Reaching out to those who have suffered loss

Reaching out to those who have suffered loss
To Bring Comfort and Consolation: Bereavement Ministry,  by Paddy Shannon SJ, foreword by Bishop Donal McKeown (Messenger Publications, €14.99/£12.95)

While our daily newspapers and television bring us continual news of war and disaster, our historians reinforce this state with multitudinous echoes of past loss and the toll it took. There are days when there seems to be little comfort to be found anywhere in this tormented world.

Paddy Shannon is a married layman who worked for nearly twenty years with Cruse Bereavement Care across Northern Ireland, a country where all communities of whatever identity have suffered pain and loss over the decades.

In this career he developed through parish work a way of bringing aid and comfort to those he encountered and he has since worked to share this experience and knowledge not only with communities, but with individuals.

His theme is that the traditional rituals and practices of bereavement and mourning of the Christian traditions can still be utilised to bring real comfort to communities and those struggling to survive within them.

The Church indeed is a way in which the community can steady and sustain people, which are what it is there for after all. Many think and say the Church has no real role in modern Ireland, North or South. And yet there are times when many, indeed most, still turn, almost instinctively, to the devices that served their people in the past. Seemingly derided, religious belief still carries on.

The book is rich in advice, in extracts, and readings, many of which will be new or unfamiliar. This is the kind of book which every parish, and every community, can learn from.

Death can be very sudden and unexpected. There need to be those everywhere who have thought ahead. In time of need they are a truly necessary source of comfort and consolation, and as such not to be neglected.