Oct 09., 2020 / LITURGY
Pastoral Instructions for All Saints and All Souls Day
September 21, 2020
Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
RE: All Saint’s-All Souls’ Day
It is evident and to be expected that like the Lenten and Easter seasons, our observance of All Saints-All Souls Days will be substantially affected by the Covid-19 pandemic that we are going through.
Before we look into the adjustments in the pious devotional practices that we traditionally observe on All Saints’-All Souls’ Days, let us return to some fundamental Catholic teachings.
1. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is our first guide.
The Church in its pilgrim members has always honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and ‘because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins‘ she offers her suffrages for them.”
Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective. (#958).
2. On her death bed, Saint Monica taught her son Augustine, “Lay my body anywhere. Let not the care for that in any way disquiet you. I only ask this: that you remember me at the Lord’s altar, wherever you are.”
3. Sacramentals are sacred signs and practices instituted by the Church. They prepare men to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life. (CCC 1677, 1679). Visiting cemeteries is a sacramental.
OUR SITUATION: Still in Community Quarantine
1. At the individual level, each of us should practice basic health precautions. These include frequent and proper handwashing, proper cough etiquette, and social distancing of two meters. These measures minimize the spread of COVID-19 because the virus travels in the air through water droplets.
2. At the community level, each of us should minimize our social mobility and stay home to prevent the social interactions between infected and non-infected people that are necessary for pandemic spread. When we are out in public, we should wear masks and face shields, because again, these simple measures block infectious water droplets from moving from one person to another.
REVERENCE FOR THE DEPARTED
1. Let the motherly counsel of Saint Monica be our guide, “Lay my body anywhere. Let not the care for that in any way disquiet you. I only ask this: that you remember me at the Lord’s altar, wherever you are.” Visiting the graves of our loved ones is a pious devotion called sacramental. There is something higher and more spiritually beneficial than sacramental—the sacraments.
Starting October 7, memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary until November 2, all Masses in the archdiocese will be offered as suffrage for the faithful departed. All green ferial days must be Masses for the Faithful Departed.
The Catholic faithful can request the names of their departed loved ones to be remembered in the Masses within these days.
2. Within October 7 to October 31, those who wish to offer votive candles may bring the unlit candles to the parish office. They will be gathered until October 31 and will be lit by designated lay leaders in the cemetery of the parish as an act of reverence for the faithful departed.
3. The image of the dead Christ will be put out for veneration in the parish church, properly secured to prevent people from kissing or touching the image. To the image of the dead Christ, the faithful who wish to offer flowers by the graves of their loved ones may just lay the flowers before the image of dead Christ and offer prayers for the faithful departed.
4. From October 24 to November 1, the enclosed Prayers of the Faithful will be used for the souls in purgatory. Before Mass, the Novena for the Poor Souls, as enclosed, will be prayed. Within this novena days, the parish priest must visit the cemetery to bless the graves and tombs without making any announcement on the specific date so as not to unduly gather people to join the blessing.
5. While the Filipino custom of offering flowers is recognized as religious inculturation, the current pandemic and creeping hunger so prevalent in our communities should also encourage us to offer, instead of flowers and candles, alms for the poor in the parish, to be used for feeding and giving out food relief packs. The parish must organize an alternative UNDAS by giving food bags to the poor on October 27, the Sunday before UNDAS in memory of the faithful departed. Almsgiving covers a multitude of sins and is beneficial for the souls in purgatory more than flowers and candles.
6. The Catholic cemeteries will not be accessible to the Catholic faithful on October 31 to November 2 as an act of social responsibility. As most of us have availed of spiritual communion during this time that we are unable to physically attend Mass, so we are encouraged to focus more on the spiritual communion of prayers for the faithful departed this year.
The parish priests with private memorial parks or government cemeteries in their areas are advised to request the local government units and the memorial park owners to observe these same protocols for the sake of social order and public health. We have no jurisdiction over them but we plead in the spirit of social responsibility and solidarity against the pandemic. It would also help to warn the police about the possible priest impostors who might take advantage of the season and offer fake religious rites for pay.
7. Enclosed is a Prayer Guide for Family Prayers for the Faithful Departed which the Catholic faithful can use at home with the family. The pandemic can be a good occasion to recover the value and beauty of family prayer.
I borrow the words of Cardinal Robert Sarah from his letter “Let Us Return to the Eucharist with Joy”. The Church “bears witness to hope, invites us to trust in God, recalls that earthly existence is important, but much more important is eternal life: sharing the same life with God for eternity is our goal, our vocation. This is the faith of the Church, witnessed over the centuries by hosts of martyrs and saints.”
In this time of pandemic he urged us pastors to “renew our intention to be witnesses of the Risen One and heralds of a sure hope, which transcends the limits of this world.”
We who are unable to visit the cemeteries pray that someday, we can join the saints in heaven. Our destiny is heaven not the grave.
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan