“The Christian message is a message of life,” the Archbishop of Dublin has told mourners and those bereaved by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin explained that for believers, death is not the end because “with physical death, our life is transformed and we enter into a new life, in eternal loving presence with God”.
His message of hope came as he led a service of prayer and remembrance at Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral on the Feast of All Souls, Monday 2nd November.
However, Archbishop Martin conceded that even with faith, “that is not how we humanly encounter death”.
Recalling the funeral and burial of his mother on All Souls Day 1974, Archbishop Martin remembered how his mother had died unexpectedly just as his family were preparing for the death of his father, who was terminally ill.
“Our reaction was shock, sadness and grief,” he said. “We went through the mechanics of funeral preparations in a daze. We went from the funeral of my mother to the hospital to visit my dying father. We were simply numb with shock, grief and uncertainty.”
He explained that grief is “one of the most significant moments of human sadness and loss” but insisted that it is “good” and “necessary”.
“Grief challenges us to relearn our faith,” he said. “It is never a question of ignoring or burying grief or failing to recognise that sense of loss and abandonment. In faith however hope returns.”
In this month of November, the archbishop said the faithful remember those who were dear to them and who have died.
“In some cases, the memory is a recent one,” he said. “There is always a first time that we visit the grave of a loved one. The intensity of grief is at its sharpest. With the passage of time, grief diminishes, but grief never goes away.”
Archbishop Martin expressed his sympathy for people bereaved due to the Covid-19 pandemic, especially husbands and wives who have been left feeling empty, alone and isolated following the death of their spouse.
He noted that many of those who have experienced the death of a loved one in the “harsh conditions and restrictions” imposed by the pandemic have been unable to grieve, while others have been left to grieve alone in isolation due to the social restrictions.
“After death, the bereaved return to what had been their house of family love and interaction, but now someone is missing,” he said. “The house remains empty. My heart goes out especially to the many spouses who in these times have had to experience the emptiness of grief alone and isolated. Each day they awaken alone to the emptiness of grief.”
However, the archbishop reminded the faithful, “the Christian message is a message of life…a message not of emptiness but of meaning”.
“In this month of November we remember our deceased loved ones. Their departure grieves us but in faith we know that our faithful God calls them to be with him. Their goodness and love remain.
“Having been nourished in this life at the breaking of the bread of the Eucharist, they are now united with Christ in an eternity of love and fulfilment. Eternal rest grant to them. May we experience their intercession from above and may we experience the consolation and hope that come to us in faith.”
Picture: The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).