At the end of a narrow street that climbs between the houses, stands the pretty little church and cemetery of Fontaine-Milon, a village in Maine-et-Loire.
A few days before All Saints’ Day, it is at the entrance to this cemetery, like those of the twelve other bell towers of the Saint-Paul-en-Baugeois parish, that a small team of volunteers is preparing to dispose of the booklets of pray. The goal: to be present alongside the people who come to pay their respects at the grave of their loved one.
“Today, All Saints’ Day, we are in front of the grave of X…… With love, we have decorated his grave with flowers. We meditate for a few moments in silence…”, we can read on one of the pages (please find at the end of the article) from the small illustrated booklet.
There we also find the I salute you marie and the Our father, but also evocative extracts from the Bible. “We wanted to help people pray with very simple texts, because sometimes the words don’t come to them,” explains Gilles Cousin, member of the parish funeral team.
“Great expectations from people”
On All Saints’ Day 2022, of the 600 booklets placed in the cemeteries or churches of this vast parish sector, 482 found a buyer. “There is a real expectation on the part of people,” underlines the retiree. Nicole, a resident of Fontaine-Milon, has already witnessed this expectation since 2019. It was thanks to this lay person involved in the parish that the idea for the booklet was born that year.
The elegant sixty-year-old had just moved into the house which adjoins the cemetery. At the time of All Saints’ Day, she sees people passing by her house who go up to pay their respects at the graves of their loved ones. “I told myself that we didn’t get there by chance. How could we reach the bereaved? », Wonders Nicole. Driven by “great trust in the Holy Spirit”, she spoke about it to the parish priest: “it would be good if, next year, there was a presence at the cemetery on All Saints’ Day”, she confided to him. -She. Enthusiastic, the priest offers to “send him a prayer”.
“A lady had just lost her mother, together we talked about her”
On All Saints’ Day 2020, in the rain, Nicole pushes the cemetery gate and stands at the entrance for two hours. In her hands: a tray containing candles and prayer texts: “I welcomed people by introducing myself as a “neighbor”, and a parishioner of the place. I invited them to tell me about the person they were going to visit. And told them that if they wanted it, this prayer could help them. I also suggested that we accompany them to the grave and that we recite it together… I was able to talk with around ten people: only one did not take the prayer. Some agreed to say it with me,” recalls the parishioner, who accompanied elderly people for fifteen years. If she herself has trained herself in listening, “everyone can do it!” », she insists, before mentioning a lady who had just lost her mother. “When I invited her to tell me about herself, she started to cry. I blamed myself for it, but those around me told me: “No, it’s very good!” “.
This first experimental half-day quickly shows “the good reception from people”. In June 2022, the parish funeral team took up the idea. “We wanted to be more present “on the periphery” through these bereaved people. Inspired by Nicole’s idea, we put together a booklet for All Saints’ Day 2022,” explains Gilles Cousin.
A presence of the Church
At the end of October 2022, parishioners of Saint-Paul-en-Baugeois divided up to hang plastic bags on the gates of the cemeteries of the twelve bell towers. Inside are the booklets and above, a label reads: “From the parishioners of Saint-Paul-en-Baugeois, to help you pay your respects at the grave of your loved ones – Help yourself. » Sign of a discreet presence of the Church alongside those who suffer. Please note: the cemetery being municipal property, it is necessary to inform the town halls in advance.
The question of ensuring permanence at the entrance to cemeteries was discussed. But “some were afraid of being intrusive,” remembers Henri, the head of the parish funeral team. Initially, the teams from the seven bell towers of the neighboring parish of Notre-Dame-du-Loir chose to place the booklets at the back of the churches. “It’s a first step, but we hope to go further in the meeting,” confides the parishioner, anxious, with his team, to always better bear witness to the hope that inhabits them.
Prayer for our deceased
“Life is short and fragile, death reminds us of that.
Today, All Saints’ Day, we are in front of the tomb of X…
With love, we decorated his grave with flowers. We spend a few moments in silence.
X…, you are now in communion with us, a new communion, different from that which brought us together when you were among us. We are here to gather, remember and celebrate you.
One day, yes, we believe, you will be resurrected. And we will see you again face to face.
In this expectation, we will continue to pray for you. And you, pray for us, protect us, support us, and give us your help, because we
we always need you!
Let us pray together too, you and us. »