Come upon a monument in a Catholic cemetery and you will find a vast number of surnames, some will give the visitor some indication as to the ethnicity of the deceased and others will have been changed over the years to in an effort to embrace their new home. In either case, they lie together in peace as members of our Catholic family awaiting the promise of the Resurrection made on that first Good Friday. Gone are the prejudices and judgments that all human beings struggle with and the only thing that remains is our common faith.
As Catholics we believe there is one God and in His eyes we are all one. In this faith that unifies us we also struggle with our human failings and the things that separate us from each other. We all struggle with our human nature by distinguishing ourselves economically, socially, politically, racially, and sexually and sometimes by national origin. As Catholics we want to be tolerant and accepting because our faith teaches us to love but separation simply occurs. Often this separation is without intent. Despite this separation in life it is in death and interment in a Catholic cemetery where prejudgment and all of life’s labels are washed away.
In a Catholic cemetery you will come upon a majestic monument next to a simple grave. In a Catholic cemetery you will come upon the grave of two people who lived life in the shadows but now rest in God’s loving care. In a Catholic cemetery who you are and where you came from are no longer relevant. As Catholic cemetarians our corporal work of mercy is simply to bury the dead and the rest we place in God’s hands. In a Catholic cemetery, there is no quarrel with the dead. In our Catholic cemeteries we are granted the ability to see each other as God’s gift to one another without concern for status or station.
Each funeral procession arrives with family and friends grieving the loss of the person who will remain in this most sacred of places. We come as family united by an ancient and universal faith, a religion that teaches that this is a beginning not an end. We come each with different traditions but share in the same sacraments. We come each with different ideas and pastimes and yet with the same beliefs. We come together regardless of what makes us unique, to mourn the loss of a life lived and loved. Our differences wash away and we have only one purpose the Corporal Works of Mercy, to bury our loved one with dignity and honor.
Our Catholic cemeteries in the Diocese of Cleveland stand as a reminder that we are recipients of God’s mercy. Loved in life, we are united in death. We honor the value God has placed in creating each of us and acknowledge the beauty of our differences. We know that through our faith God will wash away the inequities of life and grant us eternal life free of intolerance.
Andrej N. Lah