‘We are a people who remember’

On Nov. 2, the bishop marked All Souls’ Day by celebrating Mass at Elmwood Cemetery, surrounded by the graves of deceased clergy and religious of the Diocese of Birmingham. Later in the day, he also celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul. The complete text of his homily follows herein.

My dear friends, the beginning of November is a time we gather to honor All Saints and All Souls. It is a noble thing we do. We celebrate this Mass of suffrage as we commend our loved ones and all the deceased to the Lord’s mercy. As many of you know, families in many Catholic countries and cultures go to the cemetery to visit loved ones, lay flowers at grave of family and friends, light 7-day candles, stop for some moments of prayer before the places of rest of the dead, and remember. Yes, we are people who remember.

We remember because our lives mean something. We are not just ships passing in the night. Each was created by the divine intention of the Almighty. Each has a purpose. Each is necessary. Today, we recall those who, in particular, have affected us. At the same time, as the name suggests, we pray for All Souls – every single one whose names we know and those we’ve never met.

This season of autumn illustrates this part of the circle of life as most trees go dormant and lose their leaves in one last blaze of glory, and many plants have yielded their precious fruits. We see life in them passing away as they prepare for the cold winter blast. Then, in another part of the cycle of life, newness of life begins to spring up anew early next year. Even though you may not have gone to the cemetery, we ask you to remember those who have “gone before us with the sign of faith and rest in the peace of Christ.”

As in the past few years, we have been truly honored and moved to raise our minds and hearts to God through the lush strains of the Faure Requiem for our All Souls’ Mass. Death itself is something mysterious. It conjures up so many different images. Yet, artists and musicians and the Church have not turned away from its mysteriousness and complexity. It is so common: everyone must die. Yet, it is so very personal: I remember this member of my family, my parents or grandparents, or my family, or my teachers or pastor. 

We do not live in vain, nor do we live for nothing. No! We live for Christ. We live for hope. We live in the promise of Christ for eternal life! “We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is!” (cf. I Jn 3:2) After all, like the grain that dies in the ground, it can produce much fruit, as we hear proclaimed in the Gospel.

Our life is with Christ. As He reminds the thief crucified alongside Him, “This day you will be with Me in paradise.” (cf. Lk 23:43) In our moment of great need, our ears cannot hear anything greater than this – to be with Jesus in and for eternity. We will see Him face to face!

Let’s pray for our ancestors, parents, family members, friends, and all deceased on this day of All Souls. May the angels lead them into paradise, and may the saints and martyrs welcome them along their way. May God bless you!