LITURGY MATTERS: Perpetual Day of Remembrance

On 15 September we remember the harm caused by our history of child sexual abuse and failure to protect children within the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. In 2020 Bishop Bill decreed that Perpetual Day of Remembrance Sunday would be celebrated each year as a special Feast Day on the Sunday of or immediately prior to 15 September.

And so, in the Church of Maitland-Newcastle, Perpetual Day of Remembrance Sunday has its own readings and prayer texts. These replace those for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time which the rest of the church celebrates on that day.

Finding appropriate readings and prayers was undertaken by the Diocesan Liturgy Council’s Standing Committee for the Perpetual Day of Remembrance. This work involved a long process of considering possibilities, prayer and reflection, and consultation, including with the Healing and Support Team from the Office of Safeguarding. The chosen readings, with a few other options, were sent to some clergy for comment and feedback. All affirmed the choice. Finally, Bishop Bill indicated his approval by decree.

View Perpetual Day of Remembrance Sunday Readings

The focus is the gospel call to change through the power of God’s love which raises up new life in the midst of death and despair.

The readings seek to help us to recall our experience of death, of loss, of dryness, of hopelessness amid impossible challenges – like a valley of lifeless, dry bones that we hear about in the first reading. In the face of such dryness and loss, God calls the prophet Ezekiel to speak a word that raises up new life. Our response to hearing this call is to proclaim in faith, ‘My soul is thirsting for the living God’. In the Gospel we hear the faith and promise of a young woman, who though she felt ‘lowly’, dared to say ‘yes’ to God who had ‘done great things’ for her, and who promised to do so into the future, routing from the human heart all that diminishes the life of others. And so, as the second reading proclaims, the dying-rising pattern of our lives has its influence on others.

It is fair to say that Ezekiel was not part of whatever created the valley of dry bones in which God placed him. There’s no avoidance here. God made him walk up and down among all the bones.

Similarly, as many say, we are not responsible for creating the dry bones of our Church’s history of sexual abuse of children. And still, like Ezekiel, the hand of the Lord has been laid on us. We – the members of the Body of Christ today – are asked by God to ‘prophesy’ through our lives and prayer, so that healing and life is brought to this valley of dry bones that we all experience in some way.

Our personal experiences of such dry bones, our own thirst for the living God, our own remembering of ‘the great things God has done for me’, empowers us to offer our personal and communal ‘yes’ to God.

It is for us to ponder how our ‘yes’ can embody the mercy of God that reaches from age to age; how our yes can help to rout from our own hearts and society, those human qualities that continue to enable even subtle forms of abuse – disrespect, silence, judgment, privilege. (cf. Parish Resource, Prayer for turning on the light of Christ p. 7) What are the dry bones that in this age deal death rather than life?

The striking image of the dry bones and Mary’s proclamation, connected by our communal ‘thirsting for the living God’ includes us all, reaching beyond the dichotomies of perpetrator and victim/survivor, past and present, me/us and them.

It is hoped that these readings with their stark images invite us all to move beyond just looking at the dry bones of our history and crying out, ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope has gone!’  They are a word of Hope that invite us to action; to live lives that proclaim the greatness of the Lord here and now. They echo a call to conversion.

If the light of Christ is to shine, if the mercy of God is to reach into this time and place, if hope is to be found, then we need to follow the example of Ezekiel and Mary and say our ‘yes’ to God.

May our Perpetual Remembering in 2021, inspired by the Holy Spirit, lead us all into an ever-deepening change of heart that promotes the love of God here and now. 

Resources for the Perpetual Day of Remembrance are available on the diocesan website. Please click on the drop-down menu at the top of the list. There you will find a resource pack for:

Parish communities

Schools and all church agencies and groups

Individuals and households.

Parishes and schools have been sent these resources as Microsoft Word documents to facilitate their preparation. 

 

Acknowledgements

Image: © 2019 Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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Louise Gannon rsj Image
Louise Gannon rsj

Louise Gannon rsj is the Diocesan Co-ordinator of Liturgy.