The Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois has reassured those grieving the death of a loved one that the Lord will provide them with the strength to “lift ourselves and others with resolve and hope”.
Noting that November is a time to remember and pray for family members, colleagues, neighbours and friends who have died since this time last year, Bishop Francis Duffy pointed out that this November will be a “particularly difficult” one as Covid restrictions have prevented many from sharing final moments with their deceased loved ones.
“Those who have gone before us, those who were so much present with us, so central to our lives, have left us with a deep sense of loss,” he said. “We look for peace, for healing of heartache, and for hope.
“This year is particularly difficult for those who have been bereaved since March,” the bishop continued. “Those profound feelings of loss have been heightened by not being able to be present at a time of death and by the absence of the familiar family and community supports.
“The lockdown and restrictions have impacted on how we say goodbye to our loved ones. Some sadly died without familiar faces around them, some left this life with the caring presence of hospital and nursing home staff and we are grateful to them.”
Highlighting how important familiar faces, consoling words and reminiscence are in the grieving process, Bishop Duffy warned that restrictions have had a major impact on this.
“Many have not had the traditional practices that help us: wakes, gatherings at home, reception of remains at the church and a funeral Mass with an unrestricted attendance. These experiences have added to the sense of loss,” he said.
However, in a message of reassurance for those recently bereaved, Bishop Duffy pointed out that hope based in Jesus ensures that all will be well.
“We have the reassurance of the Lord that all will be well and that He will strengthen our ability to lift ourselves and others with resolve and hope during this terrible time. Resolve to do our very best to ensure maximum safety. Hope based in Jesus’ promise to be with us always ‘until the end of time’ (Matt 28: 20).”
The bishop also cited Pope Francis’ message of hope from his extraordinary Urbi et Orbi address in March: “In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side.”
Bishop Duffy also noted that the pandemic and restrictions have had a major impact on the normal free flowing schedule of Masses and sacraments for much of 2020, with the government announcing last month that public worship was banned in Ireland for a second time this year, after it had been given the green light to return during the summer.
“We long so much to be back in church, with the support of a gathering, and the meaningful participation of being present with others, an expression of who we are and what we believe in,” he said.
The bishop also acknowledged that this month’s remembrance takes place at a time of continuing uncertainty, isolation and economic hardship.
“We take reassurance from the good practices learned in all areas of life about how to keep ourselves and others safe. Every day we should reassure our young people of our love and support and help them to nurture their God-given gifts,” he said.
“We take reassurance from the determination of our political leaders to bring us through this pandemic as safely and as socially and economically resilient as possible. We take reassurance from our belief in a caring God who encourages us to make wise decisions for the common good and to look out for each other.
“Jesus’ call to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ has taken on a new meaning in the current context of caring and of keeping safe,” Bishop Duffy added.
Picture: The grave marker of a couple is illuminated with a candle as a full moon shines through clouds. (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review).