Two Lives Well Lived

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Queen Elizabeth II died yesterday at the age of 96. She sat on the throne of England for 70 years, the longest reign of any British monarch and the second longest reign any monarch in world history (King Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” reigned over France for 72 years).

Elizabeth was a Christian woman. As monarch, of course, she was regarded as the head of the Anglican church. As a Catholic, of course, I’m aware of the history whereby the English monarch assumed the title of head of the church in England. That history is real but shouldn’t be exploited as an obstacle for faithful Christians in this age to be at peace with each other and recognize when those of other traditions are doing their best, as they understand it, to follow Christ. The reality now is that there are more practicing Catholics in England than practicing Anglicans, and more atheists than practicing Catholics. There are more important fights to be fought than fighting each other.

I think Elizabeth followed Christ as best she could. She made mistakes and she had her critics, and some are exploiting her death to get clicks on social media by making outrageous critiques. Oh, well. It comes with the territory. Even still, as Elizabeth faced the numerous disappointments with which her children burdened her (all except the youngest, Edward, of whom I’m not aware of any significant controversy and who seems to prefer staying out of the limelight), she managed to maintain a level of grace and dignity of which her children seemed incapable. Elizabeth regarded her position as one of great responsibility and service, and perhaps her greatest failure was in not being able to pass that same attitude on to Charles, Anne, or Andrew. Too often, it appears, they regarded their positions as one of privilege, of being able to live their lives without much concern on how it impacted others, and assuming themselves untouchable even when treating others with severe contempt or committing the most horrible crimes. Some of both attitudes have been inherited by different members of the next generation.

I’m glad she passed at Balmoral, which I understand was her favorite place to be. I’m glad, too, that she died peacefully surrounded by her family. There’s nothing left to do now but to pray for the repose of her soul and for the comfort of her family. I have done so, and I hope you will, too. We need to pray for each other. Elizabeth may have been an anachronism, a Christian monarch in a post-Christian country. But her witness as such was greatly needed, and we may not see her kind again. I hope Charles will look to her example in his old age as new king and consider seriously how he wants to reign.

Another woman died earlier this month. She was not famous, though she was well-loved by those who knew her. Her name was Eleanor, and she was 93 years old. She, too, suffered during her life, of course, but she also experienced joy in her husband, children, and grandchildren. She was a deeply devout Catholic and her greatest success was in passing that faith on to her children, who have passed it on to theirs. Eleanor did not make headlines, and no one outside her family and friends knew of her struggles and achievements. But those who did know her loved her and knew of her deep faith and fortitude. It may be that, in her own way, she impacted the world as much as Elizabeth. She certainly impacted the lives of those she loved. She will not be remembered by more than a few, at least in comparison to the Queen. But those who will remember her will do so with warm hearts and smiles as they reflect on a life well lived. What better could be said of any of us?

Eternal rest grant onto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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