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Posted November 2, 2005

Book: Parish Rituals for Key Moments
Author: Eileen Deegan CSB
The Columbia Press, Dublin, pp. 122

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

How do we reach people who no longer find Mass and the usual church services satisfying their spiritual hunger and thirst?

There are significant moments in our lives which call out for some contact or connection with the Divine. Where is God in the bits and pieces’ of every day life? What can be done in our parishes to make a link between the experience of our ordinary everyday lives and the Divine?

This book is an attempt to make such a connection. It gathers together important moments in the life cycle of individuals and families and creates a celebration around those moments.

It is both an invitation to try something different and a challenge not to give up on what can be done in every parish. It also has the advantage of showing what lay ministers can achieve in a parish setting. It calls for an imaginative response to a new situation.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Harvest Festival of Thanksgivng
“You, Lord, have given so much to me.
Give me one more thing — a grateful heart.”

General comment

Thanksgiving. . . harvest times. . . awareness of blessings . . . gratitude for the gift of life and love . . . It is indeed good and necessary to help each other to think deeply about all that we have been given. We can be almost overwhelmed by all that is ours. God is so generous to us. In the context of parish life then this celebration in autumn time provides an ideal opportunity to come together to celebrate and give thanks for so much. Traditionally, harvest thanksgiving in Ireland is associated with the fruits of the earth. This ritual, however, goes further to include a celebration of the beauty and wonder of nature all around us and also the acknowledgement of the internal fruits of our lives as individuals and as a community. In inviting people to this gathering thehy are encouraged to bring along some small item — a picture, a fruit, a vegetable, bread, etc. – as an offering to signify their gratitude for all they have and are.

The preparation and general decor of the room for the celebration is very important. Baskets of fruit, vegetables, bread, flowers, wall hangings, banners and lights are placed around the room so as to focus participants on the theme.

Welcome and Introduction:

Our autumn Service of Thanksgiving draws us together again. This is the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.’

The harvest is almost complete. Across the land fruits, vegetables and grains have been harvested, gardens and fields give their gifts.

Sometimes, it is only when produce is gathered and the grain is harvested that the fruits of the earth are seen in all their bounty.

We too are asked to count our blessings even when the reaping at first looks sparse and lean.

This season, long regarded as special, is celebrated in so many places with festivals of thanksgiving.

Nancy Wood: “I must be thankful for what is and stop thinking about what is not.” There are so many gifts to be unwrapped every day if we are awake to their presence and willing to accept them. The late Eddie Fitzgerald in an article written shortly before his death entitled, ‘Letting Illness Make the Best of Me’, talked of his thanksgiving diary where each night he wrote down five things for which he was thankful in that day.

So tonight we celebrate life, each other, the beauty of creation, the fruits of the earth and all who work to provide for our needs.

We are thankful for what nourishes us, not just physically but mentally, spiritually and emotionally also.

The magic word: ‘Thank You’ is all important.

I invite you now to relax and to allow the basic elements of God’s creation to ring around us, gracing us with their wisdom and encircling us.

We celebrate the gift of fire,
Fire has held mystery since the beginning of time.
Let there be light!
God spoke light into the void, a light that brightens our lives.
The light is in our hands against the darkness.
May the power, the warmth, the passion and mystery of fire be given us.

God gifts us with the earth. Tonight we claim this gift.
The earth nourishes us as a mother. It is by the fruits of this earth we live.
We dig and grow and know its power.
We pray that we might walk gently on this earth.

God gives us the gift of air, air that is invisible yet around and within us.
We breathe this air every moment of our existence.
Without it we die. We reverence the air which sustains all of life.

We praise our God who gifts us with water. It is so necessary, precious and pure.
We claim the water of life whose rush announces the birth of a baby; the water of life which nourishes seeds and plant roots deep in the earth. We celebrate water, water of our life.

Table of Contents:

Brigid brings the spring
Remembering those sitting exams
Mother’s Day: Father’s Day
Grandparent’s Day, 26 July
Blessing of expectant parents
For parents who have had a child baptised during the year
A service for parents when children begin school
Affirmation and blessing of our teachers
Hope in the face of suicide
Remembering our loved ones who have died
A celebration of the autumn years of life
affirmation and blessing of those who build up our community
Saint Valentine’s Day
Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving
A sundown service
From the rising of the sun to its setting we remember them
Reconciliation service in preparation for Easter
Reconciliation service during Holy Week
Reconciliation service in Advent 1
Reconciliation service in Advent 2
Rituals for a funeral
The celebration of the sacrament of confirmation
A house blessing