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Catholic Activity: All Souls' Day ideas for the family

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All Souls' Day provides parents with an opportunity to teach children about indulgences, as well as the importance of praying for the poor souls of Purgatory.

DIRECTIONS

All Souls' Day is a solemn day for families. We mothers must tell our children again about the Communion of Saints, which functions in the same way as life in a large family, where each member depends on the others. In this case, the poor souls depend on us. They depend on our love, but love does not consist in words only, it consists in deeds. The sooner the little ones learn to understand this, the better it is for their whole life. On All Souls' Day they will be encouraged to bring little sacrifices, to say special prayers. They will be told about the thesaurus ecclesiae, the golden treasure chest of Holy Church filled with the atoning sacrifice of Christ, the merits of the Blessed Virgin, of the saints — canonized and uncanonized — into which we may delve. It was given to Peter to bind and loosen, and his successor, making use of that very power, sets the conditions under which this can be done.

All Souls' Day is also the date when we remind our children that on the solemn day of their baptism the Church lit the baptismal candle and said:

Receive this burning light and see thou guard the grace of thy baptism without blame. Keep the Commandments of God so that when the Lord shall come to call thee to the nuptials, thou mayst meet Him with all the Saints in the heavenly court, there to live forever and ever.
This baptismal candle of our children we should wrap reverently and keep in a special place together with our own. If, as happened to us, these candles are no longer in the family (we could not take along such things from the old country), one can take candles blessed on Candlemas Day, tie the names of each child to a candle, and keep them in a special place. This is what we did. Only Johannes, being born in this country, has his own original baptismal candle. On All Souls' Day we take the candles out and look at them and remind each other to light our candle for any of us in case of sudden death, as a symbol that we want to die in our baptismal innocence, that the light which was kindled at that solemn moment has not been extinguished voluntarily by us. It is always a solemn moment when the children are called to think of their parents' death.

In the old country the great event of the day used to be the visit to the cemetery. First I have to describe an Austrian cemetery. Out in the country every village has its cemetery around the church; bigger towns have them on the outskirts. Every grave is a flower bed at the head of which is a crucifix, sometimes of wrought iron, sometimes carved in wood. Occasionally there are also tombstones. Families take care of their graves individually. People who have moved elsewhere will pay the cemetery keeper to do it for them. The German word for cemetery is Gottesacker, meaning "God's acre." In the summer it looks like a big flower garden. People are constantly coming and going, working on their graves, or just praying for their loved ones. On anniversaries you will see vigil lights burning and on All Souls' Day every grave will have its little vigil light as a token that we do remember. People will flock out to the cemeteries in the early evening because it is such a sight — those many, many flames and all the mounds covered with flowers. Slowly one walks up and down the aisles, stopping at the graves of relatives and friends to say a short prayer and sprinkle them with holy water.

When the father of our family died several years ago, we started our own old-world cemetery. Soon one of his children followed him and now there are two flower-covered mounds under the large carved-wood crucifix. The lanterns are lit not only on the anniversaries and on All Souls' Day, but every Saturday night. A hedge of rosa multiflora encircles this holy spot. Inside the hedge there is a bench and we often sit there in the peace and quiet of our little acre of God.

Activity Source: Around the Year with the Trapp Family by Maria Augusta Trapp, Pantheon Books Inc., New York, New York, 1955

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