the Blessing of the graves


am just back in from the Blessing of the graves. I miss my mammy so much….always mammythe Blessing of the graves.

is it an Irish thing? or a Catholic thing? or both?

i just know it has ALWAYS been there in my life.

this one Sunday – used to be later in the year but logically moved -it’s tomorrow.

blessing of graves

so we all, as a parish, or as have been parishioners, go to our family grave.

it’s a strange feeling – not a sense of i HAVE to in any religious way, but an i WANT to be there.

it seems set in your DNA – the sense of wanting to attend.

People talk about it for weeks before and tidy up the graves to have them ready…looking loved.

That’s it i suppose… it’s even if you are physically far from the grave during the year, on this day you get to stand with your family and as a community remember- each your own – loved ones.

It’s a funny thing.

it isn’t a sacrament – yet it means so much more than the religious aspect that the attendance is always HUGE.

pic n mix catholics go.

past catholics go

past remembering go.

There used to be a gathering of Priests who would lead the formal prayers, from a mic set up on the back of a lorry…a rubbish ould mic. But that was it.

Then there were a few singers to interject.

A few local readers.

Then while the Rosary was being led, the priests (and MANY appeared for this day) would go around the graveyard sprinkling each area with Holy Water.

i remember you’d watch where the priest was, to see he wouldn’t forget an aisle, or a corner.

But in the course of the hour or there abouts, you would see people you hadn’t seen all year. People you rarely see..that was the kind of turnout!.

And when i ask myself WHY i go… it isn’t really the religion that calls ME there… but i DO feel a call to go.

Has it changed? Modernised? From my childhood til now? Not really!

there are less priests and they are older, so not able to wander about freely blessing, go gradually each Parish has told its locals to bring your own Holy Water and at the nominated time YOU bless your own grave.

Do i mind that? NO!…to be honest no!…my prayers would be more personal and my blessing more significant to me than the communal one. We will still do all the prayers, the singing, the preparing the graves…and STILL the enormous community turn out – that you NEVER get at any other time in the year!

We go to it in my hometown and my husband’s hometown.

Our children at college and working are aware of when the Blessing of the Graves are – and do hope to attend. my younger sons know its something we do…always!

This year for me will be different.mammysky

Mammy will be 6 months dead next week.

my daddy brings me to the grave every day that i am fit to visit.

Tomorrow is another “first” for us. …another of the dreaded first times we do something.

Am prepared for it physically and bringing a wee chair as i wouldn’t manage a long stand and i know that.

We know we have got mammy’s grave “right” – right for mammy, for us, every letter on every word weighed and measured. the lines of the stone graceful and gently cut…understated and beautiful..mammy would have liked it – and that mattered so much! Everything about mammy deserved that. So it will be sad there tomorrow – all the more as the area of the graveyard where mammy is, is full of recent deaths – all similarly going through their “first”.

i think of mammy every day. Sometimes I forget that mam has died as i make a mental note to tell her something! I have a beautiful picture of her in the room i use during the day, and one at my bedside. I don’t necessarily need the graveyard to think of mammy. Not at all! I think of her so many moments not related to the graveyard.

so WHAT IS THE BLESSING OF THE GRAVES ABOUT?

why does it seem to be the topic of conversation with all locals for weeks?

flowers bought and sorted for each grave i visit.

it’s not a religious reason…

it is COMMUNITY.

community at its best. SHARING memories and respect for those we miss, and those who also have lost loved ones. It is an overwhelming UNISON…

remembering people as a community from our community…together.

Its a lovely warm tradition.

one that i will be happy to pass on.

So tomorrow mammy – you are still very much with us….at the Blessing of the Graves….

i miss you mammy

hx

 

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7 comments

  1. That was a very interesting and informative post, I have honestly never heard of the blessing of the graves and am pretty sure it doesn’t happen here in Canada, Thank you for teaching me something new

    • thanks.
      it only really occurred to me today that it both feels OLD catholic…but equally just Irish.
      So i really am not sure how far it extends…but is a nice warm day at a very strange level.
      H

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