The value of cemeteries: Remembering those who have gone before us Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, May. 22, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. Uhler

Maybe I’m a little strange, but I have always enjoyed visiting cemeteries. I still have memories from my childhood of walking around the small country cemetery when we visited my grandmother’s home not too far away.

It was interesting to see the names of our relatives on the tombstones. Some of the monuments even had pictures of the deceased and information about them. Rather then being scary, the cemetery gave me a sense of peace and connection with those who lived before me.

Connection with family members

My father died when I was 16 years old as a result of a heart attack. We didn’t have a family plot in La Crosse, where I was born (my parents both came from other parts of the state). I recall helping my mother select a plot and a tombstone for the grave. Since my father loved praying the Rosary, we had a Rosary engraved on his monument.

In the years since, I have been doing genealogy research on both sides of my family. During that research, I have visited cemeteries where my ancestors are buried. It has been such a joy to be able to pray at the graves of my grandparents and great-grandparents. Fortunately parishes have been kind enough to let me search through their records, some of which are in Latin (I’m thankful for my high school Latin classes).

Prayers at Graveside

Lord Jesus Christ,
by your own three days in the tomb,
you hallowed the graves of all who believe in you
and so made the grave a sign of hope
that promises resurrection
even as it claims our mortal bodies.
Grant that our brother/sister, N.,
may sleep here in peace
until you awaken him/her to glory,
for you are the resurrection and the life.
Then he/she will see you face to face
and in your light will see light
and know the splendor of God,
for you live and reign forever and ever.

Or a shorter prayer:

O God,
by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest,
send your holy Angel to watch over this grave.
Through Christ our Lord.

From Prayers for Death and Grieving from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, © 2007, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C.

Cemeteries are indeed special sacred places of prayer and remembrance. I am always dismayed when I hear some people talk of scattering the ashes of loved ones. Who will remember them in the future? Their descendants won’t have any place to find their remains on earth.

That’s why I was happy last year when my husband and I purchased a burial plot and tombstone at Resurrection Cemetery in Madison. Like my parents before me, we didn’t have any relatives here until we became Madison residents. But since our family members live in this area, we decided we wanted to be buried here. We can still visit the graves of our family members buried in other locations.

Observing Memorial Day

Why am I talking about this now? It’s because Memorial Day (observed on Monday, May 26) is a day set aside for us to remember veterans and all those who have died.  One way to celebrate Memorial Day is to visit a cemetery and pray at the graves of those who have died.

In Madison and other parts of our diocese, there are Masses offered at cemeteries and churches. Bishop Robert C. Morlino will preside at a Mass at Resurrection Cemetery in Madison at 10 a.m. on Memorial  Day (weather permitting). In case of rain, the Mass will be held at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church.

This is always a wonderful opportunity to gather with our bishop and other priests of the area for a Mass and to offer prayers for those who have served our country in the armed forces and for all who have gone before us.

Printed here are copies of two prayers suggested by the U.S. Catholic bishops to be prayed at graveside, but also appropriate for those praying at home. May all the faithful departed rest in peace!