By Sushma Lobo
Roman Catholics and Christians around the world today will remember and pray for the dead and all loss souls. According to Catholic doctrine, prayers of the faithful on earth will help cleanse loss souls in order to fit them for the vision of God in heaven. This year’s unprecedented pandemic brings all prayers to light, All Souls’ Day 2020 is a poignant reminder of COVID-19.
All Soul’s Day 2020 commemorating deceased family and friends falls on November 2nd each year, the day after All Saints Day. Today will be dedicated to prayer and remembrance. Requiem masses are commonly held, however due to COVID-19 many virtual masses will be held and most will sit at home and pray. This year will be heartfelt, a heartache year of remembrance and prayer for all the deaths weighing so much significance as so many have died of COVID-19 and the pandemic’s restrictions have prevented usual funeral services, preventing final goodbyes in person.
Traditionally on All Soul’s day people visit and sometimes decorate the graves of loved ones. Churches hold masses – due to to COVID-19 and restrictions in place traditional prayers have been curbed and churches are live streaming and prayers will be virtual, household families will pray from their own homes.
In Texas and Mexico where the day of the dead is celebrated, all is cancelled and Archbishops are streaming livestream prayer services.
In India to avoid violation of social distancing norms, Christian cemeteries will be closed for visits on November 2nd to avoid large gatherings of people surging in one place and causing a health risk.
All Souls’ Day was first began at the monastery in Cluny in 993 CE and spread fast throughout the Christian world. People held festivals for the dead long before Christianity. It was Saint Odilo, the abbot of Cluny in France, who in the 10th century, proposed that the day after All Saints’ Day be set aside to honour the departed, particularly those whose souls were still in purgatory.
It was historically customary for poor Christians to offer prayers for the dead in return for money or food (soul cakes) from their wealthier neighbours. During the 19th and 20th centuries children would go “souling” very similar to carol singing, in which they would ask for alms or soul cakes. There was also a superstition that All Souls’ night was a time for the dead revisited their homes. Therefore some people would leave lit candles outside their homes to help to guide the deceased souls. Food and drink was also left as refreshments.