The Annual Remembrance Mass for the families of those who are buried in the cemeteries located in the Parish or who have been cremated at Maryhill Crematorium is always a warm and supportive liturgy, due in large part to Parish Priest Fr. Noel Barry and the parish community of St. Agnes.
This year’s service felt particularly affective for a number of reasons. The St. Mungo Singers and Dr. Noel Donnelly provided quietly meditative music before the Mass started and Fr Noel welcomed the congregation to what he described as “this outpouring of faith”. His words were given an added poignancy by his own serious illness, which he treats in a very pragmatic way.
In his homily, Fr. Noel reflected on the Native American tradition of leaving a fault in every quilt they make for use in ceremonies or rituals. This is representative of each human life which is never perfect. The funeral or Remembrance Mass echoes this realistic humility – we need the grace of God and the help of each other to get to heaven.
Fr. Noel reminded his listeners that praying for the dead is a key part of Catholic belief and indeed the funeral Mass is a prayer for the deceased person. We are not being morbid when we keep the dead in mind, rather we are continuing to care for our loved ones after their death.
With a touch of humour, he commented that he had been thinking a lot about purgatory recently, given his state of health, and he liked the concept of one writer who likened it to a place where we turn wholly to God, learn to relax in his presence and grow into his likeness. He invited those present to see their prayers as forward looking. It was only by concentrating on the Risen Lord that we can put life and death into perspective, and gain real consolation and strength.
Referring to the Gospel reading (Luke 20:27-28) he focussed attention on the words of Jesus to Martha. They both offered consolation and posed the key question for us. Our response to it affects how we live and how we approach death. The opportunity is given to us today, he suggested, to reply with Martha “Yes, I believe”.
Fr. Noel finished with an invitation to the congregation to recognise their gathering together as a precious expression of steadfast love which is both holy and wholesome – lifegiving for the departed and for each of us present.
It has been the tradition at this Mass of Remembrance for a second collection to be taken up for St. Margaret’s Hospice. Fr. Noel invited people to continue that tradition and support the Hospice, commenting that it was a scandal that governments could find money easily to pay for weapons of war, profiting arms manufacturers, but could not find the funds to support the care of the terminally ill.
After the service, the St. Agnes parishioners provided their usual generous hospitality to the congregation.