The names of those who have died in the past year appear on the screen at the close of a Memorial Day Mass livestreamed from St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The names of those who have died in the past year appear on the screen at the close of a Memorial Day Mass livestreamed from St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The names of hundreds of Catholic faithful who have died in the past year flashed onto the screen after a Memorial Day Mass livestreamed from St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception May 25.

Usually on Memorial Day, Archbishop Alexander Sample and Bishop Peter Smith travel to the two Catholic cemeteries in the Portland area for Masses. This year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, a single liturgy on Facebook live drew thousands of viewers.

“War is an evil and terrible thing. On Memorial Day we do not celebrate war and battle,” Archbishop Sample said during his homily. “In fact we should mourn that war exists in our world. But we do honor those who have answered the call to fight against the evils perpetrated in the world, even down to our own day.”

The archbishop said the pandemic curtailed some of the usual vacationing activities of Memorial Day and compelled the nation to reflect on what the commemoration really means. The day honors those who have died in battle.

“These brave men and women lived the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels when he taught us there is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for a friend,” Archbishop Sample said.

He cited those who died fighting Nazism and atheistic communism in years past and also lauded today’s first responders and health care workers who have put their lives on the line during the pandemic.

Explain your reasons

At the May 17 livestreamed Mass from the cathedral, the archbishop said that the church’s mission of evangelization will be carried out best via one-to-one interactions. Preaching on the advice in the First Letter of Peter — “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” — the archbishop said that for anyone to ask us about our hope we must first be living in a way that attracts their attention.

“People have to notice something in us,” the archbishop said. “Something different. Something that stands out. …The Christian life must somehow be shown in how we live. That’s our first witness to Jesus Christ.”

We should not be ostentatious, overbearing or annoying, he explained. But when our happiness and peace make someone curious, we should be honest.

“Tell them, ‘I know Jesus Christ in my life. I know Jesus is risen and I know the Lord calls me to eternal life,’” the archbishop said.

Jesus is the way

The unique role of Jesus in all human existence was the subject of the archbishop’s May 10 livestreamed homily. He said that some theologians in recent decades weakened the belief that Jesus is the only way to salvation.

“There is no other way to salvation except in Jesus Christ,” the archbishop declared.

He explained that the church does not say that salvation comes only to those who are members of the Catholic Church on earth. God works wonders so that the possibility of salvation exists outside the visible boundaries of the church in this world, he said. But even then, people of other faiths or none at all are saved through Jesus whose death on the cross was the act of salvation for all the world.

Videos of encouragement

At the end of May, Archbishop Sample recorded a set of videos to encourage people whose sacramental hopes were delayed by the coronavirus. “I want you all to know that you have not been forgotten,” he said in a May 20 message to those who hoped to enter the church during the Easter Vigil. The archbishop said that each parish would find a time to hold the sacraments of initiation, since the pandemic nixed public attendance at the vigils.

The same holds for youth confirmations. The archbishop has authorized pastors around western Oregon to confirm candidates. The rites will occur in smaller groups at each parish. “I want you to know how much that weighs on my heart,” said the archbishop, adding that he will miss meeting youths face to face. He may hold some regional confirmations in the late fall, he said.

In a May 22 video for children who were to receive first Communion, he said he is sorry they will not have the big day they imagined. Many parishes are breaking the classes into smaller groups for multiple Masses. “The important thing is that you are going to receive Jesus Christ to be in your heart, to be in your soul, to be with you forever,” the archbishop told youngsters.