BRIDGEPORT—More than 1,000 people throughout the diocese attended the outdoor All Souls Day Masses held in six cemeteries today.
With a blustery autumn wind flapping the large white tents and maples trees lit by their fiery orange leaves, people joined in prayer for the repose of the souls of all the faithful departed.
November is the month of the Holy Souls in Purgatory and All Souls Day is a special day in particular during which we pray for those who have died.
“The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish to be dead… but they are in peace,” the faithful heard in the First Reading from the Book of Wisdom.
As people processed out of Mass they were gifted with long-stem red and white carnations which many placed on a nearby grave to remember their loved one.
Two years ago, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano called for outdoor All Souls Day Masses to be said in cemeteries around the diocese. Today was his first visit to St. Peter Cemetery in Danbury for the observance.
In his homily, which was streamed live on the diocesan Facebook page, the bishop noted that the recent Vatican Youth Synod began with Mass celebrated by Pope Francis before 100,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, Piazza San Pietro.
As he was overwhelmed by the beauty of St. Peter’s Basilica, the bishop said he realized “the piazza is also a cemetery,” because in Roman times it was a stadium where hundreds of thousands of Christians were put to death by Emperor Nero, who thought he could get rid of the Christians once and for all.
“How wrong they were!” the bishop said, noting that he and others were gathered at the cemetery today in gratitude for the gift that Jesus gave through his own death on the Cross. “In this cemetery, we celebrate the death of one who has given life to us all.”
“When we lose someone we have loved, it is a moment of grief, sadness and loss. There is a hole we are not totally able to fill. Yet despite the loss, we believe that those who die in Christ are destined for an empty tomb. They will rise from the grave and receive what Christ has promised in His Resurrection.”
The bishop said that is not easy being a faithful Christian in the 21st century. “There are many voices whispering around us. They say, trust money, trust power, trust your own voice. They are all lies. There is only one to trust, the one we encounter here at the altar.”
“As we pray for all the deceased, let us remember this is a pilgrimage unto eternal life,” he said
St. Michael Cemetery, Stratford
“The Church asks us to pray for our deceased brothers and sisters,” Fr. Arthur Mollenhauer, pastor of St. James Parish in Stratford, said to the 150 people who attended Mass as St. Michael Cemetery on the Bridgeport/Stratford line.
“We know that death is only a new door that brings us to the glory of God forever,” said Fr. Mollenhauer, who was assisted by Deacon Joseph Koletar.
“Today we remember and are united with all who have gone before us… We are also reminded that we too are destined to leave this world and pass through the door they have passed through.”
At the end of Mass Fr. Mollenhauer thanked the cemetery workers at St. Michael’s along with all those who maintain the other Catholic cemeteries across the diocese. He said they serve families in grief through their hard work in all kinds of weather.
St. Mary Cemetery, Greenwich
During his homily at St. Mary Cemetery in Greenwich Msgr. Thomas Powers said, “We are here to console one another in faith.”
“We as a Church pray together; we as a Church rejoice together; and we as a Church also weep together. And today we unite ourselves with all those who have died, with all the angels and saints and with Our Lord in this Eucharist. In this Eucharist, Jesus Christ in His body, blood, soul and divinity tells each one of us, I love you and He reminds us that He also loves those who have died and He helps be prepared so that God can bring fully into His eternal embrace.”
Msgr. Powers said that All Souls Day is a celebration of hope, “we believe, as St. Paul tells us, that our loved ones are still alive in Christ.”
“It has always been a festival of hope in the life of the Church, because in Jesus Christ, death does not have the final say. St. Paul tells us today, ‘If, then, we have died in Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.’”
Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Trumbull
“The best gift we can give anyone is the gift of prayer,” said Father Joseph A. Marcello as he addressed the crowd of over 200 at the All Souls Mass at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Trumbull.
“The best thing we can do for our beloved dead is to pray for them,” said Father Marcello.
Father Marcello explained, “We know that those who have died in Christ, their souls are very much alive.” As Christians, we believe that the dead are not gone. Their bodies have died, but their souls live on forever.
“This is why we say they have ‘fallen asleep in Christ,” they are not dead, only sleeping,” Father Marcello addressed the gathered with a message of hope.
Father Marcello explained that no one has ever made a serious claim to be in possession of Jesus’ body. “That’s just the point,” said Father, “Jesus is not buried anywhere, because He is not dead.”
“By our very presence we are looking forward in expectant hope…because Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again in glory,” Father Marcello explained that this is why Christians have never spoken of death in an absolute sense.
Quoting St. Ambrose of Milan, Father Marcello closed out his homily saying, “We are here because we love them, so let us conduct them by our prayers into the house of the Lord.”
All Souls Day Masses were also celebrated at St. John Cemetery in Norwalk by Msgr. Walter C. Orlowski, and at St. John Cemetery in Darien, Father John P. Connaughton.
Arrangements for the outdoor Masses are supported by Catholic Cemeteries under the director of Frank Spodnick and the Diocesan Real Estate Office.
The diocese sponsors nine cemeteries around Fairfield County. For information on Catholic Cemeteries, call 203.416.1494.
Greenwich Cemetery Photos by Michelle Babyak