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  • Sarah Raad

Burdens

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

When people pray with faith they have comfort in community with ones they love.

Pieta (Michaelangelo)

On Wednesday 4th November 2020, three days after All Soul’s Day, I attended the funeral mass of little baby Charbel, for whom we have been praying. I attended expecting to be burdened with the responsibility of giving comfort and yet, through some profound miracle from God, I gave nothing – but received everything.


I have attended many funerals in my life. Being Maronite Catholic, my entire childhood was littered with funerals of a friend of a friend of a relative of a friend. For Maronite Catholics, attending a funeral is our most solemn and sacred duty. My mother always told me that we attend the funerals of others to pray for them, so that when we die others will pray for us. For Maronite Catholics, funerals are our way of praying for the Lost Souls of Purgatory.


And yet, on Wednesday, at the funeral that I attended, I saw something I have never seen before.


At this death, I saw life. I saw a birth into eternal life. There was no death there.

In the days that have followed, I have prayed unceasingly, and without tiring, for the family of this new and blessed saint. For what I saw that day, was nothing short of miraculous. And miracles, while of no effort to God, confound us humans in such a way, that they lead to our total surrender in faith, to God in his infinite mercy and goodness and love.


Just as the pangs of our physical birth caused our mothers great anguish and suffering and pain, so too, does our spiritual birth into Heaven and eternal salvation, cause anguish for those we leave behind. For those left behind are our spiritual mothers who pray for our salvation as they pray for the salvation of all the Lost Souls.


They say that childbirth is the worst possible physical pain. They say, also, that losing a child, is the worst possible spiritual pain. There are no coincidences. Perhaps, in working for everything to goodness since the fall of humanity through Original Sin, God wanted to provide us with some way to see death for what it really is…


Not the ending – but the beginning. Not a death – but a life.


It was a sorrowful, wonderful, blessed honour to behold the terrible burden of the old (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents) burying this young, infant child.


As I stood at the grave at the cemetery with the family of that child at his tiny, infant tomb, I saw a marvel I will rejoice in for the rest of my Earthly life, and give thanks for, for all Eternity.


I saw faith.

I have never seen such a thing in my life before. But that day. That saddest of days. I saw the sacrifice of the spiritual martyrs, who are Saint Baby Charbel’s parents, and I knew what it was to die of this Earthly life, for one’s faith.


Little Saint Baby Charbel was born into this world through love. Conceived by the love between his mother and his father, as Christ was conceived through the Holy Spirit’s love for our Blessed Mother (and us), he was born from the selfless love of parents who not only accepted their son, but loved him – entirely and without question or limitation.


Love, birth, life. That is what I saw. Death was a far distant thing that day.


I have often imagined that if I ever saw a physical manifestation of Grace, it would be a blinding light radiating from a source, like a halo or a beacon.


That day, I saw Grace, but it did not blind me with light, instead it blinded me with tears.


I watched Grace in human form as this family comforted these young parents and each other.


I watched while a deacon (an uncle and father himself), knelt beside Saint Baby Charbel’s grieving mother and spoke quietly to her – his soul to hers – as though they were alone seated at the Foot of God’s Holy Throne, patiently giving her the strength to stand and carry her Cross.

When he was done, that blessed sorrowful mother, only a young girl herself, raised herself out of her chair with dignity, lifted her Cross, and walked to the car.


Later, when Saint Baby Charbel’s grandmother, my dear friend, leaned down into his tomb, overcome by grief, her brother called out in a loud voice, “Look up. You’re looking in the wrong direction. Look up. He’s not there. He’s with God!”


And she too, receiving the Grace through his words, stood up, lifted her Cross, and looked.


As his son’s coffin was being lowered into the Earth, his very young father laughed about the cars they would drive in Heaven when they met again. At that moment of utter despair, this young man, gave comfort to others – through Grace, he brought us a vision of joy, when the temptation to despair was most strong!


While standing around the body of their dead child, who they love with all their might, these people called out in a loud voice saying, “God is Good and He loves us!” Not once, but many, many times.


They said, “We will see you soon. Help us now.” Not once, but many, many times.


I watched this in awe of God’s power and majesty.

Under the heavy weight of their Cross, bearing the spiritual martyrdom that surrenders everything to God – even a most beloved child – these chosen ones, these holy martyrs, stood at the brink of despair, lifted their cross, and gave ME hope.


I will pray for these chosen few, all the days of my life, and even until my dying breath, because prayers for them cost me nothing, but profit me eternal salvation. They are God’s chosen ones, called through their cross to lead others to Calvary to worship at Christ’s own Cross.


What a terrible wonderful burden that is.


My prayers – and yours – will give them the Grace and the strength, to rise up and walk, lifting their cross and carrying it all the days of their life. And we, those who pray, will follow them with prayers, along this bitter road to Calvary, rejoicing all the while in the goodness of God, and giving him thanks.


And what a miraculous thing this will be. Because, with prayers to Saint Baby Charbel, everything is clear. Here. At the foot of the Cross.



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