Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

What I Have Seen and Heard (November 10, 2005)

Published November 10, 2005

I celebrated Mass this week in two different cemeteries, which at face value may not be all that earthshaking because after all we did observe All Souls Day on Nov. 2. But one of the cemeteries happens to be the oldest Catholic cemetery in Georgia dating back to 1790, and so it was a real journey into the history of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and indeed into the history of the Catholic Church in this nation. One of the ladies in attendance at that Mass commented, “I’ll bet you write about this in your column this week!” She was right.

More than two centuries of faith are found in those few acres. One of the men at the Mass was a distant relative to some of those interred. He spoke about his family heritage and took great pride in knowing something about this sacred piece of ground. The tombstones that remained were weather worn and mostly indecipherable because of their age. Yet the altar we used was new by comparison and the Eucharist that we offered was timeless. Through the Mass that we offered, we crossed the many generations and social conditions that separated us. It was a poignant celebration of the phrase from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech: “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.”

That thought filled my heart as I celebrated Mass for all those interred in that ancient place of rest. We all stood at the perfect table of brotherhood—made so by the Sacrifice of Christ Jesus.

As Catholics we pray for our dead church members, friends and relatives—not that we are the only people of Faith who pray for our deceased members, however we offer the Eucharist, the same gift of Christ that those who preceded us once offered and the same Mass that some future Catholics, in their charity, will offer for the repose of our souls.

Earlier in the week, I celebrated Mass at Arlington Cemetery with several dozen laity and a score or more of our priests and deacons. On a brilliant fall day, we prayed for our many brothers and sisters buried there on the hillside. Several people stopped by to thank me for offering Mass there where they had relatives interred. Our priests pointed out the graves of some of our priests and bishops who once offered Mass in that very spot and who now depend upon our prayers for them.

November is the month when Catholics remember, in a special way, all of our deceased. We do so in love and with the hope that the Family of the Church will one day remember us until we are all gathered in Christ in a place of light, happiness, and peace. May the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace—Amen!