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Saturday, June 06, 2015

Joseph Robinette "Beau" Biden III funeral Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Church

My Russian father had a saying. "We should cry when a baby is born and rejoice at a funeral".

Obviously, the opposite are the customary practices. 

Although all funerals are always sad, a Roman Catholic funeral allows for the solemnity of rejoicing. Regardless of a person's social status, every Roman Catholic who dies in the faith is entitled to attend their own celebration. 

Although many funeral programs are increasingly becoming ceremonies of convenience ("A celebration of life will be held in the ....spring...or...when it's convenient"), the Roman Catholic funeral Masses are usually celebrated while the remains are available and present for the occasions. Even cremated remains can attend. Having the remains attend their own funerals makes an obvious impression on the mourners. It's a startling procession, regardless of who are inside the biers.

This picture is the funeral procession of Joseph Robinette Beau Biden (1969 - 2015) RIP +,  as he enters with the honors of attending his own funeral while his loving family and mourners pay him tribute.  

Joseph Robinette Beau Biden bier enters with the procession

Saint Anthony of Padua

Earlier, Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army chief of staff, posthumously awarded the Legion of Merit to Beau Biden, hailing him as a member of a brotherhood of soldiers who had "deep moral and ethical roots."  Odierno said he got to know Biden when he served in Iraq and said he had possessed a "natural charisma that few people possess," adding that he fully expected him to serve as president of the United States one day.

President Barack Obama remembered Beau Biden, speaking at today's funeral, as a selfless son and consummate public servant in a eulogy delivered at Biden's funeral.

"He did in 46 years what most of us couldn't do in 146," Obama said. "He left nothing in the tank."

Addressing the vice president and his wife, Jill, Obama reflected on their friendship: "Michelle and I thank God you are in our lives. Taking this ride with you is one of the great pleasures of our lives. Joe, you are my brother."

Beau Biden, the vice president's oldest son, died a week ago after a two-year battle with brain cancer that played out mostly in private, in contrast to the intensely public life that the Bidens have lived for decades. An overflow crowd of more than 1,000 packed St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Wilmington to pay their respects. Local residents sat among political luminaries such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

For Joe Biden, the death marked yet another untimely personal loss. More than four decades ago a car crash killed Biden's wife and baby daughter and injured his two sons just weeks after he was elected to the Senate. Biden was sworn in at the hospital where 3-year-old Beau and his younger brother, Hunter, were being treated.

The vice president, who did not speak at the funeral, embraced Obama after crossing himself solemnly as he entered the church to the strains of "Bring Him Home," from "Les Miserables." 

Outside the church before the Mass of Christian Burial, Biden held hands with his son's widow, Hallie Biden, and his granddaughter, Natalie, as six pallbearers wheeled the coffin into the church.

Amid the solemnity were spirited moments — a gospel choir's rendition of "Amazing Grace" and Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin's performance of "Till Kingdom Come." The White House said Hunter Biden had been a Coldplay fan and that when Martin found out, he asked to come to the funeral.

Gen. Ray Odierno, who was the top U.S. commander in Iraq when Beau Biden served there, eulogized his former soldier and presented him with the Legion of Merit, which honors U.S. service members for exceptionally meritorious conduct.

"People willingly wanted to follow him, trusted his judgment and believed in him. Frankly, he was selfless to a fault," Odierno told mourners.

Joe Biden did not speak at the funeral, but looked on as his daughter Ashley and son Hunter eulogized their brother and paid tribute to his own role in leading the family. Ashley remembered how she had accompanied Beau Biden to chemotherapy treatments and Hunter told how he had held his brother's hand as he took his last breaths, whispering, "I love you" over and over.

Beau Biden's funeral cortege had arrived at the church heralded by a pipe band. The vice president, wearing dark glasses, and the rest of his family, all looking bereft, formed up behind the hearse. Biden occasionally whispered in the ear of Beau's widow, Hallie, and comforted his son's two children, Natalie and Hunter.

The casket, covered in an American flag, was carried gently into the church with full military honors, reflecting Beau's service as a captain in the Army National Guard in Iraq.

Saturday morning, Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia and his mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, all dressed in black, left the White House, where the American flag stood at half-staff to honor Beau Biden.

The first person in line for the service arrived at 4:30 a.m., and by breakfast time, the line of mourners stretched around the block at the church.

Joe Biden's role as a grieving father is not without irony in itself. The vice president has become one of the most sought after eulogists in Washington as his painful personal history -- he lost his first wife and an infant daughter in a car crash in 1972 -- has made him especially compassionate to the tragedies of others.

Musicians performing at the event included Coldplay vocalist Chris Martin, who had heard through a family friend that Beau Biden liked his music and volunteered to attend the ceremony, a White House official said.

Other high profile mourners included Bill and Hillary Clinton, and a long list of high profile Washington figures, reflecting Joe Biden's near half century in politics, including Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Democratic leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi.

Sens. Harry Reid, Patrick Leahy and Joe Manchin were there, along with Delaware Democratic Sens. Chris Coons and Tom Carper and other senior members of the House and Obama's cabinet, the White House said.

Saturday's funeral followed two days of mourning and memorial events for Beau Biden, which has showcased the deep emotional anguish the vice president and his family are enduring following his death a week ago.

Some people waited five hours just to see the casket on Friday.

Beau Biden's role as the celebrated scion of the vice president's family was reflected time and again in the remarks of his siblings, Hunter and Ashley — Joe Biden's two surviving children. Ashley Biden recalled accompanying her brother to his chemotherapy treatments and said she would forever cherish the time she'd spent with him on those Fridays over breakfast.

"He was our protector, our mediator, the captain of our lives," she said.

Rest in peace Joseph Robinette "Beau" Biden. 

As many Roman Catholic funerals end with this uplifting prayers, I extend this to the family:

In paradisum
"May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs come to welcome you and take you to the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem. May choirs of angels welcome you and lead you to the bosom of Abraham; and where Lazarus is poor no longer may you find eternal rest."

In the Masses for the dead, this antiphon is sung in procession on the way from the final blessing of the corpse in church to the graveyard where burial takes place. 

While we mourn for Beau Biden's family and our nation's tragic loss of a promising leader, we can meditate on and rejoice for his ultimate resurrection.

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