By Jay Nies
“This is holy ground … for the Lord is here, and where He is, is holy.”
The young people repeated the refrain again and again through wind and mist, heading down the lane into St. Andrew Cemetery.
Shadows of all who followed quivered in the light of flickering torches and candles.
It was Nov. 2, the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, also known as All Souls Day, a day to remember death and to believe and hope in the Resurrection.
“We are a people of faith and we’re a people of hope,” said Fr. Corel. “We’re here tonight because we pray to the Lord that our loved ones are in the kingdom of heaven with Him.”
Death and purgatory are not pleasant topics for discussion, but they are important to consider, he said.
“How many sins are you allowed to have on your soul and still get into heaven? The answer is zero,” he stated.
But how likely is it for someone to die with no sins on their soul? Not very.
So how does that work?
Fr. Corel pointed to the crucifix.
“This is where all of our sins go,” he said. “And we go that great place called purgatory to have all of those sins washed away.”
He likened purgatory — in this life or the next — to a spiritual bath given by the Lord “so that we’re presentable before trying to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
How does God choose to make that happen?
“By the prayers of the living who are still praying for us,” said Fr. Corel. “And that’s why we’re here tonight. We do the work of helping our loved ones get through that period of purgatory into the kingdom of heaven.” The Mass in Holts Summit was one of countless Masses offered throughout the world on All Souls Day and during the following week, which the Church observes as the Octave of All Souls.
“God thinks big! And the Church thinks big!” Monsignor Donald W. Lammers PA told more than 50 priests gathered Nov. 3 for Mass in the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
They concelebrated the Mass with Bishop John R. Gaydos for the repose of the souls of the priests and bishops of this diocese who died since its founding in 1956.
“Here, heaven and earth meet,” Msgr. Lammers noted. “Here, we are in the celebration of the Eucharist specifically to pray for our deceased brother priests, gathered around the altar with our bishop. And I would have to say, you can’t get any closer to our deceased priests than that.”
“And indeed we pray for them from the depths of our hearts.”
He suggested that the priests also pray for themselves — “that we be reunited that while we live and continue our ministry in the Church, that we get better and better at putting God’s will ahead of our own.”
He pointed out that the most recent priest of the diocese to die was Father Edwin Schmidt, during the Easter Vigil.
Whenever asked whether he would beat the cancer he was fighting, Fr. Schmidt would say, “Whatever God wants” or “I want what God wants.”
“Placing his will in careful harmony with God’s will, Fr. Ed was saying he didn’t want any competition between his own will and God’s will,” said Msgr. Lammers. “Like Jesus says, ‘not to do My own will but the will of the One Who sent Me.’”
Msgr. Lammers noted that from the very beginning, whenever Christians would die or be martyred, the living would honor them and offer prayers for them.
Oftentimes, people die with at least some attachment to sin.
“And yet, Jesus tells us in our Gospel reading, ‘It is the Father’s will that I should not lose anything of what He gave Me,” said Msgr. Lammers.
Toward that end, as is articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “all who die imperfectly purified undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”
That is purgatory.
“Praise God! Praise our Lord Jesus Christ for being willing to purify us the rest of the way after we die!” said Msgr. Lammers.
After the Communion Prayer, Bishop Gaydos reverenced with incense the book containing the names of the deceased priests and bishops.
Monsignor Robert A. Kurwicki, pastor of Cathedral of St. Joseph parish; and Father Anthony Viviano, pastor of St. Joseph parish in Westphalia and St. Anthony of Padua parish in Folk, took turns reading the names of the deceased priests.
The choir chanted “In Paradisum,” an ancient song of farewell for funerals.
“We are also very conscious of our brother priest from other dioceses and religious communities and remember all those who have been so good at ministering with us, and we pray for all of them,” said Bishop Gaydos.
After the final blessing, the bishop led the priests in a rousing chorus of “Salve Regina,” the Marian hymn they traditionally sing after Funeral Masses for fellow priests.
Company of angels
Father Simeon Etonu reminded the congregation that those who are undergoing the purification, without which no one can see God, cannot pray for themselves.
“They rely on our prayers and our sacrifices here on earth,” he said. “We are here today to offer this sacrifice of the Mass for them, that the Lord may admit them into His kingdom, that the Lord may purify them, so that they may join the angels and saints and also pray for us when we get there.”
Fr. Etonu, associate pastor of St. Peter parish in Jefferson City, offered Mass on Saturday, Nov. 4, in the Mausoleum Chapel in Resurrection Cemetery in Jefferson City.
He emphasized that those who have died who were marked with the sign of faith are still part of the Church.
“They are part of the Body of Christ, and whenever we gather to celebrate the Mass, we are gathered in union with them,” said Fr. Etonu.
“We are gathered here to pray for our brothers and sisters, our grandparents, our spouses, our children, our friends and relatives who have gone ahead of us marked with the sign of faith,” he said.
“We are here today also because we are a people of hope, because of our hope in the promise of everlasting life that Jesus gives us, because we trust in God’s mercy,” he said.
That same hope also helps the living to order their lives according to the principles of the Gospel and the love of Christ.
“So as we pray for the repose of their souls and we pray that the Lord may admit them into His kingdom, let us pray for ourselves, that through the grace of the Holy Spirit, we may also run this race to the end, that we may join the company of angels and saints in heaven,” said Fr. Etonu.