With a flower and a prayer: All Souls' rituals lovingly honor departed
By Nissa LaPoint
Kenn Cramer and his wife Laura will place vintage photographs and old relics of family and friends on a table in their home for All Souls’ Day.
They make it a tradition to pray for family and won’t forget the ones who’ve died before them.
“I come from a strong Italian-American family, so family is really important to us, including our deceased ones,” said Cramer of Blessed Sacrament Church, who added they have a wall of family photos. “I grew up in an environment where we would include great-grandparents and cousins and great-cousins in prayers. So I feel a special connection with All Souls’ Day, because it’s that one day that we celebrate all those people that have passed.”
Catholic theology teaches there is a communion of the faithful departed—those on earth, the dead who are being purified in purgatory and the blessed in heaven—who all together form one Church.
Since the earliest days of Christianity, cultures across the world have recognized this communion with ceremonies and prayers. In the sixth century, Benedictine monasteries held a commemoration of the dead and Christians in Germany had time-honored traditions of praying for their souls. In many parts, the day is marked by visiting graves of loved ones. In Spanish-speaking countries, this custom is referred to as “Dia de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead.”
Mass at Mount Olivet Cemetery
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 2
Where: The mortuary chapel at 12801 W. 44th Ave., Wheat Ridge
Questions: Call 303-424-7785
Today, the Church recognizes All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2 when Masses are offered for the dead. Praying for them is not only useful but necessary, Pope Benedict XVI said, because it helps loose them from their sins and makes their own prayers for those on earth more effective.
Patrick Mercado of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception recognizes the importance of remembering past family and friends.
“I hope when I die people will remember me as well,” he said. “It’s a communion of souls.”
He’s inviting friends to bring photographs of deceased to his home in Denver to recognize the feast day. He’ll collect photos of extended family that have died, a tradition that is strong in his native Philippines. Called “Undas” in the country, Filipinos will clean, repaint and adorn graves with flowers, food and drink for souls, and lighted candles. Some will also bring framed pictures of loved ones and will recite the rosary and a litany.
“I think my parents did it also,” Mercado said. He hopes friends will be able to appreciate the tradition as well.
“It’s like a funeral,” he said. “If it helps them to remember the deceased, I think it’s a good way to go.”
The memorial of departed ones was inaugurated by St. Odilo of Cluny in the 11th century and it became official in the Western Church in the 14th century. Some visit graves and adorn them with candles and flowers. In Europe, churches have traditionally rung bells to remind people to pray and offer alms for the dead.
“It’s very important for us Christians to live our relationship with the dead in the truth of faith, and to look at death and the afterlife in the light of Revelation,” Pope Benedict said in a homily on the feast day in 2008.
Cramer said he thinks American culture tends to forget about the deceased, something he hopes his friends won’t do this year. He’s continuing a tradition of inviting guests to celebrate the day with him.
“My hope is that people will be reminded to pray for their deceased loved ones. The souls in purgatory really need our prayers,” he said. “We just can’t assume all our deceased loved ones go straight to heaven. Prayer really does something.”
Mass & blessing of graves
Where: Sacred Heart of Mary Church, 6739 S. Boulder Road, Boulder
When: Following the 7:30 a.m. Mass Nov. 2
What: A procession to the church cemetery to bless the graves and pray for the pope’s intentions
Questions: Call 303-494-7572