Vigil Service for Bishop Mark Seitz’s Mother

Bp. Mark J. Seitz

December 1, 2014                St. Jerome, Oconomowoc, WI

Scriptures passages:      Rom. 6: 3-9, Matt. 5: 1-12

She never thought that she had accomplished much.  A few weeks before her death she met with a representative from a funeral home to do some preplanning.  When it came time to decide how many holy cards to order she indicated that 100 would be plenty. How many folks did she know anyway?  We looked at that and said a 100 would about cover her progeny, much less the many who considered her a mother and a grandmother and a dear friend, although not related by blood.

“How many kids did she have anyway?  I’m not sure she knew.  Oh, she was aware that she had 10 children to whom she gave birth.  She had 35 Grandchildren whom she welcomed with great joy. She was preparing to celebrate with us the Baptism of the 3 latest of her 10 Great Grandchildren in Texas.

But whereas some people say, we want 2.5 children. That’s enough!  There was once a TV show, “8 is Enough”. Mom never said, “That’s enough!”  Her heart was open, unconstricted.

A few minutes ago we heard the Beatitudes.  Mom chose them. When we were discussing the readings she wanted for her Funeral a number of years ago I have to admit that I was a bit surprised when she decided upon this passage with all its “Blesseds“.  It would hardly seem fittingly humble to number oneself among them.

I think I get it now. She loved the passage.  I think she saw those Jesus holds up for our emulation as goals she might hope to reach.  Jesus presents here a new economy, one which turns the world’s measures of success on its ear.

It is not “Blessed are the rich”. “Blessed are those who have stuff”. “Blessed are those who have power.”  “Blessed are those to whom others bow and scrape.”

No!  It is “Blessed are the poor, the ones who mourn, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, the oppressed, the insulted…”

Yes, Jesus turns our presuppositions upside down.  Although Mom, like most of us, would not consider changing diapers, washing mega loads of clothes…daily; staying up with sick ones, correcting erring ones, dividing fighting ones, feeding hungry ones, listening to dejected ones, counseling bewildered ones and changing more diapers, the stuff of greatness, I suspect that Jesus does.

After all, he is a Savior who redeems, not by great and glorious conquests, riding in victoriously on a powerful white stallion; he is one who walks humbly among his people, working wood and living the life of the home for 30 years, he who shares the joys and sorrows of family life and the life of his community, he who was surrounded by his friends at the wedding feast and did his mother’s bidding, he who had his dearest friends desert him, he who hobbles along covered with wounds and blood and spittle, and bearing a cross upon his back.

It is into this Savior’s life, this Savior’s passion that Mom was Baptized.  Certainly, like us all she struggled with human failings.  For instance, we all learned early on that we should never mess with her when she was hungry…  Mom gave us fair warning when we were children that when she is hungry, she bites!

But she also walked with a grace that seemed so natural we could have easily missed the truth that it was grace.  To recognize God’s presence was second nature, to care and to serve was the purpose of life, to laugh and kid in the face of adversity lightened the load, to empathize (“That’s too bad!”), or to challenge (“Get back to work!”), or to correct (“Mark Joseph Seitz, if you do that one more time!”)—all of these were part of her repertoire.

Yes, these were works of grace!  By these means the Lord conformed her more fully day by day to Himself.  In these ways she entered into this new economy of salvation and revealed God’s presence in our midst.

Through her the Beatitudes were transformed from words on a page into flesh and blood among us.  We who have had the joy and the privilege of knowing her may have often missed the signs of this marvelous work of God within her.  Mom herself, humble person that she was and aware of her own shortcomings as she was, certainly did not fully recognize what God was accomplishing through her—until now!


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