Day of the Dead | Feast of All Souls
In Chapel on The Solemnity of All Saints
These last years, with the pandemic and the wars, the people of the whole planet have a strong need to mourn all our losses. Our sense of safety and tranquility has been challenged, and we don’t have a communal way of acknowledging, mourning, and processing all these losses. For this, we can return to the wisdom of the ancients—like the Mexican cultures and Benedictine wisdom—and make them new. St. Benedict exhorts us: “Keep death daily before your eyes.” In the Rule of Benedict Chapter four, we are reminded that our lives are in God’s hands, even if God’s presence is not always evident.
This is the second year at St. Placid Priory that we are celebrating a special Liturgy honoring our beloved departed ones. On November first, we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints and November second, we celebrated All Souls Day or Day of the Dead. It is a beautiful and emotive liturgy where we have the opportunity to remember our beloved departed ones.
For this celebration, we decorate the altar with flowers and candles, and then we enter the chapel in monastic procession called Statio. Two by two, the sisters enter, walking slowly, singing a cappella, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” When we approach the altar, we bow to each other, recognizing the Christ in each other. Then we each place on the altar a memento or reminder of the soul we want to honor or remember in the liturgy. After that we move to our places and wait for all people to enter the chapel. Then we pray the liturgy, alternating between Spanish and English. Each year we dedicate our liturgy to a specific cause. Last year we remember in our prayers the children separated from their parents at the border and imprisoned in concentration camps. This year we remember all the dead in Israel's war against the people of Gaza and Russia's war against the people of Ukraine.
After the liturgy we take our memento and have the opportunity to share with others about their meaning, how we got them and some memories of our beloved ones. In this way we bring them back to life with our memories and stories that make us laugh. The solemnity of the previous moment is transformed in Fiesta. We relive stories from times past when we were happy with them while we are eating “pan de muerto” (a sweet bread) and drinking hot chocolate.
This year we shared this experience with our oblates. We have around 80 oblates, but not all of them can come in person, so for them we share the liturgy via zoom. After all, not everything was bad during the pandemic. We learned different ways to continue being connected by using technology.
Because El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is so important in Mexican culture and in my family, I also made a personal altar which reflects my own family and helps me to remember and honor my ancestors.