09 April 2011

A visit to two cemeteries

Over the course of my life I've spent a considerable among of time in cemeteries.  They are quiet, still and peaceful, perfect places for prayer.  Cemeteries are sad, yes, but they are also places of comfort.

Saint Damien of Moloka'i found great solace and even pleasure in the cemetery at Kalawao.  He once wrote:
My greatest pleasure is to go there [the cemetery] to say my beads, and meditate on that unending happiness which so many of them are already enjoying.
Saint Francis of Assisi, too, feared neither the cemetery nor the thought of death.  Indeed, he even praised death:
Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy willl,
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Over the past several days Bishop Paprocki and I have visited two cemeteries, the first at St. Peter church in Brush Creek, Missouri where the Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton was baptized, and at Saints Peter and Paul church in Alton, Illinois where Bishops Henry Damien Juncker and Peter Joseph Baltes are entombed.

Bishop Paprocki walks amidst the slave cemetery at Brush Creek, Missouri.
The first cemetery was quite striking because of the juxtaposition of what is - in effect - two cemeteries at a Catholic church, the one filled with large, carved stones and the other marked with simple unmarked wooden crosses.  The first was for the free slave Masters; the second was for the slaves.

Bishop Paprocki prays at the tombs of his predecessors Bishops Baltes and Juncker.

The second "cemetery" was beneath the church of Saints Peter and Paul in Alton, Illinois, the first cathedral of our Diocese (it was the Diocese of Alton until 1928 when the See was transferred to Springfield).
 Let us never forget to pray for the dead, both those whom we have known and those we have not.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May they rest in peace.  Amen.

3 comments:

  1. Hi Fr. Zehnle, I also love visiting cemeteries. Would you grant permission to use the photo above (white crosses) for one of my Black Catholic history posts? My book club of Catholic women who read Catholic women authors read From Slave to Priest and I'd like to write about Fr. Tolton's parents. God bless you and keep you.

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