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Below is some pictures of Christina when she made her first Holy Communion in August of 2014. As you know, Christina went to the Father's house on January 26, 2018 (Feast of the Sts. Timothy and Titus, Companions of St. Paul. She herself is a little companion of St. Paul), She lived a life of sanctity. I, as a priest, was deeply touched by her short life. also, I have always been inspired by the life of her parents Fernando and Monica. i am so grateful to know them. Christina's funeral was from the same Church where she made her first communion. Her brothers Daniel and David, who offered the first and second scripture readings at her first communion, also offered them at their funeral.

Here is the homily I offered at Christina's funeral. It does not do justice to the little ways she offered me homilies through her daily life.
The pictures below tell more in her beautiful smile and devotion.

Homily for the Funeral of Christina Dangond

“Blessed are the Poor In Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”
Matthew 5:3

We gather here today to celebrate the life and to entrust to God in heaven our little Christina.

Our grief at Christina’s loss runs very deep. But even greater today soars our gratitude for the immense grace, which embraced her life and all who shared in it; a grace which was and will continue to be the fruit of her life, especially her childlike (for she was only 11) but also profound witness in the midst of her illness and suffering.

Christina, as many of us know, had told her mother Monica, that she wanted her funeral, whenever it was going to happen, to resemble more of a celebration. It would not be a cause for something dark and somber but more of a celebration of color and joy. For she believed in faith that heaven is a place of joy and light and all the spectral colors that light brings.

I’d like to note that when Christina was first diagnosed and only six years old, I went over to the house a number of times…always in my black clerical attire. One day she looked at me and said, “Do priests always have to wear black.” [See Endnote 1 at bottom] You could tell by the look on her face that this wasn’t her favorite. She, instead, was always dressed in a beautiful array of colors.

One day, just by chance, I happened to wear a light blue sweatshirt over my clerics. She didn’t miss it. With a beautiful big smile; She said immediately, “I really like your bright sweatshirt.”
In her refreshing, childlike way, she was a person of life, color, happiness and exquisite joy!

St. Augustine taught that the sadness of death is not with the faithful one who has died…but with those who are left behind. [See Endnote 2 at bottom]

Christina, especially for one so young, was a girl of remarkable faith and hope. She never complained about her illness. I will say more about that later. Instead, she lived certain impulses that flow from a life of faith. I would now like to mention a few.

"Living in the moment"

From her faith, she claimed the impulse or joyful promptness of “Living in the Moment.”
Let me give you an example:
Just a little over a month ago, I was at their house [See Endnote 3 at bottom] and Christina had just had some strong chemo treatment and had been getting these lengthy treatments for days. She had made countless visits back and forth to the hospital.
If that were me, after such harrowing experiences, I might want to crash on the bed. After being put through so much, I would want to afford myself the right to complain.

Not her, she came in…looked around for her school bag because she wanted to do her homework. [See Endnote 4 at bottom]

Here lies the difference:
She was not waiting for her illness to get over to live. She was living each moment that God gave her.

When you are worried about the future, it’s hard to find God. When you are living in the moment, God is right there with you. [See Endnote 5 at bottom]

When Jesus invites us to contemplate the Lilies of the Filed and the birds of the air, he is not just trying to get our minds off our worries, but more importantly he is trying to get us to see that the world is full with the grandeur of God. He is pointing us to a way of discerning the larger purposes of God. We lose ourselves in the wildflowers of God’s eternal moment.

When we think of our walk of faith, we tend to focus on what we are trying to achieve in the end. We forget that every long journey is filled with thousands of small steps that require that ability to live in the moment. The Book of Proverbs tells us “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

Living in faith means taking one day at a time. It means rising in the morning, greeting the Lord and having an appreciation for our life. It means starting off the day praising Him for this life and for the abundance that He has promised. It means living for today and accepting my family, my friends, my environment, my circumstances and asking God to see his presence with them and in them. And it means asking for His guidance and direction to fulfill the day to meet our needs and His glory…Thy Will be done!

The Bible says that “this is the day the Lord has made”, and although it says that in general we will live to be a certain old age, there is no guarantee that there is a tomorrow because tomorrow hasn’t been made yet. All we really have is this day and all we should be living in is this day. “One Day at a Time, Jesus, that is all I’m asking of you. Just give me the strength to do every day what I have to do.” Yesterday’s gone, dear Jesus. And tomorrow may never be mine. Lord, help me today. Show me the way. One Day at a time” (Taken from a song I learned as a child).

When we trust in God and put ourselves totally in His hands, we resemble the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. We learn to cling only to Him. Although this journey can be fraught with darkness and risk, we will be transformed into living witnesses of the God of love.

We all wanted the miracle of Christina’s healing and I know sometimes I looked to that final goal of that day when she would be healed. But what the Lord teaches us and I believe Christina lived with faithful and joyful promptness was that if we focus only on the final goal of that day when there might be a healing, then we will miss out on what God has given us today. We will miss out on praising Him and doing His will towards others. We will miss out on seeing the blessing of today and all that God wants to reveal to us.

Every day is special because God has made it for us.
Give to God this day, that which He has given to you!
The present moment belongs to us and we truly live in it when we trust in His mercy and we truly grow in it when we walk like a little child offering God each day our heart burning with love for His greater glory.

Yet, again I say, I wanted like all of you…a miracle that had as its final end health for Christina. But, what I came to realize, through what she was teaching me, is that every day was a miracle with Christina. And, when we lived in the moment, we could see it.

One of the Sisters (Sr. Margaret Moran, a Daughter of St. Paul) wrote to me a few days ago, “The miracle was Christina herself. How many lives she has touched with her example of faith, hope and love. Only in heaven will we know the good she has done. And now we have a great intercessor. It is we who remain behind that mourn.”

Another Sister (Sr. Carmen Christi, a Daughter of St. Paul) wrote to me in the past month, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified in her. Faith is also surrendering to God’s will and sometimes that is a greater act of faith than believing in a miracle of healing.”

Unconditional Trust
From her faith, Christina also claimed the impulse of unconditional trust.

You might say if there were a mantra in her life it would be “Jesus, I Trust in You.” In Spanish it is Jesús en tí confío.

You can see those words it here on the image of Divine Mercy before us.
If you scrolled through the Spanish website her parents set up for her, which has over 55,000 members, there are countless videos of her with a smile on her face saying encouraging and hopeful words, always ending with those words Jesús en tí confío!

What is of particular interest and value is that on the website, thousands of members have put up their own posts filled with their own challenges and miracles…and so often they now, in turn, end their messages with Jesus I Trust in you… Jesús en tí confío.

Christina’s parents, Monica and Fernando, taught her to pray this prayer of trust from the Divine Mercy Message, but with her there was a natural, almost spontaneous affinity.

Fr. Ed, my brother priest, shared some words from a homily he gave a few days ago to seminarians “From the moment of her diagnosis some five years ago, her heart was touched by a divine grace to trust in Jesus and to never look back with regret, bemoan the loss of a normal childhood or complain “why” but rather her daily essence was living with a smile and the pure words of the saintly who suffer, “Jesus, I Trust in you”.

The Divine Mercy mantra, which I saw becoming a part of Christina, impacted me most when Monica, her mom, made known to me a dialogue that she’d had with Christina.
Christina asked her mom for permission to make an extra prayer (I personally found this precious that she was even asking her mother if she could add an additional prayer to the prayers they said each day). Monica replied “of course, what do you want to pray Christy?”

Christina answered, “I want to tell God that He can do whatever He wants with my life.” [See Endnote 6 at bottom]

How Beautiful!
After hearing such a faithful declaration made by this little girl, I had to look within myself. Could I do that? Could I say that?
If I had been going through all that she was going through, I would be tempted to wrestle with God.

She wasn’t wrestling with God. She was clinging to Him!!

How often, when we are afraid to face the next step, we end up wrestling in life. We want to handle it our own way.

But how much our heavenly father wants us to cling to Him in those fearful moments. He says, “Come to me all of you who are weary, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

The prayer of Christina “I want to tell God that he can do whatever he wants with my life” summons up the words of Our Blessed Mother who proclaimed to the angel “I am the handmaid of the Lord, Let it be done unto me according to your Word” (Luke 1:38).

I once heard someone say, “To pray these words is to embark on an amazing journey through heaven and earth and back again. It is to contemplate the mystery of our salvation, and it is to receive its promise.”

Finally I want to say, Over the past few days, I have received quite a few texts and some phone calls asking that question that might have been spoken by some of us here…why?

Why did this have to happen?
Why did God take from us such a beautiful angel?
Why were our prayers not answered?

I cannot give you a perfect answer!

But, I want to give you an answer from my heart.

I believe God is listening intently to our prayers. I believe everyday, in Christina’s life, he has been showing us miracles and his caring love. And I don’t believe that is going to stop.

This is the paradox, the mystery at the heart of Christian belief: that in suffering, in loss, in pain, somehow God is present and heaven is near:

How do I know this?

Because I believe with my whole heart that Jesus laid down his own life for Christina. I believe with my whole heart that Jesus loves Christina!

In turn, I believe with my whole heart that Jesus laid down his life for you and me. I believe with my whole heart, Jesus loves you and me!

Through Christina’s clinging to him, I have come to know this more!
So have tens of thousands of others.
I am a better priest (far from perfect) because of Christina’s testimonial life!
I believe we are all better people because of Christina’s testimonial life!

Yes, Tens of thousands of lives have been changed. For one, I’m certain that our Holy Family group would not have been able to do our Family Retreats, Women’s retreats and Men’s retreats and many other gatherings if it were not from the graces we were receiving through what was happening in her life…united to God.
I hope she will be a Saint of our Holy Family Institute!

St. Therese of the Child Jesus, who also died very young, taught us in her brief writings, that to become a saint one must suffer a great deal.

St. Therese's ideal was simple: "I want to be a saint." She wrote about the Little Way, that is, that the little things done out of love of God are what is important. This "Little Way" concept dramatized the truth that great love, not great deeds, is the essence of sanctity.

She wrote in her memoirs, "How will the story of a little white flower end? I don't know. But I am sure of this — the mercy of God will be with me always."
Jesus said,

“Blessed are the Poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”
Matthew 5:3

Mother Theresa, another great Saint, once said about the poor in spirit” "they are the ones who have nothing to prove or to protect; no posing, no posturing before people or before God. When all you've got is all you've got, all that is left is to be yourself and you can only receive. That is why the poor are blessed; they know what really matters."

I believe this speaks of Christina

Thank you God for the life of our dear Christina!

We entrust her to you now with our prayers that she might live with you forever.

In a few minutes, we will sing a song called…His glory Appears!

It’s words say:

You gave me hope, You made me whole at the cross
You took my place, You showed me grace
At the cross, where You died for me
And His glory appears like the light from the sun
Age to age He shines
Oh, look to the skies hear the angels cry
Singing, "Holy is the Lord"

Monica, her mom, mentioned to me once that Christina made to her the following comment:

“When I get to heaven, I have so many questions for God.
But of course…when I get there and I see Him,…I will be so happy that I will forget all my questions.

Christina we love you!

“Blessed are the Poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”
Matthew 5:3

Endnote 1
Symbolically black is associated with simplicity and humility and reminds priests of their need to imitate those virtues. Black is also the color that represents death and mourning and symbolizes how a priest is to die to oneself and decrease so that God may increase in his life.
Christina, of course, as a six year old child is simply pointing out the most natural joy of seeing color and focusing on life. She was such a vivacious and energetic young girl.

Endnote 2
Saint Augustine (Letter 27, 1) In Augustine’s letter to a distant friend, he hints at the ecstasy we shall feel when we are one in heart with another human being. It also hints at the ecstasy we shall feel when we are one in heart with our divine friend in heaven, surrounded by all those whom we have called friends in this life. We can understand the loss Augustine expresses over the loss of someone he loved if we have ever been in love with another. When they are present to us, it seems that our life expands with the joy of simply being with them. When they leave us, it is as though the wind is taken out of our sails. However, we must be prepared for such separations in this life. At the same time, we look with hope to being reunited with them in eternal life. wedding dresses for pregnant brides

Endnote 3
Dangond Family House in Weston, MA

Endnote 4
This act reminded me of words that St. John Bosco once said to the boy Saint Dominic Savio, “Every one is called to be a Saint, and do you know, it is easy to be a Saint. Just do this: diligently do the ordinary things of the day in an extra ordinary way.”
It also now calls to mind a story within Christina’s life. Monica, Christina’s mother, asked her “Christina, what would be a perfect day for you?” Monica thought that Christina might say: “When I have no more cancer or when my chemo treatments stop or maybe when I get my hair back.” Christina, in turn, pondered the question and instead of the above answers said, “The perfect day would be when I truly know that I have done perfectly all that God has asked me to do on that day.” I believe this is the perfect day of a Saint.

Endnote 5
Living in the moment is not the same thing as self-indulgence. Living a party lifestyle in which you follow whatever whim and fancy comes into your head is not living in the moment either. In fact it might be escapism.
Rather, living in the moment is responding to Christ’s call in the Gospel of Matthew 6:24-34.

Endnote 6
This is an extraordinary statement for a girl her age to make