Posted by FatherTIm at 3/19/2009 10:41 AM EDT

My friends,

We are sad today, both those of us in the Irish world community and around the globe, at the loss of Ntasha Richardson, wife of Irish actor Liam Neeson. They have given so much to the world, professionally and personally, that to many of us, it seems like a death in the family.

For those of us with faith, and especially for those without faith, this is the greatest of our challenges while on this earth.

There have been many "jokes" at our expense that invariably end with "more liquour there than at an Irish funeral." But this "joke," in fact, shows how God has truly blessed the Irish, and given them a way of dealing with death that fills the emptiness a tragedy can create.

While there may be some who miss the great significance of the "celebration" that often follows a traditional Irish funeral Mass and burial, and only attribute it "the great thirst" we are known for, the Irish funeral is in fact a perfect and Christ-like way of dealing with and understanding loss and death.

Yes, there is the mourning over the loss of our loved one. Then, following the lessons of the Church, we join one another at a special Mass where we are reminded of our friend's Christian journey, through Baptism, Holy Communion, Confirmation, and finally, the Last Rites. We also hear of the many gifts of love our friend made in earthly life, and which is now for our memories. And we stand together in prayer that our Loving Father will take the next and final step: bringing our "lost" friend into His Heavenly Home, to be joined by so many others who are waiting "at the gate."

And, my friends, I will tell you that this is exactly wehat happens. The answer God gives to our prayer is always "Yes." He loves all His children, and it is His Will that they all return to Him. His Will be done.

Thus reassured that the God of Life has kept the promise He made through his son, Jesus Christ, we Irish can move just as God would have us do: to celebrate, in drink, memory, song, dance, and camraderie, the wonderful memories of our now-"found" friend. Whole villages often turn out in Ireland for the occasion; some smaller ones even close their official offices.

The funeral "party" is a party of life and not death. It is not a way to escape through the bottle to a world of numbness, but to use the fruit of the vine and our wonderful music and other glorious Irish traditions to lift our spirits "so they can hear us in Heaven."

God bless the Irish.

And God bless all of you!