The Beauty of Ritual

By Charlotte Phillips

Recently I went to the funeral Mass for Father Marty Gleeson. 

Mass began with the procession of several priests along with Archbishop Gregory Aymond and Archbishop Emeritus Alfred Hughes.  I was surprised how joyful I felt watching these men gather to mourn and celebrate the life of their fellow brother in Christ. 

Funerals are understandably full of sadness, and I was feeling my own sadness at the loss of Father Marty.  That morning amidst the sadness was the beauty of seeing so many clergy and laity gathered to celebrate the life of Father Marty. I felt a deep sense of peace as I listened to the Gospel and homily.  I felt gratitude as I watched all the priests participate, both on the altar and in the pews, in the prayers and transfiguration of the Eucharist. 

Our Catholic faith is full of what I refer to as big “R” ritual. These big “R” rituals can be seen in the Catholic Church no matter where we are. And, the ritual of the funeral Mass itself and witnessing so many clergy being present and participating in Mass brought a great sense of comfort. 

Our lives are full of little “r” ritual, too. When Mass ended, I stopped to say hi to our neighbors and to several priests I know from Mass hopping around town. Being able to hug our neighbors and priests after Mass ended is part of our ritual of living in south Louisiana, always offering a hug or kiss on the cheek when we see someone we know. 

On the walk back to the car, the feeling of gratitude remained. In that moment I realized I was full of gratitude not only for the positive memories of Father Marty running through my mind, but also for the return of ritual we did not get to experience for months as a result of the pandemic. 

While I know we are not completely over COVID-19, it is nice to start to return to “normal” and to be able to experience ritual again. I cannot think of a better time to experience both big and little “r” ritual than celebrating the life of Father Marty.

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