Chucuito is the name of the remote rural parish in the Andes Mountains of Southern Peru, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, where I was assigned as a deacon, before being ordained a priest. I thank God for how my 3 years there as a young priest formed me in profound ways. My first Feast of All Souls there was an amazing experience.
The main church in the small town was built of stone in 1550. Next to the Church was the cemetery that had been in use for as long as the Church had been there. We started the day with Mass – and then pretty much the whole town went to the cemetery and each family spent most of the day by their family plot. I, as the priest, spent the whole day there, too, going from grave to grave, praying with each family for their beloved diseased, particularly those who had died that past year. They brought food and drink and laid it out for the living - and for the dead!
All over Latin America similar customs are alive and well! It is not some sort of curious folklore of superstitious people, but rather a lively awareness of what it means to be part of the Body of Christ and how we journey together as members of it, particularly as we join in powerful prayer for the coming of the Kingdom of God and the New Creation!
One of the great mysteries of God is how, through prayer, we, children of God and brothers and sisters in the Family, are so much a part of helping each other on the journey of passing from this life to the next!
It is such a far cry from the secularized concept of life where death is the great unknown, to be feared and hidden from.
Of course, because we love one another so much, as the Lord calls us to do, when someone leaves us through death, we are profoundly saddened. Yet, it’s our deep Christian love that leads us to HOPE, and to know that, for a believer, what we call death is the great beginning, an opening into greater life, into eternal life.
The Feast of All Souls, following right after the Solemnity of all Saints, is a moment to take comfort and to be strong in our faith, as we participate in what is actually a sacred DUTY: to entrust our beloved brothers and sisters to the hands of the ONE who is INFINITE LOVE HIMSELF, as He purifies their souls and raises them into divine life.
Let us continue this prayer now, during the great and powerful prayer of Christ Himself, the Holy Eucharist.
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About Fr. James Phalan, C.S.C.
Father James Phalan, C.S.C. is a Catholic priest, member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, and the National Director of
Family Rosary. He served as a missionary for many years as part of the Family Rosary team, travelling the globe to help people come to Jesus through Mary. Now he is happy to be serving back at home in the USA!