About 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage – Here’s what one priest did for those who have suffered the unfortunate loss of a child.
(Audio of the homily found below)
Fr. Brian O’Brien, Pastor of St. Francis Xavier in Stillwater, OK, holds a Mass for families who have lost children to miscarriages or early infant loss. Preaching on the Memorial of the Guardian Angels, Fr. Brian O’Brien spoke on the real pain of losing an unborn child early in infancy and by miscarriage. These little knows know, love, and serve the Lord just as we are called to do. Below you will find the text and audio of the homily.
I recently read an account of a woman named Jennifer Frey. She’s a philosophy professor by trade and she articulately lays out our culture’s uncomfortableness around the subject of miscarriage and early infant loss. You all know about it because many of you have had the experience and yet struggle to talk about it, struggle to be understood, and struggle with how to keep moving forward. Her words speak loudly to us today as we gather to pray this Mass, to ask for healing, and to ask for consolation, with other families who have experienced similar trauma. Ms. Frey wrote, “We don’t have the language or customs to match the reality of the loss and the magnitude of the grief.” She continues that “when grief is not honored or even acknowledged it is much harder to heal.”
You all know that and tonight, with our highest form of worship in the celebration of the Eucharist, we honor that grief and acknowledge that pain. Losing a child in infancy and in the womb HURTS. It’s sad. It’s terrible. It’s tragic. Yet we’re somehow expected to move on and oftentimes to move on too quickly and without acknowledging the real grief that comes with it. Maybe in an attempt to comfort you someone said something offensive or insensitive. Let’s try to find healing for that tonight knowing that people mean well but, like many of us, don’t know what to say and don’t know what to do.
Each of you has your own story to tell and your children have a story too. It’s not a long story for the little ones as their life on this earth was short. But in this sacred place, we don’t just talk about our life here on earth. Make no mistake, the time each of us has been given here is very important. We’ve each been given a vocation (a calling) to know, love, and serve the Lord. But I hope you’ll take comfort that your children with you now and those who have gone to the Lord have that very same vocation- to know, love, and serve the Lord. We do it here on earth, they do it with God in eternity. Same vocation, different places.
So how do our little ones know the Lord? They are with Him. They are in His loving arms. They know Him better than we know Him. When Jesus says, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven? and then points to a child, it’s no accident. Children are innocent. Children are pure. That’s how they know the Lord.
How do they LOVE the Lord? Children love in ways we adults have learned not to love. Children love with a strength not weighed down by the difficulties of life. Children love unconditionally and without reservation. And those who have died love even better than we do. Their love is not restricted by the physical as ours is here on earth. How do your children love now? Perfectly.
How do they serve the Lord? The great St. Terese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, whose feast day was just yesterday famously said, “I will spend my heaven by doing good on earth.” St. Terese died at a young age, just 24 years old, but she understood that those in heaven spend ETERNITY in service to the Lord praying for the good us here on earth.
If there is any comfort in the loss you feel, may it be that you now have an intercessor, or two, or three, or four, or more who are storming heaven on your behalf. Their prayer for you is one of healing, consolation, and peace. A prayer for you to keep going, keep striving, keep loving, doing the best you can with your spouse, and with your children who remain. Spending your life as they are spending theirs- knowing God, loving God, and serving God. In this may we find peace and comfort.
Finally, it’s important to know that you are not alone. Your pain is real. Your hurt is real. Your grief is real. But none of these are you asked to bear alone. Look around this church at many others who have experienced what you have. Look around this church at other families who, although their miscarriage or death of an infant has brought real hurt, they continue to go on. Look around this church at the saints and angels who are with you. And look at a particular place in this Church, the crucifix where we see Jesus going through pain but ultimately resurrected.
Resurrection is our destiny when we give our lives to Him. And we look to the tabernacle where the Eucharist feeds and sustains us. It is here that we find comfort. It is here that we know we are not alone. Jesus promised to be with us to the end of the age. That is a promise made to us and promise kept to you, to me, and to your children who have died.
May the Resurrection of Jesus Christ fill us with faith, hope, and love so that we may know, love, and serve God now and until our day comes when we will be reunited with our little ones for all eternity.
In the times of death and grief of a miscarriage, the Christian turns to the Lord for consolation and strength. The blessing of parents after a miscarriage or stillbirth assists the parents in their grief and console them with the blessing of God.
Fr. O’Brien was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma on May 26, 2007, and currently serves as Pastor of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Stillwater, OK, and Associate Director of Vocations for the diocese.
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