LINCOLN (SNR) – The Diocese of Lincoln will mark the feast of the Holy Innocents Dec. 28 with a memorial Mass for those who have lost a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death or abortion.
The feast of the Holy Innocents honors the babies killed by King Herod in his search for the Christ Child. The feast provides an opportunity for prayer, empathy and healing for those who have lost a baby.
The Mass will be celebrated at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 28 in the John XXIII Diocesan Center, 3700 Sheridan Blvd.
At the Mass, sculptor Sondra Jonson, a member of St. John the Baptist Parish in Cambridge, will display two pieces – “Rachel Weeping” and “A Father’s Tears.”
Jonson created “Rachel” to reflect the scriptures read on the feast of the Holy Innocents: “A cry is heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentations: Rachel is weeping for her children, and she shall not be comforted because they are no more.” (Jer. 31:15, Matthew 2:18)
Jonson said the bronze statue of Rachel bowed in prayer, has drawn many to feel that they are not alone in their sorrow.
“Rachel Weeping” represents “a woman who is united with all the suffering and all the tears of the human race, a woman whose hopes have been crushed and whose heart is as empty as the blanket draped over her arms, yet who lifts her open hands in complete abandonment to the only One, who can fill the abyss of her soul,” she told NE Rural Living online magazine Oct. 2017.
“Rachel” was first sculpted for the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine at St. Germanus Parish in Arapahoe, and 27 castings have been installed throughout the U.S. and in Canada since then.
Two memorials for children lost through miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death are located in the Diocese of Lincoln – Calvary Cemetery in Lincoln and St. Joseph Cemetery in Beatrice – and include Jonson’s “Rachel” statue.
However, there is no corresponding statue to express the suffering of a grieving father.
In 2015, Jonson said the father of a miscarried baby contacted her, expressing his hope that a sculpture representing the father’s pain be added to the memorial garden at Calvary Cemetery in Lincoln. He said, “There are some fathers who no matter how much time has passed still mourn for their unborn miscarried children. It would be nice if they had a Statue to reflect their pain as well…. I know you could sculpt one to capture the horrible tragedy every father goes through after losing a child.”
So the work “A Father’s Tears” has been developing – first as a sketch, then a small statuette, then a mid-size maquette; and now fundraising has begun for the life-size sculpture. The first bronze casting will be placed by “Rachel” at the Fatima Shrine, and molds will allow reproductions in other sites.
Jonson said the attitude of the “Father’s Tears” statue is distinct from “Rachel Weeping.” She is bowed in quietness, as if waiting for God to fill the chasm of her heart, she said, but the father is locked in a struggle with God.
“Like Job with his Creator and Jacob with the angel, the father is depicted looking intently towards God as he wrestles with his loss and sense of failure,” she explained. “Rachel holds an empty blanket; the father holds empty baby shoes. Like Rachel, the father lifts his empty hand to God. The rose at her side and the lily at his are the symbols of God’s answering compassion.”
Since “Rachel Weeping” was first dedicated, Jonson said, stories have emerged of healings experienced by those who encountered her.
“Now men will also have a place to go and, like the father in the statue, plead with God for restoration and peace.”