WITH Filipino families traditionally observing “Undas” on Nov. 1 and 2 by visiting the graves of departed loved ones, a Catholic priest has reminded the faithful that the occasion is meant to be solemn and for praying.
Fr. Charles Belmonte, a theologian with more than 30 years of pastoral work experience in the Philippines, noted that what the Catholic Church celebrates as a solemn commemoration of prayer and remembering departed loved ones and the saints has turned into occasions of inappropriate practices such as gambling, excessive drinking, and the littering of cemeteries and other holy places.
“The vast crowds that flock to the cemeteries on All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day show that people in the Philippines are openly pious, but there is a need for a greater understanding for the Christian reverence for the dead as well as of the meaning of Christian death in the light of the promise of a future resurrection,” Fr. Belmonte said.
“Tombs are cleaned and repainted, flowers are offered and candles are lit, but many might have forgotten the significance of these commemorations as seen in the general lack of atmosphere of prayer in the cemeteries or during wakes,” he added.
To support the church’s new evangelization efforts during popular occasions such as All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, Belmonte wrote a handy booklet to help strengthen the faithful in the face of death and to guide them in offering prayers for their departed loved ones.
The author of “Prayers for the Dead” pointed out the relevance of such a devotional practice even in these modern times.
The priest said the church calls on the faithful to pray and “to console one another and to meditate about the meaning of God being with us whether in life and or in death.” He, however, noted that the doctrine behind this remembrance of the dead is not fully understood by the faithful.