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"What's The Smoke For" is a page that will explain Catholic Customs, Liturgy, Diversity and Inclusivity, Architecture and Art, Liturgical Furniture and Objects, Liturgical Posture’s and Gestures, Liturgical Praxis, Liturgical Prayers and Devotions, Liturgical Theology, Liturgical Vesture and the Liturgical Year. We hope it will make understanding the Catholic faith easier.
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When I was growing up we would always attend Mass on All Souls’ Day. We were told to pray for our deceased family and friends. Is that still the case?
It is. It is, though it may not appear to be so.
Our family and friends are extremely important to us. They have raised us. They have accompanied us on good days and bad days. They have made us who we are. All of us are linked to the great chain of life, which is both physical and spiritual.
This link has been very important in Catholic theology. Great artistic expressions of this may be found in one of the ancient churches in Ravenna as well as in the new cathedral in Los Angeles. In both places, the walls of the nave are covered with the images of saints who invite the worshipers into a procession through time and space. Every time we gather for liturgy we are not alone, but rather we gather with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, living and deceased. The mystical Body of Christ indeed is comprised of all the faithful, those who belong to our community, those who live far away and worship in a different language and liturgical style, and even those who have long since died and whose names have faded with time.
The church offers us the feasts of All Saints and All Souls to specifically remember those who have died. Some of them have joined the ranks of the saints; some of them have not yet reached that goal. Although death indeed may be seen as a great and dramatic transition from this life to the next, the journey to sainthood or perfect union with God continues, even after death.
Therefore, in the same way as we accompany our loved ones with our prayers during their lifetime, we also accompany them with our prayers once they have passed away. We do this in our daily prayers. We also do this every time we gather for the celebration of the Eucharist and most especially when the Eucharist is celebrated specifically for their intention. Finally, we do this on days set aside by the church for the celebration of the saints and the commemoration of all those who have gone before us. On All Saints’ Day we give thanks for those who have attained sainthood and are our great examples in the faith. On All Souls’ Day we pray for all those who after death continue their journey toward holiness.
The customs of celebrating the Eucharist, visiting cemeteries, and so on, that were popular for All Souls’ Day appear to have mostly disappeared in the West. On the other hand, the Latino traditions surrounding the Dia de los Muertos with the construction of “altars of the dead” are strong and seem to bring new life to this important day in the liturgical life of the entire church. This may result in a rejuvenation of the venerable tradition of praying for our beloved dead in general, but more specifically on these important days of the liturgical year.© 2015 Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota. Excerpted from What’s the Smoke For? And Other Burning Questions about the Liturgy by Johan van Parys © 2014 Order of Saint Benedict, published by Liturgical Press, www.litpress.org. Used by permission.