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The Holy Year of Mercy

THE HOLY YEAR OF MERCY
 "BE MERCIFUL EVEN AS YOUR FATHER IS MERCIFUL." (LUKE 6:36) 

"Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) - See more at: http://www.portlanddiocese.org/holy-year-mercy-announcement#sthash.d7h3i...

A CORPORAL WORK OF MERCY

In burying the dead, the innate dignity of the human person, soul and body, is recognized and honored. In the Book of Genesis, we learn that we were formed in the image of God. In the Gospel, we learn that, in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, we are promised eternal life. In our faith, then, we find our hope that we will rise with the Lord Jesus on the last day. By interring the remains of the dead, we honor them, professing our faith that they are alive in Jesus Christ.
 
“And so, when you and your daughter-in-law Sarah prayed, I brought a reminder of your prayer before the Holy One; and when you buried the dead, I was likewise present with you” (Tb 12:12).

OPENING PRAYER

Blessed are you Lord, Eternal God.  By dying, your Son has destroyed our death and by rising, he has restored our life.  Give us the grace to comfort those who mourn, knowing that even if we do not know the right words to say, our presence can make a difference. We ask this through Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

READING
MATTHEW 27:57-61  

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was himself a disciple of Jesus.  He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over.  Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it (in) clean linen and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock.  Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed.  But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM
PSALM 115:5-6, 116

I will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living. 

They have mouths but speak not;
they have eyes but see not;
They have ears but hear not;
they have noses but smell not.
   
R.  I will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living.

I believed, even when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted”;
I said in my alarm,
“No man is dependable."

R.  I will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living.

Precious in the eyes of the Lord
is the death of his faithful ones.
O Lord, I am your servant;
you have loosed my bonds.

R.  I will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living.

INTERCESSIONS

For all the faithful departed:  may they rest forever in the peaceful, loving and merciful embrace of our God, we pray to the Lord:

For all the faithful departed:  may the prayers of the Church to which they were devoted during their life never be denied them at the hour of their death, we pray to the Lord:

For the Christian community:  may we always reverence the deceased through fervent prayer for their eternal souls and proper burial of their earthly bodies, we pray to the Lord:

For all who work in our Catholic cemeteries and as funeral directors: may their ministry witness to our belief in the dignity of the human person and our hope in the bodily resurrection, we pray to the Lord:

For the family and friends of all who have died:  may their prayers at the time of their loved one’s death express their faith in God’s power to forgive sins and raise the dead, we pray to the Lord:  
 
CLOSING PRAYER
ADAPTED FROM THE RITE OF CHRISTIAN BURIAL

Almighty God,
through the death of your Son on the cross
     you destroyed our death;
through his rest in the tomb
     you made holy the graves of all who believe in you;
and through his rising again
     you restored us to eternal life.
God of the living and the dead,
     accept our prayers for those who have died in Christ
     and are buried with him in the hope of rising again.
Since they were true to your name on earth,
     grant them the fullness of your mercy and peace
     and let them praise you forever in the joy of heaven.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

V.  Eternal rest grant unto our deceased loved ones, O Lord.  
R.  And let perpetual light shine upon them.

V.  May they rest in peace.
R.  Amen.

V.  May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R.  Amen.

WORKS OF MERCY
WEEKLY SUGGESTIONS TO CONSIDER

May 1:  Offer daily prayers for the deceased and those with terminal illnesses. Send Mass cards to families of those who have died.

May 8:  Reach out to someone who has recently lost a loved one. Offer to take a family member or friend to visit a loved one’s gravesite.

May 15: Make sure your family knows your end-of-life care wishes in case, through an accident or illness, you are unable to speak for yourself.

May 22: Invite someone to attend a Memorial Day Mass or service with you.

May 29:  If you parish offers a funeral or bereavement ministry, consider supporting it either through volunteering, cooking, or contributing financially.

REFLECTION
A TRUE STORY
By:  Christopher Crawford, Former Owner of Conroy-Tully Crawford Funeral Homes

My body shivered as I stood there before five white baby caskets lying on the cold ground that gray, blustery early winter day.

As a funeral director, you learn early in your career not to get “emotionally involved” with families whom you serve.  If you allow yourself to cross over from your role as caregiver to mourner, you become ineffective.  Sometimes, however, human emotion is just too strong.

It was spring when I received a call from the hospital administrator in our community asking if I could help them.  Their question—could I help them to dispose of an “unclaimed body?”

I listened as he proceeded to talk for half an hour.   It was a story that took me by total surprise.   I learned that over a period of several months, five unrelated babies had died during the birthing process or soon after. They had one thing in common--all were abandoned and unclaimed.

My heart sank as I heard the story. My first reaction was thinking how sad this was.  Without hesitation, I immediately agreed to help.  I knew from past experience this task would be slow and tedious. Legally, we needed to protect ourselves.   Ethically and morally, we had an obligation to try to make contact with these children’s families.   Days turned into weeks and weeks into months before we had the authority to bury the babies.

As Christians, the need for ceremony is part of our tradition.  I made no assumption as to the religious beliefs of the families.  We simply did not know the background of these babies.  I did know that there was no way that I could bring five caskets to a cemetery, place them in a cold grave, and simply walk away.  I felt compelled to seek a representative from each of the many religious sects in our community.  Some who were asked to participate were unable to do so due to the secular nature of the service.

A Catholic priest, a minister, and a rabbi all graciously offered their assistance and participated in a graveside service to offer prayers for these children. The ceremony was simple.  Six people--three clergy, two funeral directors, and the cemetery superintendent--stood at the gravesite.  We knew nothing about these children or their families.  Standing beside five white baby caskets, each adorned with a single red rose, we did the only thing we could.  We prayed. The experience of caring for these five infants was truly spiritual.  Six months had passed since the initial call from the hospital and many hours of work and collaboration.  All parties involved donated their time, resources, and services, all at their own expense.

And finally, five precious gifts from God were laid to rest with the care and respect that they were due.  They were in God’s hands.   As we walked away on that cold, gray day, I felt peace.