Gathering up Treasure Celtic cross at twilight.

| Setting | Reflection | Music | Linking to the Mass |What if and if onlys |

About the Liturgy

The Liturgy was written shortly after the death of our parish priest, Fr Paul Beaumont on 16 August 2000. We wanted to create a Liturgy which would enable people to focus something of their grief and act as preparation for the Requiem Mass.

When to use the Liturgy

We used the Liturgy on the Sunday immediately following Fr Paul's death. The time between a death and the funeral is particularly stressful and emotions can be chaotic. Time to reflect and, as the title of the Liturgy suggests, to begin to gather up the spiritual treasures of a person's life can be healing. It allows people to come together without the need for many words - but in a deep solidarity of grief and love for the person who has died.

It could also be used as the basis of a Vigil service. Some communities have the beautiful tradition of bringing the body of the person who has died into the church the night before the Requiem Mass. The Liturgy would be helpful to those gathered to acknowledge their loss in the presence of the body - but also to give thanks for the spiritual treasures that await them in heaven.

With some adaptations to the Closing Responses, the Liturgy could be used after the funeral as the basis of a Liturgy of Thanksgiving for the Life of...

It would also be possible to use this liturgy in November as part of a Remembrance Liturgy for those who have died this year.


Using the Liturgy

We used the Liturgy as part of our regular Sunday Evening Prayer which takes place in the gallery of our parish church. It would be equally at home in a staffroom - a home - even in the open air.

Settings - simple and beautiful!

We used a large stone-effect cross with a circle of small yellow flowers forming a Celtic-cross style halo. At the appropriate time, people lit their tee-light and placed it among the flowers.

It would also be possible to use a photograph of the person who has died - or a symbol which speaks of their life and what it meant to the group that has gathered to pray.

After a time of reflection, people can be invited to light a candle - or tee-light - to represent the spiritual treasure they encountered in the person who has died.

Another possibility is to lay a flower.

In some cases, a seed or small plant might be a useful symbol - to be gathered and sown and planted to make a memorial patch of flowers (or, speaking as keen allotment-holders, a fine patch of vegetables!)

Another powerful symbol is a candle in a clay pot - representing a spiritual treasure in a - clay pot! - or earthen vessel as some translations suggest. If the pot has holes in it so much the better for this lends itself to speaking of the glimpses we get of the spiritual treasure we have during a person's earthly life. The lights of those gathered could be placed around the clay pot - symbols of prayer and hope for the one who has died.

Incense also offers a way of expressing our faith in spiritual treasures in unpromising containers. Allow people to hold one or two grains of incense (no more - unless you are outside or in a large space!) - to feel the grittiness and sharp edges - to look at its most unprepossessing appearance - and to reflect on how something so resembling grains of dirty shingle has been used in worship since time immemorial... And how this might be representative of our own lives and the life of the one who has died...
Then - invite them to place their grains on hot charcoal - and to savour the fragrance that it released... Do we need to explain the symbolism?!


After hearing the words of Scripture and possibly singing a song, people may welcome a time to reflect on the life of the person who has died.

Begin, perhaps, by reflecting on the words of the Scripture so that the death is set into the larger context of the death and resurrection of Jesus... this is where the promise of our own resurrection and assurance that our spiritual treasures can be stored in heaven comes from.

Use the symbol you have selected as a lead into your thoughts about the person's spiritual treasures - inviting people to hold it as you speak...

bullet If you chose the light, speak of the glimpses of light you saw that spoke of the glory that the person is destined to inherit... and of this light's being lit a sign of hope in that destiny for the one who has died
bullet If you chose the flower - speak perhaps of the unfolding of the bud as the person grew in the gifts you have valued - the beauty of the flower - & the person - gradually being revealed - and this flower now being laid as tribute to those gifts and that beauty.
bullet If you chose the seed or small plant - speak of the love and time the person invested in the world and in those gathered in prayer... and of how their death is not the end but that the seeds of love & faith that they planted will continue to germinate and grow.
bullet If you chose incense, speak of the frailty of humanity - of how it can be hard to believe we have the potential that God sees in us... speak perhaps of the the fact that much of our best work - our greatest treasure - is done quietly and seems unimportant but those on the receiving end know just what a difference it makes... like incense - it looks nothing until it is set in the fire of love...

Allow people time to reflect on what their symbol represents for them. Some groups might find it appropriate to share memories at this time - or perhaps offer one particular treasure as they light the light/ place their flower/ place their incense on the charcoal. Others may prefer to be silent with their own thoughts - in which case gentle music played or sung in the background can be of help. It is possible, of course, to offer people the choice whether to speak or to remain silent - just make it clear that people should do what they feel most comfortable with.

Depending on circumstances, this might be an appropriate time for refreshments! If, for example, you have gathered as a group of friends, it can be very helpful to spend time remembering and reminiscing. This can happen at the end but, sometimes, holding the talk and memories within a liturgy gives them a special quality. You know your group!


Taste in music varies widely - but we would suggest that the music should be gentle and reflective.

We used the Taizé "Bless the Lord my soul... who leads me into life". Also from the Taizé Community, "Jesus remember me" or "God can only give faithful love" - among many others

From the Wild Goose Group from the Iona Community, consider "Kindle a flame" or "Sing my soul"

There is a wealth of lovely music in the world - choose something that will not intrude and which will help to hold people in prayer as the candles are lit/ symbols are placed.

Linking to the Mass

If the Liturgy is used between the death and the funeral, it is useful to offer people something that helps them to prepare for the main liturgy to come. One obvious thing would be to light a candle each day and spend time reflecting on the life of the person - praying for their well-being.

If the funeral is to be a celebration of the Requiem Mass, it would also be helpful to make a specifically Eucharistic link. This can be done by simply speaking of investing the altar bread with prayers for the person - with their spiritual treasures -and the inevitable what ifs and if onlys. As they are offered, those prayers are offered - and, of course, ultimately, all is gathered into the Body of Christ as the bread is consecrated and becomes the Living Presence of the Lord.

Some communities might be able to have a bowl in which people can place their own altar bread. It may even be possible for the gathering of the altar breads to begin at the Vigil - a sign of waiting - and trustful expectation.

What ifs and If onlys

It is doubtful whether even saints die without leaving regrets behind them. When someone dies - especially where the death is unexpected - there is always a residue of guilt and unresolved issues which those left behind can struggle with and which can disrupt the work of grieving.

Good liturgy is not afraid to address these things and can be helpful in healing hurts - allowing people to forgive themselves and the person who has died - to place the guilt and regrets into the Lord's hands - to let go of grievances - and release the person into paradise.

Symbol and ritual offer a way of dealing with things that people may feel unable to speak about. They may, for example, feel guilty about feeling angry with the person who has died - simply angry that they have died. There are times to talk about these things - but, often, people feel that they are going round in circles and not really getting to the heart of the issue. Physically DOING something cuts through words and thoughts - and leads people into simply BEING - being who they are before God "warts and all".

For some, the lighting of a candle can be a sign of their desire that light should overcome the darkness of their pain.

Investing an altar bread with those feelings also offers a way of seeing that God can take the beauty and goodness of a person's life and draw it into the Body of Christ. It also reminds us that, in the sacrificial death of Jesus, the power of evil was broken and - in effect - all that damages human life was nailed to the cross. Placing our joys and sorrows in that Mystery lifts us beyond our human preoccupations and lets God deal with things that may not be possible for us... for some a hurt will feel unforgivable no matter how firmly they desire to forgive.

Using incense can be particularly useful for those carrying regrets and guilt. Feeling the hard edges of the grains can speak of the difficulties they remember - seeing the dark colour representing their darker feelings. Placing the grains on the hot charcoal becomes a sign of their desire to entrust those feelings to the transforming fire of God's love - and for the release both of themselves and the one who has died.

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