By Msgr. Francis Henricksen
As The Messenger goes to press this week, we also come to the close of the Christmas Season. We mark the end of Christmas joy with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. However, this year something special has been added. We rejoice with Father Ernie Braida who has passed from death to enter the fullness of the divine life the Incarnate Son of God came to share with all of us.
In failing health for some time, Fr. Ernie entered the hospital on Christmas Day and died on the feast of Epiphany. The Christmas mystery is beyond our imagining when the Creator enters creation and the Eternal is immersed in time. For Fr. Ernie, it ceases to be a mystery. We can only rejoice with him. Faith in the Word made flesh empowered him as a child of God — and for 47 years as a priest in service of his God.
Father’s ministry took him to a variety of parishes and to every corner of the diocese. He co-directed the Religious Education Office, was involved in ecumenical activities, promoted local Catholic radio programming, and became an entrepreneur in marketing fair-trade coffee and other products for the missions of Central America. Most recently, his interest was in the welcoming home of our brothers and sisters who have fallen away from practicing their faith. The lives he touched are countless and, as promised, he takes the reward of his good works with him.
Our special prayers at this time are with his dear mother, Anne. In the normal order of things, it goes without saying that parents should not have to bury their children. Fr. Ernie’s mother was with him, holding his hand while final prayers were being offered as he was called home. At 95, she has suffered the charge of burying her husband and both her sons.
But back to the Epiphany connection; I think it is ironic that the gift of one of the three kings was frankincense, whose “holy smoke” is the symbol of our rising prayers offered in praise of our God. Can we boldly presume from Fr. Ernie’s place in the Kingdom, he has now been given an intercessory role to intervene for those with smoking habits? He now has the full truth of the results of his experience. What a great example he can be for us. What a great legacy/lesson he has left us. Ministry goes on for him and can take many forms.
Thanks Ernie. Our prayers for you rise up like incense.