Obituary Facilitator Notes

Facilitator Notes
“To be cliché, death is a part of life and it’s going to happen to all of us. I have the blessing of getting a little
bit of advance notice and I am able to optimize my use of time down the home stretch.”
Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
In our 24 hour news cycle society it can be difficult for us to imagine a time or society in which
news was not immediate. This mindset can plague our reading of Scripture as we tend to view the telling
of Jesus’ life as journalistic reporting. Historical-Critical studies have shown us that this is not the case.
Instead, we see that each Gospel is a collection of sources, stories, and experiences put together by a
In many ways our lives are the same way. The spiritual life brings us in touch with an attempt to
live in the moment. It is a challenge to come to grips with the fact that we are not our past or our future.
Still, there is much we can learn about ourselves by looking at our past and imagining our future. This
exercise draws upon a scriptural reality; the gospels are written well after Jesus’ life. The reflection
backward of a life lived, Christ’s or our own, helps us to get to know ourselves and one another.
To speak of Christianity is to acknowledge death. There is no Resurrection without the Cross or, as
Paul tells us “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Cor 15:14). For
most of us death is something we push to the back of our consciousness. We avoid thinking about it as we
have no control over it. Christ’s life remembered, especially in the Gospel, is that of those who
encountered him. In this way, like all of us, Christ did not get to write his own obituary. Christ did,
however, get to allow his actions and interactions with others dictate HOW he was remembered. In this
way, through the way he choose to live his life, his story lives on eternally.
This can be the case for us as well. We know very little about one another and will be open to
learning as time goes on. What if we started the same way the Gospels did? What would we want others
to know about us, not right now, but if we were to die? How would you write your own obituary? What
would you want to be included? Whom would you want to remember you? How? What might those wants
and desires reveal something about you to us?
 Paper/Pen
 The below scripture
Opening Prayer
Read aloud Acts Chapter 2
Remind the group that, like the first disciples, we sit in a room searching for something and asking
for the Holy Spirit to be with us. You or one of the participants will then guide everyone else through the
below Contemplation:
(The below Contemplation is taken from Vinita Hampton Wright shares this imaginative prayer meditation with us, based on Acts 2:1–11, the story
of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost:
After Jesus ascended to the Father, all of us who followed him decided to stay together. He told us to wait for the
Holy Spirit. We weren’t sure what that meant, really. What would it look like, feel like?
The Holy Spirit visited the prophets in strange ways—in visions, with powerful speech, even with great miracles. In
Jesus’ company, we had indeed witnessed miracles. We told stories, often, of when he healed this person or cast out
a demon from that one. We recounted the story of Jesus feeding thousands with a few loaves and fishes. The biggest
miracle, of course, was his Resurrection. That was more than a miracle; it changed the world forever. It changed us,
down to our very bones and breath. What do I remember most fondly about traveling with Jesus? Was it his stories?
He had a story for just about every situation! Was it the way he looked with great kindness on a person, no matter
who that person was or what he’d done?
All we could do now was tell stories of what had already happened—that, and pray. We prayed as Jesus had taught
us. And we waited. What are we waiting for? How will we know that the Advocate has come to us? Will we know for
certain, or will it be another one of Jesus’ puzzles or parables?
The Feast of Pentecost arrived, and still we remained gathered like sheep awaiting the shepherd. We observed our
Pentecost prayers and rituals, continuing to act like the observant Jews we were. But something was missing, and we
didn’t even know how to describe it. What does a community need, when it has understood a new and revolutionary
truth? Do we need better understanding? Do we need a plan? Do we need, more than anything, the courage to keep
believing and telling what we know?
On the Feast of Pentecost, while we prayed together, the room suddenly filled with wind that seemed to come from
an ocean or a desert. Or a cave or a mountain. It was fresh and cool yet weighted with unnamable fragrance and
crackling like fire. The two small windows and the seemingly calm weather outside could not account for this
roaring, invisible, electric rush of air. What is happening? Are we to be taken up in a whirlwind, as Elijah was? Will
we go now to be with our Lord, wherever he is?
We prayed louder and with urgency. Surely God would protect us from whatever was happening just now. At one
point all of us were saying, together, the prayer Jesus had taught us: “Our Father . . .” Then our communal prayer
burst into a hundred prayers at once. Our words had begun in unison but now reproduced themselves in odd yet
fervent lines of syllables. After a few moments, we realized that we were not saying the same words. In fact, we
were not even speaking the same language. What is going on in my mouth?
I think a thought, and my tongue and lips form the thought on their own, in words I cannot perceive yet know to be
true. Each one of us was praying in an excited voice, in a distinct language. And we were proclaiming this new story
of the risen Christ with eloquence we could not have imagined moments before. With our minds we could not
translate, but our hearts knew exactly what we meant. Who’s knocking on the door? Oh—they’ve pushed it open, and
there’s a crowd out there! Who are they, and what do they want? They seem to be foreigners, judging by their
We stopped praying so that the people out in the street, now in our doorway, could be heard. “How is that you
Galileans are speaking all our languages, telling us of God’s mighty works? We’re from a dozen different countries
and tongues, and yet you speak to us plainly. What’s going on here?”
Then Peter stood on a table and began to tell the story
Given our varied backgrounds, in a way, we all speak in different “tongues.” Perhaps in synthesizing where
we all come from and where we are going we can also ask the Holy Spirit to come be with us and lead us through the
upcoming year.
 Take 15 minutes on your own with a piece of paper (leader may want to print out a handout with
these questions already on them)
 If you were to die today what 10 things about your life so far would you like to be remembered?
 Who would survive you? In typical obituaries these are family members but feel free to use friends,
significant others, etc? How would they describe you? (Be specific!)
 What would you be satisfied you accomplished?
 What would you wish could have taken place in your life but didn’t?
o Given this question what steps might you take to become the self you want to be?
o What do you need from this group to begin to become the self you would like to become?
Provide time for each group member to share their reflections.
Closing Prayer
From Death to Life (Blessed Peter Faber, SJ)
Jesus Christ, may your death be my life
and in your dying may I learn how to live.
May your struggles be my rest,
Your human weakness my courage,
Your embarrassment my honor,
Your passion my delight,
Your sadness my joy,
In your humiliation my I be exalted.
In a word, may I find all my blessings in your trials.