WASHINGTON, D.C. – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington celebrated Mass on Memorial Day at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington in remembrance of the men and women who gave their lives in service to the country.
“From one point of view, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer,” said Cardinal Wuerl as he began his homily. “But, to us, it is much, much more,” he said, “because Memorial Day is the day when we come together and remember our dead, especially those who have served our country. We have many kinds of war memorials, but by gathering at a Catholic cemetery,” the cardinal continued, “we add another dimension: our faith.” “It is a deeply Christian practice – visiting memorials, laying wreaths, and then praying for those who have gone before us,” the cardinal said. “Praying for those who have given their lives in service to our country is a reminder of the sacrificial nature of Christian love. ‘No greater love has any person, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’”
In the Gospel reading proclaimed at the Mass, Jesus proclaimed to Martha that he is the resurrection and the life. Like Martha, Cardinal Wuerl said, we too acknowledge this truth.
“You and I recognize in the resurrection of Jesus the power of new life, and you and I are invited into that life. Isn’t that what baptism is all about?” Cardinal Wuerl said. “Someday, I too, will share in that life that is already within me…But first we have to go through those doors of death.”
“Every day the women and men in our Armed Forces struggle against violence and the disruptive forces of evil,” Cardinal Wuerl continued. “Saint John Paul II once reminded these men and women in a talk he gave to them: ‘You are called to defend the weak, to protect the honest, to foster the peaceful coexistence among all peoples.’ We see in those uniforms a sign of that patient commitment, a sign of love of our nation, and the willingness to be a peacemaker.”
Cardinal Wuerl said the Church has a long tradition of praying for the dead because we believe death is not the end, but a moment of change.
“One of the reasons why we have this Mass is because in the great Catholic tradition, we celebrate Mass for the repose of the souls of those who have died,” the cardinal said.
“We are a people of faith and we are a people of gratitude,” the cardinal concluded. “We thank God for those who have gone before us.”
The Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Washington carry out the Corporal Work of Mercy of burying the dead by providing for the burial needs of the Catholic community of the Archdiocese of Washington. There are currently five major cemeteries and two minor cemeteries (those that were former parish cemeteries) that are consecrated ground set apart and designated by the Church for use in burials. They cemeteries are: All Souls Cemetery (Germantown), Gate of Heaven Cemetery (Silver Spring), Mount Olivet Cemetery (Washington), Resurrection Cemetery (Clinton), St. Mary’s Queen of Peace Cemetery (Helen), and the two minor cemeteries, St. John’s Cemetery (Forest Glen) and St. Mary’s Cemetery, Lincoln Road (Washington).
The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 655,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 93 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.
Chieko Noguchi or Emma Vinton