Theologian offers handbook for cemetery visits, funerals, etc.

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Fr. Charles Belmonte, author of Prayers for the Dead, with then Pope John Paul II

MANILA, Oct. 27, 2016 – To support the Church’s effort to clarify popular customs of visits to cemeteries and other occasions such as wakes or funerals a Catholic author produced “Prayers for the Dead”, a handy booklet to help strengthen Catholics’ faith in the face of the death and to guide them in offering suffrages for the dead.

The book’s author Fr. Charles Belmonte, a theologian with more than 30 years of pastoral work experience in the country, pointed out that even in these high-tech times, devotionals like “Prayers for the Dead” are still relevant. First, “Our goodwill for the dead is seldom adequately supported by solid Catholic doctrine; we find ourselves at a loss, not knowing what to say or do.”

Second, the booklet “will help deepen our faith and enhance our piety for the dead, providing us with appropriate prayers and rites. It presents the Church’s genuine teaching on the commemoration of the dead that will free the faithful from traces of superstition that unfortunately have found their way into some practices through the years.”

Strong religious heritage

“In the Philippines, people are generally pious,” he said.

“Many families take part in commemorations such as All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, as seen in the vast crowds congregating in the cemeteries during those days.”

“Even Catholics who seldom go to Mass on Sundays, or holy days of obligation, make the effort to attend the wake or funeral of loved ones and friends,” added Belmonte.

Lack of atmosphere of prayer

On the other hand, it has been observed that many have forgotten the true meaning of these commemorations as seen in the general lack of atmosphere of prayer in the cemeteries or during wakes.

Oftentimes, these gatherings turn into mere reunions, or worse, into gambling or drinking sprees.

Spiritual work of mercy

“Praying for the dead is one of the spiritual works of mercy. From the very earliest days the Christian religion has honored with great respect the memory of the dead and the Church offers suffrages for them because ‘it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins’,” explained Belmonte.

“‘Prayers for the Dead’ is a material good to have at hand by priests and lay persons when visiting wakes or cemeteries and in celebrating funerals, death anniversaries, or All Souls’ Day,” added Belmonte.

Belmonte is the author of other best-selling Catholic books such as “Understanding the Mass”, “Do You Want to be Great? (On Humility)”, “Aba Ginoong Maria”, and “The Echo of the Gospel”. He is editor of “Faith Seeking Understanding” and co-editor of the “Daily Roman Missal”, and of “Handbook of Prayers”.

More information on “Prayers for the Dead” can be obtained by contacting Sinag-Tala Publishers, Inc. through telephone number (02) 861-7084 or email stpi@info.com.ph. (Fr. Mickey Cardenas / CBCP News)

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