Homily for Carl Crosier’s Funeral Mass
What makes a person leave everything they have, everything they know, everything familiar to them and set out on a new path?
The Gospel today is the story of Jesus calling his first disciples. John’s account of the story is filled with memorable and powerful words:
Behold the Lamb of God!
What are you looking for?
Come and see.
You will see greater things than this…the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.
If those first disciples were leaving behind something sinful or bad to follow Jesus, it would be easy to understand their abrupt change in direction. We would be quick to support it. But there was nothing wrong with being fisherman. It was their livelihood and how they provided for their family.
Isn’t it always more difficult to understand, and more suspect, when a person leaves behind something good?
But for those first disciples, Jesus was irresistible. When Jesus said, “Follow me” they left everything and followed him, and they did so without conditions, reservations, or restrictions. They followed without any hint of where they were going or what they would be doing. They simply picked up and followed Jesus.
One spiritual writer described a religious experience as “an encounter with the Divine that changes everything.”
Carl Crosier, was born on September 11, 1945 and he first answered the Lord’s invitation to “follow me” on the day of his baptism, November 11, 1945 at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles, WA. He was surrounded by his parents Inga-lill and William Crosier and his Godparents Eskel and Vivian Seastrom. That day Carl began his life in the Lord, a life that would never end.
But the Lord doesn’t just call us once and that’s it. He calls us to follow him over and over, daily, throughout our life.
Carl followed Jesus when he developed his natural gift for music. His sister, Carol, shared that Carl seemed to excel at everything, especially music, and even as a child was sometimes “particular.” Throughout his life he was committed to making things right, and true, and good, and beautiful.
Certainly for Carl, music and faith were inseparable. Making music was prayer for Carl. I came to know Carl over 20 years ago at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu where he served as the Director of Music. I was amazed at the beautiful worship services every week in the little church on Punahou Street. I guess I assumed it was always that way at LCH, but yesterday some friends recounted Carl’s first months at LCH and the extensive rehearsals just learning to sing a capella. Carl built the music program at LCH from the ground up.
I will always treasure those great Advent Processions, the Christmas liturgies, the Epiphany Festival of Light, the Easter Vigil, and the quiet chant of Compline at the end of a long Sunday. Because of Carl, many experienced a little bit of heaven in those celebrations.
And leave it to Carl to prepare such a beautiful Funeral Mass as he did for us today. He told me he knew for a long time the music he wanted at his funeral, but a few weeks ago, while still at Straub Hospital, he refined his selections and with Kathy, planned every detail. As Allen Bauchle observed, “He’s never known Carl to be without a project.”
Carl followed Jesus when he met and eventually married Kathy, who for 37 years shared his passion for music and all things beautiful. And he followed Jesus by being a father to Stephen whom he cared for with love and devotion. Being a husband and a father is not just another life choice, it really is a vocation, an answer to the Lord’s call.
Now some here may be wondering what is a nice Lutheran man like Carl doing in a place like this?
In February of this year, shortly after Carl was diagnosed with cancer, he invited me to lunch to tell me two things: He had pancreatic cancer and he wanted to become Catholic.
It wasn’t a total surprise because Carl had been worshipping here at St. Theresa for about two years.
Carl shared that it wasn’t a rushed decision on his part either. It was something he had thought about since he was a child and visited Queen of Angels Church near his home. He told his parents he wanted to explore some other churches, and there was just something about the Mass, the prayer and the ritual, that stayed with him all these years.
What I remember most about our lunch that day was Carl’s strong and steady faith in Christ and his gratefulness. He shared with me how thankful he was to God for the life he had had. As he told Kathy, “He did everything he wanted to do — 3 times.”
He was also aware that so many others in the world suffer much more than he ever had. In the course of our two hour lunch, it was obvious that the excitement of becoming Catholic outweighed any concerns he had about his cancer.
Because Carl was so insistent on enjoying every moment he could of the time he had left, and he was traveling as much as possible the first half of this year, we had yet to set a date for his reception into the Catholic Church.
But at the end of July, as Carl was preparing for a 2nd surgery that month, I called him and asked if it was time. He asked when and how. I said today, in your hospital room. His response was, “I would be happy with that.”
So there at Straub with Kathy, John Renke his sponsor, and a small group of friends, Carl placed his hands in mine and I said these words from the ritual:
Carl, the Lord receives you into the Catholic Church. His loving kindness has led you here so that in the unity of the Holy Spirit you may have full communion with us in the faith you have professed in the presence if his family.
Then with joy he received the Sacraments of Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. When we were finished his forehead glistened with chrism and the Eucharist had given him food for the journey.
I want to be very clear that for Carl the decision to become Catholic was not a judgment about one tradition over another. It had absolutely nothing to do with that. And nothing can or should undo that solid Lutheran spirituality which rooted Carl’s life so deeply in God’s grace.
For Carl, the decision to become Catholic was not about becoming something different, but becoming more, more of who God was calling him to be. It was simply about answering the Lord’s invitation one more time, “Follow me.”
Follow me. It reall
y never ends. It seems God always has one more thing to show us doesn’t he.
In the last hours of his life, there was a moment of grace. While Kathy and John were singing to Carl at his bedside, and although he had not spoken or moved for hours, he managed to lift his hand as if to conduct one more time.
Carl would answer the Lord’s invitation one last time. As he was anointed with the Sacrament of the Sick and received the Rites for the Dying he would hear the Lord’s gentle voice again, “Follow me.”
Again it was an invitation to experience more of God’s life, to leave behind something good, to go from glory to glory.
Carl was so attentive to the Lord’s voice in his life and never afraid to pick up and follow the Lord. Today we celebrate his life and his faithfulness.
Rest in peace, dear friend. Thank you for touching our lives with beauty and grace and teaching us the language of heaven. May you live in peace this day and see the “still greater things” the Lord has promised.