Tuesday, September 02, 2008
I have just returned from vacation and while working through the mountains of mail on my desk this morning, discovered several "mass" cards from Roman Catholic (and former RC) friends in honor of my mother who died July 29.
My mother was "officially" RC but only nominally so. She "made her Easter duty" but hadn't really been to church except for weddings, baptisms and funerals for the past 10 years or so.
I found these mass cards deeply comforting and loving expressions of prayerful intentions for solace in my grief. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that I am, myself, former RC, but that was so many light years ago, I'm not sure that's really it.
I was also deeply comforted by a message from a former Jew, now Episcopalian, who sent me a note that a prayer for my mother had been faxed to a Rabbi in Israel who placed it in Jerusalem's Western Wall.
So, too, with the certificate I received that a tree had been planted in my mother's name to help restore a forest in California that had been devastated by fire.
And, with the note from a Buddhist friend who told me that he brought traditional food (fruit) and candles to his local monastery where the monks would chant "the prayers" for the next 72 hours for my mother' soul.
Over the past several years, when a parishioner has died, I have received occasional phone call inquires from RC friends of the deceased as to whether or not the Episcopal Church offers such "mass cards" for sale.
I have always replied, kindly, that in The Episcopal Church prayer requests - even for requiem masses - are always honored without charge. "But," the reply would most often come, after an uncomfortable pause, "do you have a card that says that so that I can send it to the family?"
As my 6th grade geometry teacher would say whenever we FINALLY got an theorem, "Ah, light dawns on Marble Head."
I think I got it. Finally.
Yes, we have a flower ministry where people can remember the anniversary of the death of their loved one - and those flowers are delivered to someone who is ill or, perhaps, has not been able to come to church for awhile, or needs a "random act of kindness' and beauty in their lives. (Our Prayer Shawl Ministry also does this.)
Yes, we have an annual Requiem Mass on All Souls/Saints' Day where the necrology is read and prayed. We also have a very active Memorial Committee which handles bequests and memorials.
No, I'm not talking about selling 'plenary indulgences" or "praying someone's soul out of Purgatory". Neither am I talking about a way to raise money for the church. I also don't believe that only the "professional prayers" of a priest or those said at a Requiem Mass are the only effective prayers.
I'm thinking about taking this idea to my Memorial Committee next month - of having Prayer Cards available for a nominal fee so that those who wish to send a condolence card to the bereaved might also be able to offer the solace of the prayers of a community during our weekly Eucharist with the specific intention of the repose of the soul of their loved one.
Does anyone reading this blog do that? What is the theological thinking behind such action? How do you offer it to your community?
If you think this is a terrible idea, why do you find it offensive or repulsive?
I will be discussing this with my Wardens and Executive Committee, my Pastoral Care Committee as well as my staff at next week's Staff meeting.
I'm really trying to think this through before I present it to to anyone or any committee. I would be delighted to hear your thoughts, if you would, please, so that I can clarify my thinking before I discuss it further.