This is Holy Ground

NORWALK—A gentle November sunlight and soft fall colors framed the All Souls Day Masses held outdoors in Trumbull and Norwalk as hundreds gathered to pray for their departed loved ones and remember the dead.

“Death is part of the life of faith but not the last chapter in the story of faith. You and I are linked in baptism with the death and resurrection of Christ,” Bishop Caggiano said in his homily before almost 400 people at St. John Cemetery in Norwalk.

“We have come here because this is holy ground. It’s beautiful and quiet. There is solitude here and a physical reminder of what awaits everyone,” said the bishop. “We are doing today what ancient Christians did when they built early churches around the graves of the first martyrs.”

At the same time the bishop was celebrating Mass in Norwalk, Msgr. Thomas Powers, vicar general of the diocese, was celebrating Mass at Gates of Heaven Cemetery in Trumbull.

“This cemetery is a place of hope,” Msgr. Powers said in welcoming over 250 of the faithful to the Mass. “It is wonderful that we can do this today as Masses are also being held in churches around world. Let us remember those who have gone before us in faith.”

Both Masses were held under large outdoor tents and drew both young and old on a mild autumn morning.

After Mass, diocesan staff distributed white and red carnations, which many of those in attendance placed on the nearby gravestones of their loved ones.

Msgr. Powers said the bishop hopes to expand the All Souls Day Mass observance to every cemetery through the diocese next year.

St John Cemetery, Norwalk

In his homily at St. John Cemetery, the bishop said the challenge is “not simply to come and pray for the dead, but to consider ways to follow their good example.
“Let us remember the good they did, their integrity and values, and follow their example. Today we commend them to God’s mercy as one day others will do for us.”

The bishop said that standing in a cemetery should also remind us “to live every day to do good,” and to let go of the pettiness, anger and worries that get in the way of our sense of God’s grace and the gift of life.

“God has given us today to live fully in grace because we do not know when we will hand our life back to him. We should remember that there will be a stone with our name on it as well and offer our life one day at a time to his honor and glory.”

The bishop told the gathering that the most difficult day in his life as a priest was the day he buried his mother and “took a handful of soil to put on her casket and say the words, “dirt to dirt dust to dust.”

He said we should take strength and consolation in the understanding that “It’s only their resting place for a time until God calls them and us.”

Photos by Amy Mortensen

Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Trumbull:
Msgr. Powers called the All Souls Day observance a celebration of faith, hope and charity.

“When someone who we love dies, we miss them and we’re sad. But our faith tells us that life has changed, not ended. The Eucharist, when Jesus gives us his body and blood, soul and divinity, tells us that he loves us. In Jesus, death does not have the final say.”

Hope tells us that we will see our loved ones again. “In Christian hope, we all will share in the Resurrection. In Christ, death has no power.”

The gathering of the faithful to pray for all those who have died is an act of charity uniting Catholics throughout the world. “This is one of the sweetest of the spiritual works of mercy—to pray for the dead, entrusting them to God’s mercy.”

Purgatory, with its promise of purifying us of our sins, is a gift of God, a great mercy, Msgr. Powers said. It prepares our limited souls to be freed to embrace the Lord. At the same time, those in purgatory can pray for us even as we pray for them. The entire Church, through prayer, helps each other as we mourn.

“This is a wonderful way to remember my father, who is buried in Italy, and my friends who are buried here,” said Maria Veltri, a member of Christ the King Parish in Trumbull. She and her husband, Rocco, took flowers offered after the Mass to place on a friend’s grave.

“I appreciate that they want to do this yearly, and that we can come to pray here,” said Rocco, both of whose parents are buried in Italy.

Members of the Saboe family from St. Theresa Parish in Trumbull have a close connection to Gate of Heaven Cemetery. “What a beautiful ceremony!” said Theresa Saboe Hesley, who came up from Philadelphia to join other family members, including her sister, Beth Saboe Mollo. Their mother Ruth Saboe has seen her husband, several children, and other close family members buried here. They, too, took flowers to place on the graves.

Ruth Saboe had her 94th birthday this All Souls Day.

The faithful gathered here, and all those who trust in the love of Jesus, find in All Souls Day a celebration of faith, hope and charity.

“I am the Resurrection and the life says the Lord; whoever believes in me will live forever” (John 11:25-26).

Photos by Michelle Babyak