Care and consolation Mass for Loss of a Child

A dignified, poignant and beautiful liturgy was celebrated at St Michael’s church in Remuera on September 2 for those who had experienced the loss of a child.

White roses and other green items laid before the icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Those at the Mass were invited to place a white rose or other item like a sprig of rosemary before an icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as a gesture of handing the loved ones lost into Mary’s loving embrace. Many people came forward and did so.

The presider at the Mass, Fr Tony Dunn, recounted his own happy and sad personal stories, which were relevant to the occasion.

He spoke of how he was once invited to be present at the birth of a niece.

“What was significant was it was on my birthday, and my mother told me the same time I was born. So I have had a special connection with Maria (his niece),” Fr Dunn said.

But he also told the congregation about another sister-in-law, who miscarried seven times, with four being at about twenty weeks of the pregnancy.

“On one occasion, I was there at the hospital. I held this baby in my hand and baptised it as it died. So it was very sad and tragic.

“But what was even more sad and tragic was my sister-in-law and brother had to carry these tragic losses, and they were very tragic, and I didn’t really appreciate until that time how deep those wounds of grief and loss could be.”

Fr Dunn added that this sister-in-law did have four children, who survived into adulthood. One had recently graduated from police college.

But this sister-in-law “still carried the terrible wound of grief for the loss of these other babies”.

“She told me when things were getting very dark for her, she had this most amazing and powerful dream, then woke from the dream and it was Mother’s Day. She said it was so vivid and real.

“I offer it to you because I think it is very beautiful and consoling,” Fr Dunn said.

“She said that, in this dream, these four children came to her as teenagers, and they had the simple message – they were very happy, and they said to her, Mum you are not to worry. We are OK, you have a family in heaven, don’t give up.”

Fr Dunn said that he thought that “the simple message” is “that children who die in the womb by whatever way or means, or children who tragically die later, they are in the hands of God, in the heart of God, and in a particular way in the hands of Mother Mary”.

At times during the Mass, there were tears shed by people in the congregation. Supplies of tissues were made available.

NZ Catholic inquired as to why the Mass had been scheduled, and was told that the St Michael’s Caring and Support Committee is dedicated to looking at initiatives that embrace the needs of its parishioners and the wider community.  The committee felt that there was a deep need to acknowledge the suffering of those who have experienced the loss of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion or other. “Our Catholic faith is a powerful source of healing for those who have experienced such a loss,” a representative said.

“The sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist help to facilitate lasting psychological and spiritual healing. Offering our loss to the Lord through the Mass, also reinforces the knowledge of God’s love and mercy, offering hope and consolation.”

NZ Catholic was also told that the music for the Mass at St Michael’s was “carefully selected to faithfully convey the sentiment of hope, love and mercy”.

“Being mindful that counselling is often necessary as part of the healing process, Fr Tony had a list of experienced Catholic practitioners to refer to attendees on request.”

The St Michael’s Caring and Support Committee hopes to host a follow up Mass next year, to acknowledge the ongoing need for healing in this important ministry.

 

 

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Michael Otto

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