The annual remembrance Mass was held in St. Agnes on 3rd November for those whose final committal took place either in the cemeteries located in the parish or at Maryhill Crematorium. The service was presided over by parish priest, Fr. Noel Barry, and the music of the Mass was led by the St. Mungo Singers and Carissa Bovill who is the organist of the parish.
The church was full of people who had come to pray for their dead and for those who have no-one to pray for them. As they gathered the choir sang Blessed John Newman’s hymn “Lead, Kindly Light”, with its assurance “so long thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on”, and Noel Donnelly’s lovely setting of “How Blest are those who have died in the Lord”.
Fr. Barry started his homily with a reference to the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, one of the most consoling of readings. We are God’s creation and we have a spark of the divine. God looks at us and smiles with love, and this love lasts beyond the body’s death. Quoting Teilhard de Chardin “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience but spiritual beings having a human experience”, he reflected that Jesus in the Gospel passage sees that spark of the divine even in Zaccheus whose fat bank account had affected his sense of morality.
Every life, Fr. Noel said, is the crowning glory of creation. This culture of life is the essential underpinning of our faith. We are fashioned for a destiny more glorious than the coffin and that is why we are here today to pray for those who have died. Referring again to the Gospel reading, he reminded those present that God calls each of us by name each day. We only know about Zaccheus because he changed in response to the call. As Thomas Merton wrote “A true encounter with Christ liberates something within us”, a power we didn’t know we had for creative transformation.
God’s passionate care will fulfil his promises to those who change, and so we can look forward on a dark November day to the life to come.
The tradition at this Mass is for a collection to be taken up for St. Margaret’s Hospice in Clydebank. Fr. Noel joked that this was continuing not because of any personal interest in its facilities on his part – he is currently battling cancer. Clare Murphy, Secretary to the Hospice Board, spoke briefly and movingly of the work of the Hospice. It is not just a building, it’s a way of caring, so that people can live well before they die. The Hospice is open to all, and also provides day and home care. The environment is vibrant; it is full of life and joy.
The aim is to give holistic care for patients and their families, and staff feel privileged to accompany patients on their last journey. This costs money and there is a lot of fundraising required. The hospice is very dependent on the community and very appreciative of the support of St. Agnes. As the collection was taken up, Carissa Bovill sang “Lord, I need you”, a gentle reflective hymn.
As the Mass drew to a close, the congregation sang “Receive their souls” in memory of their dead. The recessional hymn was the positive message of St. Paul’s words to the Colossians “Let’s Give Thanks to God our Saviour”.
As ever, the parish community put on a lovely spread in the church hall to warm everyone up before they went out into the cold November day.