Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz celebrated an All Souls’ Day Mass Nov. 2 at Calvary Cemetery, telling those who gathered that it’s the day to rekindle their love for those who have died.
The archbishop shared that his mother taught him to visit the cemetery and pray on All Souls Day when he was a child. There were four cemeteries — each on top of a hill — in the coal mining town where he grew up, he said.
Visiting the cemeteries became a ritual for his family.
“We cleaned up the ground and took the dead flowers away and left new flowers. My mother would say, ‘Let’s take a moment to pray,’ and we paused and prayed,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “Maybe you had someone in your life that taught you a deep respect for those who have died. I invite you to recollect what was your tradition that led you to come here today to remember the faithfully departed.”
All Saints’ Day, observed the day before, is a day to remember those “who are with God in heaven,” he noted.
All Souls’, he said, is a day to remember those in purgatory, “so that we might, with our prayers, assist them with their final union with God forever.”
“We pray because we know that when someone dies our love for them does not end. In fact, this is the day in which we rekindle that love,” said the archbishop. “Those who loved us, their love continues after they have died.”
All Souls’ Day is also a “beautiful opportunity” to remember those who pray for us, the archbishop said.
He noted that after his mother died in 1988 and he was helping clear out her home, he found several prayer cards wedged between the glass and the frame of a mirror. They were worn along the edges, so she must have taken them out each day, he said. One of the cards contained a mother’s prayer for a son who was a priest.
“She must have said that prayer every day for me,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “How many of us remember how our parents prayed for us? They helped us in many ways, but they prayed.”
The archbishop expressed hope that his listeners would visit the gravesites of their loved ones after the Mass.
“As you do so, recall the gift of dignity and love, a dignity that comes because you and I are made in the image of God,” he said. “And we treat those who have died and their remains with great care, precisely because we know that gift of love does not end and the gift of God’s love for our loved ones does not end in death.”
Archbishop Kurtz said that All Souls’ Day presents an opportunity to “treat people who are living with great dignity.”
“As we leave the cemetery today, we pray that not only our prayers will affect those who have died but will affect our own hearts, that we will become more like Christ in our daily life and in the way we treat one another,” he said.
Archbishop Kurtz concluded his homily by reciting the Prayer for the Faithfully Departed:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.