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The Day of the Dead

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November 1, 2012

By Jeanne Hunt

It’s Nov. 2 and I have eaten the last of the Milk Duds, Candy Corn, Hershey bars and Mary Jane candy. Sister Mary Walburga has just blown the whistle for fifth grade recess. The fifth grade girls are on a mission: Sister told us during religion class that this is the feast of All Souls. She informs us that if we make separate visits to the tabernacle and pray for a poor soul in purgatory, saying three Our Fathers, Hail Mary’s and Glory Be’ s, we can get that soul out of purgatory.

After fifteen trips in and out of the church, I have giving free passes to Uncle Maurice, Mrs. Cavanaugh, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley and eleven other worthy candidates.


This childhood memory of All Souls Day is a reminder of the treasure of the church’s devotion and tradition concerning those who have died.  However, this beautiful feast always seems to get lost in the shuffle of Halloween and All Saints Day. Parishes across the country are reviving this day as a time to remember and pray for those who have died as they gather for a memorial mass honoring those who have died in the last year.


As Catholics, we honor those souls who are on the journey to heaven with a day of prayer and remembrance. It is good to refresh our connection with those who have gone before us.  We believe that those who die continue to exist. These dead are a part of the communion of saints. However, it is not ours to know if they are saints or still on the journey to heaven.


So, what are we to believe about all those we love who are dead? I asked 10 faith filled people if they thought that the dead are with us and that they live on. All these folks said a rousing “Yes!” It seems that many have had experiences that reassure them that those they love are still with them: a son discovers a note his deceased father wrote to him and it is as if his Dad is speaking the same message to him all these years, a daughter faintly smells the perfume her mother always wore and she realizes this date was her mother’s birthday. Many would simply attribute these moments to an over active imagination and others believe that those we love are near to us even after death. Some people have even received a subtle message of consolation from a recently deceased beloved. After a long illness, my grandfather died.   A few days after his funeral, my grandmother and two of her daughters were returning home after a trip to the grocery. As they entered the kitchen, all three clearly heard his voice as he offered a deep and releasing final sigh. It was a blessed consolation to these grieving women.


The jury is still out on all these experiences but all of us hold our beloved dead in our hearts.  On Nov. 2nd, remember those you love who have passed through the doorway to death. Let us take time to prayerfully recall those who brought us to life, gave us faith, walked the journey with us and who await us at the heavenly banquet.

Hunt is a nationally recognized catechetical leader and author.

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