Burying the dead is an act of 'evangelical charity,' archbishop says on All Souls Day

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron offers Mass in the mausoleum of Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield on All Souls Day, Nov. 2. The Mass also marked the blessing and interment of cremated remains brought to the cemetery by families as part of Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services' "Gather Them Home" initiative. (Photos by Valaurian Waller | Detroit Catholic)

During Mass at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Archbishop Vigneron encourages faithful to pray for the dead, trust in God's mercy

SOUTHFIELD — Family members and members of the Church militant gathered with Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron in the mausoleum at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery the morning of Nov. 2 for the Mass for All Souls and a special burial service as part of the Gather Them Home Ministry.

All Souls Day is a day of prayer and remembrance for all the faithful departed, one day after the Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints. The Mass was made more poignant by the presence of dozens of urns in front of the altar, which were interred through Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services' annual "Gather Them Home" campaign, which invites families to bring the cremated remains of loved ones to be buried at a Catholic cemetery at no cost.

To bury the dead is an act of “evangelical kindness,” Archbishop Vigneron explained.

“As we prepare to entomb the ashes of our brothers and sisters, we recall that the bodies of all of us bear the imprint of the first creation, and they were fashioned from dust,” the archbishop said. “But in faith, we remember too, above all, that by the new creation brought in the death and rising of Jesus, we also bear his image and will be raised to glory with him.”

A woman touches an urn containing the cremated remains of a family member Nov. 2 during a Mass and burial service at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield.
A woman touches an urn containing the cremated remains of a family member Nov. 2 during a Mass and burial service at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield.

To be in heaven is to be in firm and full communion with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and to embody His love, Archbishop Vigneron said. Those who have not yet reached that full communion due to the taint of sin that has been forgiven on earth enter purgatory to be purified.

Those who remain on earth can assist those who have died in imperfect friendship with God, Archbishop Vigneron added.

“We can assist them in their process of purification. As Pope Francis might put it, we can accompany them even beyond the grave and their passage, to stand at the throne of God the Father with the Son and the Spirit along with the Blessed Virgin Mary,” Archbishop Vigneron said.

Archbishop Vigneron turned to the Scripture read during Mass as a way to shed light on prayers for the souls in purgatory.

“The Book of Wisdom, with its very powerful introduction, ‘The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God. No torment shall touch them,’ gives us great confidence about our prayers,” Archbishop Vigneron said. "God will surely hear our prayer because he holds safely in his own hands the souls of the just — the souls of those who die in sanctifying grace.”

In the Gospel reading from John (John 6:37-40), God assures that anyone who comes to Him will not be rejected.

Family members pray for the souls of their deceased friends and relatives during the All Souls Day Mass. Archbishop Vigneron emphasized the importance of praying for those who've gone before, adding the faithful on earth can help them toward their heavenly homeland.
Family members pray for the souls of their deceased friends and relatives during the All Souls Day Mass. Archbishop Vigneron emphasized the importance of praying for those who've gone before, adding the faithful on earth can help them toward their heavenly homeland.

“The Gospel of St. John reminds us that God is actively at work to bring to the resurrection of the blessed all those who are his own,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “It is for this very reason that God has sent his only begotten Son in the flesh to deliver from eternal damnation and to bring to eternal blessedness those whom He calls. So, we understand again how welcome our prayers are in the sight of God because we are engaged in the very work of the Son to bring perfection to those entrusted to His care. So in our prayers, we rely on the merits of Jesus Christ.”

The second reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans helps to consider how prayers for the souls in purgatory work, Archbishop Vigneron said. Jesus, fully human and fully divine, gave himself on the cross at Calvary and continues to do so for all eternity.

“He receives life from his Father and gives back everything he is and has to the Father,” Archbishop Vigneron explained. "That’s holiness; that is the relationship we are all called to enter into. That is the relationship that our beloved dead need to be purified into. So that is what we pray for. And it helps us understand the power of the Holy Eucharist that is offered for the souls in purgatory.”

Members of six current confraternities as part of the Confraternity for Holy Souls, an apostolate in the Archdiocese of Detroit dedicated to praying for souls in purgatory, attended the Mass.
Members of six current confraternities as part of the Confraternity for Holy Souls, an apostolate in the Archdiocese of Detroit dedicated to praying for souls in purgatory, attended the Mass.
Archbishop Vigneron blesses cremated remains brought to the cemetery as part of the Church's "Gather Them Home" initiative, which invites families to bring their loved ones to be buried at no cost.
Archbishop Vigneron blesses cremated remains brought to the cemetery as part of the Church's "Gather Them Home" initiative, which invites families to bring their loved ones to be buried at no cost.

During the Mass, Archbishop Vigneron referenced the Confraternity for Holy Souls, a lay apostolate in the Archdiocese of Detroit intended to develop better awareness among the faithful for the need to pray for the deceased and to help them in their final journey of purification and sanctification. Members from the six confraternities already established in the archdiocese were present at the Mass.

Through prayers for the dead, the faithful are asking God that the power of the Eucharist, the paschal mystery, be unleashed, Archbishop Vigneron added.

“By our prayers, we ask for our beloved dead to be immersed once more in the sacrifice of Christ, immersed as they first were in the waters of baptism,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Immersed again and again as they were by their reception of holy Communion, and once more today, we pray that our beloved dead be immersed in the body and blood of the sacrifice of Christ, to be configured to the offering of Christ and so come to that full gift of self.”



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