Helping children remember lost loved ones

Faith Formation by Maeve Mahon

The month of October is fast drawing to an end and the focus on mission and the rosary concludes with the blessing of rosary beads at Mass on the next Sunday of the Do This in Memory programme, November 3. This is an opportunity for parents and grandparents to ensure that the child preparing for First Communion has a pair of rosary beads to bring with them to the Mass. Other religious objects such as medals, crosses, Bibles and prayer books will also be blessed.


This blessing reminds us that that these symbols of our faith are simply a way to bring God’ love for each one of us to mind, but, that we must also remember that the way we live as Christians must echo that command of God to love one another as we are loved by him. A sentiment beautifully expressed in the Gospel for Sunday, November 3 when we hear again the story of Zacchaeus, the greedy little man who took more than he was due in taxes and was very unpopular with the people he met. Jesus chose to spend time with Zacchaeus and in doing so showed him how he was loved and enabled him to change the way he lived his life. This Gospel story can be found in the Grapevine that was distributed at the end of the first Sunday of the programme and it would be very helpful for parents and grandparents to read it with the child before you go to Mass next Sunday.

The focus in Do This in Memory for the month of November is directly related to the time of the year in which we find ourselves. The Feasts of All Saints and of All Souls, November 1 and 2, will be celebrated before the next Sunday of the programme.


The Feast of all Saints is a Holy Day of Obligation, when those who are able are expected to attend Mass. Sometimes, Holy Days are also work days and it can be difficult to find the time to go to Mass, but as this Holy Day falls at the end of mid-term break consider making a special effort to go to Mass with your child or perhaps, ask their grandparents to bring them. 

Why not make this Holy Day a holiday from work and spend some time with your child and your God. On those days we remember and give thanks for all those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. Some of these have been formally canonised as saints and some, particularly those we have known personally, we believe to be saintly because of the way they have loved us, cared for us and shared their faith with us or as Pope Francis put it recently, the ‘common sanctity’ of those whom we meet every day. Our devotion, as Irish people, to the saints can be seen in the thousands who queued to visit the relics of St Anthony of Padua in the past few days. Talking to children about the saints, particularly those, like St Anthony, whom most of us call on as soon as we lose something, is a great way of helping children understand and come to know some of the stories of their faith.

Faith tradition

In our faith tradition November is also the month of the dead. We write lists of the dead to bring to the church or write their names in the Book of Remembrance in the church. We visit cemeteries and graves of loved ones, light candles and pray for them and somehow they seem nearer to us at this time of year than at any other time.

Perhaps, this has its roots in our more Celtic and pagan heritage when November was seen as the time when the veil between this world and the world of the spirits was very thin. For the Family Prayer Space at home you are encouraged to create your own Book of Remembrance and write the names of all your loved ones who have died in it. Memoriam cards, photos and mementos can also be placed in the Space. You are also asked to go for a walk with your child and find a leaf in memory of a loved one who has died. This leaf will be brought to Mass on the nest Sunday of the programme and can be placed in your Family Prayer Space until then.

The creation of such a space also gives families an opportunity to spend time together remembering, looking at old photographs and telling stories about those who have died. Maybe, in your story telling you could also try and recall the faith that those who have died shared with you and in this way, continue the wondrous task of handing on of faith to your child.