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St.Mary’s Cemetery Mass, Carlow

St. Mary’s Cemetery Mass, 08.07.2024 @ 7.30pm


We gather in our thousands as family around the resting place of loved ones.  I welcome you warmly to St. Mary’s Cemetery. I thank all who have tended to plots in recent weeks. I acknowledge the many who visit here on a daily basis. I welcome the many who have travelled home to be here this evening.

I acknowledge the huge work done by Carlow County Council in operating and maintaining this cemetery. I thank the Gardai, the Civil Defence, the Order of Malta and all who are here to ensure this annual devotion runs so smoothly. I welcome the priests from the Cathedral Parish, from Askea Parish and from Graiguecullen, as well as native priests of Carlow who join in concelebrating this Mass.

A Mass when we gather with just one purpose, to remember and honour our dead. Gathering in that spirit of prayer and reconciliation, let us begin by calling to mind our sins as we bless the water that will be used to sprinkle the graves later …


Jesus is stopped in his tracks this evening. An official, who was obviously well known, grabs his opportunity to speak with Jesus. His daughter has died and he is understandably distraught. And then comes a woman out of nowhere who also wants to meet Jesus, but she isn’t at all connected and has to resort to making do, with touching the fringe of his cloak.

The woman has been haemorrhaging for twelve years, the same length as the life of the official’s daughter. The woman is restored to health and the young girl is restored to life. In ways it’s a kind of ‘happy ever after’ story where both have their needs met and their requests granted. Matthews gospel is the one assigned to the Mass of this day, taken from Chapter 9, verses 18-26.

A cemetery is not usually seen as a ‘happy ever after’ place, it’s here we shed our tears, it’s here we have our moments, it’s here we say our goodbyes, maybe it’s here we awkwardly stand as family around a grave. Things are not what they should be at home, and sometimes it goes back to the day of the funeral, the burial. Something was said; something was done; something left unsaid; something left undone – maybe this evening is the evening to begin that road of reconciliation.

Because in the strangest of ways if we have eyes of faith, this cemetery, St. Mary’s in Carlow, like every cemetery is a ‘happy ever after’ place. We pray that all our loved ones ‘Rest in Peace’, sometimes we are the ones who upset that peace, who rupture that peace. Sometimes our loved ones suffered from an illness that in the end robbed the life out of them; sometimes they lived in difficult and challenging circumstances; sometimes they slipped away without us having any chance of saying our goodbyes.

We gather conscious that in the words of the Roman Missal “life is changed, not ended”. Maybe we concern ourselves too much with dying and death and what that it looks like for us and miss the life our loved one lived and continues to live in eternity.  

St. Mary’s Cemetery is a ‘happy ever after’ story. Our loved one is in a better place. We prayer that they are with God and He is always very near. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.