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My Favorite Cemetery: Weekly Message for 11-12-2019
Dear Fellow Digital Pilgrim, pax Christi:
Earlier this month I visited a cemetery on All Souls’ Day, to pray for our brothers and sisters in purgatory. I am sure many of you did the same. The first time I did that was when I was a young Catholic – only one-and-a-half years confirmed – and a new novice in the Legionaries of Christ. We all went to a nearby cemetery to pray for the dead.
I think it’s one of my favorite Catholic traditions. Maybe because it so powerfully puts things in perspective – everything in this world will eventually pass away, but all we have done and suffered through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ will last forever. Being reminded of that helps calm the stormy seas of our busy, noisy lives.
But maybe it’s one of my favorite traditions also because of a more personal reason. My first job was working in my hometown cemetery during the summer when I was sixteen years old. I cut the grass, put in headstones, prepared for and cleaned up after funerals, and took care of other odd jobs. I got to know that cemetery very well. I knew the sections, the broken tombstones, the family crypts, and especially the really old graves. I liked to imagine what life had been like for the people buried in those really old graves. There were even some civil war veterans buried in that cemetery.
Working there sparked a lot of personal reflection, reflection on the meaning of life. I had recently become a Christian at that point, though I wasn’t yet Catholic. But even though I believed in Jesus, I still felt an impulse, a deep need, to continue searching for all the answers to the questions that rumbled around in my heart. As a new Christian, the difference was that my search was no longer a solo search; I was searching for the wisdom Christ promised, but I was searching for it with Christ, and so my search was marked by hope, joy, and eagerness.
Are you still searching? I think we should all still be searching. There is always more of God’s truth to discover, more of his goodness to experience, more of his heart to share. Every Christian remains a pilgrim until the Lord takes us home to the Father’s house. There is no shame in admitting that we still have questions. In fact, there is grace to be had from that admission, because Jesus promised: “Search, and you shall find” (Mt 7:7)
That’s one of the reasons I wrote the book, Spiritual but Not Religious: The Search for Meaning in a Material World. Most of RCSpirituality’s digital pilgrims have overcome the false opposition between “spiritual” and “religious.” But with the holidays coming up, we all know we will be meeting up with many family members and friends who have not overcome it. This book will help you understand where they are coming from, and help arm you to engage in fruitful conversations with them – conversations that could be opportunities for grace if we are prepared for them.
As you continue your pilgrimage through these last weeks of the liturgical year, you can count on the support of our continued prayers, just as we continue to count on your support for our mission of evangelizing the digital continent. God bless you!
Fr John Bartunek, LC