Funeral of Jean Béliveau


Remembrance, Presence, Prayer

"Jesus, knowing that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father... ". The "hour" here refers to Jesus on the eve of and at the moment of his death. It could also have been written, " the hour when Jesus faced death," and it, too, would be correct. But death is more than simply death. According to our senses, our perception, and our experience, death towers before us like an inescapable wall, marking an impassable boundary.

Does death have the "last word" regarding life? Is the death of a loved one the "last word" on love and the thread of relationships? Jesus, who died praying and loving, transformed death into the passage toward eternal life. The love shown in this life does have a future in eternity. The love of a husband, father and grandfather, a friend and colleague, a dedicated humanitarian... all this love has a future in eternity.

This vision of hope is based on Jesus himself, who died for us and rose from the dead to lead us on the path to eternal life.

For several days now, we have been remembering Jean Béliveau, his passion and integrity, his dignity and humanity both on and off the ice. We recall how, year after year, he personified consideration for others: for his friends, teammates, Canadiens' supporters, hockey fans and the general public. We think of the foundation that he established after his retirement to benefit children, particularly those with disabilities. What also comes to mind is the importance that faith played in his life, and the priority he placed on family life in his decision-making. Thus, the past has suddenly become very present, and Jean's paternal nature warms our hearts today.

This time of remembrance has also become a time of presence. There is presence in the media -- television, radio, newspapers, Internet, social networks -- presence in private conversations; presence during the lying in state, held at the Bell Centre over two days; and today, presence at the Cathedral at this prayerful event. Jean's family is present, and we are present for his family. When a person loses someone close to them, we feel at a loss in knowing how to offer comfort and support. It is difficult to think of something consoling to say. But isn't being there for the person what's most important? And this is what we are taking the time to do. Residents of Montréal, Québec and Canada, elected officials and citizens alike, are taking the time to be here with his family and friends to give their support to those who mourn and to give thanks for the gift of a life lived for others.

Jesus came into this world to open the way to a future that goes beyond death, and to guide us into the presence of the Eternal Father, who never ceases to see us as his beloved children. Thus, the time of remembrance and presence becomes a time of prayer. We present Jean -- husband, father and grandfather, friend and brother -- to God, so that He may welcome him into his Kingdom, the Kingdom of eternal love.

We are in pain, but our hearts dare to hope, for communication has not been broken but transformed. On the eve of his death, Jesus knew he would enter eternal life, and yet he said: "I am deeply grieved, even unto death."

He knew that death is not the end but a passage; yet, this did not shelter him from experiencing a profound sense of loneliness. However, in the depth of his pain and his feeling of abandonment, He relinquished himself to the Father through the Holy Spirit: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."

Dear members of Jean's family, our thoughts go out to you in a surge of affection. Our pain can give way to hope, because prayer for a loved one is the presence of God as He provides balm for the wound inflicted by emptiness and gives us his peace. Through prayer, the future itself becomes present, for God's plan of love is to unite us, altogether for eternity, and our faith in Jesus Christ becomes the hope of meeting again in God's goodness to live eternally as children of the Light in the fullness of communion and joy.

Remembrance, presence, prayer... Let us take a few moments of silence to present Jean Béliveau, along with our grieving hearts, to God, the Consoler...

+Christian Lépine
Archbishop of Montreal

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