In the month of November, the saints, loved ones and all the faithful departed are remembered. Prayers are said for the souls in purgatory, that they may be purified of their sins and join the eternal heavenly kingdom.
The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, known as All Souls Day, is Nov. 2, a feast day dating back to the 10th century that began with St. Odilo of Cluny, a Benedictine monk known for his kindness and mercy and who is the patron saint of the souls in purgatory. He was inspired to devote a day to honor and pray for suffering souls after meeting a traveler who confided in him that he had a vision of souls enduring the purification flames of purgatory. The practice of offering a Mass for those in purgatory spread to other churches and became a universal feast.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated the Mass of Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed at Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne, where many gathered to pray for loved ones who have died. The marble altar and crucifix in the center of the cemetery reached toward heaven from the worship space and was bathed in sunlight that streamed through the trees, making it a tranquil setting.
During the second reading of the Mass, 1 Thessalonians 3:14-18, many in the congregation bowed their heads as the passage was read.
“We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope … For the Lord himself, archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”
In his homily, the bishop echoed all the day’s readings, saying “It is important that we pray for the faithful departed. Our prayers have real efficacy. They can bring help and comfort to those being purified, the souls in purgatory. We should not presume that anyone who dies goes straight to heaven or hell, but rather we should petition God with loving confidence on their behalf.”
“There is no greater way to show our love for our beloved dead than to have Masses offered for them,” the bishop continued. “Our honoring and loving our deceased loved ones doesn’t end with their burial. It continues through our prayers for them, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
He noted that every day during November, those who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray for the departed could obtain a plenary indulgence for them, under the ordinary conditions.
Not only is a Requiem Mass a significant one for Catholics who wish to help those in purgatory, but it also has meaning for the living.
Steven Butler, a Fort Wayne native and member of St. Jude Parish, grew up on what is now part of the grounds of Catholic Cemetery. His family’s lineage dates to the late 1800s, when family members would take care of the property. They lived in a house where the St. Mother Theodore Guerin Mausoleum now stands.
Butler has attended the Mass every year since childhood and often visits the cemetery to pray and volunteer.
“[This Mass] is just so important,” he said. “We’ve lost so many people, and some have gone on without seeking absolution. They need us now, and we need to help them get to heaven. They’re here, we just need to come and see them.”
He thanked all those who help take care of the cemetery and make sure all the faithful departed’s graves and burial ceremonies are treated with reverence and respect.
Another attendee, Elisa Smith, started attending the Mass about two years ago. It has made a significant impact in her life.
“The All Souls Mass here at the Catholic Cemetery very much touches me because my dad is buried here, along with many of my other family members. It means so much to be able to come here and pray for them and for Bishop to have a Mass to pray for All Souls,” she said.
“I know this Mass means so much to people. It’s beautiful for people to come together and comfort each other and remember their loved ones.”
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