I buried Stella a few days after Christmas. She had a beautiful family and they were all gathered at her funeral to celebrate her life, to mourn her loss and to assist her to heaven by our prayers. It was a beautiful celebration of a life well lived and a life very faithful to the Catholic faith.
Stella lived for 97 years and was committed to her parish as well as Mass attendance here at St. Martin’s for many decades. She was older than the church-building in which we had her funeral Mass. She regularly attended Mass in the former church that once sat upon this site.
You already know that Christmas is so potent in meaning that the Church traditionally celebrates Christmas for 8 consecutive days: we call this the Octave of Christmas. Since Stella’s funeral was within the Octave of Christmas I took the liberty of doing something I’ve never done before at a funeral: I read the gospel of the birth of Jesus. Usually the church gives us Easter funeral readings, but it was appropriate to read the gospel from Christmas during the Octave. I read the story of those who were drawn to Christ by the star. Stella means “star.” One of the titles of Mary is “Stella Maris,” (Star of the Sea). Stella was named after the star that beckoned the shepherds to find Christ. Stella was named after the star that beckoned the 3 kings to find Jesus. Stella was named after the star of Bethlehem which guided so many to Jesus, just as Stella herself had led her many family and friends through nearly a century of faith to Jesus.
After Stella’s funeral I received a Christmas card with a generous donation to the parish; it was from Stella herself. She had written on the card the words: “To my Church. My last Christmas envelope. I am with my Jesus.” Even at the end of her very long life Stella wanted to remember her church. This was such an inspiration to me when I opened the card. It was evidence of a century of unwavering fidelity to the Church. It showed me someone who was never attached to the fleeting things of this world, but always kept her sights among the stars of heaven, yearning for things eternal. Stella surely was a star.
May she be welcomed to the celestial heavens where she shines brightly before her Lord, continuing to beckon others to Him. We call these stars our saints of heaven.