Catholic volunteers pray, clean cemetery for All Souls' Day

A group of students and parents at St. Raphael Catholic School had an early start to the Feast of All Souls Day. The Knights of Columbus and the Mothers in Faith Ministry organized a small gathering on Tuesday to clean up the Beddingfield Cemetery near the parish and school.

Matt Higgins, a member of the Knights of Columbus, helped organize the event to highlight the significance of both All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, which are annually celebrated by the Church on Nov. 1 and 2.

With toothbrushes and soap, students from the preschool and elementary school cleaned some mold and debris from the tombstones. The students also prayed for loved ones who had passed away, and each of the attendees had the opportunity to mention the name of someone who had died in their families.

Even though the Feast of All Souls is not a holy day of obligation, for many Catholics it is an important celebration. 

"This is the day when we remember those who are gone, that the Lord called from this life to eternal life,” said Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama. “In our culture, it is easy to forget that our dead ones need our prayers because we think all of them go to heaven immediately, but they need to face God first."

All Souls’ Day is a day to remember the souls of all who have died, but especially those who have not yet attained Heaven. The feast serves as a valuable reminder of who we are and what we are made for. It should also be a special day to fondly remember loved ones who are no longer with us, said Bishop Luis.

In Mexico, this feast is commonly known as The Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). There is a Mexican saying that people die three times: the first is when they die; the second is when they are buried; and the third is when they are forgotten. 

Throughout the Diocese of Raleigh, different parishes with large communities from Mexico and Central America celebrate by decorating the altars and entrances of the church. Often the altars will be decorated in two tiers, representing Heaven and Earth. Sometimes a three-tiered altar decoration is used to incorporate purgatory as well. During the month of November, in many homes, pictures, paintings, images of deceased loved ones and favorite items are placed on the altar so that their souls can be prayed for and remembered.