All Souls Day in a small town of Paraíba, Brazil - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Family visit to the cemetery on Nov. 2, Dia dos Mortos, 10 years ago (left) and this year (right)

Our dedication to rituals, whether they be religious or not, can be a measure of our emotional balance and mental health, a wise Brazilian man once told me.

One of my family’s traditions that comes from my husband, Flávio, is decorating and visiting his family plot on All Souls Day or Dia de Finados, a national holiday in Brazil, where I have been a Maryknoll lay missioner for over 25 years. During the nine years that our family lived in São Paulo, I missed this pilgrimage to his tiny hometown in the rural region of the northeastern state of Paraíba. With our recent return to João Pessoa, as I looked around in the cemetery I realized that I was witnessing a familiar scene – a family remembering and honoring departed loved ones exactly 10 years apart.

Family and friends of departed ones decorate grave stones and plots with flowers leading up to November 2 and then stay watch for the entire day as friends and other family members light candles and tell stories of the loved ones. This year when my family was staying watch at Flávio’s family plot for his father and grandmother, Flávio noticed that a nearby grave only had one simple flower. He lit a candle and placed it next to the flower in silence as the cemetery bubbled with activity, love, and mourning.

My friend’s words rushed back to me as I reflected on how tradition and devotion bring much stability and health to our lives.

More photos of the Dia de Finados (by Kathy Bond)


Kathy Bond
Based in João Pessoa, Brazil, Kathy Bond provides accessible courses, classes and retreats in various holistic health therapies including hatha yoga, shantala and reflexology at AFYA Women’s Holistic Health Center and other locations in João Pessoa and online.