Día de los Muertos


7:30 p.m. - Procession (from Cedar Grove Cemetery on Notre Dame Avenue to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart)
8 p.m. - Prayer Service (Basilica)
Reception to follow (Remick Commons in the ACE building)

Join Campus Ministry and MSPS in a celebration of life! Día de los Muertos is rooted in indigenous traditions that celebrate the life and memory of the deceased. On this day, family and friends unite in prayer and celebration to commemorate the life of their loved ones. 

This celebration will begin on Tuesday, Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m. with a procession from Cedar Grove Cemetery on Notre Dame Avenue. to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart for an 8 p.m. prayer service where Becky Ruvalcaba will preside and preach. A reception in Remick Commons in the ACE building will follow. All are welcome!

Click here for the poster.

Learn more about this celebration:

Día de los Muertos, or "Day of the Dead," is a popular celebration in Latin America. Despite the title being in the singular, the celebration usually lasts two days (November 1 and 2). While it is not a Catholic celebration, most Catholics celebrate it in the areas of the world where it is popular. The fact that it is not technically a religious holiday does not deprive it of meaning. After all, Memorial Day in the United States is not a liturgical holiday, but attending Mass and visiting graves of veterans is certainly a pious and commendable thing to do on that day.

Because its origins are non-Christian, not every custom or tradition of the day will be acceptable. It is believed to have been celebrated originally in the summer by the Aztecs, but when the culture became Catholic, it was moved to coincide with All Souls and All Saints Days. Catholics have usually celebrated the feast by having family meals at the graves of loved ones, decorating altars of prayer in their homes with pictures of deceased family, and having communal meals with neighbors, friends and family.  The essence of Catholic celebration of this feast has been an emphasis on the Communion of Saints, that we are all still connected to each other both in this world and the next. 

Another popular activity is painting faces to look like skulls, but it is important to note that the meaning behind this is not the same as Halloween. On Halloween, a skull is meant to be creepy, scary, or funny. For Día de los Muertos, it is actually considered reverent. Part of this tradition comes from the image of La Catrina, which has a long history of being used in satire, social commentary, and cultural imagery. 

The main reason, though, is that Día de los Muertos is meant to embrace death as part of the cycle of life and as something that need not be feared. Death is embraced almost like any other milestone in life. The skull face painting is seen as normalizing death and stands in complete opposition to the themes of Halloween. 

So long as the elements of celebrating Día de los Muertos do not contradict our faith or blur the essentials of our faith, there is nothing wrong with Catholics celebrating it. In my personal opinion, the more I read about the feast, the more I wish Catholics in the United States would celebrate this instead of Halloween!


Altar Symbols for Dia de Los Muertos - Everything on an altar has special meaning. These are the most important symbols.

Sugar skulls: Elaborately decorated skulls are crafted from pure sugar and given to friends as gifts. The colorful designs represent the vitality of life and individual personality.

Food: The ancestor's favorite meals are placed on the altar as offerings.

Pan de Muertos: Semisweet breads are baked in the shape of bones, and dusted with sugar. They're also meant to represent the soil.

Seeds/Wheat: Wheat is used to suggest the bounty of the earth, but, in relation to Holy Communion, it symbolizes the flour used to make the Host for the Consecration at Holy Mass.

Photographs: Images of loved ones who have died are placed on the altar. To remember and to rejoice in their lives, as we are all connected just as the Saints.

Papel picado: Delicately decorated tissue paper represents wind and the fragility of life.

Salt: a symbol of purification.

Water: a symbol of our baptism; it is the water that flowed from Christ's side during the crucifixion. It is the symbol of purification and prepares us for the offering of a sacramental life. When mixed with wine it symbolizes the nature of Christ --- Human and Divine.