November Editorial – Love’s Greatest Gift – Remembrance

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In my own parish of Tallanstown in Co Louth, there are six cemeteries where people gather throughout the summer months to remember those buried there. Even in a secularised, social-media-driven age, the popularity of such ceremonies and the faithfulness of those attending bear witness to the power and significance of memory, reflection and desire for community.

It has been a year of historic commemorations of one kind or another – for Ireland, the Rising and its aftermath clearly predominated the media and public consciousness and not far away, commemorations of the First World War and in particular the Battle of the Somme in which many Irish perished alongside their young counterparts on all sides of the conflict. The war to end all wars as it was described then, turned out instead to be the prelude to an even greater conflagration. The Famine memorial garden unveiled in Irvinestown last month commemorated our own holocaust and the countless numbers who left Ireland’s shores never to return. A former English statesman once remarked that the problem was that “the Irish never forget and the English never remember”, and yet keeping memories alive is not only a tribute to those who have gone but can be a unifying and healing encounter for those left behind; a reminder, as Patrick Kavanagh once put it, that ‘we are not alone in our loneliness, others have been here and known griefs we thought our special own’. Nowhere better is the empowerment of remembering expressed than in those six words; ‘Do this in memory of me’.

And so as we pause, remember and pray in a special way during November days for those who have completed their journey in this world, we take comfort in and draw inspiration from the truth that love’s greatest gift is remembrance and in the words of the late John O’Donohue:

Let us not look for you only in memory,

Where we would grow lonely without you.

You would want us to find you in presence,

Beside us when beauty brightens,

When kindness glows

And music echoes eternal tones.

May you continue to inspire us:

To enter each day with a generous heart

To serve the call of courage and love. 

(from ‘Benedictus’)