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Homily of His Grace Archbishop Gabriel Malzaire at the funeral of Kelvin Edward Cardinal Felix

Mass of Christian Burial

Kelvin Edward Cardinal Felix

Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Castries

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Wis 1:1-9; Rom 8:14-23; Matt 5:1-12

In Search of the Beatific Vision

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Gospel Beatitudes are the absolute measure of the Christian life. They are the ultimate standard of the life of every spiritual hero in the Christian order. Today, we are gathered to pay our last respects to a father, a brother, an uncle, a friend, a mentor, a confidant, etc., whose entire life was in search of the beatific vision.

In the Catholic understanding, besides the biblical imperative to pray for our deceased brothers or sisters, the purpose of a ceremony of Christian burial, that is, a funeral ceremony, is for the consolation and edification of the faithful who are still in the struggle, on the journey towards human perfection. In that regard, therefore, it is all about the legacy and the inspirational value of the life of the deceased.

I wish to liken, but not equate, what we celebrate today with what the holy mother Church does when she finds someone who, in her estimation, has lived up to the standards of the Beatitudes. She proceeds, after much investigation and divine endorsement, to place a stamp of approval on that personality and calls him or her a saint. By this act of canonisation, the Church is simply saying to its faithful: look at this individual as an object of emulation, an object of imitation.

Brothers and sisters, in this scheme of things, after either a long or short life in this territorial setting, which often serves to limit our divine encounter, all that really matters is how much we assist, even in death, the present and succeeding generations, to fulfill their divine calling–a calling which we all have. In other words, it is a question of the extent to which our life’s witness can inspire others towards the eternal destiny to which they are called.

The numerous tributes, accolades and expressions of thanks which have been addressed towards this beloved man of God during the past few days, including those from the Holy Father, Francis, the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Evangelization of Peoples, Louis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and many others locally, regionally and internationally, undoubtedly give testimony, not only to the impact that he made on the lives of many but also the challenge he poses to all of us who seek the Christian way of life—the life of the Beatitudes.

For a man who had achieved the highest level of ecclesiastical recognition—from deacon to priest to Archbishop to Cardinal, he was the humblest of persons. He was sometimes misunderstood in that regard. For example, many of his congregants jokingly laughed at his various coloured shoes which in their minds brought to the fore a taste of the pomp and splendour of the past. However, this view can be contrasted with the fact that he was never a man for himself. For twenty-seven years in this Archdiocese, he settled for an abode way below what would normally be considered as the standard of his position. But when it came to the liturgy, where he was to function in Persona Christi (in the person of Christ), he was truly royal. His regalia was always regal—a great lesson for us clerics; meaning that, when it comes to representing Christ, we must never be shabby. Ours is a representation of a King;  none other but King Jesus.

After his retirement as Archbishop of Castries and his subsequent return to his homeland, Dominica in 2008, Cardinal Felix made a point to return to the way he was known by the people before leaving Dominica for further studies and to take up regional and international responsibilities. He wanted to be known as Father Felix. And even with all the titles he had amassed, he returned to being a simple Parish Priest, under the direction of one who was his son and who figuratively speaking, had become his father. He was a very humble and obedient son. Yes, he was the sweetest man to call father.

While in Roseau, I sometimes jokingly reminded the people that my spiritual father was a Dominican, thus making me a DomLucian. The truth is, hardly anyone here in the sanctuary, has been ordained three times by the same bishop—I have!

My choice of today’s second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans has everything to do with one of the greatest sources of Cardinal’s inspiration to me; that is, his ability to suffer quietly but with a perpetual smile. This noble disposition made me appreciate more deeply what our participation in the priesthood of Jesus Christ really means; not a bed of roses, as our contemporary proponents of Christianity wish to teach us, but one that embraces the Cross of Jesus Christ, who is the only Saviour of the world. I believe today that the words of Saint Paul make every sense, when he says to us:

“I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us. The whole of creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal his sons.” (Rom 8:18-19).

Then, the text continues by providing much-needed hope for our troubled times when it says:

“From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth; and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free” (Rom 8:22-23).

My dear friends, herein lies a lesson for us all–the condition that will set us towards the beatific vision that our beloved brother looked to his entire life. We live in a time of growing religious apathy, cynicism, and a seeming lack of hope in society. At his bedside on the last few days of his agony, the repeated utterance of our dear Cardinal was, the offering of his suffering for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, for the Church in the Archdiocese and the region. I believe he was saying to us in essence, that it is not a time to give up on the mission but rather a time for deeper engagement in the birthing process which God desires for our world. You and I know that the birthing experience of a woman in labour is not painless, therefore neither will any genuine quest for a beatific vision of life. I believe that one of the great challenges of our time is our propensity to seek an escape from any kind of pain, suffering, or sacrifice. I submit to you, dear friends, as would Cardinal Felix, that a people who have lost a sense of the redemptive value of sacrifice, is a spiritually deprived people.

I am not here advocating a morbid disposition toward life, but rather, a consciousness of the consequences of a merely expedient spirituality that is devoid of any form of challenge. I believe the life and example of Cardinal Felix, in so many ways, sought to improve that which was not completely wholesome in society, whether through his social action, ecumenical work, his preaching, his focus on the formation of the youth and education, his celebration of Christian liturgy with care and decorum or his very life example.

I maintain that the passing of the Cardinal on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi—the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, was not a simple coincidence. His absolute dedication to, and reverence for, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, was unparalleled. It is that which gave him life and purpose. Therefore, because of his love for the Eucharist, we can clearly say that he has left us a legacy of faith, love, and of service. Brothers and sisters, it is at the Eucharistic table that the Christian learns what love is. It is there that we encounter the Christ who sacrificed Himself for our sake. Therefore, insofar as we are ready to embrace the challenge and the joy that it offers, we are on our way to the eternal bliss, for which our dear Cardinal worked long and hard.

As I draw to my conclusion, on behalf of all the clergy, religious, and faithful in the Archdiocese, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the members of the family of our dear Cardinal. We too, as his ecclesial family, share the pain of your loss and separation. We are confident, however, that your beloved Father, brother, uncle, and friend, is resting in God’s peace. And to him, my father, my confessor, and my friend I say, so long, until we meet again on the shores of eternity. Amen!

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!

Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!

Heir of salvation, purchase of God,

born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.

Refrain:

This is my story, this is my song,

praising my Saviour all the day long.

This is my story, this is my song,

praising my Saviour all the day long.

Perfect submission, all is at rest.

I in my Saviour am happy and blessed,

watching and waiting, looking above,

filled with his goodness, lost in his love.

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