Memorial Mass Preaching

St. Greg students decorate cemetary
Students from St. Gregory Barbarigo help decorate Sister's cemetary.

Sister Eileen Gannon shared this reflection at our annual Memorial Mass at Dominican Convent.

We, Dominican Sisters and Associates have times when we come together as I know all here gathered have the same.  But this is my favorite and I realize that my sound strange, but it is for me, it is the day when we are together united in remembering and celebrating women we have treasured, woman we have loved, women for whom we are so very grateful.

When I was preparing these words, I thought about my sister. My sister and her husband had a nightly ritual. Before the evening meal, each around the table said what they were grateful for that day- it could have been as simple, I am grateful the sun was out today, or a not so great, as I am thankful, I got a mark higher than my brother.  What I found interesting and wonderful, was that when I was visiting their son, my nephew, and his family, that same ritual was repeated.  That’s the thing about rituals, they have deep meaning or significance for us.  The way you celebrate Christmas or birthdays or even discover the tooth fairy has indeed come during the night.       

This gathering is our ritual today; each year we come together on the first Sunday of November, to celebrate the liturgy, to remember those whose lives meant so much to us and whose presence remains strong among us.  For some, the death of a daughter, sister, aunt, , cousin,  friend, was a number of years ago.  For others their grief is  new, raw, recent.

This ritual includes hearing the words of scripture and somehow trying to learn what scripture teaches us

The scriptures for today are rather challenging- but we do hear in the responsorial psalm, In you Lord I have found my peace, and then in Paul’s letter,

We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children.
With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you
not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well,
so dearly beloved had you become to us.

And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.

And I got to thinking about the women we remember and are grateful for today and Pope Francis words about saints. Most of us have favorite saints: St. Anthony when something is lost, St. Jude when something seems impossible, the Little Flower when we need to remember to be kind. I am not sure we call our women saints but that is not what Pope Francis would say. Listen to what he says;  the saints are not "supermen" or “super women” who are "born perfect," but rather are ordinary people who followed God "with all their heart."

"They are like us, they are like each of us, they are people who before reaching the glory of heaven lived a normal life, with joys and griefs, struggles and hopes."

"They spent their lives in the service of others, they endured suffering and adversity without hatred and responded to evil with good, spreading joy and peace."

Think for a minute: Does this remind you of who you remember and celebrate today?

He continued “The saints give us a message. They tell us to be faithful to the Lord, because the Lord does not disappoint! He does not disappoint ever, and he is a good friend always at our side."

The Pope emphasized that everyone can be a saint. He reminds us that” the goal of our existence is not death, it is paradise!"

"The saints, the friends of God, assure us that this promise does not disappoint,"

The saints show joy and love, "They are men and women who have joy in their hearts and spread it to others. To pray and to live in joy: this is the way of sanctity!"

"The saints are also a source of fortitude and hope, . "They show us with their lives that the one who remains faithful to God and to his words experiences now on this earth the comfort of his love and then experiences it a 'hundredfold' in eternity."

Again, who does this remind you of?

Today, in our gospel reading we hear much the same; Jesus tells us that we are all brothers and sisters, and those greatest must be servants of all. He calls us to be humble, to liberate the oppressed, heal wounds of violence and hatred, and bring hope, reconciliation, justice, peace, and equality for all, regardless of race, status, or religion.

Remember that ritual with the gratitude before the evening meal - I invite you to think of the word, words of gratitude for those you remember today.

There is a prayer that we say during the mass of Christian burial for our sisters- listen:

O Lord, you have put us on this earth not to live alone but with each other, to bear one another’s burden and to share one another joys.  Others touch our lives and share of themselves with us, and we grow closer to you with them.

We thank you for the time that Sister-------- (turn to someone next to you and say the  name, names of those you remember)    spent among us; we thank you for the gift of their friendship and love.  We ask that we may be comforted until that day when we shall all be joined together again forever.

I close with words from the poet John Donohue which is what I think we want this ritual to be about today-

Let us not look for you only in memory, where we would grow lonely without you.You would want us to find you in presence, beside us when beauty brightens and kindness grows, and music echoes eternal tones.  May you continue to inspire us to enter each day with a generous heart, to serve the call of courage and love, until we see you beautiful face again In that land where there is no separation, where all tears will be wiped from our mind and where we will never lose you again.

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