At school, we have a long-standing tradition; each senior gives a speech in front of the entire school before he graduates. Yesterday I heard a speech that was simply amazing. A young man spoke about his father, who died of cancer three years ago. He spoke about faith, and how in the midst of incredible suffering, when the shadow of death was hovering over his family, Christ and His Church brought them strength. He spoke of how he has come to believe that his father is doing his best work now–in heaven, interceding at God’s throne for the sake of his family. This young man spoke of that intercession with a deep conviction that was won during a time of confusion, fear, and abandonment.
Those who die in God’s grace will do their best work in heaven. This truth, delivered by this high school senior to a hushed audience of 700 people, was not lost on me. My wife and I have lost two children to miscarriage. Both died early stages of development, but it did not lessen the blow. We grieved horribly, caught up in our own march to Golgotha. I believe now that those losses were moments of spiritual battle, in which my wife and I realized that we could retreat from each other and from God. But through prayer and the support of many earthly and heavenly intercessors, we persevered.
We named our lost children, and we have taught our living children about them. Like that young man’s father, Julia and Anthony are doing their best work right now, praying for us and for our family. Now that we have two new children on the way, baby boys due in August, I think a lot about Julia and Anthony. There is sadness there, and some wistful imagining of what might have been, but mostly there is just peace, as I know they are innocents who stand very close to the throne of God, awash in His love, and that they are asking Him to pour out His mercy on us and on the whole world.
At the conclusion of his speech, this young man shared his favorite excerpt from the writings of Blessed John Henry Newman. It is the last bit of advice his father ever passed along to him, and he believes that if he is able to live the kind of life Newman describes, it will be because of his father’s intercession:
“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 may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.
He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work.I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments.
Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.”