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Author Topic: Chaplain's Chat  (Read 8555 times)

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Chaplain Mark Schmidt

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Re: Chaplain's Chat
« Reply #156 on: October 31, 2021, 09:39:26 pm »
About the Day of the Dead

I published this elsewhere and met with some pushback as well as positive response,  just sharing with my friends here some of my writings.  It is kind of long

In recent years, the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead (November 2) has gained visibility in the USA and around the world, thanks in great part to media and movies including Pixar’s animated feature Coco. It is a colorful part of Latin American Catholic culture.
For Americans, and perhaps people from other countries where this celebration is not a longstanding tradition, this folkloric holiday could simply seem like a “Mexican Halloween,” in the worst possible sense. It could appear as a pagan celebration that invites people to celebrate the darkness of death or even worship it (associating it with the “Santa Muerte” or “Saint Death” cult). Some even feel it is to seek to communicate with the dead through pre-Colombian rites and rituals.
This is the danger of learning about other cultures from movies, on one hand, and on the other, of misunderstanding the process of inculturation which the Church has practiced since its founding and in all the different forms of the Catholic Church.
Let us begin with what the Day of the Dead is not. To quote a 2019 article from Vatican News: “It must be made clear that in Mexico this celebration is not a ‘satanic cult’ or something related to a ‘cult of death.’” Nor is it generally understood exactly as it was depicted in the film Coco. This movie did incorporate many real elements of Mexican culture. But let us be honest here, subsidiary Pixar is not a reliable source for information on the way Catholics in Mexico celebrate the Day of the Dead.
 Using a well-written passage from Aleteia, let me quote them on what it is. First of all, returning to the Vatican News article, “it forms a part of a belief that has its roots in the Prehispanic world.” Among the cultures that existed in what is now Mexico before the coming of Europeans, the article goes on to explain, there was a general belief in an afterlife, including something analogous to Purgatory. For the dead to reach their destination in the afterlife, they needed certain essential objects, and once a year they visited the earth. During this occasion, the living could offer them food and objects to help them along.
At this point it is still possible to object, being easy to state, “See? It’s a pagan celebration that Catholics should avoid.” However, let us consider this; when Catholic missionaries arrived in the Americas, they realized that in these beliefs and celebrations there were elements of truth that were a common ground that could help the indigenous peoples understand the Catholic faith. These partial truths are what the Church calls “semina verbi” or the “seeds of the Word”—a term coined by St. Justin Martyr in the second century (originally in Greek, “logoi spermatikoi”).
The missionaries engaged in what is known as inculturation: they took the elements of truth they found and some of the cultural manifestations that accompanied them, and infused them with the Catholic faith, transforming the feast of the god of the underworld into a celebration of All Souls Day. In this way, the missionaries introduced Catholic teaching, and this helped transform the culture as a whole.
Inculturation is something that had been used in some form or another since St. Paul. St. Paul himself, when speaking at the Areopagus in Athens, did not say, “Forget everything you know, because it’s all wrong.” Instead, he quoted a pagan poet and referred to a pagan altar “to the unknown god,” saying, “What you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.” (Acts 17:22-31)
Many folkloric traditions surrounding Catholic feast days have been adopted over the centuries from non-Christian traditions as part of inculturation. Even some aspects of Catholic iconography, terminology, and philosophy (used to elucidate theology) have non-Christian origins, such as Greco-Roman mystery cults and Neoplatonism.
While anti-Catholic rhetoric from atheists and non-Catholic Christians often exaggerates how much the Church has adopted from these sources and claims it has harmed the faith, the fact of inculturation is undeniable and quite positive. Grace builds on and perfects nature. In His providence, he has guided humanity towards the truth and prepared us to receive the Gospel. When human beings strive forward, even with some mistakes, God takes what is good and makes it better, while purging what is mistaken or evil.
We must recognize the feast as an essential element of Mexican tradition and identity and warn against the corrupting influence of … none other than the United States, with its distortion of Mexican culture and its confusion of Day of the Dead with Halloween. At the same time, we must warn against the cult of Santa Muerte, a recent invention tied to the culture surrounding drug trafficking and not specifically related to the Day of the Dead.
Can Catholics celebrate the Day of the Dead? The answer is clearly “yes,” if those Catholics or any other Christian denomination understand properly as the celebration of All Souls Day with certain cultural, folkloric aspects of Mexican culture.
So, we say to the Faithful of the Reformed Catholic Church and all People of Goodwill, enjoy this special day and treat it with the respect and reverence it is meant to have.
Say each prayer as if it is your very last conversation with God and live each day as your last day to glorify God by your actions and words.”

My rule of spiritual life.  6/22/2021
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