Sunday, October 14, 2007

In Thanksgiving

Yesterday, I was in McDonald for the funeral of my cousin, Louis “Louie” Kessler, Jr.

Louie apparently died in his sleep of natural causes sometime before Wednesday morning. As it happens, Tuesday was his 54th birthday.

Louie’s obituary in the Observer-Reporter was missing just one element – his love of walking on the Panhandle Trail (pictured) from the entrance near his house in the village of Primrose to McDonald and beyond. In fact, a few years ago, a newspaper article about the trail included a large photo of Louie and his dog Lady walking on the trail.

In his homily at the funeral, our parish priest, Fr. John Harvey, noted that Louie attended the 11 a.m. Mass every Sunday at St. Alphonsus Church.

Louie’s passing was not the only death close to home in recent days. Monika Schaller, the recently-retired German teacher at my alma mater, Fort Cherry High School, died last Saturday at the age of 64. Although I never had her in class, “Frau” was very kind to me. In recent years, I frequently saw her on the campaign trail and she was always very encouraging.

Witnessing the deaths of family members and friends, especially at such relatively young ages, can have an impact on one's faith in God -- sometimes moving a person to have questions about their faith, other times strengthening it. Like last week, today's Gospel at Mass addresses the question of faith, as well as thankfulness.

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!"

And when he saw them, he said, "Go show yourselves to the priests."

As they were going they were cleansed.

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.

Jesus said in reply, "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"

Then he said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you."

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