He Must Have Done His First Fridays

Good News reflection on Divine Mercy.
by Brother Stephen Dardis, LC | Source: Good News

Al Copeland's tomb was arrayed like no other. Vehicles zooming along the interstate could easily behold some of the Copeland "treasures" on public exhibit at the cemetery: speed boats, monster trucks, and sports cars, among other embellishments, and the ornate monument which encased his body. None of these would accompany him now. Yet with four marriages and a life clearly lived "in the fast lane," his Catholic funeral celebration provoked a public scandal. "Is that how the Church operates: pay the price, and anyone can be saved?" some asked. But one woman guessed the truth: "He must have done his First Fridays."

   During our Lord's revelations to St. Margaret Mary Alocoque he said, "In the abundant goodness and mercy of my Heart..., those devoted to me and receiving Holy Communion on the first Friday of the month for nine months …will not die without receiving the sacraments. My divine Heart will be their refuge in the final hour." Whether Mr. Copeland had lived up to this voluntarily, or simply as a youth, from the Catholic schooling tradition of First Friday Mass for the students, it seems he indeed found that "refuge". The Church, the trusted steward and guardian of Christ’s treasure, knows what conversion took place in those final moments.

   Weeks before what might have been a lamentable occasion, Al had asked for a trip to Rome, as he put it, to "get things right with Jesus." The priest who organized the trip remembers that, at one moment following the Mass in St. Peter's, the millionaire, his face disfigured from cancer, sat attentive in his wheelchair, listening to a woman kneeling beside him. She kept kissing his hand while praying the Rosary with him. The priest could not see the woman's face, but Al was evidently moved. "Tears were rolling down his face," the priest recounted, "and I knew that Al was 'getting right with Jesus'."

   Only a week before, Lourdes had commemorated the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgen Mary to St. Bernadette. To celebrate the occasion, the Holy Father had granted a special Plenary Indulgence. Al sought a profound healing, and the priest suggested a pilgrimage to the famous shrine, aware of its miracles both of soul and body. Following a brief flight in the Copeland jet, they entered the town of Lourdes. Posters of St. Bernadette were everywhere. "But, that's her, isn't it?" asked the millionaire anxiously. "Yes, that's Bernadette, the girl whom the Blessed Mother appeared to in…" "No, no; that's the woman I was talking with in Rome, right?" Those riding in the car sat silent and dumbfounded. "We learned later that, on that very day, February 18th, France was celebrating the Feast of St. Bernadette, which normally falls a week earlier." For those present, the coincidence was just another confirmation of God's closeness during those moments. Following the healing baths and with time running out before the return to Rome, a determined and visibly moved Al Copeland managed to fulfill the rather complex requirements of the Lourdes Plenary Indulgence. His death followed only weeks later. 

   Under criticism for allowing Mr. Copeland a Catholic funeral Mass, Church officials had only one response. This was not the story of scandal, but of Divine Mercy. Those bemoaning his funeral—and all who hear the story—might rediscover the source and overwhelming joy of Christian hope, solidly founded upon Christ and His promises, and solemnly entrusted to the ministry of the Church. Christ's word carries a lifetime guarantee, and God offers it to all who will accept it. It is a fact that many souls live to hear that same awe-inspiring promise extended to them, just as it was granted once to a thief in his final hours: "Today, you will be with me in Paradise."

Go to the prayer of the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy

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He must have done his First Fridays

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