Visiting Holy Ground To Pray And Remember
This edition of The Message is dated Nov. 2 – All Souls Day. The Catholic Encyclopedia offers a wonderful, albeit brief definition: “The commemoration of all the faithful departed….”
Last Sunday (Oct. 28), Father Gene Schroeder celebrated Mass for All Souls in the Mausoleum Chapel at St. Joseph Cemetery in Evansville. Father Schroeder, pastor of St Joseph Parish in Vanderburgh County, also serves as president of the cemetery. He opened the Mass by inviting attendees to sit while he read the names of all those who died and were buried in the cemetery over the preceding year.
He read scores of names, including a former priest of our diocese – Father Gene Heerdink – and six Daughters of Charity sisters. They and all the others are among more than 37,000 buried in St. Joseph Cemetery. We prayed for all of them – and for our friends and family members.
Father Schroeder invited those in attendance to visit the cemetery often. “This is holy ground,” he said. Indeed, it is. He referred to the annual All Souls Mass that he celebrates there as “a little bit like ‘homecoming week’ because we are all part of the same journey.” He noted that our prayers are united with those of all the faithful departed – during this Mass and every other time we pray.
There are lines from each of the three readings – for the Mass of the Resurrection – that have stayed with me. From the first reading, found in the Book of Wisdom: “The souls of the just are in the hands of God” (Wisdom 3:1). From the second reading, found in the first letter of Peter: “Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). From the Gospel: “Everyone who looks upon the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life” (John 6:40).
Reflect on each of those brief biblical passages. It seems to me that, together, they provide the foundation for our ongoing remembrance of our loved ones and friends who have died. We believe – or, at least, I believe – that their souls are in the hands of God. I remember them and pray for them because the love we shared – be it family or fraternal – was intense. Finally, I believe that they believed in Jesus during their earthly lives and, as a result, have eternal life.
If you have not done so yet today – All Souls Day – take a few minutes soon to remember all those who have gone before you. Pray for them; and through those prayers, let them know that they remain in your heart and your thoughts.
On the cover of the worship aid for this year’s All Souls Mass, Father Schroeder printed “’Tis a Fearful Thing” – a poem from Jewish author Judah Halevi, who lived in Spain in the 1400s. It focuses on love – the kind of intense love, I believe, that Peter encouraged in the Mass’ second reading.
“’Tis a Fearful Thing” concludes with this:
“’Tis a human thing, love, a holy thing, to love what death has touched.”