Today, an ofrenda is in Mundelein Hall to celebrate Día de los Muertos.
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festivities unfold over two days, November 1 and 2, in an explosion of color and life-affirming joy. Although rooted in practices commemorating the dead in pre-Hispanic cultures, it has taken a Christian understanding since it falls on the Catholic Commemoration of the Faithful Departed. The purpose of celebrating Día de los Muertos in this way is to demonstrate love and respect for deceased family members.
The centerpiece of the celebration is an altar, or ofrenda, built in private homes, public spaces, and cemeteries. Ours is located in Mundelein Hall and was set up by our seminarians yesterday evening. Many of the seminarians contributed photos of their loved ones which are now a part of the altar. These ofrendas are not altars for worshipping; rather, they are only memorials for departed loved ones.
“I want to share with the community here on campus a part of our Latino culture, particularly how the Mexican community celebrates All Souls’ Day.” said Third Theology seminarian Jesus Raya Custodio of the Archdiocese of Chicago who facilitated the creation of our ofrenda this year. “It is an example of inculturation or Christianization of pre-Hispanic cultures and adopted into the Christian understanding of life and death. It is also a way to show the community how people in their home dioceses celebrate Dia de los Muertos, and they become familiar with this celebration.”
An altar can have different levels. For example, two levels represent the earth and heavens. Three levels represent the Holy Trinity, as is the case in ours. Some ofrendas have seven levels representing the Christian understating of overcoming the Seven Deadly Sins.
In ancient days, people believed that spirits came back to the realm of the living. As such, altars were loaded with offerings like food and water to quench hunger and thirst after the long journey. In Christianity, the items on the altar symbolize a faith belief. Food is a reminder of our loved one’s favorite meals or snacks, while water signifies Baptism.
Our ofrenda will remain through this evening. We ask that you join us in praying for the loved ones of our seminarians and the Mundelein Community who are remembered today. Be assured that we are praying for the souls of your loved ones also.