Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Washington

The Catholic Way of Death & Burial

Priest Director's Letter

A Letter from Reverend Michael J. Murray

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

A couple of years ago, during the homily at the funeral Mass for his mother, a priest said that he realized that the person who loved him the most in this world was now gone. I’m sure many of you feel the same way, because that special person whom you loved the most in this world or who loved you the most is now no longer physically present. The most important aspect of our lives and living is love. We continue to love that person, as that person continues to love us in the afterlife, but only because God’s love makes it possible. God’s love for us has been made clear in no greater way than in the sending of his only son, Jesus Christ. We have come to know that God loves us, not only because this was the constant teaching of Jesus Christ, but because his presence among us is the greatest proof of that love. He himself is the complete revelation of God and of his love for us. Archbishop Vigneron, when he was installed as the new archbishop of Detroit, said in his homily: “The Father’s love is the total gift of himself to the Son. Having ‘learned’ this wisdom about the deepest meaning of existence, the Son, when he came to us in the flesh, loved us in the same measure with the same total gift of himself, loving us ‘to the end’. And we, in turn, if we would be wise about what is first and most important, will understand that this is the truth of who we are: we are framed and shaped to make a total gift of self.”

God loves me. This is the most consoling truth of all and the one that should bring the most practical repercussions in our lives. Who can ever understand the depths of Christ’s goodness manifested in the call that we have received to share in his own Life with him, to share his friendship? A Life and friendship that even death cannot rupture; rather, death will make it only stronger and more sure.

The letter to the Hebrews speaks of Christ’s love and care as analogous to that of a shepherd for his sheep. God has raised this great shepherd from the dead. And the letter reminds us that this was due to his blood poured out for us. And this reality, this bond of unity between God and us, this covenant in the blood of Jesus has no end. “Let us fix our attention on the blood of Jesus”, wrote our fourth pope, Clement, in his letter to the Corinthians. This advice applies just as much to us today as it did in the first century. For in the blood of Jesus we will recognize the love that the Sacred Heart of Jesus has for all of us, a love which is stronger than death. Or as Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote at the end of the 12th century:

“Death is strong, for it can rob us of the gift of life. Love too is strong, for it can restore us to a better life. Death is strong, for it can strip us of this robe of flesh. Love too is strong, for it can take death’s spoils away and give them back to us. Death is strong, for no man can withstand it. Love too is strong, for it can conquer death itself, soothe its sting, calm its violence and bring its victory to naught. The time will come when death is reviled and taunted: ‘O death, where is your sting? O Death, where is your victory?’ Love is as strong as death because Christ’s love is the very death of death.”

Sincerely in Christ,

Rev. Michael J. Murray
Priest Director