Sicut Transit Gloria Mundi

amd_thrillerPerhaps, dear reader, you remember that we have touched on our love for Michael Jackson before.

The album “Thriller” was fun in just about every way–all the songs were good, the videos were delightful, the Vincent-Price cameo was priceless.

Human Nature” is on my iPod perennially. I liked the album “Bad,” too. “Man in the Mirror” was a great song.

Also, let’s not forget that M.J. was acquitted of all charges.

May the King of Pop rest in peace.

mt olivetSpeaking of death, today I drove past the one small piece of real estate I own.

It is only a few square feet.

But it will be more than big enough, when the time comes.

Act V, Scene 1 of Hamlet opens with two gravediggers joking with each other.

The one asks the other, “What is he that builds stronger than either the mason, the shipwright, or the carpenter?”

The other replies, “The gallows-maker; for that frame outlives a thousand tenants.”

The other replies:

I like thy wit well, in good faith: the gallows
does well; but how does it well? it does well to
those that do ill: now thou dost ill to say the
gallows is built stronger than the church: argal,
the gallows may do well to thee. To’t again, come.

The second one can’t come up with another witty reply, so the first one says:

Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull
ass will not mend his pace with beating; and, when
you are asked this question next, say ‘a
grave-maker:’ the houses that he makes last till

The entire scene is very long. Here is the second part of it, worthily done by Kenneth Branaugh and our old buddy Billy Crystal, from the 1996 movie version.

Then, later on in the scene, my favorite phrase from all of Shakespeare makes its appearance. Laertes is bickering with the priest. Laertes thinks his sister Ophelia’s funeral has been too short.

Laertes. What ceremony else?

Priest. Her obsequies have been as far enlarg’d
As we have warranty. Her death was doubtful;
And, but that great command o’ersways the order,
She should in ground unsanctified have lodg’d
Till the last trumpet. For charitable prayers,
Shards, flints, and pebbles should be thrown on her.
Yet here she is allow’d her virgin rites,
Her maiden strewments, and the bringing home
Of bell and burial.

Laertes. Must there no more be done?

Priest. No more be done.
We should profane the service of the dead
To sing a requiem and such rest to her
As to peace-parted souls.

jozy-altidore-2Laertes. Lay her i’ th’ earth;
And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
May violets spring! I tell thee, churlish priest,
A minist’ring angel shall my sister be
When thou liest howling.

“Churlish priest!” Maybe, after this Year of the Priest is over, we can have a Year of the Churlish Priest, and I will be the poster-child.

…P.S. How about our soccer team!

And the Natinals just shellacked the Red Sox! (Not that I am in favor of inter-league play.)

5 thoughts on “Sicut Transit Gloria Mundi

  1. While I can only recognize Michael Jackson’s genius intellectually rather than viscerally, I am glad the Preacher notes his passing for the following personal reason. I am the same age as MJ and Madonna and our birthdays are within days of each other in the latter part of the summer. Of course, I am also only a “churlish priest” who’s never had any contact with MJ and Madonna and who has none of their talents, fame, and wealth. But we are the same age, and I admit to comforting myself with each advancing year that Madonna still looks great and at least MJ is alive! Now he’s not, and I thus see in him quite viscerally the concrete reality of my own demise, which is at this point sooner rather than later! I am thus grateful to the Preacher also for speaking of the real estate prepared to receive his earthly remains upon his own demise. One realizes how important it is to ask God for the grace not to be a “churlish priest.” Admittedly, however, sometimes it is hard to maintain composure in the face of the churhlishness of those with whom the priest must deal. In the time of my parish ministry, there was a local funeral director, Catholic at that, who held me in grand contempt. He complained that my funeral liturgies, at 55 minutes, were too long and asked me why I could not be finished in 17 minutes the way that the Presbyterian funerals of the town were. What can one say? At least I remembered the most useful verse of Scripture I know, “Ille [Jesus] autem tacebat,” — “He, however, was silent.”

  2. Dear Fr. Wenz,

    Being that exact same age myself (1958 was a very good year), I had similar thoughts… It is sobering to think I’ve never quite accomplished the pinnacle of my potential – we are never quite what we think we could be. Maybe it is time to decide what I want to be when I grow up. šŸ™‚ Churlish parishioner, perhaps? But, on the other hand, death is our goal! “Sooner rather than later” is okay, (may it please the Lord, that for me, it will occur within 10 minutes after Confession.)

    Your post brings the following poem to mind:

    Death Be Not Proud
    by John Donne

    DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
    Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
    For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
    Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
    From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
    Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
    And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
    Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
    Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
    And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
    And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
    And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
    One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
    And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

  3. Dear Mary Ann,A great reminder that also recalls St Paul’s words, “Death, where is thy victory, death, where is thy sting??!”
    Ditto on the Confession part!

  4. Thank you for a respectful farewell to Michael, Father. I have heard *way* too many people poking fun these past few days. Every human being deserves our respect and prayers, regardless.

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