It is apparent and to be expected that like the Lenten and Easter seasons, our observance of UNDAS 2020 (All Saints and All Souls Day) will be substantially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that we are going through. In so doing, allow me to share with you some Pastoral Suggestions issued by Most Rev. Socrates B. Villegas, DD (Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan) for our collective guidance.
Archbishop Soc suggests that: 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. While, 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.
As REVERENCE FOR THE DEPARTED, the Pastoral Guidance states as follows:
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, the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary until November 2, offers masses 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.
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 in the parish as an act of reverence for the faithful departed.
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.
While the Filipino custom of offering flowers is recognized as a 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 can 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.
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.
In 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 Cardinal Robert Sarah urged 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.
In conclusion allow me to likewise share to you some words of advice by Bishop Broderick S. Pabillo, DD (Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila), “During these past six months, many have experienced death in the family, and for hygienic reasons many of our dead were cremated. I would like to remind everyone that it is not allowed for us to keep the urns containing the ashes in our homes permanently. There is great danger of desecration in the future, especially when we are no longer around to look after and care for these ashes. So the ashes should be laid to rest in columbaria in the cemeteries or in churches. In this way too, other people outside of our families who would like to visit and pray for them can freely do so any time”.
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