By SUE SECONI
For someone to take their own life through suicide, sometimes without any warning signs, is as tragic as it is irrational. It is particularly heartbreaking and heart wrenching for those left behind, often leaving them feeling shame, disbelief and questioning why.
Coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Week, October 9-15, the Catholic Parish of Whanganui - Te Parihi Katorika Ki Whanganui - is holding a special Memorial Mass for the victims of suicide and their families and friends.
To be held on Saturday, October 14 at 9.30am in St Anne's Catholic Church in Raine St, it is open for parishioners and the wider community.
"Celebrating Mass is the most effective way of opening us all up to God's mercy and healing," said parish priest Fr Marcus Francis.
"The liturgy of the Eucharist is about re-entering the events of our salvation. In breaking of the Bread, we can bring to this Mass our own brokenness of suffering and grief through the tragic consequences of suicide. This gesture of offering healing through the remembering of Christ's own life, death and resurrection hopefully in some way will enable those still affected by suicide, no matter how many years ago, to entrust their loved ones to God's mercy and gift them comfort.
"Lives taken by suicide and those left behind become victims," said Fr Marcus.
Some years ago in a pastoral encounter a widow spoke to Fr Marcus about the loss of her husband and in his suicide note stipulated that there was to be no funeral. Offering to hold a memorial Mass enabled the wife to finally find consolation. In another story, when a parishioner's brother died some 20 years ago without a Catholic requiem Mass, the family was able to discover God's love in a memorial Mass.
"Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his or her own life. Since we are stewards of our own lives, which come from God, suicide in itself is wrong. Nevertheless, we know that many, if not all, who die from suicide suffer from mental illnesses, anguish or hardship which diminishes their responsibility for their actions. We should not despair of people who have lost their lives by suicide. By ways known to him alone, God is there for them and the Church also prays for them," said Fr Marcus.
For those who have committed suicide, and indeed for all who have died, they are alive to God, he said.
"All shall be well, all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well," said English Christian mystic, Julian of Norwich. But this is not the end, since they live in eternity and we can pray for them.
This Mass will be a safe place for anyone who wishes to gather and an occasion where it will be okay to shed tears and to discover and find joy in knowing that God's love and mercy is without end.