Cardinal Wuerl Commemorates Memorial Day with Mass at Mount Olivet Cemetery

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

“Today we remember with gratitude those who gave the ultimate service. Those who paid the price, which includes vigilance and defense, so that we might continue to be a free people in a free land.”

WASHINGTON – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington celebrated Memorial Day Mass at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington today in remembrance of the men and women who gave their lives in service to the country.

The cardinal began his homily with an explanation of the importance of Mount Olivet Cemetery’s name, as a “reminder of our faith that the pathway to the glory of Easter and the Resurrection leads first through the Mount of Olives, Calvary and death.”

The cardinal told the faithful gathered for the outdoor Mass that death is a doorway that each person must pass through. “How to understand the meaning of death is what makes us followers of Christ and members of his Church. Death is a universal, human experience,” he said. He continued, “In an earlier age, before the Christian era, the classical Roman practice for concluding a funeral service included the salutation ave atque vale – hail and farewell. It symbolized the last greeting and then the departure of the deceased into an everlasting sleep. But that last greeting was unbearably sad. The deceased just passed beyond all hearing and, in fact, all being.”

Two thousand years ago, God sent His only Son to “teach us the truth about ourselves, about our destiny, about death.” He continued, “Catholic cemeteries continue to provide a ministry in the Church that recognizes the uniquely Christian understanding of death. They also provide us with holy ground where we can with some regularity remember our dead, recall their goodness to us and ask God’s blessing on them. We pray for the dead with the full awareness that we too shall follow in their steps.”

“Memorial Day calls us to remember those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. But it also, in a very special way, calls on us to remember those who have died in the service of their country, those women and men in uniform – in our armed services – who have responded to the call of their country and rendered the full measure of devotion. Our nation’s fallen are usually young and always remembered,” said Cardinal Wuerl.

“Today we remember with gratitude those who gave the ultimate service. Those who paid the price, which includes vigilance and defense, so that we might continue to be a free people in a free land,” he continued.

“A significant part of this long-standing tradition is the practice of having a Mass celebrated for the repose of the soul of a beloved deceased person. In this holy remembrance, we both pray for the dead and affirm our solidarity with them in Christ through the Eucharist,” stated the cardinal.

The Catholic faith calls believers to acknowledge the existence of life, even after death. “Christ is risen from the dead, and so too shall we rise. The pledge of everlasting life is a part of our heritage,” said the cardinal. “We see death with the eyes of faith.”

As he concluded his homily, Cardinal Wuerl added that freedom comes at a great price and thanked those who offered the supreme sacrifice for our liberty. “We are a people of gratitude and we express our recognition of our indebtedness by our prayers and our presence here today. But we are a people of faith and we pray in the sure and firm hope that those who have gone before us live now with Christ.”

“Our presence here today then is more than just an act of piety, however noble in itself prayer for the dead is. It is also a declaration of faith in Christ’s victory over death, our share in that triumph, our belief in the resurrection of the body and the life to come.”

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 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Chieko Noguchi or Lindsey Frechou
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