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“On this Memorial Day, for those who have given their lives in the service of our country, that they may rejoice for all eternity in the glory of God’s kingdom, we pray to the Lord.”
Catholics throughout the Jefferson City diocese gathered in cemeteries the morning of or during weekend before Memorial Day to lift up in grateful memory all of their loved ones who have died and especially those who gave their lives while protecting others.
Father Louis Nelen, pastor of Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish in Jefferson City, offered Mass in the Mausoleum Chapel of Resurrection Cemetery in Jefferson City.
“We take time out this day to pray here for all our loved ones who are buried here and for all the souls of the faithful departed, that God will embrace them in His peace and in His love,” Fr. Nelen stated in his homily.
He pointed to Jesus’s reassurance that His friends and followers would have troubles in this world, just as He did, but “take courage, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Jesus did so the same way He urgently commanded His Apostles to do: by loving God and loving one another.
“Jesus’s love is incomparable,” Fr. Nelen noted. “His love is what transforms the world and us for the better.”
That love and reassurance is what gives people of faith the confidence to commend their deceased loved ones to God’s care and compassion, saying “Yes, Lord, You will awaken them to glory, where they will see You face-to-face,” Mr. Nelen stated.
“We know that in Christ, we have our hope and we have our joy, something that no one can take away from us,” he said. “As we pray for all those who have died, we also realize, God is near to us.”
Christ Himself knows from experience what it feels like to be feel alone, abandoned and isolated, most notably during His crucifixion.
“And He doesn’t want us to have to feel that way,” Fr. Nelen counseled. “So we are reminded that the Father is with us, but we are also with each other. That’s why we come together as a community, to give each other support with our prayers.”
Genuine love, in sacrificial imitation of Jesus, has the power to subdue this world.
“Because we see how God’s love through the Holy Spirit, as we see throughout the Acts of the Apostles, throughout the works of the Church, changes lives, changes hearts, completely transforming people,” said Fr. Nelen.
“We know that God loves us so much that He went through a lot of planning, a lot of intentional work in order to get us to heaven so that we can share in His life,” the priest stated. “So today, we remember that as we offer this Mass for all those who have gone before us, that God’s love is able to open for them a path to the heavenly realms.”
Together, the people offered a prayer of supplication for the deceased, especially those who recently died: “Almighty, ever-living God, Who rule both the living and the dead and are merciful to all, we humbly beseech You, that those for whom we pour out our prayers may obtain pardon for their sins through your tender mercy, rejoicing together, blessed in Your sight, and praising You without end.”
Memorial Day started out as a day set aside to decorate the burial places of loved ones who had died defending this country.
For God and country
Priests throughout the diocese offered special Masses for Memorial Day.
In St. Patrick, people processed from the Shrine of St. Patrick to the parish cemetery for the blessing of the graves.
Howard Kirchner of the St. Patrick Cemetery Association led 24 people on a historical tour of the cemetery, highlighting the lives of several families that have been laid to rest in that place of beauty and peace.
A reception was held immediately following for all in attendance.
In Clifton City, Father Mark Smith, pastor of Ss. Peter & Paul Parish in Boonville and St. Joseph Parish in Pilot Grove, offered a late-afternoon Mass and blessed the graves the Saturday before Memorial Day in St. Joseph Cemetery near the St. Joseph Chapel.
Fr. Smith also offered Mass in the St. Martin Cemetery near the former site of St. Martin Church in Martinsville, in rural Cooper County. About 75 people attended.