Many of my prayers and thoughts have been for Edward Ekari, his family, and the seminarians at Wagga’s Vianney College and Brisbane’s Holy Spirit Seminary. Eddie was only 33 years old when he was killed in a car crash on Monday.
I didn’t know Eddie well — we had met; we were Facebook friends — but still a story like this cuts close. I’m reminded, too, of the untimely death of Br Jason Duck OMI, whom I did know well. Whenever I come across the prayer card from his funeral, I always stop and wonder at God’s designs, and sincerely pray for Jason.
I wonder at God’s designs because a seminarian, especially late in his formation, when the question of discernment is more settled, is whole-heartedly focused on ordination. Ordination signifies the culmination of many years’ work and study, but it’s also the start of something: a new life of ministry, and also something more personal and eternal. “Once a priest, always a priest,” as the saying goes. (Cf CCC 1582, 1583.)
Once a man is a ordained, I think, the only future milestone that compares to ordination is death. I think if I was married I would look forward to the birth of my children. And the birth of grandchildren must be a massive milestone too. And then, of course, there is also the death of a spouse, which half of all married people must experience.
For a priest, I think, the measure of milestones is very different. It’d be nice to celebrate my golden jubilee one day, certainly. Fifty years of priesthood is a great thing to celebrate. But I don’t look forward to it the way I looked forward to ordination.
Is that how I look forward to death? Not in an eager I-can’t-wait-til-I-die fashion, no. But I do look forward to death as the only life-changing event that compares to ordination. Of course, dying is a very different proposition for consecrated celibates. We live a life of total dedication to the Lord, which also demands a certain detachment. We don’t have the sacred and sublime commitments — a spouse and children especially — that interfere with a married person’s death. I’m not saying that dying is any easier for a celibate, but it’s certainly less complicated.
I also look forward to death in another way. I hope I can die without regret — without looking back, and only looking forward. We can only die the way we have lived. I can only die “looking forward, not back” if I try to live every day like that.
In Eddie’s case, and Jason’s, I feel they were cheated. They aspired to holy orders, but they died before receiving them. The second milestone intervened before the first. “Too soon!” “They was robbed!” It’s ridiculous of course. Please God, both these men now enjoy the Beatific Vision, which surpasses the joys of holy orders.
But apart from that, both men were young. Eddie’s mother now has the unhappy task of burying him. I think we can all intuit the injustice of that.
Facebook users may like to visit a tribute page to Eddie.
May he rest in peace.