Merged: Day of the Dead/Bolivian festivities & Bolivians honor skull-toting tradition


#1

"The ancient Andean belief is that people have seven souls, and one of them stays with the skull, Eyzaguirre said. This soul has the power to visit people in their dreams and provide protection.

The tradition reflects the force of pre-Hispanic belief in this poor country whose population is majority Indian; the Roman Catholic Church has chosen to recognize this and other non-Catholic traditions as a way of retaining its own influence."

Full Story:
modbee.com/24hour/global/story/2882179p-11543353c.html

Obviously the part that has me worried is the part about the RCC recognizing such a ritual. According to the article, a special Mass was held for this occassion. I’m hoping this is another form of misrepresentation on the part of the media. Anyone know for sure?


#2

[quote=John Joseph]The tradition reflects the force of pre-Hispanic belief in this poor country whose population is majority Indian; the Roman Catholic Church has chosen to recognize this and other non-Catholic traditions as a way of retaining its own influence."

[/quote]

Puh-leeze. :rolleyes: This unattributed statement as to the motivations of Church officials in this case should be your first clue to the negative bias on this report. What ever the true situation is (and you won’t get it from this biased source), I doubt if a Church official said “We have chosen to recognize this and other non-Catholic traditions as a way of retaining our own influence.”


#3

I remember, a few days after All Souls Day, reading in my college newspaper a very short AP article about how the Catholic Church in Bolivia was taking part in some native celebration whereby the people brought skulls of their dead relatives to Mass, where the skulls were blessed, and the people traditionally display these skulls publicly or around their homes, on pikes, and pray to them for protection. I’m sorry I can’t provide any links, I’ve been looking through my college paper’s online archives for awhile, and this isn’t a great description of the celebration, just what I remember. Needless to say, from what I read it seemed like the Church was blessing pagan practices, and the article basically (if not flat-out) stated that it was doing so to retain influence and favor among the Bolivian people. I was extremely troubled at the thought that Rome would condone this sort of thing. Has anyone ever heard of similar practices, why this type of thing would go on, or did anyone read a similar article recently?


#4

Here’s the link to the skull story, I finally found it on the AP website.

hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/B/BOLIVIA_SKULLS?SITE=INKEN&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT


#5

Author Ann Ball has a good book on the Day of the Dead.


#6

Interesting. What does Rome feel about the subject? Are they attributing to these skulls what should be attributed to God? I must say that this is a very interesting practice but the bishop and priest should be careful about supporting these practices. The protestant churches are in an uprise in South Amercia and will jump on this as being yet another reason why catholics are pagans and not Christians. Any thoughts?

peace


#7

[quote=Mr. Bean]The protestant churches are in an uprise in South Amercia and will jump on this as being yet another reason why catholics are pagans and not Christians. Any thoughts?

peace
[/quote]

I posted on this last week and the post generated one response:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=84474

I know that I’ve been approached here at work on similar matters. Recently I was asked by an Evangelical, do we (Catholics) approve of the mixing of voodoo and Marian adoration that is taking place in certain parts of the Carribean? I obviously was dumbstruck by such a silly question quickly dismissing it as something completely non-Catholic.

My Evangelical friend also likes to tell anyone that will listen that their Church has missionaries all over the world (her niece being in Africa at present) “winning souls” for Christ. While this is certainly a good thing, some of the souls being “won” are Catholic. Particularly in South and Central America.

Sadly, this type of misinformation, in the right hands, will go a long way in pulling people away from the Catholic Church.

In Christ,
John


#8

Remember also that venerating the bones of the dead is a very, very traditional Catholic practice. So far as we know it goes back to the time of the Apostles. In the West we traditionally just call such items “relics”. Unfortunately the United States culture has a very detached view of death that is entirely foreign to traditional Catholic perception. For example, there is a monastery in Europe that is decorated with the bones of people originally buried there, including a chandelier made from at least one of each bone in the human body. You can see some pictures here. Here is an example of Eastern Orthodox practice, so you can see it’s not just a weird development of Western Europeans. Scroll down and you’ll see a pile of skulls from monks.

From the description you provided, it sounds very much like a very Catholic practice, with the local trappings of Bolivian culture. To me it seems that they are doing nothing more than praying to their beloved dead for intercession, which Catholics do at every single Mass. The skulls would just be a local manifestation of the traditional Catholic veneration of relics.

Remember, our bodies are not simply waste material, but Temples to God. One day our bodies will be Resurrected and restored. The honoring of our bodies after death is perfectly natural and perfectly Catholic; they don’t lose the holiness they possesed in life, but retain it for the coming Resurrection.

Peace and God bless!


#9

[quote=Ghosty]Remember also that venerating the bones of the dead is a very, very traditional Catholic practice. So far as we know it goes back to the time of the Apostles. In the West we traditionally just call such items “relics”. Unfortunately the United States culture has a very detached view of death that is entirely foreign to traditional Catholic perception. For example, there is a monastery in Europe that is decorated with the bones of people originally buried there, including a chandelier made from at least one of each bone in the human body. You can see some pictures here. Here is an example of Eastern Orthodox practice, so you can see it’s not just a weird development of Western Europeans. Scroll down and you’ll see a pile of skulls from monks.

From the description you provided, it sounds very much like a very Catholic practice, with the local trappings of Bolivian culture. To me it seems that they are doing nothing more than praying to their beloved dead for intercession, which Catholics do at every single Mass. The skulls would just be a local manifestation of the traditional Catholic veneration of relics.

Remember, our bodies are not simply waste material, but Temples to God. One day our bodies will be Resurrected and restored. The honoring of our bodies after death is perfectly natural and perfectly Catholic; they don’t lose the holiness they possesed in life, but retain it for the coming Resurrection.

Peace and God bless!
[/quote]

Read the article, I posted the link. It really seems, from the descriptions, that these people were praying to the skulls for intercessions.


#10

I don’t see that in the article at all. It says that they believe the soul is connected with the skull, which is actually perfectly Catholic even if the Bolivian practice is rooted in pre-Catholic traditions. That the soul is connected with the body in some manner after death is taken for granted in Catholic teaching, hence the Resurrection.

Also, the fact that the article doesn’t mention Catholic veneration of relics at all makes it suspect, IMO. Did you know that a cathedral must have a relic from a Saint, either part of their body or some article of their clothing, within its altar? The article makes it sound as if this concept is totally foreign to Catholic practice and teaching, despite the fact that very similar veneration goes on in all the Apostalic Churches.

Regardless, it seems to me that the reason the skulls are held in such high esteem is because they are a part of the person being venerated and prayed to. In pre-Christian times there may have been a belief in some kind of innate magical power for skulls, and that belief may still persist, but the actual veneration, display, and praying to the soul of a person through their bones seems perfectly Catholic to me.

Just my opinion.


#11

[quote=Ghosty]I don’t see that in the article at all. It says that they believe the soul is connected with the skull, which is actually perfectly Catholic even if the Bolivian practice is rooted in pre-Catholic traditions. That the soul is connected with the body in some manner after death is taken for granted in Catholic teaching, hence the Resurrection.

Also, the fact that the article doesn’t mention Catholic veneration of relics at all makes it suspect, IMO. Did you know that a cathedral must have a relic from a Saint, either part of their body or some article of their clothing, within its altar? The article makes it sound as if this concept is totally foreign to Catholic practice and teaching, despite the fact that very similar veneration goes on in all the Apostalic Churches.

Regardless, it seems to me that the reason the skulls are held in such high esteem is because they are a part of the person being venerated and prayed to. In pre-Christian times there may have been a belief in some kind of innate magical power for skulls, and that belief may still persist, but the actual veneration, display, and praying to the soul of a person through their bones seems perfectly Catholic to me.

Just my opinion.
[/quote]

Likewise, I don’t really see a problem with honoring dead relatives and using their bones as relics to remind you of them, and praying to them for their prayers on your behalf, but some of the people being interviewed were actually referring to the skulls themselves as having “helped them for years.” Also, toward the end of the article, it was mentioned how this Rev. Jaime Fernandez has been trying to teach these people Christian precepts, but when his teachings contradict their ancient Indian beliefs, “they get upset.” If the Church knows that certain parts of these people’s traditions are at odds with Catholic doctrine, yet it is integrating their traditions within the Mass where the skulls are “blessed,” then it sure seems like a stop should be put to that.


#12

In addition, I certainly believe in the Resurrection, but I don’t see how belief in the Resurrection indicates that the remains of the dead, even relics of Saints recognized by the Church, have any special “magical power” of their own to confer grace. If a relic confers grace, it is only by the power of God that it does so. From reading this article, it seems as if these people, because of ancient Bolivian Indian pagan beliefs rooted in their culture, believe in the former-that the skulls themselves have magical power. Even the article itself stated that some of these people’s beliefs are irreconcialable with Christian teachings.


#13

[quote=CollegeKid]Likewise, I don’t really see a problem with honoring dead relatives and using their bones as relics to remind you of them, and praying to them for their prayers on your behalf, but some of the people being interviewed were actually referring to the skulls themselves as having “helped them for years.” Also, toward the end of the article, it was mentioned how this Rev. Jaime Fernandez has been trying to teach these people Christian precepts, but when his teachings contradict their ancient Indian beliefs, “they get upset.” If the Church knows that certain parts of these people’s traditions are at odds with Catholic doctrine, yet it is integrating their traditions within the Mass where the skulls are “blessed,” then it sure seems like a stop should be put to that.
[/quote]

Given the sparsity of actual words from the people being interviewed, I think we’re missing a LOT of context. Is the woman refering to the skull as if it was a pet, or to the soul of her cousin who’s skull it belongs to (which seems more likely given both Catholic and Bolivian tradition)? Is the priest talking about the use of the skulls, or the blessing of them?

Since this is an AP article, and not particularily detailed, I think it’s unnecessary to get too concerned about it. They could just as easily have taken

The Grace of relics is definately from God, but it’s incorrect to imply that they are simply just like any other objects otherwise, like a blessed rosary. The bodies of the dead have a very special reverence due to them, and this is reflected by our practice of burial, ossuaries, ect. This is part of the reason why people who commited suicide were not buried in Catholic cemetaries. I’m not sure if you meant to imply that, but I wanted to clarify just in case :slight_smile:

Also remember that just because the trappings of a practice have pagan roots doesn’t make it bad. The Jewish practice of ritual sacrifice, which we continue, is from the pagan faiths. Even Jesus is called a “priest of the order of Melchizidek”, and Melchizidek was a pagan priest of Salem.

Peace and God bless!


#14

[quote=Ghosty]Given the sparsity of actual words from the people being interviewed, I think we’re missing a LOT of context. Is the woman refering to the skull as if it was a pet, or to the soul of her cousin who’s skull it belongs to (which seems more likely given both Catholic and Bolivian tradition)? Is the priest talking about the use of the skulls, or the blessing of them?

Since this is an AP article, and not particularily detailed, I think it’s unnecessary to get too concerned about it. They could just as easily have taken

The Grace of relics is definately from God, but it’s incorrect to imply that they are simply just like any other objects otherwise, like a blessed rosary. The bodies of the dead have a very special reverence due to them, and this is reflected by our practice of burial, ossuaries, ect. This is part of the reason why people who commited suicide were not buried in Catholic cemetaries. I’m not sure if you meant to imply that, but I wanted to clarify just in case :slight_smile:

Also remember that just because the trappings of a practice have pagan roots doesn’t make it bad. The Jewish practice of ritual sacrifice, which we continue, is from the pagan faiths. Even Jesus is called a “priest of the order of Melchizidek”, and Melchizidek was a pagan priest of Salem.

Peace and God bless!
[/quote]

I thought Melchizedek was a Jewish priest? Also, when you say that the ritual sacrifices of the Jewish people came “from the pagan faiths,” do you mean that the Jews, without regard for the will of God, simply adopted pagan practices to suit their tastes, or are you simply affirming the fact that pagan peoples practiced ritual sacrifices before and at the same time as the Jews? I acknowledge that much, and I don’t deny that pagans may have had grains of truth beneath all of their myths. My knowledge of the Old Testament is inadequate, but I thought that the ritual sacrifice of lambs as atonement for sins was something God instructed the people of Israel to do, until Christ came and made the final, perfect sacrifice which is re-presented to us at every Mass.


#15

If Abraham is the Patriarch of the People of Israel, and the Jewish faith as we know it didn’t come about until centuries later with Moses, then Melchizidek couldn’t have been a Jewish priest, he was a pagan priest-king :wink:

Jews took their practice of ritual sacrifice from the directions of God, but those practices go back to Abraham presenting the gifts for sacrifice by Melchizidek. God took the practices of the pagans and made them holy. Likewise with the veneration of the dead, the way we celebrate Christmas, the robes our priests wear, wedding rings, ect. Not everything pagans do or believe is wrong, sometimes they simply require the proper Christian context and application, just as the Jews did with ritual sacrifice.

After all, just because the pagan Bolivians worshipped their ancestors doesn’t mean the modern Bolivians are doing the same, even if they’ve retained the legitimate trappings of those pagan practices insofar as they could be adopted into a Christian context. Just remember our wedding rings, and their origins in pagan Roman betrothal negotiations :slight_smile:

Peace and God bless!


#16

[quote=John Joseph]I posted on this last week and the post generated one response:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=84474
[/quote]

I know that I’ve been approached here at work on similar matters. Recently I was asked by an Evangelical, do we (Catholics) approve of the mixing of voodoo and Marian adoration that is taking place in certain parts of the Carribean? I obviously was dumbstruck by such a silly question quickly dismissing it as something completely non-Catholic.

My Evangelical friend also likes to tell anyone that will listen that their Church has missionaries all over the world (her niece being in Africa at present) “winning souls” for Christ. While this is certainly a good thing, some of the souls being “won” are Catholic. Particularly in South and Central America.

Sadly, this type of misinformation, in the right hands, will go a long way in pulling people away from the Catholic Church.

In Christ,
JohnMerged the other thread with this one.

(Sounds like Bolivia could use some help with catechesis doesn’t it?)


#17

I live in South America, I cant find an aticle now, but, even more widespread thant this festivity mentioned above is the cult of the Pachamama (something like mother earth), pre columbian andean God. which I think was accepted by the church because every years when the date arrives, the indians and catholic priests participate in it.

I dont rememebr the ritual much, but it involves burying something in the earth
Do a search for “Pachamama” maybe you can find some article on it.

This happens in the north of Argentina, Bolivia and Peru


#18

It is the Virgen de Copacabana, it seems that the Pachamama was replaced with the Virgen de Copacabana, but the ritual remains the same, and for the amerindians it is still the pachamama festivity.


#19

[quote=Ghosty]If Abraham is the Patriarch of the People of Israel, and the Jewish faith as we know it didn’t come about until centuries later with Moses, then Melchizidek couldn’t have been a Jewish priest, he was a pagan priest-king
[/quote]

No, he was a priest of “the God Most High.” True worship of God didn’t start with Abraham.

– Mark L. Chance.


#20

Worshipping God does not mean that one is not a pagan, nor does it mean one isn’t a polytheist. Almost all pagan faiths worship or acknowledge God in some manner, and this is recognized by the Catholic Church. It’s not a question of whether or not Melchizedek worshipped God, but rather whether or not he was a Jew, a non-pagan.

Again, the Jewish faith arose with Moses, and the Jewish people with Abraham. Paganism wasn’t completely wiped out of the Jewish people until the Covenant of Moses, with the Ten Commandments.

Peace and God bless!


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