FINDING COMFORT: Mass for All Souls’ Day offers solace for those who have suffered loss

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Patrons pray during the Mass for All Soul's Day at Park Cemetery on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. ( Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — Patty Bruck remembers the moment a year ago when, as darkness began to fall, fellow parishioners spread out across Park Cemetery to say a prayer at the grave of a loved one or even a stranger.

“That was really moving, when people took their candles” and embarked, she said.

Last year she and husband Ray were there to remember Ray’s sister, who died last year.

Tuesday, the Brucks were back at the cemetery, where they and about 100 other people from St. Michael Catholic Church gathered for the annual Mass for All Souls’ Day. The rows of chairs under a white tent pitched near the south end of the cemetery filled quickly, so the Brucks set their lawn chairs near a corner of it, where they could see in the open side of the tent. Like others inside and gathered near the opening, they wore heavy jackets and gloves as they read and sang along with the printed liturgy.

“We’ve had several family members pass away recently,” Patty Bruck said, and the Mass offers some comfort. “It’s a beautiful service.”

A table draped with a white cloth stood at the open side of the tent, holding elements for the sacrament of Communion. The man serving as cantor stood at one open corner to lead singing. A lectern stood at the other side, near the corner where the Brucks sat, for those reading Bible verses aloud. The Rev. Aaron Jenkins, priest at St. Michael, stood there to deliver his homily.

He said Catholicism has a rich tradition of remembering those who have died, a tradition that’s very comforting. He said moments such as this are an opportunity to reflect on one’s own mortality and to prepare for Heaven.

“That’s what our entire life is about,” he said.

Near the close of the service, he encouraged people to take a candle from a box of candles that had been blessed and to place one at the grave of a loved one and say a prayer. If one did not have a loved one buried in the cemetery, he encouraged them to say a prayer at the grave of a stranger.

Janet Beem was thinking of several loved ones as she attended Tuesday’s Mass, among them her parents. But someone else also stood out.

“Tonight my Uncle Leo touched my heart, came into my heart,” she said. Remembering struggles he had known in his life, “I just felt he could use my prayers tonight.”

Beem said she also participates in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at St. Michael. It’s a time when a consecrated Communion host is placed at the altar, on a cross-shaped monstrance, and people can come in and pray. Catholics, believing the sacramental elements are the actual body and blood of Jesus, find this an opportunity for intimate prayer.

She said that time, as well as the All Souls Mass, is a good time to remember those who have gone before and pray for the repose of their souls.

“They’re not gone,” she said. “We hold them so close in our memories … and our faith.”