grief and the rituals of faith

One week ago, our world froze. We watched as life moved on around us, but our family was in a holding pattern, circling around one single emotion: grief. Grief at the loss of one of our children’s friends. Grief at the pain felt by his parents. Grief as we wondered if one kind word or one welcoming smile would have made a difference. Grief at a 14 year old boy’s loss of hope.

Watching the world care about other things as we sat in our grief was both jarring and reassuring. Life does go on, even as our bodies and minds wonder how that can be true.

On Friday, we gathered for the funeral Mass, giving our grieving community a place to be together. Despite our distance, both physically and emotionally, Mass brought us into a single space where we could grieve as one. The church was filled with people from his life, and due to the beauty of electronic communication, hundreds of students and staff from our high school joined online.

Mass was familiar, offering us an experience we understood; one where we knew exactly how to act and what to say. The rituals of faith carried us that day, when we could no longer carry ourselves.

Mass reminded us that a Catholic community, at its core, loves.

That day was a reminder that church is more than a nice idea. Church is a people who belong to God and belong to one another. Church is a place where we go in joy and in sorrow to remember and practice love. Our faith is more than a singular relationship with God. We are not saved as individuals, we are saved together because it is our shared love that brings heaven to earth.

The loss we experienced is and will continue to be confusing. We want to understand why, but contrary to popular saying, not everything happens for a reason. We are the ones who clamour for reason. We want to know and explain and understand. We want life to fit prettily into a box we can control, but the beauty of life is that we don’t know. Our boxes are limited by what we understand, but love is greater than anything we can imagine. There is always a hope we cannot see on the horizon.

I spent much of this week trying to escape my grief, afraid of getting overwhelmed. I kept busy with mundane tasks, but grief snuck in. I sat still, hoping to hide, yet the tears still came. Praying with Mother Mary through the Rosary was the one activity that gave me consolation. I miss that sweet boy and I wish I could remind him one more time that he is loved, so I did, with Mary.

Life, at times, feels predictable, but life is also a glorious unknown. It is both uniquely ours and infinitely shared. It is both centered squarely within the confines of our homes and expanding exponentially out to include every single member of God’s family.

Life is filled with a hope gifted by God and ours to share. Hug your people today and tell them you love them. Life is precious.

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