Funeral - Homily
Funeral Mass of Reverend Paul Edwards
Cathedral of St. Mary
Archdiocese of Miami
April 26, 2006
Homily preached by: Bishop Felipe J. Estévez
Romans 8: 31-35. 37. 39 and John 21:15-19
With wisdom and goodness the providence of God willed that Fr. Paul earthly life ended as the Pastor of St. Katharine Drexel in Weston; at home with his family united around him and above all within the liturgical Octave of the Resurrection of the Lord echoed by the joyful Easter Alleluias in anticipation of Mercy Sunday.
So many signs of God’s love; so many signs of the victory of our faith!
His own death was conquered by love. St. Paul says: “No, in all these things we conquer overwhelming through him who loved us…” Neither death… will able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8: 35. 37).
For the Songs of Songs love is as strong as death (Sg 8: 6). In St. Paul, love is stronger than death; God loves us beyond death; love is the way to personal and bodily resurrection.
Seven days before his death, last Saturday, Fr. Paul dictated, revised, expanded and completed a long letter to his parishioners to be read on Easter Sunday. In this letter, which was his last one, he said: “human life confronts us with ourselves most unexpectedly. We can choose to respond as Judas or we can turn toward Jesus as Peter eventually did and allow Christ to guide our lives. In my case I received an “Oh My Gosh Gift” in the form of brain cancer. When I shard this gift with you, I asked for two things. First, I needed your prayers for the courage to hang on to Christ and the grace to hear the small voice of God. Second, that all of you get in gear by doing the work of the Church. Your prayers are having a miraculous effect on me as the disease continues to affect my body but not my faith, while God is deciding what he wants from me. The cancer has also not affected my appetite; at all times the Slovak custom is to eat, and I am doing my best to following that custom.”
Further on he stated: “Be comforted in the fact that I am at peace with God’s plan for me. I know who I am, what I am about and where I’m going. “
He knew where he was going because Jesus Christ is the Way, the Life, and the Truth. The ancient sequence of Easter “Victimae Pascuale” expressed it so simply: Death and Life have contended in that combat stupendous, the Prince of life who died reigns immortal.
What was the secret of this zealous and passionate priest who would not complain about his fate? This faithful priest who overcame doubts, anger and despair and fully submitted to God’s plan for him?
This faithful priest who all along wondered if Fr. Walter Czsisek’s intercession, the waters of Lourdes, the constant prayers for his recovery in the whole Archdiocese as well as the prayers of the Church in Slovakia, would heal him, but ultimately would know, as he said to his beloved parishioners: sometimes when we pray for a miracle God answers our prayers, but not in the way we request it.
Paul always believed in the midst of many trials throughout his seminary years, his priestly years, and to the very end, that Jesus Christ by dying had destroyed the failures of his past, his sins, and ultimately his death. Christ by rising fully restored his hope, his pastoral dreams, and his abiding and constant desire for sanctification.
The paschal mystery was the secret of his fruitfulness.
He loved St. Katharine Drexel’s axiom: “the Spirit of the Eucharist is the total gift of self.” Paul, this lover of the priesthood – a love he had when he was a mere three year-old child, and a love he had until the very end as a 52 year-old Pastor.
Together with Fr. Mark Heuberger, his most trusted companion; Fr. Arthur Proulx - one of Paul’s seminary classmates; two of his dearest friends, allow me to share with you from Fr. Proulx’s Holy Thursday homily:
Last Tuesday, I went to visit him. Within the first minutes of my visit, one word came out loud and clear: “Mass.” This death-bed dedication to the mass doesn’t surprise me. I know that Paul considered the Mass, the most important part of his daily life, and never missed a day. Even as a youngster, he attended daily Mass. His great hero was Father Walter Czsisek, who when a prisoner in a Soviet gulag, daily risked his life by secretly celebrating the Mass.
This Holy Sacrament of Christ’s Presence fills our hearts with the hope of a promised land, heaven. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my Blood”, said Jesus, “will never die and I will raise him up on the last day.” The Holy Eucharist is the pledge of eternal life. Eternal life is our destiny. When we know our destiny, then our lives are lived with courage, bravery, contentment, and joy.
Last Tuesday, after my friend Paul received Holy Communion, he who could not put two words together in regular conversation, began to pray aloud with eyes closed, the old prayer, “Anima Christi.” In a soft, but clear voice he said:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within thy wounds hide me.
Separated from Thee let me never be.
From the malignant enemy, defend me.
At the hour of death, call me.
And close to Thee, bid me.
That with Thy saints I may be praising Thee,
forever and ever. Amen.
Funeral - Eulogy
My name is Matthew St. Aubin and I am Fr. Paul’s godson. What can I say about 23 years of my life that I spent with Fr. Paul? Everything I ever knew and all that I have ever accomplished has been shaped by Fr. Paul. From the very beginning, he helped mold the man I am today. He was a father and a friend.
As I remember the first time speaking with Fr. Paul I was just 7 years old, a snot nose kid as he would have said. It was a very difficult time in my life. My father had left my mother with four kids to raise. We were just 7, 9, 11, and 13 years of age. I was walking down the hallway at Sacred Heart in Homestead when he approached me about coming out for wrestling. “Wrestling!”, I thought how could I wrestle. I was an overweight kid with a low self esteem, but Fr. Paul never let me feel that way. After some probing from him I decided to give it a try. This was the start of relationship that would continue on for the rest of our lives.
Fr. Paul and I took many wrestling trips together. From Georgia to North Carolina to Minnesota. Little did I know that these trips weren’t so much about wrestling but about how to be a man, about how to be a father to a son.
I would say that one of Fr. Paul’s greatest gifts was that he always seemed to be able to relate. He was always direct….at least for me. Maybe he knew that’s what worked best? He was not your stereotypical priest by any means…..breaking stereotypes without breaking boundaries of priesthood. How many priests do you know with a tattoo?
Fr. Paul had an appetite, yes of course for food as any of us know that shared a meal with him but far greater was his appetite for relationships and commitment to the people around him. I remember the morning after Hurricane Andrew our house in Homestead was destroyed and we were sitting on our couch that some how ended up in the front yard. When who comes walking up just hours after the winds died down, Fr. Paul. Some how he was able to drive from Kendall but got stuck about 5 miles from our house, he hitch hiked the rest of the way but eventually his ride could go no further. He walked the next mile or so to reach our house. Later he told us he thought he was going to find us dead. He was the only one who came to see about us. His dedication to family and friends was unwavering.
Good and decent men are not just about being religious but are as much about whom they are within the core of their being. Within Fr. Paul’s core, there existed a man of unique God-given qualities, intelligence, and faith. If you spent time around this man as I did, you knew that his humanity toward God’s children truly had no bounds. He could impress the least of us with his presences, intellect, and personality. That was plain to see with whom ever came in contact with Fr. Paul.
It is indisputable that Fr. Paul was a man of great faith and belief. But at the same time he understood the frailties of man on this earth so he did his best to serve God’s will and bring them closer to God. He also had an undeniable gift in moving people in the direction of God.
And Fr. Paul always served God and his flock with inexhaustible dedication; regardless of their weakness and the challenges. Another sign of Fr. Paul’s undeniable faith and humility.
For me, the great inspiration with Fr. Paul was that he ALWAYS believed in the human spirit and invoked God’s faith; without any doubt whatsoever. This was the most honorable and faithful trait as a man…..and a man of God.
Fr. Paul was a smart, good, and decent man of God who uniquely gave of himself to my family and to others. As we gather to pay our respects to a man who gave so deeply of himself; let us celebrate his life and all that he was.
As I finished writing this and thought about how I could never put into words what Fr. Paul means to me and I continue to search for the right words…. I am reminded of Fr. Paul and I can hear him say, “If you’ve said it then you’ve said it and be done with it.” I love you Fr. Paul and I will remember you everyday and I will tell my daughter about the man and father she never met but will always know. Thank you
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