Lawrence Binyon’s poem for the fallen expressed the sorrow of a whole generation of mothers and fathers who sons died in the fields of Flanders, the Somme and other battlefields of the first World War. It struck me that his words probably reflect our feelings too as we remember the children and young people of our parish who have died. Of them too, it is true that:Please pray for my parish and for our dear parents. We have had more than our fair share of tragedies over the last ten years.
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
At this Mass as we remember those young people again. The rawness of our grief is sometimes blunted by the passage of time but never gone, like a cold lump we have perhaps learned to manage most of the time but always has the potential to rupture in sobs when our guard is down.
This year again, our parish was stunned by the loss of Amy Curran and we grimly again went up to the altar of God, offered the Holy Sacrifice, and gave to her mortal remains all the reverence and respect we could muster with our inadequate efforts, remembering her friends Georgina and Joe.
More recently, we have prayed for Jimmy and once again been lost in admiration for the heroic faith of his parents who used the occasion of his death as a magnificent witness of the Christian virtues.
Not the least of the legacies of these children we have said goodbye to over the years is the love that they have left behind in their families which they have in turn shared with other families in what genuinely deserves that often blandly used word “community”.
The last stanza of Lawrence Binyon’s poem is less well-known but expresses something of our Christian hope in the midst of sadness:
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
One of the great consolations of our Catholic faith is that our prayers on occasions like this are not simply an effort to remember or to celebrate the life of our youngsters. Through the communion of the Church, our prayers assist them and bring them joy and we are closer to them here at the Mass than at any other time, especially at the sacred moment of the consecration when the whole court of heaven, all the holy souls and the whole Church on earth are united in adoration of our Lord and Saviour.
We come before him with reverence and awe but we also remember, especially in the month of June, the loving closeness of his Sacred Heart, together with the Immaculate Heart of his mother Mary. Of all the saints in heaven, she understands most completely the grief of a parent who has lost a child tragically.
As we participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we are present at the foot of the Cross on Calvary with that Blessed Mother of Sorrows, weeping with her, before the Cross whose utter injustice sums up all that we feel and cry. At the same time that Cross pours out, in the precious blood of Our Saviour, the triumph of goodness that she has prophesied.
To Mary then, the patroness of our parish, we make again and again that prayer which hails her, our Queen, our life, our sweetness and our hope. We cry to her from this valley of tears and ask her to turn again to us and be our Advocate, our helper here on earth and, one day, to show us, our children and all our loved ones, the blessed fruit of her womb, her own child who was crucified and is now the eager hope of all the Holy Souls and the blessed possession of all the saints in heaven.
Monday, 23 June 2008
Mass for deceased children
In the meantime, in my parish I celebrated Mass this evening for the children and young people of our parish who have died. We have had a number of tragic deaths and the parents never cease to amaze me with their fortitude and charity. Here is my sermon for this evening's Mass in which I tried to say something of use, God help me! I post it here in case it may be of help to any of you.