For many years, it has been a tradition at the end of my parents Christmas Party to pass around a box of clean white folded handkerchiefs to relatives and friends, and then to stand and sing “Goodbye, I wish you all a last goodbye” * whilst waving them very energetically.
The impact has been quite emotional on those involved in this annual ritual over the years, because I think it calls to mind those whom we have loved and lost who are no longer with us, but somehow are a part of the celebrations because we, as their descendants, are their legacy.
Last week, Pope Francis canonized two of the three Portuguese shepherd children, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who in 1917 together with their cousin, Lucia Santos saw repeated apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the fields near where they lived in Fatima, Portugal.
At the end of the Mass, the statute of Our Lady of Fatima, regaled on top of a carpet of flowers, carried aloft by eight men was processed to the site of the apparitions whilst the pilgrims, and the Pope himself waved white handkerchiefs as she left.
The ritual, which I had only ever seen before in my parents home at Christmas, was being repeated as a sign of reverence and love to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ.
Again, I was moved at the spectacle and I felt a desire to visit Fatima before my life ends, to wave my own white handkerchief as a sign of my own devotion to this holiest of christian women.
My next blog will be: Passing the Chalice
*From the show “The White Horse Inn” by Ralph Benatzky and Robert Stolz.