All Souls Day in Beverly – 2015

“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.”  (John 6:40)

All Souls a 2015On the Catholic Church calendar, yesterday, November 2, 2015, was the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed; also known as All Souls Day.  The Beverly Catholic community celebrated an evening Mass of Remembrance for all the deceased members of the three parishes in the city: St. Mary, Star of the Sea, St. Margaret of Scotland, and St. John the Evangelist.  The Mass was celebrated at St. Mary’s, with our pastor, Father Mark, our parochial vicar, Father Karlo, and one of our two deacons, me!  St. Mary’s is one of those 19th century churches that no one can afford to build anymore; with a high vaulted ceiling, beautiful stain glass windows, and an impressive sanctuary.

We had a good turnout of parishioners from all three parishes.  St. Mary’s choir beautifully provided music for the service.  I proclaimed the Gospel reading, which was taken from Matthew 11: 25-30.  Father Mark then gave a very moving homily.  After the homily, he read a roll of those from the Beverly Catholic community, who passed away since November, 2014 till now.  Every votive candle in the church had been gathered in front of the sanctuary; as a deceased person’s name was announced, a candle was lit.  Should a member of the deceased’s family, or a close friend was present; they were invited to light a candle.  Soon, the majority of the candles were lighted, quite a few family members had come up.

A couple of years ago, my mother had passed away; I was an ordained deacon, and I preached at her funeral Mass.  I took as my text, John 14: 1-14 (I think).  I focused on John 14: 2-3: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”  I focused on the theme of pilgrimage; that from the moment we are born, the moment we are baptized, we begin a pilgrimage; a journey of exploration as to what it means to be an adopted child of God the Father.  And this pilgrimage does not end when we die, but it becomes a journey of purification; helped by the prayers of the loved ones we left behind.  Our pilgrimage will end when we finally reach the place that Jesus Christ has prepared for us; and we are in the Holy Presence of our God.

All Souls Day expresses our hope, that those who have gone before us will find the final destination of their pilgrimage soon.  And that they will be praying for us, when we ourselves will begin the next leg of our own life journeys.

All Souls 2015l

Reflections on the Easter Vigil – 2015

Easter Candle 2015

It is Saturday evening when I entered the Church of St. Mary, Star of the Sea.  I am there for the Easter Vigil Mass.  The church was built in the late 1800’s; it has high vaulted ceilings, large stain glass windows, dark wood pews.  Even with the all the church lights on, it is very dim inside.  I am assisting as a deacon at the Mass; I have been the responsibility of chanting the great Easter hymn, “the Exsultet,” which takes about 9 minutes to chant.  And I really do not want to muck it up!  From the sacristy, I stand in the sanctuary of the church, and pray: “My Risen Lord, be with me this night!  All good I am able to do to because of your grace; may your Spirit be within me!”  At that moment, I experience something, I cannot describe; I am rooted in that place, and for a few seconds I am not aware of what is happening around me.  The feeling passes and I go back into the sacristy.

The church has some fine vestments, for the evening Mass, I put on a gold and white dalmatic, the deacon’s vestment.  It feels stiff to me; I usually wear only an alb and stole.  The priests and the other deacon, Michael, also vest.  We then head to the back of the church, as the lights begin to go out.  By the time we are ready, the entire church is in darkness.  Father Mark lights a fire in a brazier, by the light of that fire, he blesses the Easter Candle; from the fire he draws a flame to light the Candle.  The fire is extinguished, the only light that pierces the darkness in the church, is the flame of the Easter Candle.  Deacon Michael lifts the Candle, and he and I walked down the main aisle.  Deacon Michael stops, lifts high the Candle; and I intone: “Lumen Christi!”  The choir and the congregation respond: “Deo Gratias!”  Then from that one Candle, the light is shared with dozens of other candles, points of light begins to spread throughout the darken church.  Twice we stop, twice I chant “Lumen Christi,” twice the light is shared, until the entire church is full of points of light.  The Easter Candle in placed in its stand, its flame flickering throughout the sanctuary.

I climb into the pulpit, open my binder, take a deep breath, and sing out: “Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,….Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice, arrayed with the lightning of his glory, let this holy building shake with joy, filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.”

“Christ is Risen!”  He is Risen Indeed!”