I believe in trusting the universe a little more. Or maybe I’m recently philosophical because I just came from a funeral. A Vigil. Father Lawrence Signey, leader of our church, priest of St. Roberts Bellarmine, died of liver failure last Saturday. To many of us it seemed like it happened overnight, since half of us didn’t even know he’d been sick. We’re all still in shock. He was a man with many friends and an impressive extended family. Every parish he was assigned to loved him. Cardinal Mahoney will preside over his funeral tomorrow morning at the Cathedral downtown.
So St. Roberts had a Vigil for him. At 5:30 p.m., an hour and a half before Mass, parking was impossible for miles and lines were queued up for blocks. Police on motorcycles kept crowd control and seats were set up outside for people who couldn’t make it inside the church. There was even a video feed. Pretty big for Burbank.
It was a formal mass, with every priest in the parish presiding, plus visitors from other Catholic communities. They told anecdotes and read the gospel. I sang in the choir, one of Father’s favorite ministries. He always joked with us and often coaxed our Choir Director, to play “mood music” during the announcements. We recreated that tonight. That, plus some rather poignant musical pieces set off the congregation. We laughed, we cried, we paid our respects at the closed casket that was Father’s final physical representation. I hope his last moments were peaceful. I have a feeling they were – he knew people were praying for him and he had a lifelong intimacy with God. I’m sure he wasn’t afraid.
We felt so many things tonight. At first, all I remembered was that one day he looked at me, saw me in pain, and said, “Come to my office to talk anytime you need to”. I never did. He always remembered everyone’s name, and all our petty details. It’s how he was made. Then I realized that him knowing who I was, that I was his parishioner, that he cared about all of us, was maybe enough. He was one of those people who touched your soul no matter how little time you spent with him. Someone said, “When he was there, he was really there. You knew he was in the room.” Everyone should be so lucky to have such a loving memorial.
So this is another life-is-short theme, which isn’t news, but does remind us to keep our eyes and hearts open, in case we miss the fleeting opportunities of life. I may not have taken advantage of Father Lawrence’s wisdom before, but the way he lived, the way he ran our parish, the way he spoke to everyone and laughed and scolded and loved life was a strong enough impression the way it was. I will never forget him and neither will anyone who ever met him, I think. Good-bye Father. I believe we can make a difference.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.