Celebrating the Life of Regina Dading

The Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the Brow of the Lord

A sermon for the celebration of the life of Regina Dading on April 2, 2011. The scripture readings are Isaiah 25:6-9 and John 14:1-6.

There’s a picture in the back of the church of Regina and a pigeon has landed on her hand. For a long time, that was all I knew of Regina Dading. That picture was on the cover of the All Souls Parish Profile, the kind of “resume of the church” that was used to look for a new priest after Father John David left in 2005. And so, some time early in 2007 I downloaded the parish profile from your website and I entered the search process. Whenever I looked at the profile to remind myself of some aspect of All Souls, or before I wrote anything for the search committee, or prepared to meet with people from the committee or the vestry, I would take out that parish profile, and would see, first of all, the picture of that lady with the pigeon.

I decided that she must be a character. First of all, she must be the sort of character a pigeon would like—and I don’t think pigeons like everyone. But second, I realized that she must also be the kind of person who has a good enough sense of humor that she would not only allow the church to put her picture on the cover of the parish profile, but that she also just might get a huge kick out of it. I’ve only recently learned that the picture was taken in Italy, when Regina and some of the people from church took a tour. So that’s an Italian pigeon, which explains why it would have such good taste as to pick out Regina for a friend.

Because of her picture on the cover of the parish profile, Regina, for me, was the “face of All Souls.” She, and the other pictures and the text, were all I had to go on—but as I’ve learned over time, I don’t think the search committee could have found a better picture to personify the history, the humor, the tenacity, the quirkiness, and the deep devotion and love for God that are so much of the spirit of this place.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “In my father’s house there are many rooms.” The Father’s House is a place Jesus has prepared for us, so when we get there, it will seem familiar in all the important ways. The Father’s House is no doubt a bit brighter now that Regina is there. And it’s probably a little bit louder, with the combined giggles of Regina and Helen Anderson, and so many of the people they loved in this place who have now gone to a place of even deeper fellowship, better food (even better beer), and a place where, as scripture says, God shelters them with his presence. “[Where] they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:15-16)

Though Regina is in another place, much of her spirit continues to guide and teach us, to inspire us to be our best, and to remind us that there is no separation between the Holy Table of God (the Altar) and the holy tables of fellowship in the undercroft, or in our homes, or anywhere we might break bread with another person and share the love of God in Jesus Christ.

I don’t know what Regina thought about the Stations of the Cross that were installed at All Souls a few years ago. But there’s one station, in particular, that makes me think of Regina. It’s the Sixth Station.

Traditionally, the Sixth Station over there is the one where we remember the moment that a woman wiped the face of Jesus. Tradition has given her the name Veronica. But it’s not that someone was actually named Veronica. The name comes from “vera icon,” meaning “true image.”
And so Veronica is an icon of what it looks like to love God. In some ways, the fact that she is a woman who simply showed up and did what was needed at the right time, a woman whose name is not known by many—Veronica symbolizes so many women who have kept the faith over the centuries. Certainly in this parish, during the leanest times, it was the women who kept things going. They kept the doors open, the silver polished, and the stomachs full. They kept the stomachs full not just of church members, but of anyone who would stop by, or anyone in need. Though the Church remembers Veronica at the Sixth Station as wiping the brow of the Lord Jesus on his way to Calvary, tradition does not say what Veronica did next. But I think that if she were anything like the “church women” I know, she probably went home to put food on the table, knowing that people would soon be hungry and need to do something with their grief. Since it’s hard to know what to do with grief, with anxiety, with fear… it’s as good as anything to share a meal with friends. In such a meal we find strength. We find hope. We find God.

As we share Holy Communion, we can do so in the faith and knowledge that Regina is with us celebrating, laughing, and loving. As we continue to share a meal in the undercroft afterwards, again her spirit will be very much a part of what we do. And finally, even as we leave the church later today, her love and her witness to God’s love go with us and help us to find our way today and in the days ahead.

Thanks be to God for Regina, for her laughter and for her love.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

About John F. Beddingfield

Rector of The Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) in New York City on East 88th Street between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave.
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