MANILA, Nov. 1, 2015 – A few days before “Undas,” a priest called on Catholic Filipinos to make praying for the departed a habit, reminding them that “it’s the Christian thing to do.”
“Laying bouquets on the tombs of our departed family members, relatives, friends are fine. It’s one way of honoring the memory of people who were once with us. What’s wrong is when we stop there, to the exclusion of prayers which are really the most important,” Fr. Jose Antonio E. Aureada, O.P. told participants of his monthly theology class on Sunday, Oct. 25, at the St. Thomas Aquinas Research Complex, University of Santo Tomas (UST) Graduate School Building.
While he lauded the pious custom of offering flowers and candles to the dead, the Dominican theologian and UST Graduate School regent stressed that none of these can replace the value of prayers for the souls in purgatory.
Mass for the Dead
More than perishable material objects that often cost money, he pointed out that what the “Church Penitent” needs from the “Church Militant” are the prayers that can eventually get them to heaven.
“When it’s your turn to die and you have a choice, would you rather have flowers and candles than prayers?” the priest asked rhetorically.
“As often as one can, Catholics still living in this world preferably should have Masses said on behalf of their departed brothers and sisters since the Eucharist is the highest form of prayer,” he added.
According to Aureada, the reason people sometimes refer to corpses as “labi” (remains) is precisely because that is what a person leaves behind when death comes.
“What one sees lying inside a coffin is no longer the person. It is only his body. What makes him a person, his soul, is in someplace else,” he explained.
More educated laity
Meanwhile, Aureada expressed joy that Catholic Filipinos are becoming educated in this matter.
He observed that previous “Undas,” or the season dedicated to the departed faithful, were literally a celebration that rivalled town fiestas, with some having picnics on top of tombs and others playing cards inside mausoleums.
“It’s a good thing I see less and less of these things. More Filipinos now prefer visiting their departed before Nov. 1 and 2 to avoid the inconvenience,” he said.
On the “Communion with the dead,” paragraph 958 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), reads: “In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has 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.”
It affirms that praying for them is “capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.”
Catholics worldwide mark Nov. 1 and 2 as the Feast of All Saints and the Feast of All Souls, respectively. (Raymond A. Sebastián / CBCP News)