Dia de los muertos

Fr. Chris Walsh shared this on Facebook this morning:

Today is All Souls Day. The Masses of today are offered for the souls of those who died and are not yet saints because at the time of their death they were still attached to the things of this world (things, sin, self). They are experiencing a purgation until they are fully free thru the grace of Christ (unlike the souls who fully rejected this grace and are now in hell). Pray for your family and friends who may be In purgatory so that they in turn will pray for you when they are saints in glory!

It’s the Day of the Dead. I want to visit Mexico City or another Latin American country at some point in the years to come for their Dia de los Muertos” parades and celebrations. It seems like a truer, more honest form of remembrance than a more Western, perhaps abstract “All Souls Day” remembrance. Fr. Walsh’s post for instance describes All Souls Day in a more direct way than the name implies.

In a similar vein, from Alan Jacob’s Original Sin: A Cultural History (which I just ordered):

The feast of All Souls became a way for simple and quite unsaintly Christians to reciprocate, to participate in the economy of prayer not just as receivers but as givers.

This is what Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy meant when he claimed that the creation of All Souls’ marked “the first universal democracy in the world.” The saints have special access to God, they are our patrons and friends, but then we too may befriend those departed who in their suffering are very far from God….

The Cluniac vision of all Christians joined in a vast circle of the prayerful, loving and interceding for one another, is a powerful one, especially since, just as there are saints whose spiritual power and even existence are unknown to us, so too there are poor suffering souls in a place of torment whose names equally unknown and who are therefore in particularly dire straits. Thus in the Sarum Primer — a vastly influential collection of liturgical prayers developed at Sarum, near modern Salisbury, in England — there is a poignant “prayer to God for them that be departed, having none to pray for them.” Such poor souls, “either by negligence of them that be living, or long process of time, are forgotten of their friends and posterity”; thus they “have neither hope nor comfort in their torments.”

In societies which place a great emphasis on familial duty, a phrase in that Sarum prayer can be stinging: “by negligence of them that be living.” Thus an anthropologist named Andrew Orta has recently reported on the way All Souls’ Day is practiced among the Aymara people in the Bolivian highlands: they build household altars and pray for all the ancestors whose names they know, and then, when memory fails, they pray for all the unknown ancestors as laqa achachilas — dust grandparents.

This excerpt from Jacobs’ caught my eye not only because it’s beautiful and true, but because I started reading Edward Rutherford’s Sarum: A Novel of England last month in Phoenix. It traces a 10,000 year history of the people of Sarum, near Salisbury. I read someplace that, which I might have referenced previously, that researchers are exploring the possibility that our DNA contains not only the basic information for our genetic reproduction, but also that the actual memory of our ancestors might in some way be passed along through our genes. Whether that’s true or not, it’s a fact that providing hope to the hopeless is always a worthwhile cause, and can be a path toward a meaningful prayer life.