At Mass this past Sunday, as the lector read the Prayers of the Faithful, I was stunned to hear a familiar name in the intentions. It took me a moment to register the shock as I realized that we had just prayed for the soul of an elderly gentleman I knew. Until that moment, I’d had no idea that this man had died.

Some years ago, he had prayed over me for healing, and I remembered the quiet sincerity and intensity of his prayers. Since then, I had seen him often at daily Mass. I noticed how he struggled physically — he had a hard time kneeling and standing during the liturgy — yet he seemed to make every effort to participate in the Mass with the same sincerity and intensity that I had felt the day he prayed over me.

As I stood there in the pew, these memories hit me with unexpected force. When I realized that I would never again see him at daily Mass, tears flooded my eyes.

Well, I thought to myself as I grasped for consolation, at least he is free from suffering now. He’s in a better place.

Then I stopped myself. Here I was, falling into the same trap that tempts me every time someone dies. Even though I’ve written articles about this very experience, I still have the same immediate tendency, when I hear about a death, to console myself by declaring that the person is in heaven.

I believed this was a holy man — why wouldn’t he be with the angels and saints?

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