By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Editor | Published March 18, 2021
ATLANTA—In late February, as the one-year mark of the pandemic approached, Atlanta Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., asked parishes to hold memorial Masses for those who died in the last year.
The archbishop encouraged parishes to set aside the noon Masses on Tuesday, March 2 for the memorials and to “lift up in prayer the victims’ families, friends, coworkers and in a particular way, the caregivers and medical professionals who have also sacrificed so much.”
St. Pius X Church in Conyers was one of the many parishes celebrating such a Mass.
Father Adam Blatt, parochial vicar, was the celebrant. He acknowledged in his homily that this past year was a whirlwind of emotion, heartache and confusion where much has been taken from us.
“So what do we do with all of this?” he asked. “All the death, the suffering, the seemingly unanswered prayers? Well we do the same thing we have always done. We have faith and we have hope.”
Father Blatt reminded those attending that death is not the final answer.
“We have faith that our loved ones are not gone, that death is not the end but simply a new beginning, and with that we have a hope that they are in a better place, a place that is the fulfillment of the very reason they were created and born to begin with,” he said.
The priest suggested that turning to the Gospels can help maintain faith and hope.
“When he says ‘blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted,’ he is talking about you, your children, your grandchildren, all those of us who have lost someone dear to them,” said Father Blatt. “He reassures us that in our confusion and suffering he is there to hold us and to give us the strength to persevere in faith and hope.”
The priest reminded that while no one has been untouched by the pandemic, God has also not abandoned anyone during these trials.
Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, was homilist for the memorial Mass held the same day in St. Dominic Chapel at the Chancery of the archdiocese in Smyrna.
“Our church is a memorializing church,” said Bishop Konzen.
He said each time a Mass is celebrated, there is a commemoration of those who have died. It’s not simply for bringing them to mind but also to pray for the “journey of their souls.”
The practices of the church give credence to the fact that “life has changed not ended.”
At the point of 500,000 lives lost, many compared the number to the size of Atlanta’s population, he noted.
“What’s the proper memorial for loss on such a scale?” asked the bishop.
He said the loss ought to prompt us all to a greater spiritual vigilance and treasuring of God’s graces. Bishop Konzen encouraged generosity with those who are grieving.
In a special way, he remembered the caregivers of patients and those whose job it is to help bury the dead.
“They are caregivers, who sometimes feel overwhelmed themselves, living each day with a bundle of emotions,” he said. “These folks too need our prayers and concern.”