As the month of October comes to and end and the month of November begins, most of us can remember what we know about Halloween, All Saints Day, All Souls Day, and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in a split second. But we can go on for hours recalling and telling our experiences of death and dying. Grandparents, parents, spouses, children, other relatives, and friends have or are sharing with us their journey to eternal life with God. While I can easily recall the loss of different members of my own family and close friends, one particular person comes to my mind every November.
Mary was a talented thirty-two-year-old musician and singer when she learned she had terminal brain cancer. But Mary refused to let her illness overshadow and stop her ministry to others. Even though Mary’s health was rapidly declining with the advancing cancer, she continued to practice her music and cantor at Sunday Masses when possible. When the Prayers of the Faithful were open for others to share their needs and concerns, Mary’s voice, sometimes strong, sometimes very weak, was heard asking for prayers for certain cancer patients she had met during her chemo-therapy treatments in the hospital. It soon became known by hospital staff, patients, and visitors that when Mary was receiving her chemo-therapy, music and a female singing voice would be heard.
It was no surprise to me that when Mary died her funeral service had been planned for some time—readings, music, and prayers were all chosen by Mary. Included in her funeral plans was a request for Muerte-Vida (Mass of the Resurrection) translated from Spanish.
God of mercy and love, throughout our days and even in the fullness of live, we are constantly surrounded by death. Bread does not satisfy our strongest hunger, no friendship removes our deepest loneliness, and every love is threatened by death.
Faithful God, your son, Jesus Christ, made his dwelling among us so that you could share our life and so that we could share yours. He lives and as we all live; he died as we all must die; but he died with the faith and the hope that you went with him into the womb of death itself. He offered his long night of death so that he might live the glorious daybreak. For this reason we call him the Living One.
He was broken as bread is broken so that we might eat and live. He was poured out as wine is poured out so that we might drink and sing. Pour out your Spirit on this bread and wine that they may become for us the body and blood of Jesus Christ, your son….
We offer you, God of the living, our human lives, fragile and destined to die but life that is unique and eternal. We ask you to fill every day of our lives with the life and the love of your son.
And now we entrust to you, the living God, our brothers and sisters who have died. Grant that they who already shared in the death of Christ, may also share in the glory of Christ’s resurrection, because we know you are a faithful God who gives the gift of life to those you love.
We cannot believe that anyone lives in vain. We pray that their lives may continue in the lives of their family and friends, and in the lives of all who believe in you and who long to live with you.
We ask all of this in the name of Jesus, your son. It is he who has gone before us in death. It is he who has gone before us in life. It is he who is our risen Lord.
I think that this beautiful Spanish Eucharistic Prayer that Mary selected expressed what she came to believe about life and death. The more I contemplate the prayer the more I believe that we should not let All Saints Day, All Souls Day, and Dia de los Muertos give meaning to our lives but that we should let the lives of those we knew and love who have died give meaning to these days and the entire month of November.
For the Feast of All Saints Day Mass will be offered at 8:00 am in the chapel and at 7:00 pm in the church. During the entire month of November, A Book Of The Names Of The Dead will be available in the back of the church for you to remember your loved ones. Nearby, a candle will be kept burning and the book with its names will be brought forward and placed in the sanctuary during our celebrations.
Fr. Bob Kelly