2nd of November-Day of the Dead / Ricardo Medina

The Commemoration of the 2nd of November as All Souls Day, did not arise suddenly. Since the 7th century, the Archbishop of Seville, Saint Isidoro (560-636) established that the Monday of Pentecost would be offered to Saint Sacrifice = Eucarist= Holy Mass for all the dead, as was customary in other countries, especially in the chapters and monasteries.St. Odilo (+ 1049), abbot of Cluny (France) was dedicated to this tradition and usually established it as a commemoration, as it is now; other traditions offer altars decorated in the style of life of the deceased, meals, flowers, candles, the traditional bread of the dead and people spend the night in cemeteries with their loved ones, for example the Night of the Dead (Mexico).

The monasteries dependent on Cluny Abbey, endorsed the Office for the Dead, then Rome gave it great importance, and officially established the Office of the Dead spread throughout the church, complete with the Liturgy of the Hours and enriched with lessons of Saint Peter and St. Augustine, with the privilege of three masses. Today religious congregations include the office of the canonical hours, prayers for the members and supporters who have gone to meet the Father and mention their names.

In each daily celebration and all the masses the moment for the Dead is presented, when it is said among other formulas: “Remember also, Lord, for our deceased brothers and N … N … who have gone before us with the sign of faith and who sleep the sleep of peace. To them and to all who rest in Christ, we pray, Lord, grant them the place of renewal, of Light and Peace.”

There are also offices of liturgies for the deceased lying in state, at the time of burial, for those who die at sea and a special liturgy for young children, who are those children who have not attained the use of reason; it is desirable to shroud them according to their age and to surround them with flowers to honor their spirituality, for this service white vestments are used, the offices for the dead are not celebrated, instead are celebrated masses of glory masses, masses of angels, to praise and bless God, the prayers and psalms in serving infants are of triumph and joy, even though the pain and sadness afflicts their relatives.

In the Commemoration of November 2nd as All Souls Day, the church is dressed in purple, a sign of humility and sorrow, encouraging us to retreat and meditate for our loved ones who have gone before us with the sign of death.

Sadly in Cuba we can see every day the loss of the tradition of visiting cemeteries, holding Masses, burning candles, laying flowers for our deceased relatives and friends; this humble servant thought to present my humble prayer to God for all those who in life I have loved well, my grandparents, my uncles, my teachers, friends, brothers in faith, fraternal, my spiritual directors and all who are entrusted with and have instructed my prayers.

Lord grant them eternal rest!

And may perpetual light shine within them!


Translated by: Norman Valenzuela and Carlos Maristany (first half of first paragraph only). Others: remainder.

November 5 2012

United in Diversity / Fernando Damaso

Photo: Rebeca

The Cuban crisis is advancing inexorably towards its climax for reasons that are economic, political and social as well as genetic. With each passing day the situation for most citizens — shortages, price rises, low salaries and pensions, lack of opportunity — becomes even more complicated. The “update of the model,” now codified into law, neither casts sufficient light on the tunnel’s darkness nor provides real solutions to the multiplicity of problems.

Faced with this impending reality, people from a variety of opposition camps have come together to discuss what might be the best way to achieve this necessary transition. Some feel the best way is through dialog with the government in order to achieve a greater degree of openness, which might be expanded over time. Others reject any sort of dialog in favor of direct public pressure. Still others are looking for a middle ground that might satisfy both parties and avoid violence. There might be other approaches as well. To say which is best poses a great risk, one I feel we need not take since doing so would only add fuel to the debate’s fire and complicate the current contradictions.

Perhaps it would be more convenient and intelligent to try to determine a set of demands to present to the authorities which are premised on bringing about real change. If there is a desire to seriously resolve the nation’s issues, there must be a basic shared platform on which all factions can agree in order to begin to take firm and effective steps forward.

Therefore, it is clear that the different factions must be recognized as negotiating partners, something that up till now has not happened due to the intransigence of the authorities, who consider themselves to be the country and the nation’sonly trustees, imbuing it with their ideology. Only when faced with a united opposition — one united in diversity, not in unanimity; one without fractures — will the government feel tempted to have a dialog without worrying about losing what little credibility it has left with certain sectors of the population.

The level of opposition is not reflected in the figures for election turnout or in the numbers of people who show up for mass demonstrations, which are simply by-products of an entrenched double standard, but rather in the silent voice of the majority of outraged citizens as it filters through our cities and towns. Experience over many years has shown that a fragmented opposition garners no attention.

The last approach of the government with highest leadership of the Cuban Catholic church, as the only interlocutor accepted for some very immediate problems demonstrates this. All of the initiatives should be well received and not just criticized, despite their limited reach, because they can serve to enlarge the spectrum of participation, demanding that the spaces be open to all equally. Nobody, by his own decision, should proclaim himself representative of all the citizens of the nation and pretend to be the only voice to listen to, rather it would be more intelligent to make oneself a bridge or a collection point for different views.

To aspire to a truly democratic country, the road to the transition should also be profoundly democratic. If it is not, we risk the danger of repeating the costly errors of the past, and in losing ourselves once again in the entanglement of the autocracy, intolerance and exclusion, something that none of the opposing viewpoints want, much less so, the majority of Cubans both within the country and beyond.

Translated by: Stephen Clark, Alex Vizcarra, Norman Valenzuela, and Carlos Maristany

September 26 2012