Sunday, November 7, 2010

Jesuits On The Day Of The Dead

Today, atheists not only deny God’s existence, but also human immortality. For them, belief in heaven, in the resurrection is but a delusion to allay our fear of mortality and of the absence of any eternal significance to our lives. The heart of Christianity is faith in a God of Life, a Triune God that loves us into being and against the forces of annihilation will love us unto eternal life. From non-existence, we have been created out of love. Amidst sin and chaos in the world, God labors to give us fullness of life. Against the forces of evil and death, God will restore us to life. To believe in God is to believe in a God who will share eternity with us. As we had flocked to the cemeteries to visit and honor our dearly departed, let us reflect on the various manners Christians honor their dead, but more importantly, express faith in our God of Life. I asked Fr. Carlos Manging, a visiting Ecuadoran Jesuit, to share some of the religious practices surrounding the feast of all the dead in Latin America. Fr. Carlos writes: “We Latin-American people celebrate the Day of the Dead in myriad ways: in many places, the celebration includes building altars and honoring the deceased with flowers, photographs, their favorite food and beverages, gifts that are brought to the graves and shared among those who are present.” More specifically, Fr. Carlos explains:

• “In Mexico people prepare many rituals such as skulls masks, handicrafts, candies and special dinners. By night they ornate the graves with lights and xempazuchitl flowers.

• In Guatemala, in addition to the traditional visits to grave sites of ancestors, Catholics celebrate the Day of the Dead by flying giant kites and preparing fiambre, which is cooked only during this day of the year.

• Nearby, in Nicaragua, people sleep together with their relatives as they spend the whole night remembering and praying for their beloved dead.

• In Ecuador, the indigenous gather in the cemetery with offerings of food for the day-long remembrance of their ancestors. At the end of the day they play Piruruy, a special game with “dados”. Ceremonial foods include colada morada, a spiced fruit porridge that derives its deep purple color from the Andean blackberry and purple maize. This is typically consumed with guagua de pan, a bread shaped like a swaddled infant, which can be made savory with cheese inside or sweet with a filling of guava paste.

• In Haiti, syncretistic Catholics intermingle Roman Catholic observances with voodoo traditions, such as the loud playing of drums and bellowing of chants in cemeteries all night long in order to awaken Baron Samedi, the Loa of the dead, and his mischievous offspring, the Gede.

• In Bolivia, Catholics celebrate Dia de los ñatitas (Day of the Skulls) on November 9. Traditionally, the skull of one or more family members is kept at home to watch over the family and protect them during the year. On November 9, the family crowns the skull with fresh flowers, offering it cigarettes, coca leaves, alcohol, and other items in thanksgiving for the year’s protection. The skulls are also sometimes taken to the central cemetery in La Paz for a special Mass and blessing.”
Link (here) to read the full article at The Philippine Star by Fr. Manoling V. Francisco, S.J.

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