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“This is Holy Ground”: The Significance of Catholic Cemeteries

November 6, 2008
Death is always a moment of religious significance-the culmination of our earthly pilgrimage and the passage to eternity. Catholic Cemeteries provide a bridge for that journey. While we live our lives to the fullest and enjoy all of God's gifts here on earth, we know that there is an even greater life that awaits us all in the eternity of God's love. Catholic Burial has a deep significance for us, because it marks the realization of all our spiritual hopes for our loved ones and ourselves. We are taught that death is not the end, but a rite of passage to eternal life.
Catholic Cemeteries are established to carry out the sacred religious function of the burial and care for the resting places of the deceased. They are a testament to the belief, teachings and rich tradition of the Roman Catholic Church with regard to the deceased and the sacredness of the cemeteries in which their bodies rest.
Through the ages the Catholic Church has taught that the burial of the dead is one of the Corporal Works of Mercy. Catholics believe that those who have been purified at the same baptism and who live together in the profession of the same faith, should be laid to rest in the same spiritual place set aside for the interment of the faithful. Catholic Cemeteries witness to the deep religious significance of the Corporal Work of Mercy involved in the burial of the dead and reverence for the deceased.
resurrection-cemetery-1.jpgCatholic Cemeteries are dedicated to the respectful care of the people of God who even in death remain a part of the whole Christian community. They are committed to encouraging Catholic prayer and devotion for our deceased brothers and sisters especially in our cemeteries. Here their relatives and friends come to pray and find peace and serenity in this reverent setting.
Catholic Cemeteries oppose any effort to minimize or destroy any of the Catholic teachings that relate to death, burial and devotion to the departed souls. They proclaim through words, work and example the sacredness of the Human Body, the Belief in the Resurrection, and the Christian Virtue of Hope.
Because of the reverence of the Cemeteries and the blessed memories they invoke, we bestow upon them care and love and we see that the graves holding the remains of our loved ones reflect an enduring remembrance for them. Our shrines, our statues, even our inscriptions help the living to better understand death and especially our resurrection. We, the living, will continue to find in our cemeteries the consolation of faith.
We should be proud of our Catholic tradition in life and we seek to continue this expression of faith as we rest in peace among our fellow Catholics. We want the cemeteries to continue to be holy places where religious ceremonies are held and where we can come to pray in a special way for all those buried in these sacred grounds.
pieta.jpgCatholic Cemeteries give hope to us all that we shall be reunited with Christ and those we love in the resurrection on the last day. I strongly recommend the use of Catholic Cemeteries and encourage you to discuss with the Catholic Cemetery staff in your diocese the advantages of pre-arranging for your burial needs.
We all know that we are going to pass from this life and we do not like to think about it. We must continue to lead the finest life we can because life is a preparation for death. Our cemeteries can do a great deal to help us along the way.
As Catholics and Christians, let us pray for those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And may perpetual light shine upon them.
May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.,
C.E.O., Salt and Light Catholic Television Network