Thursday, November 6, 2008

All Souls Day in the Campo Santo, San Diego

Every All Souls Day for the past few years, in order to obtain the graces associated with visiting a Cemetery and there praying for the Dead, I have visited the old Campo Santo cemetery in Old Town, San Diego, formerly associated with the Immaculate Conception adobe chapel in Conde Street.

This is the oldest burying ground in the city, the first outside the Presidio itself, and while it attracts more than its share of tourists and visiting school children, it is still consecrated ground, and the locally historic graves with their restored wooden enclosures and descriptive legends are a direct and moving link to the original civic settlement, now all but invisible in the welter of development and urban sprawl.
Though it is fairly heavily touristed, and the graves are frequently decorated with a fresh flower or a votive candle, it is still unusual to see someone actually praying there, so I have considered it not only a pleasure, but a duty to return there at least annually as a member of the church militant. I also encourage others to do so as well, as often as possible.

I won't try to be comprehensive, but only to offer a representative sampling of the memorials and markers. But one in particular caught my eye this year. The boundaries of the Campo Santo have shrunk somewhat since its heyday, and just outside the Southwest gate of the cemetery, in the middle of a wheel-chair access cut in the sidewalk, is a very small brass button set into the concrete, about the size of a half dollar, which says "Grave Site."

I wondered how many people on foot or on wheelchairs walk over that button every day, and never know that they are walking on someone's final resting place. It is, perhaps, the most innocuously marked grave I think I've ever seen, and before this year I didn't even know that it was there. I stopped and prayed, crossed myself, and in leaving Old Town, promised not to forget that unknown soul. It's what I'd want someone to do for me. Requiescant In Pace...Margherita, Jesus, ConcepciĆ³n, Mamoudes, y todos.

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