By RYAN LILYENGREN, Executive Editor, OC CATHOLIC     10/23/2015

The Catholic Church by its very definition is universal, inviting all to experience the love of Christ and to be united in faith. Our more than one billion Catholic brothers and sisters speak hundreds of languages and represent even more distinct cultures. Next weekend this immense diversity will be on display as we celebrate the Feast of All Souls. Catholics around the globe will join together in prayer for the souls of the faithful departed, still undergoing “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter heaven,” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains “purgatory.”

This holy day, perhaps more than any other, displays the cultural diversity and richness that exists among our community. In Mexico and in other Latin American countries All Souls Day is closely associated with El Día de los Muertosor “the Day of the Dead.” This observance dates back many hundreds of years and is marked by festivities, including spectacular parades of skeletons and catrinas (elegant female skulls). Many families visit the graveyards of their loved ones and celebrate throughout the day with a picnic as they remember the deceased. This tradition continues here in Southern California as thousands will gather on October 31st at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Orange, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to celebrate the largest of these celebrations. This event is sponsored by the Office for Hispanic Ministry of the Diocese of Orange. To honor the faithful departed Bishop Vann will celebrate Mass, in Spanish, at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery at 2 p.m. on the same date.

As part of this observance families often erect an elaborate altar at the cemetery offering food for deceased family members in the belief that the dead participate in the meal in spirit. The offerings are arranged with colorful banners and marigold flowers, which serve as a living memory of deceased loved ones. Candles, incense, mementos, photos, and other remembrances are used in the preparation of the altar honoring the faithful departed. This beautiful celebration allows families to celebrate their loved ones and pray for their assertion to heaven.

Next weekend you will surely see processions of people dressed as skeletons, carrying effigies, or perhaps large groups assembled at area cemeteries eating, drinking and in celebration. Let us take this opportunity to thank God for the great diversity and cultural richness of our Church and join our Hispanic brothers and sisters in praying for all souls destined for heaven and rejoice in our unity as Catholics.