Monday, November 12, 2007

Tears don’t extinguish flames on the Tree of Light

ROMEOVILLE — Tears flowed freely Nov. 4 during the Tree of Light Memorial Mass sponsored by the Center for Family Ministry in the Joliet Diocese. Held at St. Charles Borromeo Pastoral Center in Romeoville and celebrated by Bishop J. Peter Sartain, the annual Mass was intended for families who have lost a child or children through miscarriage, stillbirth and infant or early childhood death. The event gave family members a chance to remember and grieve for their children and to realize they are not alone.

“Our society teaches us it is wrong to cry,” Desiree Marciani, associate director for the Center for Family ministry, told the Explorer. “But the tears of someone who grieves are different than those of someone who is hurt (physically). The tears of someone who grieves are healing and we want to give the message that it is OK to cry.

“Society wants us to forget, but we can never forget. So we have the Mass every year for the families to get together and share a difficult loss” with others who have experienced the same loss, she said. Some families lost children years ago but continue to attend every year.

The Mass began with friends and family members leading Bishop Sartain from the chapel to the courtyard. The bishop blessed a large evergreen tree and then family members tied a ribbon representing each child they lost onto the tree. In no time, the tree was covered with silver ribbons fluttering in the afternoon breeze. Then each family received a candle and followed the bishop back into the chapel, pausing to light each candle from the Paschal candle. The candles then were carried to the altar and placed in a pot of sand, where they burned throughout the service.

“We are here to remember our sweet little ones that died much too soon,” Marciani told the families. “Their memories have their beginning in our hearts and they continue to live on there as a very important part of our lives.”

A couple adds three candles representing the children they have lost. During the homily Bishop Sartain discussed the Gospel telling how Jesus sought Zacchaeus out because he was lost to God. The bishop said man can be lost in a number of ways, especially after losing a loved one.

“We have this Mass every year as a simple reminder that the Lord Jesus came to seek out and save the lost, most especially those who lost little ones through death as babies,” Bishop Sartain said. “And it is to you that the Lord Jesus comes to give you strength and peace and to help you know that those you love so deeply are safe in his hands. Those you love would say to you ‘how wonderful it is to be in the arms of Jesus.’ ”

The comforting words spoken during the Mass, in addition to the bow ceremony and candle lighting, meant so much to the 250 people who attended.

James and Emily Brewer of Romeoville, and their 2-year-old daughter, Christine, attended the Mass to honor the two children the couple has lost through miscarriages. Parishioners at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, the couple has attended the last four years to honor their babies.

“The Mass is a great way to remember our little ones,” James said. “It is just a nice way to remind us that we are not the only ones” going through this grief.

‘The Mass gives me relief,”
Emily said. “I feel others should come because it will give them a chance to be with people who have the same pain and can understand their grief.”

After reading a notice about the Mass in the Catholic Explorer, Rachel and Mark Bialko of Naperville knew they had to attend.

Parishioners at SS. Peter and Paul Parish, the couple lost two children through miscarriages late in the pregnancies.

“Coming here, for us, was our way of showing our babies that we haven’t forgotten about them,” Rachel said, “and to know that we aren’t alone. It was very touching and overwhelming.”

The couple attended with their son, Michael, age 3.

Marisol Raygoza of Roselle lost a baby in 2005 and was supported at the Mass by her sister, Brenda Lopez.

”The Mass makes me feel so good, because it lets me remember her,” Raygoza said of her infant daughter. “The Mass marks a special day in memory of her.”

Rachel said having the bishop celebrate Mass moved her to attend because she was searching to find someone who cared about her children as much as she did. She said the bishop’s kind words meant so much to her.

“The Mass was done so respectfully,” she said, tears running down her cheeks. “There was a hope and a peace knowing others have been through what we have been through. I feel grateful and blessed to be here today.”


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