A driving rain lashed at the large tent sheltering about 75 of the faithful at Saturday’s Mass for Memorial Day, which was celebrated by Bishop Alfred Schlert. The commemorative Mass took place at Holy Saviour Cemetery on Linden Street in Bethlehem.
“The weather forecasters said that the rain wouldn’t start until 11:30,” Bishop Schlert noted good-naturedly, soon after the opening of the 10 a.m. Mass. “We’ll have to take it up with them.”
Among those attending the Mass were members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, the Knights of Columbus, and the Catholic War Veterans Post 454 Northampton.
Holy Saviour is one of two diocesan cemeteries. The other is Resurrection Cemetery, 547 N. Krocks Road, Allentown.
The word “cemetery” comes from the Greek and means “sleeping place.” It denotes the consecrated grounds in which the dead sleep until Judgment Day, when their bodies will rise in glory and unite with their souls in heaven.
In his homily, Bishop Schlert observed that Memorial Day is a time, not only to “be grateful for the men and women who gave their lives for our freedoms,” but also to “take stock of our American society and ask ourselves if we have been good custodians of what they fought and died for.”
Bishop Schlert delivered the homily while standing at the Tomb of the Unborn Child, which memorializes children lost to abortion.
Those brave men and women “didn’t fight for the right to have 62 million abortions,” the Bishop stated.
“They didn’t fight for the right for someone to massacre school students, teachers, worshipers, or grocery store shoppers.
“In their honor we have to really come to grips with who we are as a society, and what we are doing that’s causing us to drift so far from the ideals of our founding fathers and the ideals they fought for.”
The Bishop offered a solution to the spiraling violence in our country.
“Let’s bring God back into our society and acknowledge Him as the true ruler and legislator that He is.
“It all starts with us and the freedoms we’ve been guaranteed by the efforts” of those who “bore arms so that we could be here together today.”
“We thank God for that, and we ask that we might honor them by the way we improve our society and become truly, once again, one nation under God.”
Worshipers, some in slickers and others in makeshift rain gear, listened attentively to the Bishop, whose words were occasionally muffled by a rumble of thunder.
Bishop Schlert was assisted in the distribution of Holy Communion by Monsignor William Baver, Director of Cemeteries for the Diocese of Allentown, who in past years has celebrated the Memorial Day Mass. While slanting rain puddled on abandoned folding chairs near the periphery of the tent, the Bishop and Monsignor Baver wended their way among the faithful to distribute the Eucharist.
After the Mass, a tenacious bugler stood in the rain and played a flawless rendition of “Taps,” whose lyrics include this verse:
“While the light fades from sight,
And the stars gleaming rays softly send,
To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.”
In addition to honoring those who sacrificed their lives for our country, the annual Mass for Memorial Day and its attendant ceremonies attest to the Catholic belief in the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body.