Loved ones remembered at All Souls Mass

The impressive Holy Cross Cemetery Mausoleum in Malden, which houses over 800 tombs, was the site of a Nov. 3 Mass celebrated by Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley to commemorate All Souls Day. Close to 300 people gathered at All Souls Chapel inside the mausoleum, the granite walls of which bear flower arrangements and the names of hundreds of deceased loved ones.

The Mass was organized by the Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Archdiocese of Boston. Deacon Anthony Rizzuto, head of the Office of Child Advocacy, Implementation, and Oversight and former director of the association, proclaimed the Gospel and assisted at the Mass.

After the readings and the Gospel were proclaimed, Archbishop O’Malley addressed those gathered, some seated before the altar, some along the corridors, and others on the balcony above.

"The Church has always been involved in the ministry of bereavement, caring for people in times of loss, and burying our dead," said the archbishop recalling images such as the Pietá and paintings of the disciples placing Jesus in His tomb.

Archbishop O’Malley then spoke of the first Masses in ancient Rome celebrated in the catacombs. He said that it was the custom at the time to put the relics of martyrs inside the altars.

"This devotion to relics is because of our belief in the resurrection of the body and the sacredness of the human body," he said. "We reject reincarnation because each of us is one body and one soul -- that is who we are. The bodies that we bury in this cemetery will one day be reunited with their souls."

The archbishop touched upon the importance of respecting the deceased, through corporal works of mercy such as burying the dead and spiritual works of mercy such as praying for the dead.

"At this altar, we are praying for all our relatives and friends who are buried in this cemetery and all those who have no one to pray for them," he said. "For us Catholics, these celebrations of All Saints and All Souls are our celebrations of all those unknown who have passed away."

Archbishop O’Malley described the Church as an iceberg, where only the tip is visible. The Church, he continued, is comprised not only of the living faithful, but also those in heaven and in purgatory.

"All Saints and All Souls celebrate the truth that our churches here have branches in eternity," stated Archbishop O'Malley. "Although we call these brothers and sisters 'dead' they are alive in God."

All Souls Day is an opportunity “to reflect on our own mortality,” he explained. “We are all pilgrims. We are all on a journey … but we are not alone on our pilgrimage. We have witnesses who accompany us — our deceased loved ones.”

Following the Mass, many signed the names of loved ones in a book remembering the deceased and placed at the front of the altar. Pictures of various people who had passed away were positioned around the book of names of the dead.

Dorothy Fregosi of Everett attended the Mass with her daughter and a friend. Fregosi, who has a number of relatives buried at Holy Cross Cemetery, including a brother-in-law buried inside the mausoleum, described the Mass as “very nice, beautiful, and excellent.”

Camille Harney, receptionist at the office of the Catholic Cemetery Association, agreed. Harney greeted Mass-goers at the door before the celebration, welcoming them into the mausoleum. “The Mass was excellent and we had a beautiful turnout,” she commented.

Sarah Downie of Gloucester attended the Mass with a friend who recently lost a brother.

"We always pray for the dead. It's like the [arch]bishop said, one of the spiritual works of mercy," said Downie. "There are spiritual and corporal works of mercy that all Catholics should perform and this is one of them."