Upon entering Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Bernalillo, I could tell Lonnie Chavez was a big Dallas Cowboys fan.
The dark blue casket was emblazoned with the Dallas Cowboys logo. More than a dozen family and friends in Cowboys football jerseys stood vigil along the center aisle of the church. A blue star rested next to Lonnie in the open casket. Even Lonnie wore a Cowboys jersey. A blue-and-white flower arrangement stood at the front of the church.
A Rosary service and visitation took place the night before. Traditionally, that’s when eulogies would be spoken. Today the Mass of Christian Burial preceded burial at Our Lady of Sorrows Cemetery, and there was no personal story told in the service. However, the abundant Cowboys imagery spoke volumes.
It was a sad day for all, especially Lonnie’s mother Mary, who sobbed as visitors tried to console her. Lonnie’s unexpected death at age 45 was a shock to the entire family.
Deacon José Cervantes came to the casket at the back of the church. He sprinkled holy water on the casket before covering it with a white pall and placing a crucifix on top. Pallbearers wearing Cowboys jerseys escorted the casket to the front of the church for the service.
The deacon welcomed everyone and said that while we know we are going to die, we’re never prepared for it to actually happen.
The liturgical elements of this Catholic funeral included a reading from the Gospel, a responsorial psalm (The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom shall I be afraid?), a brief homily based on the readings, a moment of silence, communion, a song (Bendito sea Dios), and the use of holy water and incense during the final commendation.
The Gospel reading came from John, Chapter 12:
The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.
Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
The deacon reflected on the reading, the psalm and the response, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” He said, “How can we as Christian Catholics console each other today? Brother Lonnie’s mother Mary is so upset. Let us embrace the assurance we have today in life eternal.”
“As with the grain of wheat, if we don’t die, we’re not able to produce anything. Think of God who provides us with everything. God’s grace and mercy overpowers sin. Brother Lonnie has eternal life. I know if we ask God for his mercy for Lonnie, he will grant our prayer.”
“Faith, hope and charity are the three keys to salvation, and God’s mercy is full of that charity. If Jesus is my light and my salvation, there is nothing to fear.”
“You know, many want to go to heaven, they’ll raise their hands to say they want to go there. But when you ask how many want to go today, not many will raise their hands. God knows what he’s doing, even though it was painful for us to have Lonnie taken from us at such an early time.”
After communion, the assembled recited The Lord’s Prayer and greeted each other with the sign of peace, shaking hands and saying, “Peace be with you.” The singing of Bendito sea Dios took place after communion. The title means “God be praised” or “Praised be to God.”
Before the Final Commendation, the deacon lit incense in a censure and brought it to the casket. He swung the censure in three directions at the head and foot of the casket, and along the sides. After a closing prayer, the casket was moved to the back of the church, the pall removed, and one more sprinkling of holy water took place before moving out to go to the cemetery.
One bell in the tower at Our Lady of Sorrows pealed as the Dallas Cowboys casket holding the body of Lonnie Chavez was placed in the hearse. As the procession took off, a second bell was added in farewell.
May Lonnie Chavez rest eternally in Dallas Cowboys heaven.