Grieving parents find closure in community

Participants in the Mass of Innocents sign the name of their deceased children lost during pregnancy or early infancy in the Book of Remembrance

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Joseph and Chloe Langr — indeed, their whole extended family — looked forward to the birth of their first child, a boy.

But it was not to be. They lost the boy, named Marion, to miscarriage in March 2017. 

The aftermath was difficult. There was no funeral. There was no grave that would serve as tangible evidence of his existence or as a place to grieve.

“When we first lost Marion, I know a lot of my prayers — whether I was at eucharistic adoration or at Mass — those initial prayers were prayers of anger, ‘Lord, why did you take our son from us? Why are we going through this?’” recalled Chloe.

Some members of their family encouraged them to attend a special liturgy for parents, families and friends who had experienced such a loss: the annual Mass of Innocents, sponsored by the archdiocesan office for marriage and family life.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann will celebrate the commemorative Mass of Innocents for all children lost during pregnancy or in early infancy at 1 p.m. on Sept. 29 at Holy Spirit Parish, 11300 W. 103rd St., Overland Park.

No registration is required. After the Mass, there will be a light reception of cookies and punch.

The purpose of this Mass is to give parents, grandparents, siblings or other loved ones the opportunity to receive consolation, whether the loss was recent or many years ago.

“So many couples suffer silently from the pain of losing a child to miscarriage, stillbirth or early infant death,” said Libby DuPont, consultant for the office for marriage and family life.

“Traditionally, couples were just expected to move on with life,” she continued. “But if we really believe that life begins at conception, then as a church we need to honor the lives of these little ones and honor the grief of their [families].”

These grieving parents and family members need to know that the church grieves with them.

“This is an opportunity for these families to gather with their archbishop, who cares deeply for them and understands what they’ve been through,” said Brad DuPont, consultant with the office for marriage and family life.

“We have some families that attend this Mass annually as a way to remind their living children about a sibling who has died,” he added. “Other people come once for closure they never had. We’ve had many people whose loss was decades ago, but [at this Mass] have finally found healing and closure.”

That’s exactly what the Langrs discovered.

“It was such an opportunity to celebrate our son’s life with our parish community at Holy Spirit, and other couples and families in the archdiocese who had a similar story,” said Chloe.

“It was really beautiful to know we weren’t alone in that suffering, that miscarriage and infant loss was something a lot of couples experience,” she added. “Our community gathered around us to support us in our grief, and the church herself was drawing around us.”

She was particularly touched when Archbishop Naumann told them how he prays over the names written in the Book of Remembrance in his private chapel at his home.

“I really liked the opportunity . . . to share our son’s life with the church, and the way the church honors his life,” said Joe Langr. “It helps with our healing process. And working through losing him, as a couple, brought a lot of conversation about where our son is, and we have this hope he is in heaven. It brings us a lot of peace.”

The feeling of loss never goes away, but there is peace and healing through the Mass of Innocents that makes the burden bearable.

“When you first lose a baby, it’s like carrying around a giant boulder,” said Chloe. “It feels like you’ll never be out from underneath the weight of this raw sorrow. We’ve found that now, years later after losing Marion, that rock has shrunk to a pebble.”

The Langrs have attended the Mass of Innocents twice — and this year, they are bringing Marion’s little sister, 3-month-old Maeve.

“One of the most important aspects of the Mass of Innocents is that you don’t have to do this alone,” said Chloe. “There is support out there. 

“Sometimes that support can be hard to find and it can be a vulnerable ask. But at the Mass of Innocents, it’s so tangible. You can go up to anyone in the pews to ask for prayers or advice on how they grieved. 

“They’re all in the same boat. That’s why I’d encourage people to go. The body of Christ wants to honor the life of your baby.”

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