Holy Shift

Djaloki’s trail through the fulfillment of the Ancient Prophecies.

Vodou-Catholic Interfaith Memorial Service (Sèvitè-Andezo)

Posted by djaloki on April 9, 2008

Preamble

  •       Sèvitè-Andezo (a symbolic code name) was a devoted Ayitian Vodou and baptized Catholic practitioner. As this Memorial Service is being written in his honor, about a year after his passing in 2007, the Catholic Church in Ayiti still refuses to offer complete funeral rites to some of its members because of their responsibilities and functions under their family Vodou traditions. Sèvitè-Andezo was one of them.
  •       This Interfaith Service may not actually be performed yet in the current dynamics between the Catholic Church and the Vodou community in Ayiti, but it is written in the hope that it will indeed be performed one day, in peace, mutual respect and solidarity between these two important spiritual traditions of the Ayitian people, for Sèvitè-Andezo or anyone else.
  •       This Memorial Service is co-presided by 3 officiating Ministers: a Vodou Manbo (or Vodou “Priestess”, necessarily a woman, as long as Roman Catholic Priests are exclusively males), a Catholic Priest (preferably Roman Catholic, since it was the denomination of Sèvitè-Andezo’s Christian faith), and an Interfaith Minister (female or male), who is also the overall coordinator of the whole event (this role can be delegated if desired).
  •       In this ceremony, the deceased person (Sèvitè-Andezo) is called: “the Remembered”.
  •       This service is performed preferably after all the classic funeral Vodou rites have been performed for the Remembered, typically the Desounen (Spirit Liberation, performed within the few hours or days after the passing, especially important for a Vodou Initiate) and the Wete Mò Anba Dlo (Removing the Dead from under the Water, performed at least a year and a day after the passing).
  •       The Vodou rite that most closely approaches the concept of a modern Memorial service is possibly the Manje Mò, or “Feeding of the Dead”, performed periodically after the “Removing of the Dead from under the Water”.
  •       The Order of Christian Funerals prescribes 3 consecutive funeral rites: the Vigil, or Wake Service, the Funeral Liturgy, including or not including a Funeral Mass with Eucharist, and the Rite of Committal. The Catholic Memorial Service is basically the Funeral Liturgy adapted to the fact that the body of the deceased is not present.
  •       This service contains elements of Vodou rites, mainly the Manje Mò, of the Catholic Funeral Liturgy, as well as Interfaith elements to create a cooperative and cohesive flow.
  •       It is a public ceremony performed in the presence of the Remembered’s relatives, community and friends. It is open to the greater public as well.
  •       For the purpose of this assignment, the service has been kept simple, focusing on the eulogy, but a much extended version may include full Catholic and Vodou ceremonies, with church choir and musical band, Vodou Sosyete (Society of Vodou Initiates, musicians, singers and dancers), drawings of Vèvè (Vodou sacred designs), family Vodou spirit flags and calling of family spirits into the body of the Vodou Initiates, plus slide shows and videos films…

Preparation

  •       The family of the Remembered prepares the songs and texts of the service in close collaboration with the three officiating Ministers; typically appropriate Vodou and Catholic songs.
  •       Each of the three officiating Ministers prepare their ritualistic tools and material (including water and containers, candles, Easter candle, incense, scriptures…)
  •       The three officiating Ministers prepare their words of welcome and explanation of the purpose of this service from their perspective (the short texts given here are suggestions), as well as their homily (Catholic Priest), public address (Manbo) and Eulogy (Interfaith Minister). The Eulogy included here is particular to the author of this service. It can be replaced by another one written by the officiating Interfaith Minister.
  •       The three officiating Ministers get prepared for all their interventions during the service.
  •       Relatives and friends prepare short stories or quotes about the life of the Remembered.
  •       The family gathers pictures of the Remembered if available (including funny or silly ones), symbolic objects (awards, diplomas, letters) and belongings, as well as possible ritualistic or sacred objects used by the Remembered. A Memorial Book with the Remembered’s pictures may be created in advance.
  •       The family prepares flowers.
  •       The family prepares the food for the Remembered, the ancestors and the community under the supervision of the Manbo. Before the service begins, the food is disposed on a table in a private room only accessible to people authorized by the Manbo or the family elder or leader. Because of the length of time between the moment the food is ready and the moment it is going to be actually served, there should only be food that can bear to wait a couple hours before being consumed. Dispositions can be taken to keep dishes warm if needed.
  •       If the Vodou Wete Mò Anba Dlo ceremony has been performed for the Remembered, the Manbo takes care of and places the Govi (ritual clay jar containing the spirit of the Remembered) on the table with the food, if it is considered appropriate.
  •       The main color used for clothing is white, associated with death both in Vodou and the Catholic Church.
  •       Young relatives of the Remembered are chosen to be ushers and trained under the supervision of the three officiating Ministers, and/or a chosen adult.
  •       The three Ministers and the family prepare the space and dispose all the objects needed for the service. The flowers, pictures and belongings of the Remembered may be placed on an altar, or harmoniously disposed around the space.
  •       The three officiating Ministers get together in private to pray together for a few minutes. Then they take a moment of silence to prepare themselves emotionally and spiritually for the service.
  •       Before the service begins, there is simultaneous soft Vodou drumming and Gregorian chants, tentatively in rhythmic sync.

Outline of the ceremony

  •       Opening
  •       Catholic Ritual
  •       Vodou Ritual
  •       Interfaith Eulogy
  •       Silence
  •       Remembrances
  •       Joint Benediction
  •       Sharing of the Food
  •       Dismissal

Opening

Words of Welcome and Purpose of this Memorial

Interfaith Minister: Greetings! My name is ________________ (Name of the Interfaith Minister). I am an Interfaith Minister. It is a great honor for me to be with you here today.  We are gathered in peace, love, respect and solidarity with Sèvitè-Andezo’s family and friends to commemorate his life among us, to pray for him and share food with his spirit, and to show our continuous support to his close ones. This particular Memorial Service honors Sèvitè-Andezo’s spiritual path, which he has walked with sincere devotion through his Christian faith as a baptized member of the Catholic Church and in utmost and dutiful respect for his Ancestors through his family Vodou traditional practice. Some people believe and profess that Christianity and Vodou are mutually exclusive.  This mistaken belief is often based on conceptions and interpretations dating from the times of slavery, when the people and institutions benefiting from that system had interests in demonizing the culture and spirituality of the African people in order to justify their enslavement and to disempower them with the belief that they were naturally doomed. In reality, the basic tenets of both Vodou and Catholicism are not only compatible but also very similar, only expressed in different cultures and languages. Both teach love and respect for the Divine, for our fellow humans and for the manifest creation. Their similarities go much deeper than this, but it is not the purpose of today’s service to compare them. Today, we are compassionately honoring them together, as expressed by the Vodou drumming and the Gregorian chanting you heard before we started, and by the respectful and friendly collaboration between Manbo ________________ (name of the Vodou Manbo), initiated Priestess of the Ayitian Vodou Tradition and Father _______________________ (name of the Catholic Priest), ordained Priest of the Roman Catholic Church, who are co-presiding this ceremony along with myself. This service is inspired by the life of Sèvitè-Andezo who showed us that harmony and unity can be found and manifest between Vodou and Catholicism.

Catholic Priest: Greetings! I am honored to have been entrusted with the task of leading the Catholic part of this Interfaith Memorial Service. As a baptized and faithful Christian, Sèvitè-Andezo is entitled to receive a Catholic funeral service, not as a privilege, but as his canonical right (canons 1176; 1183,1). I am the one feeling privileged to serve in this moment, as the Church is playing its part in the healing process of this God’s cherished community.

From the Catholic perspective, the purpose of this service is triple:

1- For the Remembered, we are going to pray, asking God to have mercy for his soul.

2- For his close ones still living, we are offering our support and compassion.

3- For his community, we recognize and pay respect to the other spiritual traditions that contribute to sustain people’s spirits within their traditional culture, and were important spiritual elements of Sèvitè-Andezo’s life as a whole.

Vodou Manbo: Honor and respect to you all, and utmost honor and respect to our brother, the late Sèvitè-Andezo, to whom we are grateful for this reunion today. To some uninformed eyes, this meeting of Catholicism with Vodou may look like a first time, and in a sense it is, but for those who have known Sèvitè-Andezo well, it is just a public expression of a fundamental aspect of who he was for his whole life, and he was certainly not the only or last one under the sun… Our culture values community and sharing. Today we are sharing common intentions, energy and food with the spirit of Sèvitè-Andezo and his community without restriction. In some foreign literature, Vodou has been described as “a cult of the dead”, which, from our language, would be better translated as “rites of honor for the ancestors”. Today, we are honoring our dear Sèvitè-Andezo, not only through our memories of his physical life among us, but also through sharing the vital energy of our food with his living spirit, who is among us right now, though invisible to most of our human eyes.

Program of the service

Interfaith Minister: Presents the program of the service

Catholic Ritual (to be revised and adjusted by the Catholic Priest, if needed)

Main symbols used: a cross, an Easter candle, Holy Water and incense

Introductory Rites

  •       Opening song
  •       Priest sprinkles Holy Water on the altar and the other objects of the Remembered, and on the audience as well
  •       Prayer

Liturgy of the Word

  •       Reading
  •       Responsorial Psalm
  •       Gospel
  •       Homily
  •       General Intercessions

Liturgy of the Eucharist

  •       Eucharistic Prayer
  •       Lord’s Prayer
  •       Communion
  •       Communion song

Final Commendation

  •       Prayer
  •       Incensing altar, other objects of the Remembered, and audience
  •       Song of Farewell
  •       Prayer of Commendation

Vodou Ritual (to be revised and adjusted by the Vodou Manbo, if needed)

Opening

Candle lighting, libations, ritual greetings (including the 4 cardinal directions and all family spirits and ancestors), opening invocations and songs.

Offerings

  •       Legba (Spirit of the highways, crossroads and gates): In place of the traditional calabash with food placed in a street crossroad, a plate with some of the food is taken away from the table and kept in a safe place. After the service is over, it should be returned to nature, either directly, or by being given to animals, or first composted and later returned to earth.
  •       Sèvitè-Andezo: Prayers, music (mostly drumming) and songs for the Remembered while his spirit is invited to consume the invisible part of the food disposed on the table in the private room. Nobody is allowed in the room during this part or the following one.
  •       All the other ancestor spirits of the family are then invited by the Manbo to partake in the spiritual part of the food.

Address

The Manbo addresses the spirit of the Remembered, his relatives and the audience, providing explanations on the ritual and the symbols used.

Interfaith Eulogy

Interfaith Minister: Today, my heart is full with strong emotions of different natures. As much as I know that death is an integral part of life, I do feel the void that Sèvitè-Andezo left when his body ceased to be animated by his soul. I share the feeling of loss along with his loved ones. Many of them are here today. Many others are not here physically with us, but we are connected to them through our bond with Sèvitè-Andezo and through this ceremony, remembering his life among us on the visible plane and honoring his spirit who is still among us on the invisible plane. By all accounts Sèvitè-Andezo was a beloved and revered elder in his community, known for his moderation, morals and wisdom.  He was a reference and a pillar for many, relatives and neighbors alike, regardless of their socio-economic status, their political opinion or their religious beliefs. Although his death concluded a full and well conducted life at the very respectable age of 93, it was a great loss for the whole community.

As most Ayitians, Sèvitè-Andezo lived in the middle of a cultural crossroad, between the strong Vodou traditions that represented the deep roots connecting him with the ancient wisdom of his African ancestors, and his firm Catholic faith, through which he expressed the spiritual aspects of his daily life in the modern Western world. In some sense, and please forgive me for this simplification, Sèvitè-Andezo was connected with the past and with Africa through Vodou and anchored in the present and in the Western world through his Catholic practice. These two essential aspects of Sèvitè-Andezo’s life are represented here today. In addition to that, what I see here is a glimpse of a nascent future when a global compassionate human community has come to harmonize its ancient and modern spiritual wisdoms, when adepts of Vodou and Christianity can openly live, collaborate, share and have fun together without having to hide or finger-point anything, when honest people of indigenous cultures can proudly and properly honor their ancestors in the presence of their Christian Church leaders, as we are doing it today for Sèvitè-Andezo.

In the name of Sèvitè-Andezo, I wish to compliment and manifest the utmost respect for Father ________________ (name of the Catholic Priest) who has accepted to represent the Catholic Church in this Interfaith Memorial Service. In my inner vision, I can see the smile on Sèvitè-Andezo’s face, and in my outer vision, I can see the smiles on the faces of his loved ones present here with us. Dear Father ________________ (name of the Catholic Priest), your presence and office in this Interfaith Service today brings deep meaning and healing to the memory of Sèvitè-Andezo, for his family and his community, but also for the whole Ayitian nation, which has been suffering from her inner schisms for much too long and is craving for healing, notably through inner mending and unification. Through this ceremony, we are making a promise to Sèvitè-Andezo. We are engaging ourselves on the way of honor and respect for the spiritual legacy he left as a whole for his children, the way of compassion and mutual reverence between the Vodou and Christian traditions. It is my hope and my prayer that we all will honor our promise to Sèvitè-Andezo from now on.

Sèvitè-Andezo was a guardian of the Vodou traditions of his family. He had dedicated his life to the service of the family spirits and ancestors. He lived on the family sacred land dedicated to them. But his particular service was not only concerned with family matters. As a high dignitary of the family “Rara”, he engaged in various works of spiritual nature, including balancing and healing that affected people and areas much beyond his own family and community. A “Rara” is a group of musicians, singers, dancers initiated in the Vodou mysteries, who go out in the streets during a period of about forty days per year, to cleanse, purify and energetically “repair” the invisible pathways and crossroads used by the Spirits but polluted by human impure thoughts, words and behaviors throughout the year.  They also perform other spiritual and social functions.  People go far from their homes to join the Rara and dance and sing with them in the streets.  It is a spectacular and powerful event when it happens, and it has many healing effects, both at the individual and the collective levels, on the tangible and intangible planes alike.  My friend Elizabeth McAlister, PhD, professor of Religion at Wesleyan University, wrote “Rara! Vodou, Power and Performance in Haiti and its Diaspora”; she also published a couple CD of Ayitian Rara music.  Leyogàn (Léogâne in French), which is Sèvitè-Andezo’s hometown, is also the cradle and the Mecca of Rara in Ayiti. Ayiti is the only nation in the world to have Rara. With honor and respect, I salute the several members of Sèvitè-Andezo’s Rara present with us today. Thank you for keeping our great tradition alive!

Dear Manbo ___________________ (name of the Vodou Manbo), under your magnificent leadership, the spirit of Sèvitè-Andezo has been fed in total freedom, dignity and peace. His gratefulness and that of his community for you is limitless. Sèvitè-Andezo was of those who did not hide their attachment to their family traditions, despite the high social risks such an attitude entails in Ayiti. For that reason, the present Interfaith ceremony was impossible to hold at the time of his passing. But for the same reason, for his honesty and pride, we are now holding this Interfaith Memorial with you as a co-officiant. My hope is that his children, and their descendants will find the strength within themselves and the proper conditions around them to keep the flame burning high, and to proudly carry on their family Vodou traditions in total freedom, dignity and peace. I do not doubt that the spirit of Sèvitè-Andezo will keep accompanying you and inspiring you in your crucial spiritual and cultural responsibilities.

Both Father ________________ (name of the Catholic Priest) and Manbo ___________________ (name of the Vodou Manbo) have made it clear that this service is as much for Sèvitè-Andezo as for his loved ones, his relatives and his community. Through you all who have been close to him and who still have fresh memories of him, some of which you are going to share in a little while, I feel that I am still connected with Sèvitè-Andezo. You are the carriers of his legacy and you represent that legacy today before the rest of the world. You have gone through suffering, humiliations and abuses, but you have showed how resilient and tenacious you can be. Please accept my best thoughts of support, solidarity and compassion that I offer to you in utmost honor and respect. May you be inspired and empowered by Sèvitè-Andezo’s spirit throughout many generations to come, and may you inspire other communities in search of healing, strength and wisdom.

And to you, my dear Sèvitè-Andezo, no words can accurately express the feelings of esteem and admiration I have for you. To my eyes you have crystallized major aspects of the Interfaith approach in daily life, under adverse conditions, which is one of the great immediate challenges faced by the Ayitian people and humanity at large today. I pray that we take up the challenge and grow in compassion, solidarity, respect and wisdom in continuation of the example you gave us with your life, so your spirit may be at peace. I also pray that you keep inspiring me and guiding me throughout my Interfaith Ministry, as you did while I was crafting this Memorial Service for you. May you be granted the best of the best in whatever awaits you in the realms of the afterlife.

Dear sisters and brothers, let us observe a few moments of silence to meditate on the reasons of our gathering today.

Silence

Remembrances

Relatives and friends of the Remembered share the stories and quotes of remembrances that they have prepared.

Joint Benediction

The three officiating Ministers together: May Sèvitè-Andezo’s spirit be blessed and lovingly received by the Divine Source. May his family and community carry on his best positive spiritual legacy. May we all present here today be embraced and blessed by the Divine Light, now and when it is our time to leave this visible plane.

Catholic Priest: Amen!

Audience: Amen!

Vodou Manbo: Ayibobo!

Audience: Ayibobo!

Interfaith Minister: Amen! Ayibobo! (or any other expression judged appropriate)

Audience: Amen! Ayibobo!

Sharing of the Food

The Manbo removes the Govi from the table in the room, if it had been put there, and places it in a safe place. She explains that now that the Remembered and all his family ancestors have consumed the invisible part of the food offerings, the visible part is going to be shared among the living.

The food is then served to the people present, starting with the family of the Remembered, children being first. Ideally, everyone present should at least receive something, even little.

Dismissal

If there were flowers, they are given to family members to take home.

Each of the three officiating Ministers may say a word of closing/dismissal, if it is felt appropriate.

The food offerings for Legba are taken care of as planned.

End of the Memorial Service.

 

 

 

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