Today is All Souls Day, the final celebration of Hallowmas (the Triduum of Hallows) which started with the Vigil of All Saints Day (All Hallows Eve) and is celebrated as Dia de los Muertos in Mexico.
In celebrating this triduum, we make the bold assertion that death is a gift! As St. Ambrose wrote: "Death was not part of nature; it became part of nature. God did not decree death from the beginning; he prescribed it as a remedy. Human life was condemned because of sin to unremitting labor and unbearable sorrow and so began to experience the burden of wretchedness. There had to be a limit to its evils; death had to restore what life had forfeited. Without the assistance of grace, immortality is more of a burden than a blessing... No longer will the bride be held in subjection to this passing world but will be made one with the spirit." Death is the ultimate display of God's healing and mercy.
I disagree with National Geographic that this is a minor holiday in the Catholic Church. Rather it is one of MANY major holidays in the Catholic Church. Hallowmas was traditionally celebrated as one of several days-long festivals. Fr. Steve Grunow explains that "A holy day of obligation has not always meant spending 45 minutes in church for Mass and then going back to work. Holy Days were times for a party and if you look at the Church’s calendar, past and present, with this ethos in mind you will discover that the reasons for a party happened with great frequency." I think we need to return to the tradition of grand celebrations.
So let's visit a cemetery and remember where we came from and where we are headed!