BAY CITY— For the second year, the Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, celebrated a special Mass in remembrance of babies who have died in their mother’s womb or as infants, and to pray for parents and families who have suffered the pain of miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion or infant death.
About 150 individuals— men, women, couples and families of all ages— gathered for the Mass of Remembrance for the Unborn on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish, St. Hyacinth Church, in Bay City.
At the beginning of Mass, Bishop prayed that those gathered would open their hearts and feel the peace of the Lord, along with the “sure and certain knowledge” that their children were in Heaven.
“Healing is so important for your hearts, for your joy, for your peace,” Bishop Cistone said.
Lori Becker, Respect Life Coordinator for the Diocese of Saginaw, said the purpose of the Mass was to help parents and families heal and forgive.
“Healing takes place in community, when you know you’re not alone,” she said.
The first Mass of Remembrance for the Unborn was celebrated in 2015, when Bishop Cistone asked the diocese’s Christian Service Commission to organize a Mass for parents who have lost children after talking with a couple who miscarried.
“The Lord is here for you,” Bishop Cistone said in his homily.
The bishop shared three steps to prayer that might help parents heal: preparation, expression and offering.
“Preparation is essential” for prayer, he said. First, one should quiet his or her soul; recall a moment in your life when you just knew, confidently, that God loves you. Then, he said, you can get in touch with your feelings for your child, allowing yourself to experience and acknowledge them.
Next, express your love for your child, Bishop Cistone said, adding that it’s okay to do so with tears and trembling.
“Talk to your child. Tell your child how much you love them,” he said.
“Envision that you’re seeing Jesus and Mary standing before you, offering your child to you. Know that your child is possessed by Jesus and Mary. Your child is embraced by Jesus and Mary,” he said. “Imagine they’re reaching out and actually handing your child to you. And as you do that, then you have to open your arms, open your hearts, to receive your child.”
Bishop Cistone urged parents to not be afraid to be with their child in prayer, even physically opening their arms in prayer to receive their child.
“Call your child by name,” he continued, encouraging parents to name their child if they have not already done so. He recommended to simply talk to your child.
“You’re placing yourself in eternity, where there is life. Where there is love,” he said.
Bishop Cistone explained that when we are at Mass, we are entering Heaven as the angels bring the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to the throne of God. He shared that after his father’s death, he was celebrating Mass in his chapel and it was then that he felt his father’s presence most strongly.
“Embrace your child,” Bishop Cistone recommended. He noted that this time was a good opportunity to forgive anyone you might harbor hard feelings against— even God— regarding the loss of your child.
The final step is to offer your child back to Jesus, Bishop said.
Since we as Catholics believe these children are in Heaven, where the saints can intercede for us, we can ask our children to pray for us. Parents should also consider what their child might ask their prayer to be.
“Your child wants you to feel the same freedom they feel in the Kingdom,” Bishop Cistone said. “Your children are whole in the Kingdom of Heaven, and they want you to be whole, too.”
“And then, as you place your child in the arms of Jesus and Mary, just simply say ‘Take good care of her or him.’” Bishop said, recommending parents again use their child’s name.
Following the homily, Bishop Cistone blessed memorial candles placed around the baptismal font, and families were invited to light a candle in memory of their children. After the Mass, families could take home their memorial candle and a Rosary.
Resources for the grieving and post-abortive women were also available through the Diocese of Saginaw’s Respect Life ministry.
“Pro-life is respecting all life,” Becker said. The baby boys and girls who died in their mother’s womb had a life, she said. “Tonight, we honor that life.”