experience of such a loss is called grief, and the natural process that occurs afterward is called mourning. Such a beautiful poem by Denise Levertov that was read earlier. The poet compares grief to a homeless dog that comes to the back door. How might we treat that dog? With a crust or meatless bone? Or should we trust it? Coax it in, give it its own corner and a worn mat. Make it feel at home. Give it some space. Tonight we come together to give grief some space.
Grief has been compared to physical illness. The prophet Isaiah of Hebrew Scriptures enjoins us to help, to “bind up the broken-hearted”, as if they were hobbled or bleeding. One writer on grief says that we must see the process of mourning as similar to the process of healing. And it is a process, not a state. The tasks of mourning take effort. It’s no wonder they’re called “grief work.” Our hope is that this service will help to bind up your broken hearts.
Grief expert J. William Worden has identified four tasks of grieving. The first task is to accept the reality of the death. Even if it was expected, there’s always a sense that it hasn’t happened. We have to come to fully face the reality that reunion with our deceased loved one is not possible, at least not in this life. Rituals like funerals and this service tonight, we hope, can help.
The second task is to work through the pain of grief. Not everyone experiences that pain with the same intensity, but it’s impossible to lose someone you’ve been deeply attached to without experiencing pain. And our society gives us subtle messages like, “You don’t need to grieve” or “Aren’t you over it yet?” Some people try to not to feel that pain. They might avoid reminders of their dead loved one. They might idealize them. They might use drugs or alcohol. But sooner or later most of them will break down.
So find a way to talk about death and the full range of your feelings that come with it: sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, loneliness, fatigue, helplessness, shock, emancipation, relief, numbness, yearning. Give voice to your feelings. William Shakespeare said, though his character Macbeth: “Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o’erwrought heart and bids it break.”
The third task is to adjust to an environment in which your loved one is missing. It’s normal to feel lost for a while after a death because it takes a while to realize all the roles your loved one played in your life. A widow may have to come to terms with living alone; raising the children alone; facing an empty house or managing finances. Grief work involves learning new skills and that may take a while.
Finally, the fourth task is to find a new place emotionally for a loved one who has died and go on living. It’s a long-term process, for some it may just takes months, but usually it takes at least a year, and for others a few years or more, and there may well be bad days along the way. When the intensity of your yearning diminishes, when your sadness lacks that wrenching quality, when it becomes a different kind of sadness, it may be a sign that your mourning has come to an end. Be gentle with yourselves along the way.
Sigmund Freud wrote in a letter to a friend who had lost his son:
“We find a place for what we lose … No matter what may fill the gap, even if it be filled completely, it nevertheless remains something else.”
So we’ll never really replace those people in our lives, but tonight let us take some time to remember them.

Ah, Grief, I should not treat you

like a homeless dog

who comes to the back door

for a crust, for a meatless bone.

I should trust you.

I should coax you

into the house and give you

your own corner,

a worn mat to lie on,

your own water dish.

You think I don’t know you’ve been living

under my porch.

You long for your real place to be readied

before winter comes. You need

your name,

your collar and tag. You need

the right to warn off intruders,

to consider

my house your own

and me your person

and yourself

my own dog.

by Denise Levertov

One morning this past week, when in prayer and meditation, I remembered that Mary and Joseph had a tremendously difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem fulfilling the will of God in their lives and the lives of all humankind, a journey imposed on all residents of Galilee and beyond, by the decree of a secular authority, not a Jewish one, so that God’s only Son Jesus, the long awaited Messiah,  would be born in the fullness of time. This journey might have seemed almost impossible  for Joseph and his wife Mary, for Mary’s first child’s birth would be imminent, and this journey would be taken on a donkey to a distant city to give birth to their first precious child among strangers in a very disagreeable lodging. And yet, there is such joy and wonder when I contemplate the Saviour’s birth, I hardly know how to contain it inside me. So must it have been with the Holy Family. The wonder of these events grew with each laborious step towards Bethlehem, each encounter with strangers, each terrifying birthing pain as the moment of delivery approached, each home that closed the door to them in their greatest need, each visit from amazed and curious Shepherds and their obedient flocks,  and from soul searching wise and rich men, all converging at the manger in a stable in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph did not have a “cosy, sit by the fire and drink egg nog type of Christmas”, as I sometimes think they deserved for the birth of their son, who is also the Son of God. (And I selfishly hope for comfortable Christmases too.)  And Mary’s response: she pondered all these events in her heart. What an example for us to follow in this young, humble, generous Jewish girl, who said “Yes” to her call from God the Father.
So, I know it is the same for you and your family this Christmas and New Year. I know that there is joy and peace and hope, that can hardly be contained, and you continue to share this joy with everyone around you.

Readings to reflect upon:

Numbers 6:22-27

Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalms 67 and 72

Galatians 4:4-7

Ephesians 3:2-6

Luke 2:16-21

Matthew 2:1-12

Solemn Blessing:

May God, the source and origin of all blessing, grant you grace, pour out His blessing in abundance, and keep you safe from harm throughout the year. Amen.

May He give you integrity in the faith, endurance in hope, and perseverance in charity with holy patience to the end. Amen.

May He order your days and your deeds in His peace, grant your prayers in this  and in every place, and lead you happily to eternal life. Amen.

And may the blessing of almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, come down on you and remain with you forever.Amen.

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“Keep awake therefore,
for you do not know  on what day your Lord is coming.
But understand this:
if the owner of the house had known
in what part of the night the thief was
coming,
he would have stayed awake
and would not let the house be broken into.
Therefore you also must be ready.
for  the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
Matthew 24: 42-44

“Ann, it’s not the news you want to hear: The diagnosis is positive – you have breast cancer.”  The doctor’s words resounded like a bomb going off in my head, gripping my whole being with terror.  They sounded like a death sentence and I wasn’t ready to die.  What followed in the subsequent weeks and months was a relentless plea to God to pull me through this, to save my mortal life.  The imminent meeting of my Lord and Saviour was not something I welcomed or expected so soon.
Contrast my response to that of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who welcomed with joy the news of her impending death.   “Oh, how sweet this memory really is.  After remaining at the Tomb [The Altar of Reparation] until midnight, I returned to our cell but I had scarcely laid my head upon the pillow when I felt something like a bubbling stream mounting to my lips.  I didn’t know what it was, but I thought I was going to die and my soul was filled with joy.  However, as our lamp was extinguished, I told myself I would have to wait until the morning to be certain of my good fortune, for it seemed to me that it was blood that I had coughed up.  The morning was not long in coming; upon awakening, I thought immediately of the joyful thing that I had to learn, and so I went over to the window.  I was able to see that I was not mistaken.  Ah! my soul was filled with a great consolation; I was interiorly persuaded that Jesus, on the anniversary of His own death, wanted to have me hear His first call..  It was like a sweet and distant murmur that announced the Bridegroom’s arrival” (St. Thérèse 210).
As we journey through the season of Advent, it may seem odd that the liturgical readings do not focus on the celebration of the birth of  the newborn Child, Jesus, but rather on the saving mission of His life, death and resurrection and on His return in glory at the end of time. The birth of Jesus, God’s coming to earth as a human being, must necessarily be acknowledges and celebrated, but the fulfillment of His mission is at the end of His life at his death and resurrection. In the words of C. S. Lewis “God descends to ascend” and bring my flawed and ruined self into eternal joy with Him in heaven.
Waiting in joyful hope for the coming of my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ is my focus this Advent; there is no room for fear.  Cards, gifts, lights, music and gatherings with friends and family captivate and allure, but more importantly I must be drawn to the ultimate gift that Jesus earned by His Cross and Resurrection for me and for all people.  Trusting in the certainty that all will be well, I must get to work, engage in the challenges of life and this Advent “walk in the light of the Lord.” (Isaiah 2: 5)
Meditation
Think about experiences in which you have become aware of the preciousness of time and the fragility of life.
Jesus saves you.  Open your heart to contemplate this reality in joy and hope.  Give thanks to God.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you.
Commit to meeting your Messiah moment by moment in the joys and struggles of this day.
Prayer
Lord Jesus, come awaken in my heart the truth of your merciful love.  Deepen my longing for you, so that my waiting may be full of joy and hope.  Come Lord Jesus.

Ann Campanelli is a new Bezek Foundation board member. She is a gifted writer, speaker, co-ordinator, and servant of Our Lord which she does on a volunteer basis at her parish in Hamilton, Ontario.  She is married to Lorenzo, and has two wonderful sons, Giovanni and Ezra.

CALLED BY NAME
Sunday
 
As a young girl growing up on the outskirts of a small town in Ireland, I loved playing with my five siblings and many friends.  On occasion, the kitchen window would suddenly open and my mother’s voice could be heard calling:  “Yoohoo!  Ann!”  Immediately, I would go running to her.  When Mammy called, her children always responded.  “Please run up to Creegan’s (one of the local grocery shops) and get a loaf of bread and a pound of butter for this evening’s tea.” Without further ado, and with a few shillings in hand, I obeyed.  Besides the “urgent ” need for bread and butter, the foundation of my response to my mother’s call was love: I knew I loved Mammy and that Mammy loved me.
Although the word “call” can be a noun, I like to think of it as a verb, something one does, or more fundamentally, what God does.  God, first and foremost is calling us into relationship with Him.  This relationship is not based on fear, but on God’s eternal, committed and personal love for each of us.  God says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1b)…..”Because you are precious in my sight, and honoured and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:4a).  How awesome is the truth of God’s relationship to us.  Immersing ourselves in this reality is the only context from which God calls us to respond.
There is an interesting encounter between Jesus and Peter at the end of the Gospel of John (John 21:15-17).  It is after the resurrection.  One morning following breakfast with several disciples, Jesus pulls Peter aside and they go for a walk together.  Jesus quickly gets down to urgent business with Peter.  However, Peter, being weighed down with sin after having denied Jesus three times, is uneasy.  But Jesus allows Peter to undo his triple failure with a triple affirmation of love.  Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:16a) After responding affirmatively, Peter is called to “tend” and “feed” the flock. Jesus’ call to Peter is not founded on leadership skills but on love of the Lord.  Listen to Jesus Who asks you the same question.  Don’t overlook the human dynamic at work when Jesus asks Peter the same question a third time.  Peter feels “hurt”, but finally acknowledges that Jesus knows “everything”- his failure and his love. Is Jesus not reminding you that knowledge of our own sinfulness does not hinder the call to a sincere love of Him Who is ever merciful?  Peter listened and responded to Jesus’ call.  Can you hear and respond like Peter?  
Finally, the name Jesus uses when addressing Peter is noteworthy:  “Simon, Son of John”.  Why not just Simon?  This is deliberate.  Jesus is being very specific to whom he is speaking.  He is also very specific when he addresses and calls you.  In prayer, listen to Jesus who names you and calls you.  
Three Questions upon which to reflect:
(Your name), do you know that you are precious in my sight and that I love you?  
(Your name), are you aware that I know everything about you?  
(Your name), do you love me?
 
Final Prayer:  Jesus, you know everything about me and love me as your precious child.  Help me to know this in the depths of my being and to respond lovingly and confidently each day to your call. 

Dan and I are musicians, and our music takes us to communities all over southern Ontario. After one recent concert in Waterloo, I met a couple who grew up in the town of Dundas.  The husband was a teenage Sunday school pupil of Rev. Warren’s.  Recently, this gentleman attended his 60th High School Reunion of Westdale Collegiate.  Many of these reunion attendants naturally talked of the great memories growing up in one of Ontario’s prettiest towns, and I’m sure of all their antics as teenagers too.  Rev. Warren wrote a nostalgic column for the Dundas Star for a few years, recalling many people, places, events that touched many lives during the “golden years” of the ’30’s, ’40’s and ’50’s.  If you grew up in Dundas in those years, you might want to read these stories as some dark secret of yours might appear in print.  Calm down, just joking….

It has been 6 years since the passing of Rev. Bernard Warren, in November 2009, but his ministry and books have helped and continue to help Christians seeking guidance, across this continent. An email came into my husband’s usually too full mailbox:
I would be interested in purchasing some of your Dad’s books. Are they still available? What titles are there? I have a few, but i know there are some I am missing. I would like to send them to a friend who used to attend Bezek, and was greatly influenced by your dad’s ministry.

So, this “friend who was greatly influenced” by Bern’s ministry lives in Calgary. We know there are many more people like this woman who would like to be under the “teaching” of Rev. Warren still.  During the summer of 2015, we decided to mail out packages of all the remaining printed books of the Bezek Ministry, to Ontario churches, to be included in their libraries.  We did get a few thank you’s in return, but that was not our purpose in mailing the books. We know that these teachings helped guide people in the path of truth and light.  Most of the printed books are gone; we do have some copies of The Trumpets of Heaven, Medicines of God and Principled Leadership. But don’t fret: starting in the spring of 2016, all printed books will be converted to ebooks and available on this website. As well, three unpublished books at the time of Rev. Warren’s passing will be available in ebook format, also available through the website.