by Melinda Gallo

Ordinare una messa

A dear friend of mine told me last year that I could ordinare una messa (order a mass) for my parents who had passed away a few years ago. She told me that there were two churches that allow people to ordinare una messa for the defunti (deceased). The first one, Santissima Annunziata, was right next to where I used to live last year. I went there at least ten times, but could never get the attention of anyone who worked there. The idea faded in my mind and then last week it came back, and I decided to do something about it.

Funnily enough, I moved right next to the other church, Chiesa di San Remigio, that also allows people to ordinare una messa. A few weeks ago, I decided to walk in and ask about it. I entered the rather dark church and saw a suora (nun) who was watering the plants up near the altar. I walked up to her and asked her if I could ordinare una messa. She nodded at me and then put down the watering jug.

I followed her into a small room that was down a few steps from the main floor. There was a large rectangular table and a datebook open to today's date. She flipped through the datebook and said, "Domani? (Tomorrow?)" she asked. I immediately said no as I didn't want it to be on a Saturday and honestly didn't feel quite ready yet. She skimmed a few more pages and said, "Mercoledý? (Wednesday?)" I nodded my head and gave her my parent's name.

The suora wasn't Italian and I could see that she was struggling with writing my parent's names, so I asked her where she was from. When she told me that she was from India, I asked her if she wanted to speak English. She smiled at me and was able to write down my parent's names much easier. The last thing I wanted was the prete (priest) mispronouncing their names.

I am not a religious person, but consider myself spiritual. I had initially thought that I wanted to have this mass so that I could have a more spiritual closure to their passing because neither one had a religious service.

Alessandro came with me to the 6 p.m. mass last Wednesday and held my hand. When the prete said at the beginning of the mass that it was dedicated to my parents, I felt a few tears well up in my eyes.

I looked around at the other people in the church during the mass and thought about how they were all here for my parents even if they didn't intend to be there for them. I had assumed that the church would be empty at this time of day, but there was about 20 of us.

After the mass, I felt a bit lighter. I thought I would cry during the mass, but only felt the urge to do so a couple of times. I felt an amazing sense of happiness the next day as if someone had removed a sadness in my heart. The mass only lasted about a half an hour, but I had the sense that all of us were there together: my mother, my father, Alessandro, and I.

Every day since the mass, I walk past the church just to go past it. I don't always walk in, but when I do, I light a candle for each of my parents and recall the mass I ordered. I thought I was sending them blessings, but in the end, I think they sent me a few.

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