Praying for the souls in purgatory

Ordo - November 2Today starts the observance termed in many places in Luzón as Undás. In the Visayas, many call the observance Kalag-kalag. Descendants of familias de gran abolengo would probably still prefer the term Todos los santos over the rest. As for the commercialised version of Halloween shamelessly curated for events fetishists, let us leave it in the silence that it deserves.

The traditional Ordo of the Philippines indicates three pious activities customarily exercised by Filipino Catholics during this period. (Click the thumbnail above to see these devotions in pp. 156–157.) First comes the most enduring of all: the practice of visiting cemeteries to pray for the souls in purgatory. We repeat: to pray for the souls in purgatory. Not to sing karaoke. Not to play with candle fire. Not to stage an impromptu graveside picnic. This is something lost in the ordinary Filipino, so we keep on repeating it: We visit cemeteries to pray for the souls in purgatory. The Ordo recommends reciting at least six Pater, Ave, Maria, and Gloria Patri for this intention.

Premier Deuil
Premier deuil | William Adolphe Bouguereau | 1888

Next comes the origin of the term undás. It came from honras (a palabra llana, not a palabra aguda), which was a shorthand way for referring to the honras fúnebres, which were typically celebrated in honour of a deceased person. The celebration of the honras covered two days, both with Offices, Masses, and sermons. Sermons for the honras, as was expected of all Requiem Masses before, were delivered after the Mass and before the absolution. During the honras, such a sermon was called an oración fúnebre or an oración panegírica. It is the loftier, nobler, soberer, more honourable, and more dignified cousin of what we commonly understand as eulogy. In the Manila Cathedral, amid the splendid music of a full coro de tiples accompanied by an orquesta, both under the direction of the maestro de capilla, nobody but the canónigo magistral delivered the oración. During the honras for Fray José Aranguren, who died archbishop of Manila in 1861, the magisterial canon delivered the panegyric in full Latin. Obviously, nobody organises this anymore. And yet the name endures.

Third comes the general processions for the dead. Before the absolutions at the catafalque, the priest first goes in procession, around the parish or inside the church or in church ground, whatever be the more reasonable situation, stopping at predetermined stations, penultimate of which is the churchyard. The last station itself is the catafalque. At every station, the priest performs an absolution reciting the prayers indicated in the ritual book. The Manual de Manila recommends, besides 2 November, scheduling the processions on Mondays, or on the first Mondays or first Wednesdays of each month, as far as the rubrics permit. Perhaps the only remnant of this custom is the practice of visiting cemeteries on Mondays, observed in some places.

Across all these three pious activities, one thing remains salient: pray for the souls in purgatory. Gain the indulgences in favour of the blessed souls in purgatory.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

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