Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Book

Every year, we have a Mass said in memory of Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander on their birthdays.  They've always been at our old parish, but for 2013, we decided to start requesting them at our new parish.  To simplify, on the day the Mass Book opens, you show up at your parish, wait in line, ask for said date, make a donation, and voila! On the date in question, your beloved is remembered in the Mass.  Typically, at the beginning of Mass, the lector or cantor will say "This Mass is being offered in remembrance of XYZ, as requested by ABC", and the intentions of the Mass are said in memory (or in some cases, in honor of), your loved one.

If you aren't Catholic or Orthodox, it may not make a lot of sense, but for us, this is kind of a way to remember and celebrate and honor those whom we love.

As I'm in the line (I got my number at 7am and the book opened at 8:30am), I realize that, at number 18, there's no way I'm going to make my 9am meeting with a consult about therapy for Bobby.  If you arent there when your number is called, you lose your spot.  No joke, this process can take all freaking day.  Our former parish limited you to 5 Masses per year; our new one? 12.  And people team up (again, no joke).  And, by far, I'm about 40 years younger than the youngest person in the room.  As I come in and sit, I overhear talking...

Alot of people are requesting for their children.  They're telling fellow parishioners the stories of their sons and daughters.... It hurts to hear... It's a comfort to know I'm not the only one, and yet...  They've lived for so much longer without their beloved, wanted children.  Some died as babies, some as children, some as adults.... The gentleman across from me overheard my call to my "big sister", who is my Confirmation sponsor and a dear friend, explaining that I couldnt miss this appointment and asking if she could be #18 for an hour.  (And, because she's SO awesome, she drove from the next town over and took my spot for an hour).  When I hung up, he and I chatted.  He was easily 60 years old.  He's getting Masses for his children who have died.  He has been... for the last 20 years.

With a look that says he totally gets it, he says, "I know... It's like you have to do it.  You need to."

There's nothing else I can do.  No other way I can mother them.  I cant plan a 5th birthday party or a 4th birthday party... There will be no celebrations for First Communion or Confirmation or graduation.  No wedding showers.  No weddings or rehearsal dinners or receptions.  No baby showers.  Only this.  Only this yearly Mass, with breakfast to follow and a trip to the Shrine to see their candle.

Yeah, I need to.

Thanks to E, my place wasnt lost, and I was able to request the 8am Mass on Feb 1st and 16th, and Nov 23rd of next year.  And, as I left, relief flooding me, I thought thank God. 

The world wouldnt have ended had those days been taken already, but I dont even want to think about the three new cracks my heart would have had to make room for.


Debbie said...

Please excuse my catholic ignorance. Will they not accept a request if the "spots are filled?" I didn't know that there was a limit on the amount of people who could be remembered at a particular mass. I guess I'm just not understanding why you have to line up and wait. Why could you not just call the parish office (or go in person at your leisure) and make the request?

Michele said...

It's a parish by parish thing. Some parishes are really laid back; I've emailed Mass requests to our former parish and, if the day was open, that was that and I'd just mail in the donation or drop it off then next time I was at church. Other parishes do allow for the multiple folks per Mass, but every parish is different. Alot of parishes have this sort of 'first day' thing, but then, once the book is open, you can call up anytime and ask for a day. IF it is available, then great, and if not, you do another date. I think, especially for folks who feel like this is the only thing they can do to celebrate their loved one(s), getting a specific date is important. Celebrating their birthdays is such a big deal for me that, although I'd be happy with any day of the year to remember and honor them, I know I'd be sad if I couldnt get their special dates for one reason or another.

Does that make sense? :)

Debbie said...

It DOES make sense, but I guess I never realized that a date could be "full" - as if you could only pray for "X" amount of people for any given mass. Seems silly. If I want to pray for 100 people, then I should, and if person 101 needs a prayer, I shouldn't answer "i'm full. I'll pray for you when one of these other prayers get answered." Of course you want to honor your children on specific days, I just can't believe the church would turn you down because they were "full" or "not available". Just another silly idiosyncrasy of the church that I just don't understand.

Ms. J said...

I understand how important having certain masses are. What a wonderful friend that she also understood and was able to be there in a pinch...but I suspect that's because you are the kind of loving and empathetic friend who would do the same.

Debbie said...

After discussing this with my Aunt, it seems that her church only allows so many mass intentions for any given day. That is SO CRAZY! I am just still wrapping my mind around the notion that only so many people can be prayed for at one time. I feel it's like "taking a number" (which, ironically, is exactly what you did). When I am at mass, I feel like I can pray for four people just as easily as ten. I guess now I understand YOUR urgency, but still don't understand the church's restriction. I hope that makes sense.

Michele said...

Debbie, I think you are misunderstanding the difference between a Mass intention and prayers. So, the intention of the day is basically like a voiced communal prayer for someone/several people. It could be for one person "This Mass is being said in memory of John Doe, requested by the Doe family"; it can be for several people "This Mass is being requested for the living and deceased members of the Doe Famiy,s requested by Mr. and Mrs. John Doe"; it can be for thousands "This Mass is being said for the people of the parish" or for God only knows how many "This Mass is requested for all those living in war torn regions." Many priests, when begining the Mass, even say something along the lines of "We join together for the intention of this Mass, as well as the intentions each of you brings here today".

During the different parts of the Mass, especially the Prayers of the Faithful, petitions are prayed for. In some parishes, you submit the names of your sick, deceased, or needs and they are read out loud by a deacon/priest/lector. In other parishes (how it is done varies based on cultural identity of the parish, make up of the parish (like, is it mostly the same folks each week or does this parish serve a vacation community, etc), or just parish history), people are invited to shout out their requests. (For example, "We now pray for our sick..." and people would call out names/situatons). At the end of the prayers of the faithful, the parish is encouraged, in silence, to 'vocalize to God' their personal needs ("And for those things known in the silence of our hearts"... momemnt of silence... "We pray to the Lord."

Mass intentions arent some sort of we-can-only-pray-for-one-person/family. It's more of a "We, the entire parish gathered, will remember YOUR intention in our prayers this Mass." So, even though they may not know us directly, in their hearts, they will be remembering Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander on those days.

Because, for many families, that day is the only public (for lack of a better word) celebration/remembrance that they are having (or, in the case of say, the intention for someone's 50th wedding anniversary, it might kick off the celebration), many parishes limit the intention to one person/family, so that it can be a special moment. For us, I know that we were especially touched when, after the kids passed away, people sent us Mass cards (a card notice of the parish that was saying a Mass with the intention of our child). It was a way to know that others were remembering and thinking of them too... That they werent forgotten... That our family was being held in prayer by a much greater "family" of the Divine, even though we may never had known the people praying for us.

I hope that I've managed to explain this better. I guess because it is just part of how we do things, I didnt think to explain it further. Let me know if you have questions; I'm happy to answer them!