All 26 dioceses in Ireland were represented last Sunday in the Basilica at Knock, Co Mayo for a Mass of Remembrance for all who died during the Pandemic. The chief celebrant was the Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin and Mass was concelebrated with assembled Bishops. The steps up to the altar were draped in streams of purple cloth with 26 large candles and the church was adorned with purple and white flower arrangements. The service was broadcast on RTE as well as live streamed from the Knock Shrine webcam.
The congregation were gathered from Ireland north and south. The service took account of social distancing but the assembled included a bereaved family from each diocese as well as carers. The event, in support of everyone who has suffered the pain of bereavement during the last 19 months was held at the traditional time of remembrance, November when we remember our dead. It also coincided with Remembrance Sunday in the UK.
As well as praying for all the victims of coronavirus in the island of Ireland, prayers of thanksgiving were said for those who worked to help people through the pandemic and the service included readings from a selection of them. In paying tribute to carers and healthcare workers Archbishop Martin stated. ‘They did so often denying themselves in the cause of compassion, charity and love’. He said we owe them all our deep gratitude and prayers. These committed carers and health workers need to be fully resourced and ‘rewarded for their goodness’.
The homily given by Archbishop Martin referred to the Year of St Joseph and invoked his help in shielding each one of us. He said that there has been a long-standing tradition of praying to St Joseph as he is the Patron of a happy death. We should pray every day to prepare us for what is to come, and we all need to be reconciled and strengthened in the sacrament.
In comforting all those have lost loved ones he said, ‘This has been a cruel time and traditionally in here in Ireland we wrap those who are dying or bereaved, in a blanket of love’. Due to restrictions on gatherings, many of us have missed important opportunities in support of bereaved relatives, neighbours and friends, like funerals, wakes, anniversaries and months minds. But we have been inventive in other ways like leaving digital messages of sympathy, sending cards, lining the roads or setting up webcams in our churches.
The pandemic he said saw increased heartbreak. ‘In many cases during the Covid-19 pandemic, those previous, final moments saw increased heartbreak. At a time when physical closeness is so important, and our caring instinct is to hug someone, or hold their hand, it was distressing that often the final words of love and prayers had to be spoken over a telephone or from behind windows and screens or masks or visors’. During this time there have been many ‘Veronicas’ who put themselves out by being with the dying, drying their tears and bringing them comfort and many ‘Simons’ who have shouldered the burden and shown deep care for others.
Archbishop Eamon Martin acknowledged the distress and heartbreak of thousands of families who lost loved ones, but he stated, ‘the Covid-19 virus will not destroy our hope and conviction. God is close to those who are broken hearted’
The Mass concluded with a rousing rendition of the hymn. ‘Our Lady of Knock’. The National Memorial Mass is service is available to view on the www.knockshrine.ie