Prayer services remember the dead with love and hope

Deacon Justin McMenamy leads the prayer service at Mt. Olivet – Kansas City Cemetery, Nov. 5 (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — The loss of a loved one is always a wrenching experience, but as Deacon Justin McMenamy said during the Cemetery Sunday prayer service at Mt. Olivet Cemetery Nov. 5, it can also be a time of hope.

Cemetery Sunday, commemorated at each of the four diocesan cemeteries and with a Catholic prayer service at Calvary Cemetery, is a day of prayer, remembrance, faith and visitation. It follows closely on the heels of All Souls Day, and Deacon McMenamy described it as the icing on the All Saints/All Souls days’ cake.

During the service, he spoke quietly, as though he was talking to a few close friends, drawing in the 20 or so attendees.

“In life,” he said, “there are times we cannot control, we just have to pray that we can get through it. The loss of a loved one is one of those times. But remember, the Lord said He’d prepare a place for us in heaven, with Him, and that’s what we should dwell on.”

He commented on birth, and the comfort a newborn feels when he or she is cradled close to Mom and can hear the beat of her heart, just as they did during the months of pregnancy. The comfort calms the infant’s fears. Deacon McMenamy reminded those in attendance, “Jesus told us time and time again, ‘Do not be afraid!’”

The hardest word in the English language, he said, is “Goodbye.” Sharing it with others helps make it a little easier. And sharing can also give a person something else: hope.

Hope is a wonderful word, but what does hope look like? he asked. He told a story of a family of six — mom and dad, two boys and two girls — who shared and discussed the past week at the Sunday dinner table. They believed there were four virtues to live by: Peace, Faith, Love and Hope. One day the mother had the idea of lighting four candles, one for each of the virtues, and placing them on the table.

Some weeks later, one of the sons came to the dinner table in an agitated mood. Wars, threats of war, and conflicts between nations and people were constants, so he didn’t feel that the “peace” candle should stay lit. He snuffed it out.

The other son came in, saying he was questioning his faith and didn’t feel comfortable with the “faith” candle lit, and snuffed it out.

The older daughter arrived, feeling unloved and unwanted and said so. She snuffed out the “love” candle.

Lastly the nine-year-old daughter skipped in. She gazed in consternation at the three snuffed-out candles, then brightened. “Hope is still lit! With hope, we can relight the candles of peace, faith and love.” And she relit the candles.

There were four unlit candles on the chapel’s altar. Deacon McMenamy lit each candle, pronouncing its name, Peace, Faith, Love and Hope. He said again, hope, “the promise of Scripture, the promise of the Gospel.” He then explained why each attendee had been given a program and an unlit candle when they entered the chapel.

Each were to approach and light their candle from a large one on the altar, turn to face the assembly and say the names of those loved ones they wanted to remember, then place the lit candle in a bowl of sand. There were parents, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters, and other relatives and friends, and at the end of each recitation, the assembly intoned, “Lord, be merciful to them!”

In addition to the prayer service at Mt. Olivet, there were prayer services at St. Mary’s and Resurrection cemeteries, both in Kansas City, and at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in St. Joseph. There was also a Catholic service at Calvary Cemetery in Kansas City.



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October 23, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph