An after-dark walk through a cemetery in late October seems like a night pulled straight from a Halloween movie or a scary novel.
But when Colorado teens make nighttime visits to Mount Olivet Cemetery this week, it won’t be for ghost stories or a haunted house. Instead, they’ll learn about saints, pray together for the dead, and celebrate Mass.
Mount Olivet’s “Night at the Cemetery” is an annual event for middle and high schoolers, designed to teach them about the intercession of the saints, and the importance of praying for the repose of souls.
John Miller, Outreach Coordinator for Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services, told CNA that the “Night at the Cemetery” will have a “catechesis on cemeteries and why we pray for the dead.”
He said the students will be able to meet reenactors portraying saints and well-remembered Denver Catholics, who will give the youth “a little bit of their life story [and] weave in some points to remember to pray for the dead, and to pray to the saints in heaven.”
“Night at the Cemetery” will be held at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Wheat Ridge, CO. The first night will take place Oct. 25, followed by Mass at the Gallagher Chapel, and the second night will be Oct. 27, followed by evening prayer.
Students will also be able to meet a mortician and a gravedigger, to learn more about the workings of a Catholic cemetery.
The students will “meet” three people: Therese of Lisieux, a French nun who became a Doctor of the Church; Servant of God Julia Greeley, a freed slave who gave generously to Denver’s poor; and Bishop Joseph Machebeuf, a French Catholic missionary who was the first bishop of Denver.
Miller said the reenactors will emphasize the importance of praying for the souls of the deceased, especially in preparation of All Souls Day.
“It’s probably one of the things people don’t think about a lot when they commit their loved one to the grave,” he said.
“As Catholics, it doesn’t stop at the funeral. You have to constantly pray for our beloved dead, by either having Mass said for them or praying prayers for the souls in purgatory.”
Miller said the reenacted saints will also emphasize the importance of intercessory prayer. He said the saints are able to help people in need grow closer to Christ.
“It’s very important to have a good relation with the saints, to pray to them to help us to grow in love with the Lord each and every day, to grow in holiness, to ask them to especially intercede for us before almighty God.”
Miller said the event also serves to stress the importance of cemeteries, noting these areas are sacred and beautiful. He said they are places of prayer and community.
“Graveyards next to churches are blessed and a majority are consecrated as a sacred place,” he said. “It’s also a place of solace and peace. It has beautiful scenery. It’s a places where some cultures still come on Sunday and have picnics, have barbeques, hang out with their loved ones, pray for them, but also reminisce – share memories, stories.”
“It’s really a place of encounter within community, not only with each other, but also that encounter with God in such a beautiful sacred place.”