Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Remembering Our Dead On All Souls Day

By FATHER JOHN C. KIERAN, Commentary | Published October 27, 2005

November 2, All Souls Day, has a new relevance given the recent global disasters. This time when we contemplate our deceased loved ones we will surely remember also those lost recently by way of storms and earthquake.

All Souls Day is observed universally but in different ways. In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is celebrated at night and in the cemeteries. Families of the departed make offerings of food and drink and place the traditional flower, the marigold, at each gravesite. Family members offer prayers and speak to the dead. There is a real sense of being able to communicate with the dead to show respect and appreciation for one’s heritage.

In Europe services are held in cemeteries to commemorate the dead and pray salutary prayers. In many places local communities organize cemetery cleanup days prior to Nov. 2.

The Irish have a very strong tradition of remembering their dead. Many attend All Souls Day Mass and there ponder the beautiful ritual prayers of the day.

Father, all powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord. In him, who rose from the dead, our hope of resurrection dawned. The sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality. Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.

After Mass many visit their family grave.

The worldwide observance of Nov. 2 makes it a fit time to include all the deceased, especially those who have died under tragic circumstances. By including all, we can demonstrate our Christian belief that “all” humans are loved equally by God. We include all because we believe all people are connected within the human family. The victims of Katrina, the dead in Kashmir, Guatemala and Iraq are all God’s children. We pray for all. We pray for their eternal peace with God and supplicate for their families and loved ones to overcome grief and loss.

Each parish has its own unique way of remembering the dead. Parishioners at St. Pius X Church, Conyers, inscribe the names of their deceased loved ones in the Book of the Dead. This book is then put in a place of honor in the sanctuary. Others groups solemnly “roll call” the names of their dead to show respect and commemoration.

To forget our deceased loved ones is to void our patrimony and origin. In an ever so quickly changing world we need the stability and history of our forbearers. Their story, often one of extreme endurance and fortitude, can be our reassurance today. We should never forget what they did for us.

We all can echo the thoughts of C. S. Lewis remembering his departed wife: Did you ever know, dear, how much you took away with you when you left?

Father Kieran is pastor of St. Pius X Church in Conyers.