Since the time of Jesus, the burial of the Christian faithful has been part of our Church experience. To bury the dead is one of the seven corporal works of mercy. The personnel of the Catholic Cemeteries is committed to continue the corporal work of mercy that describes this ministry of the Archdiocese of Louisville now and for future generations of Christian faithful.
All of us will have to face our own mortality, the frightening mystery of death and the fear to be stripped of all attachments to this material world. Most of us, will also face the death of a loved one. At that moment we will rely upon our faith in Jesus’ promise of resurrection to all who believe. We will be surrounded by the Church’s community of believers wanting to express comfort and consolation. We will gather in a Catholic cemetery where we will finally entrust the remains of our loved one to the care of those persons who perform this important ministry.
Our belief in the resurrection of the body at the end of time is the reason for the existence of the Catholic cemeteries. If there were no promise of resurrection and eternal life, there would be no need for Catholic cemeteries.
What is a Catholic cemetery?
A Catholic cemetery is a sacred place that the church provides to carry out the religious functions of burial and to care for the resting places of the deceased and, therefore, the Catholic cemetery becomes identified with the local church and gives witness to the faith of those who are buried as well as to the faith of their families.
Why is a Catholic cemetery sacred?
A Catholic cemetery is sacred not only because of a blessing or consecration, but also by the sacred function that it performs on behalf of the entire Christian community: It holds the bodies until the Lord comes again in glory. It is sacred because it is an extension of the parish church where prayer and liturgy are celebrated. It serves as a symbol of the extended community of believers, a community unbroken by death.
Why should Catholics be buried in a Catholic cemetery?
Catholic cemeteries are an extension of the parish church where those who have worshipped and prayed together in life now await with all fellow pilgrims the promise of life everlasting and the resurrection of the body in death.
A Catholic cemetery is a place where the signs and symbols of our Catholic faith are displayed with pride and reverence. It is the appropriate place for gathering in ritual prayer, such as the rites of committal for the dead and the celebration of the Eucharist on the Feast of All Souls. It is also a fitting place for private prayer and reflection. A Catholic cemetery also is a place of catechesis that teaches the Catholic belief in the resurrection through the witness of the lives of those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith.
In short, as its core function and purpose, the Catholic cemetery, in union with the entire church, helps to illuminate the path as we make our pilgrimage from earth to heaven and brings together a number of elements of the church’s pastoral mission: the proclamation of the Gospel to arouse faith, examination of the reasons for belief, celebration of the Eucharist, integration of the church community and apostolic witness.
Javier Fajardo is executive director of Catholic Cemeteries for the Archdiocese of Louisville.