Our Light Up a Memory Mass has become a much-loved annual tradition to close the Month of the Holy Souls since our first ceremony in 2014, and this year’s candlelight memorial Mass, which took place on the evening of Saturday, November 27th, was another beautiful commemoration of the memory of treasured loved ones who are now with the Lord.
As we come to the end of another year of uncertainty and anxiety, with all the challenges presented to us by living with the COVID pandemic, it was a truly wonderful thing to be able to safely welcome mission friends and parishioners, old and new, to the Sacred Heart Church on the Western Road in Cork. We were also delighted to welcome many, many more friends who joined us via our live stream on the night, with almost 900 viewers joining us in prayer from across Ireland, the UK, the US, Germany, Australia, Indonesia, Italy, Canada, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and Malta.
At 6.30pm on Saturday evening, the Sacred Heart Church was filled with the light of hundreds of candles, a beacon of light and of hope on a dark November night. The Mass was celebrated by Fr John Fitzgerald and Fr Michael O’Connell, and was a particularly special evening for both MSCs, as Fr Michael celebrated the Light Up a Memory ceremony for the final time as Director of the MSC Missions Office, before handing over the reins to Fr John in the new year. With a beautiful musical accompaniment led by Gerry and Deirdre Tuohy, this was a very special evening of reflection and prayer to mark the ending of the month of remembrance.
“We’re here to give thanks to God for the gift of those who loved us, to give thanks to God for the gift of those who shared our lives.”
Fr Michael began the ceremony with a special reflection on the purpose of the evening, of a “very special” Mass. “We’re here to remember those who have shared their lives with us,” he said. “We’re here to remember those who have gifted us their love, their presence, to remember those who have given us so much. We’re here to acknowledge the loss, the grief that might still be present in us. We’re here to give thanks to God for the gift of those who loved us, to give thanks to God for the gift of those who shared our lives, for those who gave birth to us, who brought us into this world, for those who told us they loved us, those who maybe brought us for Christening. And so we pray with those who are in Heaven, who we join in that great family of God, everyone at home and here in the church, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Fr John’s homily incorporated a selection of poems and prayers, from W.H. Auden to Cardinal Newman, each one a fitting reminder of the power of grief, of faith, and of love everlasting. As Fr Michael lit candles on the altar, Fr John reminded us, “The symbol of light is the symbol that Jesus picked himself: ‘I am the light of the world’.”
“Light is the symbol of Christ because light leads us in the dark,” he continued. “There is something about light that makes distance seem that bit closer… I would love tonight to go all over the country, or wherever you are, and give each one of you a candle, and ask you to hold that candle in your hand, and look into that candle, and say, ‘Give me time and space and peace to see the light of Christ here as I remember my loved one.’ The symbol of light is the light of Christ.”
Remembering the recently bereaved and those struggling with grief, Fr John prayed: “We pray for the light of Christ to light up the emptiness of your soul, the place they have left there in your soul, and the rawness of your soul, that you might get warmth there now in the frostiness of grieving. For you tonight, who are lately bereaved, may the blessing of light be upon you, light without and light within.”
A ceremony of faith, love, and hope.
The Mass ended on a note of hope, as Fr John reflected, “this is a ceremony of faith and love, and it is a ceremony of hope,” while Fr Michael finished the Mass with the lighting of the Advent wreath, reminding us to look to its light as we begin our Advent journey towards the birth of Christ.
We would like to extend our sincere and heartfelt thanks to all who took part in this year’s Light Up a Memory celebrations, in the Sacred Heart Church and beyond. At a time when so many of us are separated, the Light Up a Memory Mass is a lovely opportunity for families to come together in prayer and remembrance of their dearly departed, no matter where they are in the world. It was a beautifully poignant and truly special evening of prayer, reflection, and fond remembrance for all involved.