Also on behalf of my own brothers and sister: Mike and his wife Linda; Greg and his wife Marianne; Lawrence and his wife Teresa; Melanie and her husband Alexander. And most especially on behalf of my brother Louis who took care of Ma and Pa these past two decades. Without him our parents would not have been able to stay at their home on Camano. Louie is a quiet man, but I know my brothers and sister will agree he is a hero in our family, not just for the care of our parents, but also his special relationship to our nephews and nieces who are now having children of their own. In every sense of the word he is a "great uncle." He exemplifies a vocation which is sometimes forgotten. Besides marriage and the priesthood or religious life, there is also the vocation of the single person in the world.
Other family members present include my dadís brothers, Robert and Arden and their spouses. Also dear friends of my mom - so many have expressed to me their own deep sense of personal loss. On their behalf and my own - I express our thanks to all who have come.
I want to thank first Bishop George Thomas. Given the fact you were just ordained bishop last Friday, I know you have many things to do these days, so your presence is doubly appreciated. Quite a few years ago my mom and dad attended a funeral for the mother of Fr. Bill Slate. Archbishop Connolly was present and since that day, my mom thought one of the benefits of having a priest son was that their would be a bishop at her funeral. Bishop Thomas, your presence as principal celebrant means so much to me and our family. I am also grateful for the phone call from Archbishop Brunett, who even tho he could not be her today, assured of his prayers and concern.
Also I want to thank my brother priests. Mom used to say, "there won't be as many priests at my funeral as Pa's." It looks like she was wrong... (Picture of Priest Concelebrants)
The parishioners of St. Cecilia. Your prayers and those of my own parishioners from Holy Family in Seattle, mean so muchÖ
Ask you to continue your prayers for us and for my mom. Something my mom did not want people to say was, "well, Mary Bloom is in heaven; we donít need to pray for her." None of us knows is the extent which a loved one needs our prayers. The Bible indicates that all of us will have to go thru some cleansing or purification before we can stand fully in Godís presence. Just like our prayers can help each other on earth, so our prayers can help those who have died - and their prayers help us. The second reading of our Mass refers to that interconnection which we call the communion of saints.
Speaking about prayers for the dead, it is significant that mom lived till the year 2000. As you know, this is a Jubilee Year, a time of great outpouring of grace. One of the great blessings of the Holy Year is the Jubilee Indulgence which we can obtain not only for ourselves but for our deceased loved ones. In a couple of months at Holy Family Parish, we will have a walking pilgrimage to St. James Cathedral to obtain the Holy Year Indulgence. If you want to join us we will be leaving at 6 a.m. on Saturday, April 8! Besides the indulgence, any prayers, Masses for my mom will be appreciated. If she does not need them, she can pass them on to others who do. Every time I go to a cemetery it strikes me there are so many souls who have no one to pray or them.
My mom did have a beautiful preparation for her death. The Friday before last she spent over five hours in this church for the visit of the relics of St. Therese. This beautiful saint played a role when mom embraced her Catholic faith as girl of seventeen or eighteen. As a young adult she read a lot of the writings of St. Therese. At the visit of the relics she brought this book of the last conversations of the saint. On the day mom died, it was open to this page: St. Therese had seen a hen gathering chicks under her wings. She wrote, "I cried when I thought how God uses this image to teach us his tenderness to us." Therese wrote so movingly about Godís tender love, but also she spoke about the sufferings which come with faith. On the very same page she described her "trial of faith." She said, "The Lord did not send this trial until the very moment I was capable of bearing it."
My mom - this may surprise you - also had a trial of faith at the end of her life. It wasnít that she ever wavered in her belief in God, but she experienced something many do as they get older. She began to feel the burden of her past mistakes and sins. When St. Therese relics came to Stanwood, she knew their would be a number of visiting priest and the opportunity to go to confession. She loved Fr. Paul, Fr. Colm, Fr. David and the other Carmelite priests, but she preferred to go to confession to a priest that didnít know her. With good humor, she later told us what happened. She looked for a priest she did not know, found a nice young priest, and made her confession face to face. When she finished the priest said to her, "Are you Mrs. Bloom?" Mom had a good laugh.
Momís experience in a lighter way points to what Jesus says to us in todayís Gospel, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." These words are most remarkable. First, of all Jesus knew his disciples had very troubled hearts, because of what he had just told them about his imminent death. All of us feel anxiety - especially in the face of death. Jesus knows our hearts are troubled. But he says to us, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." He says this not like some bit of advice or pious thought, but as a command, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." Like the disciples we might ask how it is possible to obey such a command. None of us has that much control over our feelings. But Jesus gives the answer, "Trust in God and trust in me." He then tells us he is going before us - thru the terrible torture and humiliating death of the cross. "I am going before you to prepare a place for you that where I am you also might be."
"You know the way," Jesus says. Now at this point the apostles are embarrassed to admit they do not know the way. Finally Thomas speaks up, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus gives them this astonishing revelation, "I myself am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except thru me."
I remember a conversation with my mom a number of years ago. It was some years before Pa had died. We were talking about death. My mom said that what she most longed for was to see her mom again. He mom had died in January of 1953. In these days since mom died, many people have mentioned to me about their own motherís death and some have expressed that same longing. For most of us, our idea of heaven is to see our parents and other loved ones again. But there is only one way back to them. It is thru Jesus. "I am the WayÖ no one comes to the Father but thru me."
One of the purposes of a funeral homily is not just to reflect on what the Bible teaches us about our hope in Jesus, but to give thanks to God for the life of the deceased person. I would like to do that now for my mom.
Mary Annie Perich was born March 14, 1918 at Lake McMurray, WA. She was the second child of Mike Perich and Annie Babich. The reason they had only two children was not because they felt it was the ideal family size, but because they were somewhat older. Grandma Perich was almost forty when she came to America to marry Grandpa. Katherine was born when she was 41 and mom when she was 44. There is message here for couples who are reaching the end of their child-bearing years: Do not be afraid of children. God has a plan, a purpose for each child he creates.
Like most children of immigrants, momís first language was not English. She and Katie spoke Croatian - what they called naski or "our language" - to their parents. Even tho there was not enough Croatian culture to sustain the language, she never forgot it. In 1970 when we visited what was then Yugoslavia, she was able to talk to our relatives, just like she undoubtably spoke to her parents - a combination of Croatian grammar with many English words mixed in. They seemed to understand her perfectly.
When mom was in her early twenties, she met and married Melvin Bloom. That was a time when large families were common. I am grateful for that. The best gifts that my mom and dad gave me are my brothers and sister. The best gifts.
I know that some of you want me to say that Ma and Pa had an ideal, fairy tale marriage. They did not. Mom stuck with Pa - in good times and in bad, for better or for worse. I do not say this to judge anyone. (I have counseled people to get a separation in extreme circumstances.) But there is something to say for perseverance. At the end of their lives, mom and dad had something very beautiful. In the Gospel we hear that Jesus saves the best wine till last. When Pa died, her greatest desire was to see him again. In spite of hurts received - and hurts given - she wanted to be reunited with him. Together with the deep love, some wounds persist, open and festering. They will need cleansing before either Pa or Ma can stand in Godís presence - and in each othersí. (Excuse me for saying so much but I do so because it indicates part of the reason we must pray for our deceased loved ones. The Church has always insisted on that realism.)
By saying mom stuck with dad, I do not want to give you the idea she was a shrinking violet. As several people said at the vigil last nite, mom was a strong woman. She made many important choices. For example, when she had raised us kids, she decided to go college to study nursing. One of my favorite memories is her sitting at the table with books spread out and Greg next to her, helping her understand some rule of science.
The reason Ma went back to school was not self-assertion. It was stewardship. She had gifts which she knew did not belong toher, but which she had to develop for the benefit of others. That is also what happened when she helped found the Mary Bloom Center in Peru. It bears momís name because it is a medical and educational center which promotes the values most important to her: marriage, family, children.
One final word about Ma. She worked hard most of her life, but when her work was done, she knew how to let go. In the final analysis, it is all grace. None of us can come before God and say that, because of what I have done, I deserve to go to heaven. No, we come before God with empty hands, relying on his mercy. I would like to close with some words from the book mom bought the Friday before she died (St. Therese of Lisieux, Her Last Conversations). This is how she replied when someone said she was a saint:
"No, Iím not a saint; Iíve never performed the actions of a saint. Iím a very little soul upon who God has bestowed graces; thatís what I am. What I say is the truth; youíll see this in heaven."
Last Picture of Mom
Obituary of Mary Bloom
Condolence Letter from Fr. Bob Hoffmann
Letter to Holy Family Parishioners