A St Patrick’s family farewell  
October 27, 2020
On our journey to sainthood
October 27, 2020

A family ritual for grieving

By Fr Roger Paponette, Parish priest, San Raphael

Jesus reminds us in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt 5:4).

Every family has to face the reality of great loss and the unavoidable grief that comes with that loss. How we process that grief is very important for the life of the family.

Faith, our Christian faith, has much to offer and through faith we can incorporate our loss so that we become better persons and not lose sight of our own journey. Without faith, our loss becomes a festering wound or a non-ending pity party which does nothing but robs us of life, health, growth and grace.

We put forward a ritual based on our Christian faith which will help families to face, process and bring their grief before the Lord who Himself promises us that “I am with you always, yes, to the end of time” (Matt 28:20).

We do not say, “do not grieve”, but “do not grieve as those who have no hope” (1 Thes 4:13–18).

Grief can be caused for many reasons. On the top of the list would be of course, the death of a family member. Sometimes, the suddenness or other circumstances of the death may cause even more pain. Yet grief can also be experienced when persons lose a loved pet or their house is burnt down or failing an exam.

This ritual will focus on the grief of losing a loved one.

Items for the ritual

  • Large aluminum baking tray (or something suitable to put sand allowing lighted candles to be placed in it)
  • Tealight candles (one for each person present)
  • A table about four feet tall covered with a white cloth on which all these items together with a standing crucifix, and a big enough picture of the deceased person.

When the family is gathered around the place of prayer (extended family and friends are optional), the leader for the ritual begins by lighting one large candle which is placed just in front of the crucifix.

The leader says this prayer as he/she lights the large candle:

Father, you who are full of mercy and compassion

Look upon this family of Yours in the midst of our pain and sadness.

Allow Your presence and peace to be felt even greater within our hearts as we find it hard to deal with the loss of (name of deceased).

May Your grace bring the gentle healing we need at this time and help us to remember our brother/sister and honour them as You Yourself loved and honoured them.

We make this prayer through Jesus our Lord, Amen.

Scripture reading

Here are a few options for scripture reading that are appropriate for the occasion:

  • Romans 8:14–23
  • Romans 8:31b–35,37–39
  • 2 Timothy 2:8–13

A psalm can be sung or read after a brief moment of silent reflection: Psalm 23, 25, 27 or 63.

The leader of the ritual can then either give a short sharing on the Word and what it means for the family or, he/she can invite those present to give a one-minute sharing based on the readings and relevant to the occasion.

The leader then invites each person to mention one good quality, message, or action of the deceased for which they were loved and would be remembered.

The person, when finished, takes a tea candle, lights it from the large candle before the crucifix and gently places the lighted tea candle in the tray provided.

When all have lit their candles and have placed it on the tray, the leader then calls on everyone to sit in silence and look at the brightness of the glow coming from the tray.

The ceremony ends with the following prayer:

Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s and Glory be.

Closing prayer:

Father of mercy and consolation,

We your children recall and bask in the light of our brother/sister whom You were pleased to enlighten with Your own light.

We thank You for reminding us of Your presence within each of us through the good You work within us.

Help us especially in our weak and fragile moments in life.

Help us to trust in You and Your designs for our lives.

We commend our sister/brother into Your mercy and ask that You grant us Your peace in the midst of our sorrow.

We ask this in the name of Jesus Your son,