From earliest times, the Church has honoured the memory of the dead with great respect. The month of November is set aside as a month of prayer and remembrance, particularly for those who have died during the year.
This November, our remembering is especially poignant. We are experiencing a period of hardship and sacrifice due to the COVID-19 pandemic which continues to disrupt the lives of so many people. The virus has already taken the lives of nearly 2700 people across the island of Ireland – mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles – and each death has brought sadness and grief to those who miss their loved ones deeply.
In the midst of such a crisis we might overlook families whose loved ones have died recently from other illnesses or in tragic circumstances. Like the relatives of the victims of COVID-19, they too have been unable to engage fully in the customary rituals that normally mark the death of a loved one in this country. Restrictions have impacted on wakes, gatherings of extended family and friends at the funeral, and in some cases only a committal service attended by a small amount of mourners has been possible. During November, we have another opportunity to acknowledge the pain and hurt that families have endured and to assure them of consolation through our prayer and our sympathy. As St Paul wrote to the Romans: “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ”.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have rightly marked the personal sacrifices of our health workers, carers, and many others who provide our essential services. We also recognise the dedication and service of priests and lay people who selflessly reach out as hospital chaplains or in other parish ministry. Their pastoral care is bringing comfort and healing to those who are anxious because of a relative’s illness or who are feeling the loss and pain of bereavement. Their commitment and dedication is greatly appreciated.
We are dedicating this month of November as a time of remembrance and prayer for all those who have died since this time last year, whatever the cause.
This pandemic, unfortunately, has not gone away and will most likely be with us for the foreseeable future. With faith, hope, and love, we are called to support one another so that we will emerge stronger and more resilient from this testing time. In the difficult times of the past, our ancestors looked to their faith in Christ for light in the darkness, for hope against despair. We do so again, confident that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that God brings comfort to those who are anxious, healing to the sick, and eternal rest and peace to the dead.