Now in its ninth year, our annual Light Up a Memory Mass has become a much-loved and highly anticipated tradition each year, since the first ceremony took place in November of 2014. This year’s candlelight memorial Mass took place on the evening of Saturday, November 26th at the Sacred Heart Church on the Western Road, Cork, and was another beautiful evening of reflection and prayer in honour of those we love who have gone to their eternal rest in the Lord’s embrace.
Fr John Fitzgerald, director of the MSC Missions Office, celebrated this year’s Mass with Fr Con Doherty, new parish priest at the Sacred Heart Church. Despite stormy skies and November weather, the church was filled with mission friends gathered together in prayer; “there are more than two or three,” said Fr John, “and where two or three are gathered, the Lord is.” Fr John also welcomed everybody who took part in the ceremony by watching our live stream, which saw almost 700 people joining us in prayer in everywhere from Ireland, the UK, and Europe, to South Africa, New Zealand, and the United States.
“We are living in hope tonight.”
“Tonight is all about memory,” reflected Fr John. “It is about lighting up something in our hearts… To pray and to pray well, to pay our respects, to honour our dead, to remember their lives, to mark their death, and to mark the saving power of the Lord.”
“We are living in hope tonight,” he continued. “This isn’t a remembrance around a tree or by the sea or anything, it is here, on this extended altar tonight, where we remember the soul or the spirit that sheds its earthly body as a tree sheds its leaves. But death is not the end of existence, it is the cessation in this place, and we believe in the life hereafter.”
As the weekend of our Light Up a Memory Mass coincided with the first weekend of Advent, Fr Con took the time to light the first candle on the Advent wreath during the ceremony, as Fr John prayed that the light of Christ would light up our hearts and our lives throughout the Winter months, and that bridge of time between this and Christmas.
Reflecting on the inevitable changes that death brings to each of our lives, Fr John said, “I think that, heavier than shouldering any coffin, is the weight that the death of a loved one presses on us, or impresses on us – we miss them… We’re lost without them for a while… At times, we suddenly realise they’re not sharing a bed with us, they’re not sharing a table, they’re not sharing a kitchen, and that they won’t walk in the door any more. And that is so natural, but it is so painful, and that is what our prayer here tonight is – we’re lighting up a memory light here for healing, not to rush the healing or anything like that, or to get it away so that we can go back into driving down the dual carriageway in life without thoughts of them, but just stepping through life with them.”
“Lord, as we walk from this place, let us walk gently, knowing that you are with us.”
This year’s Mass once again featured a wonderful musical accompaniment from Gerry and Deirdre Tuohy, while Fr John’s homily incorporated a selection of poems and prayers, from Patrick Kavanagh to Seamus Heaney, each one a fitting reminder of the power of grief, of faith, and of love everlasting as he prayed for those we have loved and lost, and for those who have nobody to remember them at all.
Bringing the ceremony to an end, Fr John prayed for protection, grace, and hope on this sacred night: “Look kindly upon us here tonight, Lord, as we remember our dead. We pray especially for all our benefactors who contacted us through the Missions Office, who gave in lists of their dead friends and relations; we pray for them tonight. For the people here, Lord, who are the living voice of your word, who are takers of the word tonight back through the arteries of the county here, and through the arteries of the street… Lord, as we walk from this place, let us walk gently, knowing that you are with us.”
We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to all who took part in this year’s Light Up a Memory celebrations, in the Sacred Heart Church and beyond. None of us have been untouched by the challenges of recent years, and the grief that has accompanied us through these times, in one form or another. Our 2022 Light Up a Memory Mass was a very moving way for us to commemorate treasured memories of those we hold dear, while praying for healing and hope in our hearts as we navigate life without them. Sincere thanks to all who took part in this truly special evening of prayer, reflection, and fond remembrance.