Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hispanic Seminarians Create an Altar to Commemorate All Souls Day

by Br. Jorge Haro, M.Sp.S.

On November 2, the Feast of All Souls, the seminary community created an altar in Saint Joseph Chapel to remember those who died during this year, especially Fathers Joseph Nguyễn Thắng and Paschal Cheline, members of Mount Angel Abbey whose pictures were placed on the altar.

Altars like this are part of a well-known Mexican tradition. This year, the altar was decorated under the guidance of Francisco Garcia, a seminarian of Monterey and Walter Martinez, a seminarian of Fresno, both members of the seminary’s Hispanic community.

Altars like this one involve a very personal and spiritual process because people have the chance to remember their loved one’s life and legacy. Altars are made to celebrate life and memories, not death. Martinez said, “It is to honor their lives, so others may know a little bit more about them . . . and to let them know that we continue to love and pray for them."

The portion of the altar featuring Father Paschal Cheline, OSB

Some of the food offered on the altar.

Garcia explained that according to the Mexican tradition that predates the arrival of the Spanish in the Americas, every object that is placed on the altar has its significance and meaning. The altar is made in three pyramidal levels representing life here on the earth, in purgatory, and in heaven. A crucifix, symbolizing that it is Jesus’ death that gives life to everything, crowns the higher part of the altar. Flowers, candles, food and drinks were placed to honor the life of Father Joseph Nguyễn Thắng and Father Paschal Cheline. This year, a book was placed also in the front of the altar, so seminarians and visitors may write the name of their relatives and friends that died to remember them in prayer.

Martinez said that another objective of the altar is to show seminarians other Catholic traditions from around the world: “It is a way of showing our culture … and perhaps they may incorporate this tradition back in their home parishes.”

The altar is part of other Christian spiritual activities on the Feast of All Souls. Mount Angel Seminary commemorates, together with the monastic community, this day with the Mass for the deceased, followed by a procession to the monastic community cemetery.

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