Growing up whenever someone died in our family, it was customary to ask for a sign from God that their soul was at peace. I don’t know if this was an Italian thing, a Catholic thing, or a combination. Surely, we all want to know our loved ones are at peace after passing from this physical world.When my cousin Joanna died at the age of twelve from ovarian cancer, my aunt asked for a sign. My sweet young cousin Joanna’s hospital room was filled with the scent of roses after she passed. We considered it a sign from Jesus Christ. This year my earthly father, Joseph Henry Romano, passed away suddenly. Our family began to look for a sign of his peace.
My mother chose a song for us to sing at my father’s funeral mass called Earthen Vessels. The lyrics to the refrain are:
We hold a treasure
Not made of gold
In earthen vessels, wealth untold
One treasure only, the Lord, the Christ
In earthen vessels.
It’s a beautiful hymn. Whold the light of Spirit, the Christ Consciousness, within our “Earthen Vessels.”
Two weeks after my father’s passing no one had received any sign.
Then a strange thing happened. Call it a coincidence, totally random, or a sign from God. My mother went to Mass two weeks after my father’s passing (a different church from where my father’s funeral service was held) and they played Earthen Vessels . It’s an older song not played all that often and it touched her to hear it so shortly after the funeral.
She wrote to me, “Dear Philip, I asked for a sign from Dad that he is ok and this morning they played Earthen Vessels at mass. I have asked Dad to come to you as well.”
The cynical part of me thought, `that’s cute and comforting’ for Mom. They played the same song. Ok, it’s a ‘sign’ from God, sort of – or they just played the same song!
Then, that same Sunday evening I opened up Autobiography of a Yogi to a random page as I often do. It happened to be from the chapter, Materializing a Palace in the Himalayas. I couldn’t believe what I read:
“‘The purpose for which the palace was created has now been served,’ Babaji explained. He lifted an earthen vessel from the ground. ‘Put your hand there and receive whatever food you desire.’”
Out of all the pages and passages to read, I had seemingly stumbled upon ‘earthen vessel.’ I don’t believe there is any other page in the book that has the phrase `earthen vessel.’
I believe it was a sign from God that my father’s soul is at peace. It was the spiritual food I desired.
You may also enjoy watching The Spark, a documentary short film that reveals how Yogananda and his Autobiography ignited a spiritual revolution in the West.
May we lift up our `earthen vessels’ to become ever purer channels for God’s grace, peace, and harmony in this world.
Thank you for the reminder, Dad!
Narayan Romano is Spiritual Director of Ananda Los Angeles