|Is the custom of ‘lighting up’ dying? – Nov 18|
By Vernon Khelawan
There is hardly a more graphic testament to our Catholic culture and identity than the annual ritual of “lighting up” the graves and tombs of the deceased on November 2.
Roman Catholics, as well as members of other Christian Churches in this country, spend a great amount of money and time to ensure that the places where their loved ones have been buried are cleaned, painted, repaired and even rebuilt, culminating in the “lighting up” come the evening of the Feast of All Souls.
It is one of the few times in any given year that Catholics have absolutely no qualms about publicly demonstrating their Catholic identity. The practice certainly gives life to the Second Pastoral Priority – Revitalising Catholic Culture and Identity.
Having said that, Catholics must now take cognisance of the fact that the tradition is slowly dying. Yes, the graves and tombs are cleaned, but the number of people making the annual visit to the cemeteries to light candles and pray for the dead seems to be decreasing every year.
What are the reasons for this? Many people work outside of their parishes and are invariably caught up in the daily traffic congestion. Additionally, internal migration over the years accounts for families residing far away from the ancestral homes and therefore burial grounds. But also, like it or not, the younger generations are not drawn to visiting cemeteries to light candles on the graves of their relatives who have long passed on. The practice of cremation may also have had some impact on the ritual.
The old tradition of “lighting up” on All Souls reflects a sincere reverence for Catholic souls who have gone to the Father and the love and respect of those who continue on their pilgrim journey.