The eulogies in my book span the American experience: from colonial times to our era. Catholic-American ethnic cultures of the honored deceased include: African, Cajun, Italian, Swiss, German, Polish, Lebanese, Austrian, Mexican, Cuban, Slovak/Russian, English, French, Scottish and Native American (Ojibway). I tried not to overweigh the Irish, but I may be judged unsuccessful despite my ongoing attempts at restraint. (The Irish are so good at eulogy, and there are so many of us!).
The deceased in this book were fully American: they include pioneers in social justice, health care, and the arts, and founders of distinctly American religious orders designed to serve all of the people in the land they had adopted or been born into. “The charity of the good knows no creed and is confined to no one place,” said Mother Marianne Cope, as she tended lepers in the Kingdom of Hawai’i in the nineteenth century. Like many in this book, her vision was far ahead of her time. Typically, the women were also far ahead of the Church in their time.
Ah yes, the women:
Striving for a gender balance was my greatest challenge. Women have not been eulogized in American history as men have been, not because they didn’t made equally significant contributions, but because they have not been equally recognized for them. In death, as in life, notable women were seldom acknowledged with tributes….
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From the Foreword by Writer/Undertaker Thomas Lynch
“Carol DeChant’s selections and introductions to the lives in this book call us to consider last things and life’s purposes. The wide range of biographies, lives spanning centuries, … young and old, saints and sinners, all lead to the conclusion that God’s great gift to each of us is one another. We learn living by examining the lives of others; we learn how to die by examining their deaths….
The elegance and power of the homages collected here proceed from how they amplify, however briefly, however faintly, the echo of the lives they endeavor to honor. They are moments only, still frames held up for inspection out of death’s perpetually moving pictures. In them we get real glimpses of life’s meaning and our own. …”
Listen to free Audio CD excerpt of Flannery O’Connor by Katherine Anne Porter