The boy in a back pew, barely on the cusp of adolescence, stared stoically ahead during an overflowing Mass Sunday morning at St. Ann Parish in Dorchester where the family of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old killed in the marathon blasts, attends.
But after Communion, his shoulders silently began to shake. He bowed his head and tried not to be noticed as he placed a single finger under his eye to catch tears before they slipped to the church floor. A white-haired woman a few feet away noticed and, without a word, quietly slipped him a packet of tissues.
Bewilderment and tears – many from children – filled St. Ann’s during the 10:30 family Mass where more than 500 people came to the brick-faced church to seek comfort from the terror of the past week and to pray for Martin, his family and all the other killed, maimed or who sprang spontaneously to action last Monday.
“We weep for the last week,’’ Reverend Sean M. Connor told parishioners as the Mass began. During the homily, he cradled a young child in his arms, as he urged parishioners to learn love from the events of last week. “If we are not changed for the better ... then we’ve learned little or nothing.”
“Together we filled God’s house because we believe in hope and faith and love,’’ Connor said. “We come together and fill God’s house because we mourn. We come together and fill God’s house because we are fundamentally changed. Again, our little ones teach us,’’ he said looking at the young child in his arms. “This is how close we need to be with Jesus. Like a child in his mother’s arms.”
Parishioners and visitors gathered outside after the Mass in the bright sunshine. One young man with a goatee wept inconsolably alone with his hand across his eyes on the front steps. Yellow tulips filled a grassy strip in front of the church. A young boy clutched his mother’s hand as she fiercely hugged another parishioner.
“We are here because we are a community,’’ said one man who attended the Mass, but asked not to be named. “We will get through this.”