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All Souls – Endless Lists of the Dead

November 3, 2009

1155710-Churches-HamburgIn 1995, I went to Hamburg, as Vicar-General of the Anglican Diocese in Europe, to represent the Church of England at a ceremony in the Cathedral, on the fiftieth anniversary of the fire-bombing of Hamburg by the Allied air forces.

The service itself was very moving, as representatives from cities such as Coventry and St Petersburg recalled the awful experiences their own cities had gone through. But the most moving thing of all was that from early morning until late at night, various young people’s voices read out the names of those who had been killed. German voices were followed by Russians, and they were followed by English voices. And the most moving aspect of all was that these quiet voices went on and on and on during the entire service. Many of us were crying at the enormity of the evil we had inflicted on each other.

I’ve never attempted to read out the vast number of names in the Requiem books of any of the churches I have served. It has always seemed enough to lay all the names upon the altar while the All Souls Requiem is said. But maybe it would do us good to hear the entire list read out through a quiet microphone all during the Mass. I know that I was never so in communion with the departed than during that service in Hamburg.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Stephen permalink
    November 3, 2009 11:28 pm

    Isn’t it one of the truly wonderful things about Catholicism that we honor our Beloved dead at this time of year? Our Protestant brethren often say that our custom of giving stipends to our priests to remember our deceased at the altar during November unfairly exploits the tender sentiments we feel towards our departed loved ones. I think even an amateur student of history would find this difficult to completely deny. In the course of our 2000 year history their certainly has been abuse, and perhaps even simony in these matters, But I’d certainly rather be part of a religion that has responded to the primal need to honor the dead, even if their are pitfalls, than i would be part of a faith which seems to have no outlet to acknowledge (much less consecrate) this basic human need.

    God Bless You, Father Reid! and everyone at Saint Clement’s!

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