Can a catechumen burn hell notes to their ancestor?


Very soon my family will make an annual trip to a chinese cemetary to do spring cleaning and offering of hell notes at our ancestor’s tomb. Since I am not a full catholic, could I participate to burn hell notes?


You may not have been received into the Church yet, but you still may not participate in this pagan ceremony, because by participating, you risk giving the impression that you approve of a non-Catholic religion. Divine law forbids us from engaging in such acts.


If you’re concerned about it then talk to your pastor about it. You already know that you aren’t offering anything to a god, and so should your relatives. That being known, you could still ask your pastor if that would be a proper way for you to pay respect to your ancestors along with your family members, or if you should pay your respects another way.


You disagree it is okay for a non-catholic to participate in this ceremony? I am not a catholic yet, I am not baptized yet.


We cannot be so subjective; whatever is forbidden by divine law applies to all, not just Catholics. Since you are a catechumen, you are counted among the Christian faithful, even prior to baptism, according to canon law. If you don’t believe in a pagan religion, it would not be prudent to participate in a ceremony, thereby running the risk of implying that you do agree. After all, it’s the same reason why I wouldn’t, as a Catholic, receive “communion” in a Protestant church.


Why oh why would you want to do this?


It’s my family tradition.


I had never heard before of this practice of burning paper that resembles money. I looked it up. It is very interesting as a cultural practice.

As Catholics we do not believe that our ancestors need representations of earthly goods in the afterlife. Instead, we pray for their souls that they will enter heaven.

It is good to honour and pray for our family members that have died. I often do this by remembering them as I pray the rosary. Sometimes I light a candle at church, to accompany my prayers.

Perhaps your family will be open to your new faith, and accept your way of honouring your ancestors. For sure, help with the cleaning of the gravesite. However, instead of burning notes, offer prayers.

Example of a prayer you might recite:

God our Father,
Your power brings us to birth,
Your providence guides our lives,
and by Your command we return to dust.

Lord, those who die still live in Your presence,
their lives change but do not end.
I pray in hope for my family,
relatives and friends,
and for all the dead known to You alone.

In company with Christ,
Who died and now lives,
may they rejoice in Your kingdom,
where all our tears are wiped away.
Unite us together again in one family,
to sing Your praise forever and ever.


Speak to your priest for advice.
God bless you and your family.


Do you believe in the tradition?


No, but you still have to do it or you are out of the “tribe”.


Well, you can choose what you believe in. And choose your actions. Tribe or no tribe we all make our choices like this.


Could you direct me with a link to the quote from the canon law which says that a catechumen is counted as a faithful?


Which “tribe,” as you refer to it, would you rather be a part of - your eartly family’s with its temporary traditions like hell notes or God’s Family with Jesus as your Brother, Savior and King and knowing you have eternal life with Him?


I had not heard of this custom until I read your posts @Rutherford2 .

Is there any religious meaning to the custom ?

Is it similar to my taking flowers to the grave of a departed love one ?


Qingming Festival


You’re speaking of Chinese New Year. Correct?You can participate in the spring cleaning but not in the burning of the joss paper hell notes or any offering to your ancestors.


No, its not Chinese New Year. It’s different tradition.


The only other thing I can think of that you’re referring to is the Qingming or Ching Ming festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day which occurs on April 5 this year. If that’s it, remember that Lent will still be going on. (Easter is April 21 this year.) And while you may not have an issue with it this year, you will next year.

When you do celebrate Chinese New Year beginning Feb 5 this year and ending on Feb 19, remember that as a catechumen, you can’t participate in the traditional offerings to your ancestors. But you can offer your prayers that your ancestors will be in Heaven.


Even when I am not baptized yet?


Correct. You are currently a catechumen on the road to becoming a Christian in the Catholic Church this Easter.

Consider this a test of faith. You cannot serve two masters. You must choose God’s way (the narrow road) or your “tribe’s” way (the wide road). You cannot compromise even tho you are not yet baptized.

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