Edward Hays Funeral Liturgy
Dear friends of Ed,
A long time friend and spiritual companion of Ed's, Fr. Mark Mertes (a fellow priest in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas), delivered the following homily at the Mass of Christian Burial held on Friday, April 8th, at St. Joseph Carmelite Church in Leavenworth, KS. Ed had personally asked of Mark this favor...and Mark was indeed the perfect person.
So, here we are, remembering our spiritual companion Ed, artist, whimsical, colorful, creative, joy-filled, provocative, hopeful, mystical, grounded, on and on I could go. Maybe it’s best to use his words. Ed was:
A Passionate Troubadour for love, a Sundancer, a Gabriel bringing Good News, encouraging us Planetary Pilgrims to Pray All Ways, to embrace Secular Sanctity and offer up our Prayers of the Domestic Church (these days as Psalms for Zero Gravity), that is the Prayers of the Servants of God. Yes, a Holy Fool, a Mad Hatter he delighted in Magic Lanterns and Feathers on the Wind, Ethiopian Tattoo Shops and The Pursuit of the Great White Rabbit. He unlocked mysteries with Twelve and One Half Keys, he offered spiritual remedies in his Lenten Pharmacy, he proposed solutions in his Great Escape Manual, he inspired in his Quest for the Flaming Pearl. Ed guided us through the Lenten Labyrinth as we make our way to the Mountain of God; just check your Pilgrim’s and Hermit’s Almanac and your Book of Wonders for directions. OK, Ed was a bit of a Hobo on a Honeymoon, a Little Orphan Angela. He was a Christmas Eve Storyteller. A friend, always a friend, he wrote notes, Prayer Notes, he wrote Letters to Exodus Christians; Ed was steadfastly Chasing Joy, even as he was Pilate’s Prisoner…. His Pilgrimage Way of the Cross found its fulfillment in this past Holy Week.
The past Good Friday Ed visited graves at St. Joseph of the Valley Cemetery as was his recent custom. On Easter Monday Ed fell in the garage. Tom found him 20 minutes later. Ed looked at Tom with a gaze of child-like wonder and then closed his eyes. Thus began a six-day process of letting go of his human life; perhaps working through the question “If I let go and fall from here, will anyone catch me?” (Pilate’s Prisoner, p. 253) This past Sunday Ed offered the same words as his Master, “O God, into your hands I commend my Spirit.” And Ed as we know him “disappeared as he was swallowed by the great abyss, for when the Light comes, the lamp of life is extinguished.” (Pilates Prisoner, p. 253). Ed is gone, and Ed is not gone. Ed is absent, and Ed is present. Like our Master and Lord, Jesus, teaches, “Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11.26). So how does our friend Ed live on?
As someone who spent his life in service of the revolution of Jesus Christ, the revolution of Love!
Vatican II was the modern vanguard of this Revolution, and Ed was devoted to its passion to share Jesus’ never ending revolutionary life and love. “The source of my belief that there is life after death is that love is stronger than death. The more you love someone, the more you desire never ever to be separated from her or him, even by death…. While there are many things I doubt, I have no doubt that God is love. (Pilate’s Prisoner, p. 224)
There are many Ed Hays stories about how he shared God’s love and joy: a Hayden Chaplain wandering the halls with a dancing cane, initiating and animating liturgy committees at Christ the King and Assumption and Holton and Mayetta, wandering the world on his 1971 sabbatical, living the big dream of the Forest of Peace and the communal life, offering mercy in the State Penitentiary. Ed had a passion for synthesizing so many mysteries under the big tent that is our Catholic Church. As a revolutionary, he spoke Vatican II’s language that defined the Church as a compassionate institution which struggles for social justice, racial and sexual equality, peace and just wages for workers (see Letters to Exodus Christians, p. 124), a Church which creates “Full, conscious and active participation in the Liturgy,” (Sancrosanctum Concilium, a church that celebrates that we “are a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a people set apart (1 Peter 2.9).” Ed enfleshed the truth of Gaudium et Spes (1), that “The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish, of the followers of Christ as well.”
And Ed understood that the “people of our time” means everyone, women, gay persons, clerics who feel called to marriage, seekers of other faiths, those divorced and remarried, those cast off by institutions. Ed followed Jesus’ path to the margins lovingly and absolutely.
Ed, the revolutionary, also respected the institution of the Church. Ed was a faithful son of the Church.
Ed promised obedience to and served under Archbishops Hunkeler, Strecker, Keleher and Naumann. He lived his ministerial priesthood with grace and passion, knowing that it blossomed from his baptismal priesthood of all believers. All throughout his priesthood he kept up with countless brother priests, religious, other clergy, lay leaders, here and abroad; always engaged in conversation, seeking, supporting, encouraging. He has been both a treasure for our diocese and perhaps a thorn in the side for some. Ever pragmatic, Ed wasn’t afraid to name the shortcomings of Holy Mother Church. I recall him telling me once “Holy Mother Church???!!!!. She makes her way through history sleeping with kings and princes; she’s wrapped in the beautifully colorful scarf of the gospel. She saunters through the ages with the Truth in one pocket and scandal in the other.”
Occasionally I was surprised by Ed’s devotion to the church. Once, in 1992, after I had participated in a somewhat “experimental” liturgy at the Heartland Conference, Archbishop Strecker called me into his office. He was livid at what I had done. When I recounted the meeting to Ed, he said, “Well of course he’s mad at you—that’s his job, and your job is to accept this gift of correction that he has given you.” (Ed helped me get a degree from the U of M, the University of Mistakes!)
Ed believed in the Sacrament of NOW.
At Shantivanam in each room there was a folder with an encouragement to go out and enjoy the walks and ponds and woods, and perhaps take a Dragonfly walk; that is, do nothing. Ed taught us to cultivate secular sanctity, an appreciation for the moment that we are in, whether that moment is a graced backyard encounter, waiting in a doctor’s office, changing a diaper, going to the restroom, a moment of physical intimacy, the graced moment of a liturgy, or simply being still. Ed wrote prayers and reflections on every aspect of human daily living reminding us that it is all amazing! All is grace! As a spiritual director/companion, Ed accompanied countless persons. For me, Ed always celebrated what was going on and then used the “stuff” of my life to point a way forward, a challenging way.
Ed, and you, and I live in this Loving NOW of God’s grace.
At Shantivanam the nights were long and star-lit, or simply dark. I recall laying in the stone circle looking up at the stars, waiting for a shooting star, feeling the wind rising up from the valley to the south. There is nothing quite as vast as a prairie night. Ed helped me understand that the Milky Way I was looking at was really my peering outward through the edge of the galaxy, peering out into ancient history, looking at light that began coming our way thousands or tens of thousands of years ago. We are peering into the mystery that Jesus Christ made possible for us, that in our vastness, our minute-ness, we are intimately loved, valued, cared for, eternally! It is the inward gaze of prayer. We are gazing into the mystery of NOW. Gazing outward into the Beloved Community assembled where Ed and Jane and Joe and yes, Mother Angelica, walk hand in hand, each grateful for the gifts the other brings; gazing outward to the Beloved Community where Jesus and Pilate and Magdalen and Therese are friends, and at the same time we are gazing upon the Beloved Community here on earth, at the beauty of what we are as God’s beloved, at the beauty of what we can be when we live Jesus’ revolutionary love now.
We can be a Beloved Community where lifelong Catholics and brand new seekers raise their hands in praise, a Beloved Community where restorationists and Vatican II warriors unite in praise of God, where immigrants and trumpists sit down at a common table, where homophobes and LGBT activists unite in gestures of love and care for the common good…. This is the mystery of who we are and Ed lives in this same Mystery of Divine Love which gathers us today. The Miracle of Love, the miracle of NOW which unfolds within and without the institution, it is the Miracle of Life, to which we commend our Brother Ed. So it is, so may it be!