Ponder Now the State Between
Sermon for the Rite of Committal with Final Commendation for Rose Orlich (1927-2016)
Preached on March 19, 2016 at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens, Morehead KY
Right next to the image of the Madonna and Child that is enshrined at Jesus Our Savior Catholic Church here in Morehead, Kentucky, is a framed typewritten copy of a poem by Rose Orlich. Titled “Transfiguration,” her poem speaks of how the faithful who meet the Blessed Mother’s mystic glance “that seem to come from otherworldly place” are “transfixed—transported to a heavenly plane of beauty and transforming grace” (cf. “Transfiguration” by Rose Orlich).
Her verses remind us Catholics how we view the world through the eyes of Faith, such that something ordinary can be sacramental, something commonplace can be a visible sign of an invisible grace. As a poet and as a Catholic, Rose saw everything around her as that priest-poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) did—that “the world is charged with the grandeur of God” (cf. “God’s grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ)—and she shared what she saw in her poetry.
In her last few years though, illness had robbed Rose of the ability to express that sentiment in carefully selected words. We saw her transfigured: she had become a mere shadow of the brilliance that we once knew. It was then that we who knew her were challenged to find grace, not in beauty but, in the dreary state of her dementia. When we visited her when she was sick and as we bury her now that she is dead, it is no longer her words but the Lord’s that we recall: that what we did and do for her, we did and do for the Lord (cf. Mt. 25:40).
In her life and in her works, in her illness and in her death, Rose Orlich calls us “to ponder now the state between” (cf. “Transfiguration” by Rose Orlich) and find, both in what is beautiful and in what is not, the glory of her God and ours so near at hand.