Thanks to Fr Martin Williams for his fifth guest post exploring the theme of remembrance
Fr Graham Francis used to say that the vocation of a priest and his principal work is to say Mass for the living and the dead. That is not all he does, of course, and we don’t accept the idea that the clergy work only on Sunday!
If you think of someone like Fr Graham, you see someone saying Mass every day, reciting the Divine Office (i.e. the official daily prayer of the Church, morning, mid-day, evening and night), preparing and conducting liturgies and homilies, hearing confessions, preparing candidates for baptism and confirmation, going into School, visiting the sick and dying and going about among the people, both the faithful and the not so faithful, extending the love of God to all, whether or not they respond.
This, of course, is the work of the whole Church, not just of the clergy, though they have an indispensable vocation of leadership and initiative in succession to the Apostles. All of us gathered to celebrate Mass are there to intercede for the living and the dead. And not just the ‘Intercessions’ but the whole of the Mass is an intercession – for all, that all may be saved.
Fr Graham notoriously hated confrontation (though he did admit to running the parish as a benevolent dictatorship!). He would rather be alongside someone to work out an acceptable solution to a difficulty or controversy than to confront them or argue. Standing alongside in solidarity is the essence of intercession.
Think about it: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5.19). Jesus has taken our humanity upon himself, born as one of us, living our life, dying our death – for us – that we may be reconciled to God and to one another in the name of Jesus. This work of reconciliation continues through time in the Church, work that begins, but certainly does not end, with the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the living and the dead.
We are the Body of Christ
We are the Body of Christ, standing with Jesus in the midst of a sinful and suffering world, praying that the Father will make his Church ‘a sign of unity and an instrument of [his] peace among all people’ (Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation II). This should encourage us if we are tempted to think that we are in any way being selfish by continuing public worship at a time of pandemic..
Besides the intercessory power of the Mass in and of itself, there are points in the liturgy at which explicit remembrance is made of the living and/or the departed. We may think of our acts of remembrance as an entering in on our part to the mystery of God’s eternal ‘remembrance’ of his whole creation. The Mass may be offered for a particular ‘intention’, at the request of a lay person or at the priest’s discretion, which the priest will announce at the very beginning of the liturgy.
At every Mass in St Mary’s The Prayer of the Faithful or Intercessions are made after the Liturgy of the Word and before the Preparation of the Gifts (Offertory). If every need of the Church and of the world were to be mentioned, these prayers would be endless! We have to confine ourselves to what is most immediate and of local concern.
According to ancient tradition, the Eucharistic Prayers include intercession for the Bishops and all the faithful of the universal Church and for the departed, with commemoration of our Lady and all the saints. Heaven and earth are at one in Him “who ever liveth to make intercession for us”, in anticipation of the kingdom when all will be made new.