An Easter Experience: Memorial Celebration   

19/05/2017Print This Post

I’m writing this at a time of probing the meaning of Resurrection, and of Eucharist in terms of memorial, thanksgiving, table fellowship, love feast.

It’s an account of an experience I had recently of celebrating a memorial. It was the first anniversary of my deceased brother, Joe, and we had agreed on having a spontaneous thanksgiving memorial celebration of his life rather than a formal anniversary Mass. The group celebrating included Joe’s wife Beverly, Fr James the parish priest and Jane, still mourning the loss of her recently deceased husband Bill, close friend and colleague of Joe.

Seated in the conservatory, with a picture of Joe facing us in front, a lighted candle by his side, we began by reciting together the prayer of thanksgiving used towards the end of his funeral Mass.

Then after a pause for silent reflection, each of us in turn began sharing with the group on what we found most meaningful and inspiring in Joe’s life. We looked at some of the huge challenges he faced during his life, while at the same time, being the kind of person whose presence would light up a room when he entered, full of joy and with a rich sense of humour. This celebration was coming at the end of a year of mourning the death of someone we loved so much. We reflected on the happiness that Joe brought to his wife and family and that they in turn gave him. Looking back on his life, with his picture and lighted candle in front of us, our reflections tended to centre around something that could best be described as death and resurrection.

There was the deathly struggle with alcohol to which, in mid-life Joe had become addicted. Then there was the beginning of a new life when, through the urging of a friend he eventually joined the Alcoholics Anonymous community, sought treatment for alcoholism, and through the A.A. became aware that alcoholism was an issue for many of his dental colleagues. At his own expense in time and effort and with the assistance of many of his colleagues he set about taking action for treatment of the condition. A long series of initiatives over the years resulted in the establishment of a national network of colleagues trained to intervene locally to help alcoholic or otherwise addicted members of the profession. He was instrumental in the setting up similar programmes for The Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

Through the good offices of the British Dental Association, Joe was awarded an MBE for his work in addiction within the professions. As he wryly put it ‘The Queen gave me a medal for being a drunk’.

As we continued our Memorial celebration and the meal together that followed, one person talked briefly about what this inspirational group sharing meant for her. It went something like this:

It brings home to me, and now I think I understand better, the powerful experiences the disciples had of Jesus’s life-giving presence among them after his death, as they remembered him walking with them, talking and asking questions, sharing meals, and helping them understand. Their mourning was turned into joy. He would always be with them, weak as they were at times. They felt strengthened and given courage to face the way ahead, whatever it would be.

Then we began to reflect together on how, throughout his life with disciples and wider community, Jesus celebrated meals, and especially the Passover meal, memorial of the gradual escape from (inner and outer) slavery into freedom, and on how after his death the mourning of the disciples was turned into joy as they experienced his presence among them.

Pope Francis is looking towards a paradigm shift in our understanding and practice of being Church, the community of People of God. But if we truly believe that Eucharist is at the centre, maybe it’s time we, as Church begin to address the possible features of paradigm shift towards Community celebration of Eucharist as ‘Memorial, Thanksgiving, Love feast, Table Fellowship’.

Teresa Mee

Comments

12 Responses to “An Easter Experience: Memorial Celebration   ”
  1. Colm Holmes says:

    Teresa Mee is right to look for eucharistic communities. Gathering in small groups in homes allows everyone to share how their lives are linked to Christ. From the ground up a new church will be born.

    • Aidan says:

      Thank you Teresa, an inspirational piece.
      Many years ago a young priest brought together some friends, including myself and my wife, and celebrated Eucharist around his kitchen table. After each Reading we were all invited to share our thoughts. The whole liturgy was built upon everyone sharing. Afterwards we shared a meal together around the same table. It was a remarkable experience and gave a deep meaning to what the celebration of Eucharist was meant to be.
      Aidan

  2. Mary Vallely says:

    That is such a beautiful, fulsome, uplifting account of a celebration of Joe’s life. It is something for the rest of us to reflect on and emulate. Thank you, Teresa. Unfortunately we tend to think of memorials and celebrations of a life -well – lived in terms of a formal mass only. Actually most people would feel cheated if the priest didn’t celebrate a mass in a church and if we are honest not all masses taking place in formal church settings are joy- filled occasions in which everyone participates fully. We are too passive by far. So we need to think beyond the formal mass. Colm is right in his comment but how many have had any experience of a Eucharistic celebration in a small intimate setting?
    I attended a funeral celebration in a local Baptist church recently and it amazed me to hear everyone sing with gusto all verses of the hymns. Gerry O’Hanlon SJ remarked at his recent Talk on 27th May in Milltown that we Irish are natural singers, our pubs resound with songs and laughter yet when we go to church we sit with mouths shut.
    Isn’t it true? How do we break the habit?
    Teresa, I know, is convinced that the main reason we are losing our young people is because of this failure to celebrate the Eucharist as a Community celebration of ‘Memorial, Thanksgiving, Love feast, Table Fellowship’. I think it may be one reason but am not convinced it is the main one. However, I love her account of this beautiful celebration of Joe’s life. How blessed you were to share with each other your loving memories and how blessed was Joe to be so loved. ❤️
    P. S. It might be good to share on this site some more positive examples of community worship perhaps?

  3. soconaill says:

    (From Mary Dempsey)

    Teresa, that’s a lovely account of your coming together for the anniversary of your brother Joe’s death
    I believe that whenever people come together to celebrate or work for the good of others, it is sacramental. “Where two or three are gathered…”
    In last week’s Irish Times, ‘Thinking Anew’, the writer said, on speaking of the Ascension, that being involved in the betterment of humanity, working in communion for the good of one another we are entering the mystery of God.
    Mary Dempsey

  4. MartinM says:

    Thanks Teresa. A wonderful tribute to your dear brother and how he turned personal struggle and adversity into transformation and grace for many.

    “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20). In other words, where there is intentional community, awareness of the Christ is made present.

  5. Kevin Walters says:

    “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
    (Matthew 18:20).
    In other words, where there is intentional community, awareness of the
    Christ is made present.——————

    Yes Martin I have to agree that this was always meant to be the SEED to
    create the flock (Kingdom of God) on earth I see the Eucharist the
    sacrifice of the Mass drawing in all sorts of fish, so to say.

    From Marys comment above
    “Eucharist as a Community celebration of ‘Memorial, Thanksgiving,
    Love feast, Table Fellowship”’

    Many small communities often reflect similar status this is natural,
    there is nothing wrong with this nevertheless care is needed in that
    Table Fellowship does not become self-serving as in Club culture.

    “Pope Francis is looking towards a paradigm shift in our understanding
    and practice of being Church, the community of People of God. But if we
    truly believe that Eucharist is at the centre, maybe it’s time we, as
    Church begin to address the possible features of paradigm shift towards
    Community celebration of Eucharist as

    ‘Memorial, Thanksgiving, Love feast, Table Fellowship”

    In the early fifties as a child I was taken on a journey to a house Mass
    in the Teesside area of England, the parishioners were trying to raise
    money for a Church to be built, the Mass took place in the front room of
    small terraced house, those attending were from different social groups,
    afterwards we all shared food together in the back room, it was very
    enjoyable encounter even for a seven year old the emphasis was on
    building a new Church together.

    When I was a child living in Leeds the neighbourhood (Street) that I
    grew up in, was dilapidated and heavily populated with Jewish and Irish
    immigrants, together with English, Polish, Chinese and Jamaican people.

    Just around the corner at the top of our street was a house occupied by
    the little Sisters of the Poor and they often could be seen about in the
    neighbourhood.
    One Christmas several people were invited including myself into their
    house to see the adorned Christmas tree and candles upon it been lit
    (This was probably on going as not many could fit into the small room)
    we then sang carols together, it is fair to say that those of us that
    were attending were poor but even in poverty there was still a perceived
    social divide of poor to extremely poor.
    What was striking about the interior of house was that it was as we
    were, no carpet or vinyl on the stairs, hall, or in the main room, just
    bare floor boards, we could identify them, with ourselves, the emphasis
    was on all of us making the journey together to attending Sunday Mass,
    Jesus Christ within the Eucharist.

    The direction given in both these short tales was leading us to the
    unity (Inclusivity of all) in the Mass.
    “But when you give a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the
    blind”:

    A previous quote from Teresa, Mass, Eucharist and Communion;
    “Cleophas and companion on their way to Emmaus, you may be asked,
    ‘But did it really happen?’ However, if you tell an Oriental the
    same story, the response is more likely to be ‘Let me see now, what is
    the deeper meaning of that story?’. One could also ask ‘What
    difference would it make if one focussed on the meaning of the
    Resurrection accounts?’———

    The meaning for me is one of public encounter
    (Identification/Inclusivity of all Christians) on the Journey (Way).
    We say in the Our Father “give us this day our daily bread”
    I see (table fellowship) as bearing witness to the Truth/Jesus Christ in
    the real world drawing people together In Unity of Purpose in the market
    place, factory, tea plantation etc.
    Please consider reading my posts @13+23 in the link below

    http://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2014/03/fr-john-shea-repeats-call-for-explanation-of-churchs-opposition-to-womens-ordination/

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  6. Kevin Walters says:

    Teresa, although I have never had any dialogue with you(Acquaintance) I would like to express my sympathy for your loss and acknowledge the very moving (inspirational) account of your brother’s life. As someone else has said, Joe turned adversity into something very positive. He was obviously an inspiration to many who knew him, as he is to us in your reflection.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  7. Tony Brady says:

    What a wonderful short commentary by Teresa on what must have been a beautiful memorial service. A formula of memorial that could be made use of by believers and non believers alike in which thanksgiving is offered for the gift of the life of a deceased relative or friend

    • Teresa Mee says:

      Yes, Tony, and it would provide a good opportunity for reaching out beyond our own Catholic Church borders to the wider spheres of ecumenism.
      I have found the Sunday Community celebrations I attended in the St.Stephens Green Unitarian Church very inspiring, welcoming, and enriching.
      Teresa

  8. Teresa Mee says:

    Church Structural Change through Small Christian Communities.

    If we believe Eucharistic celebration is at the base of Church life, then surely this must be where structural change begins. The current form of Celebration of Eucharistic in Ireland has, in my opinion, a long way to go towards moving us from our passivity to going forth as community in the strength of Eucharistic celebration to spread the good news.

    As Colm put it, ‘gathering in small groups in homes allows everyone to share how their lives are linked to Christ. From the ground up, a new church will be born’.

    Martin, I find your reference to ’intentional community’ very much to the point. ‘Where two or three are gathered’ (Matthew 18:20) In other words, where there is intentional community, awareness of the Christ is made present’. Checking on definition, I find ‘an intentional community is a planned community designed from the start to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork. The members of an intentional community typically hold a common social, political, religious, or spiritual vision and often follow an alternative lifestyle’. There’s a powerful example of this in Acts 4,32-37 where, after the strengthening Pentecost experience, you have the ‘common social vision’, and the ‘alternative lifestyle’ due to the disciples’ awareness of the living Christ still present in their midst, still sending them forth on mission.

    Mary D. draws our attention to the essential link between community celebration of Eucharist and community ‘working for the betterment of humanity’.

    Structural Change in the Church and examples of Small Christian Communities in Action.

    I think that Aidan’s experience of a home celebration highlighting the value of a whole liturgy built upon everyone sharing their thoughts on the readings, and afterwards sharing a meal together around the same table in the priest’s house reflects something of what Pope Francis has in mind in Evangelii Gaudium no.28 where he says, ‘If the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity it continues to be the Church living in the homes of its sons and daughters…a community of communities…’

    Table Fellowship: Michael Cook, in a recent letter, further suggests that ‘using the Eucharist, around a domestic table, at a shared meal, as the central unifying medium for the invoking and sharing of relevant thoughts and feelings on a particular issue, would seem to offer liberating potential, provided, I think, that participants are free to share and to withhold’.

    Kevin, your memory reaching back to childhood, of a very meaningful house celebration of Mass followed by meal is still vivid and ‘it was a very enjoyable encounter even for a seven- year old. The emphasis was on building a new Church together, Eucharistic celebration within the family with, no doubt, some invited neighbours; an idea for Synod on the Family?

    The most developed form of Structural Change in my experience has been in the post Vatican II Latin American Church, structured at every level in form of Small Basic Communities with their range of evangelising involvements at community, parish, diocesan and wider Church levels, in keeping with New Testament tradition. Especially memorable were the close bonds within and between communities, parishes, dioceses.

    Meaningful, participative Eucharistic celebration was at its heart, with faith formation through close study of Scripture texts related to the current socio-political context. For example, throughout the first centenary of the release from slavery in Latin America of people of African Descent, the communities at every level celebrated, through Scripture study, the enslavement of the Israelite people in Babylon and their eventual release, drawing parallels with the plight of their own African ancestors and their deep faith in God. The people of God, the Church of the poor corresponds closely with the reformed and renewed Church envisaged in Evangelii Gaudium, of parish, diocesan and wider Church-centred small faith communities actively promoting the dignity and human rights of the poor and marginalised. “You shall be my people and I will be your God”.

    I’m beginning to discover that some mini ‘structural change’ is already beginning to take place in parts of the Church in Ireland, including the Dublin Archdiocese. But as Mary V. ‘taking a realistic view’, sees it, it may be a slow process. ‘Actually, most people would feel cheated if the priest didn’t celebrate in a Church…Many are not convinced. Too passive by far…’ No doubt that applies to the majority of the Sunday congregation made up as they are of mostly elderly people accustomed to fixed ways, happy with holding on to traditions familiar to them, and unhappy with what they fear as a threat to change. Yet to stay rigidly with the past has no present or future for the Church, as we can see from ‘the leakage’. As Gordon Linney in Sat 3rd June Irish Times puts it, ‘the past is not an option for the Church or indeed the world’. Maybe here’s where a gradual and sensitive introduction of small community celebrations would help, enabling shared reflection on the word of God in terms of day to day life experience, overcoming passivity and discovering the power of community together.

    Kevin, you say, “Pope Francis is looking towards a paradigm shift in our understanding and practice of being Church, the community of People of God. But if we truly believe that Eucharist is at the centre, maybe it’s time we, as Church begin to address the possible features of paradigm shift and to work out a strategy for action. Perhaps the best setting would be from within a small, basic Christian community.

    • Kevin Walters says:

      Hi! Teresa

      “Church Structural Change through Small Christian Communities”

      I believe that love of God/Truth should be at the base of Church life as true love of neighbour without Truth is not love.
      I see the Eucharistic sacrifice as drawing us in to participate with Him in the self-giving sacrifice (Serving of truth) of the cross, that we must embrace in obedience to our Fathers divine Will. As it is in the serving of the Truth that flies and weeds are scattered from amongst true believers in that the Eucharistic sacrifice when willingly embraced gives us the grace to do this.
      .
      “Indeed, the time is coming, and it is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. The Father is looking for people like that to worship him

      The Church develops from age to age and is born anew in every new life as She embraces/carries in love all of her children, especially the hidden lives of those who in passivity bear witness to His Will in remaining true to the Mass (sacrifice).

      ‘Where two or three are gathered’ in my name” (Matthew 18:20)

      In other words as Jesus taught,

      “Again, I tell you truly that if two of you on the earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven”.

      This is the power of the intentional pray that all believers in trust/faith in Him, direct to our Father in Heaven and is the guarantee (Seed) that His Will, will accomplish the Kingdom of our God (Father) on earth. A universal community (All types of fish) held in unity of purpose in obedience to our Fathers inviolate Will (Word).

      Yes my memory in reaching back to childhood of a very meaningful house celebration of Mass followed by meal is still vivid, but all (Not some) were invited, from the farm labourer to the professional who turned up in a car. I believe it was an open house to all Catholics in the area, to attend mass, as in those days few had cars I also remember that there was no bus service. What also must be borne in mind is that the catholic population in England is sparse in comparison to Ireland.
      In my post above I refer to the little Sisters of the Poor, they used to have daily Mass in their house; I believe that it was open to ALL who wished to attend.
      Of course at times we hear the priest say at mass on such a day there will be a Mass for SVP members etc but it always follows that ALL are welcome.
      My thinking here seems to be in line with what Archbishop Martin of Dublin said in an address, from link

      http://patcollinscm.webs.com/parishevangelisation.htm

      “I believe that the transmission of the faith in the years to come will have to be more and more linked with the creation of faith communities, like the basic ecclesial communities that we speak about in the context of Africa or Latin America. These communities will help people, young and old, to be formed in their faith and to live it out concretely in a cultural context which is less and less supportive (My input; this as always been the case in England and many other countries) of faith. These communities must then, however, find their nourishment through their insertion into the broader communion of the Church in the common (Public) celebration of the Eucharist. Our parishes must become communions of communities, finding their unity again in the liturgy.”

      Although I would take this a step further, in so far as I have stated towards a paradigm shift in our understanding and practice of being Church, in that we need practical honest ordained working male/female Christians committed to Christ who are courageous enough, to go out into the real world, leading from the front, in the paddy field, on the tea plantation in the factory, office, hospital, etc, with integrity, been seen by all, as an EXAMPLE were ordinary men and women work and live, acting as a lynchpin in a chain, holding the flock together and carrying our unity of purpose, the breaking and been the living bread of life amongst us.

      I have several ideas on the structure this new working Priesthood but in essence it must always be seen to be acting openly (Transparently) in promoting inclusivity of all types of fish. Obviously some of these working Shepherds/esses would come from those envisaged communities but they must always remain independent of them, for obvious reasons.
      I see this in conjunction with the Divine Mercy message, an image of Broken Man that if accepted, would permit all baptised Catholics to partake of the Bread of Life and live, no matter what their state, drawing them back on to the pathway (Sacrament) of reconciliation.

      “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest ‘? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest”.

      I see this as missionary call for action now, today, drawing in lapsed Catholics and others but always been open to all, not by private invite (Club culture)

      We all carry our own experiences with us and our views are influenced by them. There is a culture within the church that is is difficult to explain if you are an outsider as I am. I have observed for over thirty five difficult years that there is a war going on within the church, I have referred it, in been similar to a Chess Board next to every black one stands a white one and that the church is losing, this can be seen in declining congregations, rather than describe this as “leakage” I would say Siphoned off into another culture that is one of relativism.

      The only way to combat this is in the serving the Truth.

      “For this I was born and for this I have come into the world: to testify of the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”

      kevin your brother
      In Christ

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