All Saints and All Souls Days are the Catholic Christian way of remembering our loved ones who have passed on to eternal life. November 1 and 2 are traditionally days in which people of all traditions and customs honor the deceased. Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is a tradition celebrated in Mexico that comes from the Aztec ritual to honor and celebrate deceased loved ones. Death is not an end of life but rather a continuation of life. The Mexican tradition is for families to build an altar for Dia de los Muertos in their homes and dedicate them to their deceased. The altar or ofrenda, includes a colorfully decorated skull (to mock death because eternal life continues for our deceased) marigold flowers, food, candles and photos of the deceased. On Dia de los Muertos, deceased are remembered, celebrated and invited home to visit (their favorite foods/items are placed to signify they are not forgotten but live on).
For a second year in San Antonio I built an altar in our home in celebration of Dia de los Muertos. Our altar consist of photos of our departed (mothers/fathers, siblings, grandparents, aunts, and others) along with special mementos that belonged to them. On Dia de los Muertos, we gathered around the altar for evening prayer and lit the candles to remember our deceased loved ones. It has been a blessing to celebrate part of my Mexican culture with my Dominican Sisters. In South Texas you can find altars in Catholic parish halls or gathering spaces where parishioners can place photos of deceased loved ones to be remembered for All Souls Day. This Mexican cultural practice helps us remember the promise of our eternal life in Christ.
Sr. Priscilla Torres, OP
San Antonio, Texas