(Photo: Taken last week in the cemetery at Mundelein Seminary)
Although the grounds at Mundelein Seminary are visited by thousands of people every year, not many people know that there is a cemetery there, tucked behind the faculty residence building on the private side of campus. There are not very many people there – maybe only 20 or so – and the majority of these did not arrive in the cemetery as the result of long and happy lives.
Most people are at least familiar with the tragic car accident on campus in 2005, in which two seminarians were killed on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows; a mosaic of Mary now marks the spot of the crash and memorials of the seminarians were placed in the cemetery (their graves are located in their home dioceses). Some seminarians died as the result of sickness, some as young as 19. The grave of Terrence Cahill, who died on St. Mary’s Lake in a boating accident in 1943, was always a special place for me (and is a story that is the basis of several of the ghost stories at the seminary).
Some did arrive at the Mundelein cemetery after longer lives of ministry to the Church: Dr. Lorraine Olley-Eustice, who was the Seminary Librarian, died of cancer while I was a student and is buried there; Monsignor Reynold Hillenbrand, an extremely influential seminary rectory and Chicago priest, was buried there after this death in 1979.
The focal point of the cemetery is a larger than life statue of an angel, standing ready and keeping watch, with trumpet in hand, ready for the Lord’s command to sound the trumpet on the day of the resurrection. The angel stands over the grave of Albery Gregory Cardinal Meyer, the 5th Archbishop of Chicago, who served here from 1958 until his death in 1965.
His Episcopal Arms is at the top of his tomb, and as you see above, poking through the winter snow, is his motto: Adveniat Regnum Tuum, Latin for “Thy Kingdom Come.”
I bring up the cemetery, especially Cardinal Meyer’s tomb, because the second reading from 1 Corinthians 15 features Paul’s strongest teaching on the centrality of the Jesus’ bodily resurrection. He essentially says, “Look, either Jesus was raised from the dead or he wasn’t. If he wasn’t raised, this whole thing falls apart; there is no forgiveness, there is no eternal life, and our faith has been a complete waste.” He even says that to profess the resurrection if it never actually happened is to “perjure ourselves before God.” (Check out 1 Cor. 15:12-20)
But I think those three words poking through the snow says everything about Christian hope. The chill and seemingly unyielding power of death is no match against the power of Jesus’ victory over sin and death; and like Cardinal Meyer, Terrence Cahill, Lorraine Olley, we can live a life of freedom and confidence that His Kingdom one day really will come, and that the graves will be opened and the dead will rise.
Listen to my homily from this weekend for some good reminders about the resurrection of Jesus, and about how this pivotal moment in history changes absolutely about the way we live and relate with each other, with ourselves, and with God.