via Flickr user Gwyn Fisher
In Mexican culture, All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day are important feast days. Mexican families make Dias los Muertos (Day of the Dead) altars, on which they put photos and mementos of deceased loved ones. They honor the dead with ofrendas — flowers, favorite food, and candles. Families also put sweet breads and water on the altars, the basic nourishment for human life.
On All Souls Day itself people take the food from the altars to the graves of family members. They clean around the graves and decorate them with marigolds (zempasuchil) and other flowers.
Marigolds are the symbolic flowers of death of the Aztec people of ancient Mexico. Family members picnic in the cemetary, light incense and candles, and keep vigils into the night. These customs introduce children to grandparents, aunts, and uncles they may never have known in life. It also eases fear of death. On this day the living visit the dead, and the dead come to life in the memories of their families and friends.
via Flickr user Heidi Reyes
Put your faith in action this week by visiting family members’ graves and take flowers. If your family graves are not nearby, visit your parish cemetery or nearest cemetery.
All Souls Day is a time to remember and pray for our lost loved ones. As followers of Jesus, we each bring God’s love to life in our own ways. In our Church we live in communion with all who walked this earth and showed Jesus’ teaching to others through their lives. We can keep the spirit of those we have lost alive by learning from their lives. Remembering how they lived the gospel and incorporating these actions into our own lives allows us to spread their love throughout our communities.
Key lines: “But I won’t cry / Cause I know I’ll never be lonely / For you are the stars to me / You are the light I follow.”
Questions: Call to mind a person you have lost or a saint that you identify with. What do you admire about the person? What made him or her special? How can you keep this person’s spirit alive in your daily life?
via Flickr user Alvaro Canivell
“One cannot honor another person without blessing God who created the person. One cannot adore God without loving all God’s creatures.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church #2069
Loving our neighbors as ourselves is another way of expressing the golden rule — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The golden rule challenges us to develop empathy — the ability to feel with others. To empathize is to walk in our neighbor’s shoes, to put ourselves in their place. Catholic social teaching rests on the principle that every human person is sacred, made in God’s image and likeness, possessing inalienable rights to life and its basics. We cannot love God without loving our neighbor. We cannot love our neighbors without listening and learning their culture. Loving our neighbors is vital to becoming our whole selves.
Some ideas for putting your faith in action include inviting neighbors of diverse cultures in your area to visit your class and talk about their lives, values, and dreams, practicing empathy consciously for a day — put yourself in the shoes of people you dislike or dismiss, talk to a classmate you don’t know every day for a week, and visiting the Southern Poverty Law Center to explore and use the center’s 101 Tools for Tolerance.
We all have times where we don’t feel like the “cool kid,” when our peers exclude us and hurt us. Some of us experience this more intensely than others. We each have the power to share the love we receive from God with those around us. Taking time to remember the pain we felt when we were hurt can motivate us to pull others into our circles of friends and keep them from feeling this pain.
Key Lines: I wish that I could be like the cool kids, / ‘Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in / I wish that I could be like the cool kids, like the cool kids.
Questions: Remember a time when you didn’t feel like a cool kid. Stand up and without talking move your body into a position that expresses what that felt like. Now move to a position that expresses what it feels like to be included and confident. What has happened when someone did include you among their friends? What is the one thing you can do to include someone whom you see being excluded?
“For I was hungry and you gave me food.” - Matthew 25.35
World Food Day is today. World farmers produce enough food for Earth’s more than six billion people, but nearly 870 million people struggle to survive on less than a $1.25 a day with little access to Earth’s abundance. Check out Bread for the World or worldfooddayusa.org to involve your Christian community in the advocacy efforts on behalf of policies to end hunger.
The world only gets better when people actively work to make it a better place. God has beautiful dreams for our world and placed this precious gift in our hands to bring those dreams into fruition. God acts through and within each of us, but we must be open and willing to the Spirit’s movement. We must say yes to the urges to stand up for the kid who is getting picked on, to research an injustice we are curious about, or write a letter to our politician. John Legend makes it clear — “It’s all left up to us.”
Key Lines: Hope of the world is in our generation (let’s straighten it out) / It’s all left up to us, to change this present situation (let’s straighten it out) / As long as there’s a you, there’s a better me / It’s why we’re together and stronger than they ever thought it could be.
Questions: What have you seen recently on the news or in your life that you felt was unjust? Who was/is hurt by this? Who is working to straighten out this injustice? How can you become part of this work?
It can be easy to distance ourselves from people who seem strange to us. We have trouble seeing our similarities when we focus on our differences. This song points to what connects us; we are all part of God’s creation. This puts us into relationship; it makes us family. Once we recognize these “strangers” as our sisters and brothers we know how to relate to them — we treat them with the same love, support, and respect that we have for our own siblings and cousins. We are willing to save a seat for them, share our food, and invite them to join our team.
Key Lines: If you knew me would you save that seat for me? / If you knew me would you finally let me free? / What you need, what you need I need too / What you are, what you are I am too / ’cause we’re all the same under a different name / We’re all blood, we’re all blood, blood brothers / We’re all blood, we’re all blood, blood brothers.
Questions: What line from the song sticks out to you? What do you have in common with others who may seem different on the surface? Think of a time you were the “newbie.” What made you nervous about being new? What did you find welcoming and comforting that others did for you?