Celebrating a Memorial Day Mass at Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton, Maryland, new Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory called the holiday “a very special day of remembering.”

“We remember countless men and women who offered their lives in selfless service to our country so we can be free. Our memory of those fallen heroes is filled to overflowing with gratitude and love,” he said.

The May 27 Mass, held under a large white tent on the cemetery grounds, drew more than 400 people. Memorial Day Masses were also held that day at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Silver Spring, All Souls Cemetery in Germantown, Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, D.C., and St. Mary’s Queen of Peace Cemetery in Mechanicsville.

“Remembering is an act of praise, and we praise God for the great souls who have given their lives for our freedom,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Gregory noted that for Catholics, the celebration of the Eucharist offers a memorial, where “we remember Jesus’s sacrifice and love.”

As people participated in the Mass, other people could be seen visiting the cemetery, placing flowers at the graves of their loved ones. The archbishop noted that the day also offered a time for people to thank God for those “whose goodness has inspired our faith.”

“There is never a day that passes when we do not recall those whom God has given us to love,” he said, noting that he, like those who prayed with him at the Mass, has deceased family members and friends now resting in peace at similar cemeteries, which he called “gardens of God’s saints.”

The Mass opened with the hymn, “Sing With All the Saints in Glory,” and closed with the patriotic song, “America the Beautiful.”

Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory processes to a May 27 Memorial Day Mass at Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton, Maryland. (Catholic Cemeteries photo/John Capobianco)

Before the Mass, Army Captain Garrett Boyer, wearing his dress uniform, told the Catholic Standard that the Memorial Day Mass “is important because it brings back the memory of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Soldiers who gave their life, I would like to think, embody that spirit of self-giving that Jesus had.”

Capt. Boyer, who will be serving at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in recent years served in the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office of Worship and as the choir director for the archdiocese’s Saint John Paul II Seminary.

Elise Switzer, who attended the Mass with her four daughters, who ranged in age from 10 years old to 3 months old, noted, “My husband is in the Air Force, my brother is in the Navy, and my father served for 32 years in the Army, and so we’re here to honor all those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.”

The seven men in the Knights of Columbus honor guard for the Mass included Reginald Grier, a 91-year-old World War II veteran who served for 30 years in the Army, including during the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

“It’s very important that we pray (for) and remember those who have died for their country,” said Grier, who is a member of Holy Spirit Parish in Forestville, Maryland.