The feast of All Souls’ Day, when Catholics remember and pray for the dead, has weighted significance this year when so many have died of COVID-19 and the pandemic’s restrictions have prevented usual funeral services and final goodbyes in person.
As of Oct. 29, about 228,000 people in the United States alone have died of COVID-19.
As that number continues to rise, it is no surprise that on All Souls’ Day, Nov. 2, many parishes and dioceses are remembering these deaths with Masses, prayers or special altars.
Conversely, because of pandemic restrictions, some dioceses also have had to cancel, or at least modify or livestream, their usual All Souls’ Day commemorations often held at Catholic cemeteries.
In the Los Angeles Archdiocese, scaled back All Souls’ Day plans are continuing and they will include, as in previous years, aspects of the Mexican celebration Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, celebrated Nov. 1-2.
A vigil Mass will be celebrated by Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez on the evening of Nov. 1 in the outdoor courtyard of the Mausoleum of Calvary Cemetery and Mortuary in Los Angeles.
At the livestreamed Mass, the archbishop also will bless the eight altars on display paying tribute to those who died in the past year, a typical feature of Day of the Dead celebrations. One of the altars will specifically commemorate COVID-19 victims.
For Concepción Sanchez, who is placing photos of her father on the COVID-19 altar, the archdiocesan event is a means of closure.
She said the Day of the Dead tradition has been something her Mexican family has done privately for the past six years since the death of one of her brothers, but this more public commemoration is something her whole family is happy she is doing since they did not get to say goodbye in person to their dad, grandfather and husband, Blas Mena Espinoza, who died a month and a half after contracting the coronavirus. He was 68.
One of Espinoza’s sons contracted COVID-19 in July at his work, from someone who was asymptomatic, and it quickly spread to most of the family, to other brothers and their mother, who also has diabetes. Espinoza went to the emergency room in August where he was intubated; he died at the hospital Sept. 8.
“We thought he would get better. We didn’t get to say goodbye,” Sanchez, a mother of three, told Catholic News Service Oct. 28. She plans to place photos of her dad and his favorite hobby, woodworking, on the altar.
Want a little hope? Become a patron, support “The Deacon’s Bench”, and receive a copy of my new eBook “Preaching Hope”