A Cautious Man
August 29, 2009
"Hey, Somebody Out There,
Listen To My Last Prayer"

It's a rainy Saturday here in the Great State of New Jersey, so I sat inside and watched Senator Ted Kennedy's funeral this morning. All I can say is, "Wow".

First of all, since Boston's Cardinal and a host of Catholic clergy assembled in that magnificent church to preside over the funeral of an unapologetically liberal politician, can we please call an end to the intramural Catholic culture wars about who can and who can't be given a public honor? Honestly, I would provide a link to some of the bitter, hateful people who were demanding that Senator Kennedy be denied a Catholic Mass of the Resurrection, or at least that the Cardinal not be on the altar, but I don't want to be responsible for sending you to their sites. Google 'em if you must.

Second, we all know that the right-wing will be accusing the Democrats of acting "unseemly", and of "taking advantage" of Senator Kennedy's death to push forward health care reform. To which I say, "Tough". If it wasn't "unseemly" for Knute Rockne to tell his players to "win one for the Gipper", then it's not "unseemly" to invoke Senator Kennedy in support of a cause he for which he fought throughout his career.

So, the real "Wow" for me was the Prayer of the Faithful, which came after the readings from scripture. By the way, the scripture selections were inspired, especially the choice of the Gospel from Matthew, chapter 25, in which Jesus tells a parable of the End of Time, when He will tell the righteous -

'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'

That message, that what's really important is what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, is a message that Senator Kennedy chose to have delivered to everyone at and watching his funeral.

Anyway, back the the Prayer of the Faithful. That's the part of the Mass with intercessions prayed for by the congregation, which are written specifically for that Mass. As described in the official Guidelines for the Mass -

It is fitting that such a prayer be included, as a rule, in Masses celebrated with a congregation, so that petitions will be offered for the holy Church, for civil authorities, for those weighed down by various needs, for all men and women, and for the salvation of the whole world.

As a rule, the series of intentions is to be

a. For the needs of the Church;

b. For public authorities and the salvation of the whole world;

c. For those burdened by any kind of difficulty;

d. For the local community.

Nevertheless, in a particular celebration, such as Confirmation, Marriage, or a Funeral, the series of intentions may reflect more closely the particular occasion.

That last part is the important part. For his own funeral, Senator Kennedy had a series of intercessions read that were taken from his speeches and writings, about the issues which were important to him, all in the spirit of the passage from Matthew's Gospel quoted above. They were delivered by young members of the next Kennedy generations - and after every intercession, in response to the invitation "We pray to the Lord", the congregation responds, "Lord, hear our prayer" (thanks, hat tip, etc. to "stef" at Daily Kos, who transcribed the prayers and linked to a video) -

Kiki (Teddy Jr's wife):
Teddy served for 47 years, and he summoned us all to service. And so these intercessions, for the work of his life, is our prayer, for our country, and our world.

Kiley Kennedy (Teddy Jr's daughter):
For my grandfather's commitment and persistence, not to outworn values but to old values that will never wear out. That the poor may be out of political fashion, but they are never without human need. That circumstances may change, but the work of compassion must continue, we pray to the Lord.

Grace Allen (Kara's daughter)
For my grandpa's summons, that we may not in our nation measure human beings by what they cannot do, but instead value them for what they can do, we pray to the Lord.

Max Allen (Kara's son):
For what my grandpa called the cause of his life, as he said so often, in every part of this land, that every American will have decent quality health care, as a fundamental right, and not a privilege, we pray to the Lord.

Jack Kennedy Schlossberg (Caroline's son):
For a new season of hope that my Uncle Teddy envisioned, where we rise to our best ideals, and close the book on the old politics of race and gender, group against group and straight against gay, we pray to the Lord.

Robin Lawford (Patricia's daughter):
For my Uncle Teddy's call to keep the promise, that all men and women who live here, even strangers and newcomers, can rise no matter what their color, no matter what their place of birth. For workers out of work, students without tuition for college, and families without the chance to own a home. For all Americans seeking a better life and a better land, for all those left out or left behind, we pray to the Lord.

Kym Smith (Jean's daughter):
For my Uncle's stand again violence, hate and war, and his belief that peace can be kept through the triumph of justice, and that truest justice can come only through the works of peace, we pray to the Lord.

Anthony Shriver (Eunice's son):
As my Uncle Teddy once told thousands and millions, "may it be said of us, in dark passages and bright days, in the words of Tennyson, that my brothers quoted and loved, that have a special meaning for us now. 'I am part of all that I have met. Though much is taken, much abides. That which we are, we are. One equal temper of heroic hearts, strong will, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield,'" we pray to the Lord.

Rory Kennedy (Bobby's daughter):
For the joy of my Uncle Teddy's laughter, the light of his presence, his rare and noble contributions to the human spirit. For his faith that in Heaven his father and mother, his brothers and sisters, and all who went before him, will welcome him home. And for all the times to come, when the rest of us will think of him, cuddling affectionately on the boat, surrounded by family, as we sail on the Nantucket Sound, we pray to the Lord.

Teddy III (Teddy Jr's son):
For my grandfather's brave promise last summer, that the work begins anew, the hope rises again, and the dream lives on, we pray to the Lord.

As I said, I thought this was one of the high points of the funeral Mass. In that magnificent church, before an assembly of the powerful (Democrats and Republicans alike), and the Cardinal, priests and all the other mourners, that was Senator Kennedy setting out one more time what was important to him. Not only were those his words, but I have no doubt that he was part of selecting them to be read by those members of the next generation of his family.

And hearing everyone have to say, "Lord Hear Our Prayer", after quality health care was described as "a fundamental right, and not a privilege", was priceless.

So, even past the end of his life, Senator Kennedy provided a last prayer for those progressive, humane causes he fought for, including peace, justice, equality, and the right to basic care. It'll be a help in countering the ugliness from the right which will no doubt continue to be seen and heard.



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