Providing and maintaining a final resting place for those who have died is not just a Corporal Work of Mercy.
It’s a powerful witness to Christian hope in the Resurrection.
“For us Catholics, it is very important that we show forth and manifest our belief in the Resurrection of the dead, not just in the words we use, but especially in our actions,” Bishop W. Shawn McKnight told several hundred people gathered in the Resurrection Cemetery Mausoleum in Jefferson City.
“How we take care of these sacred grounds is very important to our work at evangelization,” he said.
The bishop presided and preached the homily at this year’s Memorial Day Mass at the cemetery, which was adorned with many U.S. flags.
Father Louis Nelen, pastor of Cathedral of St. Joseph parish, concelebrated. Deacon John Schwartze assisted them at the altar.
Bishop McKnight also blessed the new stone crucifix that marks the area of the cemetery set aside for priests, religious and bishops.
He pointed out that for Catholics in the United States, Memorial Day is like a second All Souls Day.
“As we celebrate this day as a nation and remember those who gave their lives in service of our country in the Armed Forces, we as Catholics naturally want to pray for all who have died,” he said.
That makes it a day for more than remembering.
“It’s something present, it’s praying for them, right now,” said Bishop McKnight. “We can do something for them in praying for the happy repose of their souls.”
He said Catholic cemeteries are part of how parishes are to be recognized as centers of charity and sanctuaries of mercy.
“They are an important part of us being the Church Christ wants us to be,” he said. “It is here that people who grieve and mourn the loss of a loved one are met with compassion and the consolation of our faith.”
It’s important, therefore, for people who visit a Catholic cemetery to be able to recognize how ardently Catholics believe in life after death.
“Namely, in our understanding of the Communion of the Saints, we still have a relationship with those who have gone before us,” he said.
He reiterated the universal truth proclaimed and upheld by the Church that while all people experience death due to sin, all who have been redeemed by Christ’s death will be raised up to the glory of His resurrection.
The bishop asked everyone to pray and contemplate daily how they can help proclaim the Church’s hope and belief in the Communion of Saints and the Resurrection of the body.
“God,” he prayed, “our shelter and our strength, You listen in love to the cry of Your people. Hear the prayers we offer for our departed brothers and sisters. Cleanse them of their sins, and grant them the fullness of redemption.”
At the end of Mass, as the people sang “America the Beautiful,” the bishop, Fr. Nelen and Deacon Schwartze led the people in procession to the new crucifix in the cemetery.
Inscribed in the base of the crucifix are the words: “In memory of those who served us so well.”
He invited everyone to consider how Jesus had transformed the cross from an instrument of death and despair, into the means and permanent reminder of His mercy and eternal salvation.
The bishop urged everyone present to follow Christ more fully by joyfully accepting their own crosses each day, and by keeping watch for the Sign of the Cross in the heavens, heralding the Final Judgement.
“May the cross be our comfort in trouble, our refuge in the face of danger, and our safeguard on life’s journey, until You welcome us to Your heavenly home,” he prayed.
He then sprinkled the new crucifix with holy water.