Today is All Soul’s Day in the Catholic Church, when the faithful pray for the souls in purgatory that they may soon enter heaven. It is a wonderful way to remember those who have passed from this world into the next, but still need our prayers here on earth, and is somewhat a solemn tradition. But death shouldn’t only be a solemn thing, as the departing souls of the faithful are one step closer to heaven. That’s why I love the Mexican holiday el Día de los Muertos that celebrates life in the midst of death. Families gather to celebrate the living memories of their loved ones and pray for them. It is a kind of party during which the dead are remembered and rejoiced over. Altars decorated with colorful flowers, candy, photos of the deceased, and a variety of food reminds us of all the joy each life lived, and the past enters into the present.
We can never express enough the richness of Catholicism. Our faith is universal, and though the Church upholds the complete truth, it still recognizes the goodness that exists in other cultures and incorporate these little truths into our traditions. Catholicism embraces all dimensions of remembering the dead, and the Mexican customs of Día de los Muertos is just another reminder of the hope for eternal life.
The first thing that ever fascinated me about el Día de los Muertos was the artistic sugar skull makeup and costumes. Unlike some misconceptions that link this holiday to Halloween, there is nothing scary or spooky about the sugar skulls. The designs are so wonderfully colorful and elaborate, and their themes can range from goofy, enchanting, romantic, and much more. This was my first attempt at the makeup, and I opted for a romantic sugar skull look since I wanted to incorporate flowers into the design. The only thing I bought for this was white face paint. Everything else came from my makeup kit – pink lipstick, green eye liner, and black eye shadow from back when the smokey eye was my default look. I just also want to say how blessed I am to have supportive friends who will say yes to my spontaneous idea of doing a Día de los Muertos photoshoot. I seriously just called them up two days before, and they jumped on the idea. Thanks to Katrina for helping with makeup, and Maribel for doing my hair and lending me her vintage clothes and accessories!
On A More Serious Note
Today I want to also remember one special, recently departed soul: that of Joshua Aguirre. I met him on one of our juvenile hall retreats this past June, and he was one of four boys who sat at my table. He spoke joyfully to me about recently completing his GED in juvie, and how his mom was so proud to attend his graduation ceremony (which took place a week before the retreat), and how excited he was to get out in the next few days. As the retreat went on and they heard our testimonies of faith and conversion, he vowed to turn his life around. After getting out, he enrolled in community college, learned the bus system, left his gang, and was on his way to turning everything around and making his mom proud of him.
I’m not sure on the details, but early October Joshua passed away in a stabbing incident on the streets. We were devastated to hear the news, and it took me awhile to even process what happened. Just a few months ago he was a young, hopeful boy sitting next to me, praying in front of the Eucharist, asking about what it meant to go to Confession and why we knelt in front of the Eucharist.
I want to use today to celebrate his memory as well as ask for more prayers – even if it’s just a short one. Although his life ended prematurely, it gives me peace to know that he had started to take steps in the right direction – even going to weekly bible studies. Thanks, Josh, for showing me that there is hope in the conversion of hearts. And that there is joy in the midst of sorrow.