As we rounded the corner, I tried shielding two-year-old Johnny from all the “scary” Halloween decorations. Twisting in the cart, Johnny spotted a skull; Johnny’s blue eyes lit up, a huge smile broke out, and he shouted with delight, “Coco!” My daughter laughed, “Johnny thinks all skulls and skeletons are from the movie, Coco.” My son, who lived in Mexico last year, chimed in, “Yep! The movie depicts la Día de los Muertos, the Mexican celebration known as the Day of the Dead.” Though not a Christian tradition, this popular, and most colorful festival sports altars, candles, flowers, foods, and costumes. Unlike the macabre of Halloween, la Día de los Muertos affirms life, family, and the importance of remembering those who have gone before us.
Our local Catholic cemetery, set beautifully on a hill with blacktopped paths winding through the grounds, presents an ideal location for walking. As I make my way, I always think, “It’s like old home week.” Everywhere I look, names carved in granite, mark family and friends entrusted to the Lord. I stop at my mother’s grave, deeply grateful for her life—her faith. With each step, I remember and pray for a relative, friend, or member of our community who has gone before us.
The readings from this Sunday, and those for All Saints and All Souls, point to the resurrection of Jesus and all the baptized. The healing of Bartimaeus, the blind man, occurs just prior to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, where Jesus will face death. Perhaps Jesus wants Bartimaeus, and us, to “see” that “faith will save you.” All Saints reflects on the “great multitude" crying out, “salvation comes from our God." All Souls reminds us: “The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.”
In the Archdiocese of Dubuque’s Top Ten Gifts of the Catholic Faith, Barb Duggan gives witness to honoring her deceased relatives. At Thanksgiving time, family members bring greens, stems, grapevine—anything from the garden—to construct grave blankets. When completed, the family gathers around each blanket and speaks one word to describe the beloved deceased. “Then we bless the grave blankets, bless one another, and await the day when we join them in eternity.” Later, they carefully place the blankets on the graves, “covering their loved ones with prayer.”
As parents/grandparents, we name grace—God’s risen presence—by entrusting our deceased loved ones to God. We light a candle and tell stories of how much Grandma loved Jesus. We discuss how Grandpa followed Christ: how he prayed the rosary each day, read Bible stories, gave a $5.00 bill to any person in need. We speak of our entry into eternal life through baptism. We visit cemeteries and pray for loved ones. We attend vigils and funerals as a witness to the saving power of God!
After watching Coco, I am convicted to display pictures of deceased loved ones—saints—in prominent places in our home. I’m determined to remember and celebrate those who have joined the great multitudes praising God. As St. Paul wrote: “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.” Through Christ, la Día de los Muertos transforms into the Celebration of New Life! Now, that’s good news!
What are your traditions for remembering deceased loved ones?
How will you “celebrate” All Saints and All Souls in your home?
Thank you for taking time to read this reflection. Please leave a comment and always feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.