Sunday morning, I had the privilege of being cantor for our early-morning Mass. Thankfully, the time change made turning this night owl into an early bird a little more tolerable.
Also making it more tolerable was the sunrise that lit the way to church. As I was taking in the rich colors reflected in the clouds, I thought of what my name, Roxane, means: “Dawn of Day.” Could this be one of the reasons I am so transfixed by sunrises and sunsets? There may be something to this.
When I reached the choir room, which faces the front of the church, I peeked out to see if the sunset was still visible, and was met by this beautiful sight! That’s the statue in front of our church, Sts. Anne and Joachim, acting as foreground for the beautiful sky.
It’s been a meaningful weekend. Saturday, November 2, marked All Souls Day in the Catholic Church, and the day before that, November 1, was All Saints Day.
At an All Saints Day Mass on Friday, the students from Shanley High School helped lead song and prayer, and inserted time for honoring the deceased who’d been remembered in a memorial for the school in the past year. My father was among them, having received this honor from one of our daughter’s teachers.
I’ve written about this before, but I have to say again, it’s amazing how much healing can happen in simply hearing your loved one’s name. As I heard my father’s name called, and saw it in the program, and then as I saw his candle flickering with the others upon the altar, it was if his very spirit was with me.
I wanted a photo of the little candles dancing on the altar, but by the time I got there, they’d been blown out, so I walked to the chapel behind the sanctuary and lit another candle for Dad. Then I knelt for a while in prayer, asking God to be with him, and for him to be with our Gabriel, who would have been born in November 1999 had my pregnancy reached maturation.
And then on Sunday after Mass, I joined others in another spot behind the sanctuary to sign the Book of Remembrance. I added my father’s name. Such a small act — a stroke of the pen — and yet the permanency of it becomes so precious. For the rest of the month, all those whose names have been entered are prayed over at every Mass at our church. What a consolation to family and friends.
A small thing, or big? I think the latter. When we take time to honor those who have passed on, we offer ourselves a chance for further healing, and we honor the God who gave them life and in whose care they are now enveloped.
As my father told me long ago, “We are dying every day.” As a five-year-old, I found this statement troubling and stark. And yet, my father was right. It was one more bit of reality he imparted that I have not forgotten through the years.
We are dying, every single day, in body. But our spirits, if we’re living rightly, if we’re trying to seek what is good above all else, are very much alive, and rather than living to die, living with the hopes of continuing into eternity.
It’s times like this, when the Church takes time to celebrate the dying, that we rediscover these important perspectives. And far from making us sad, they should, if we receive them in the intended spirit, give us all kinds of wonderful hope.