All Souls Day and Our Faith and Hope in the God of All Consolation and Mercy

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On November 2, the day after All Saints Day, the Church celebrates All Souls Day, which officially is called the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed.  Those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith are part of our spiritual family that cherishes their memory in a special way on this day in the liturgical calendar.

In particular, we offer special prayers for the repose of their soul, such as the traditional prayer: “May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”  Appealing to God on behalf of those who have passed from this earth is a testament to our faith in Christ’s pledge of everlasting life and, as the Jubilee Year of Mercy reminds us, a spiritual work of mercy.

As a people of faith, we can rejoice and join in the refrain of Saint Paul: “Death is swallowed up in Christ’s victory. Death, where is your victory? Where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54).  We pray in the trustworthy assurance of our Lord that by the power of his love, all things are made new and even death is transformed to life.

We express this deep faith in the invitation to prayer that is a part of the Rite of Committal.  Here we say, “One day we shall joyfully greet (the departed) again when the love of Christ, which conquers all things, destroys even death itself.”

Each year on this day, Masses are celebrated at several Catholic cemeteries in the Archdiocese of Washington.  Liturgies are being conducted this year at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Silver Spring, Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton, and Mount Olivet Cemetery in the District.  Those resting places have monthly Masses on alternating Saturdays as well and All Souls Cemetery in Germantown celebrates a Mass on the first Tuesday of each month.

Today, I am also celebrating the Eucharist at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle in remembrance of all the faithful departed and, in a special way, the past spiritual shepherds of the Archdiocese Washington who have been summoned out of this world.  These servants of God who helped build up his kingdom here in our community, caring for that portion of the flock entrusted to them, include:

  • Archbishop Michael Curley, the Church of Washington’s first archbishop following the establishment of the archdiocese by Pope Pius XII in 1939. For eight years, before his death in 1947, Archbishop Curley blessed this local Church with his profound love for the poor, outspoken defense of the Church and advocacy for Catholic schools.
  • Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle, Washington’s first resident archbishop who led the archdiocese from 1948 until his retirement in 1973 before his passing in 1987. His motto was State in Fide, Latin for “Stand Fast in the Faith,” and that he did, carrying out his pioneering leadership in racially integrating the archdiocese’s parishes and schools and in presiding over a postwar building boom when many of our churches and schools were built. A champion of social justice, Cardinal O’Boyle offered the invocation at the historic March on Washington in 1963.
  • Cardinal William Baum, Washington’s archbishop from 1973-80 before being called to exemplary service at the Vatican, where I was privileged to work with him. His motto was Ministerium reconciliationis (a ministry of reconciliation), and when he died recently in 2015 at the age of 88, he was the longest serving U.S. cardinal in history, having worn the red hat for 39 years.  Throughout his episcopal ministry here, which included hosting Saint John Paul II’s historic visit to our nation’s capital in 1979, Cardinal Baum modeled the love of Jesus as he worked for Catholic education, Christian unity and social harmony.
  • Cardinal James Hickey, archbishop of Washington from 1980-2000, who died in 2004 at the age of 84. His episcopal motto, Veritatem in Caritate (truth in charity), was exemplified by his expansion of Catholic education and growth in the provision of social services to the area’s poor, including the establishment of volunteer health care and legal networks. Cardinal Hickey led the archdiocese in celebrating the Great Jubilee Year 2000, and he established 16 new parishes during his tenure, including ones that served Catholics with roots in China, Poland, Korea, Croatia, India, Latin America, Vietnam, Nigeria and Portugal.

Today on All Souls Day and every day, as we remember and pray for the faithful departed in communion with Blessed Mary ever-Virgin and all the saints, we bear witness in faith and hope to the Lord’s unending love and mercy, which turns the darkness of death into the dawn of new life.  In this way, we also bring the Good News of Christ our Savior into our homes, communities and the world.

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