This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints which is celebrated annually on November 1st. The day is dedicated to the saints of the Church. All Saints’ Day was formally begun by Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs on May 13, 609. This feast day celebrates all those who have entered heaven including saints who are recognized by the Church and those who are not.
The Feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the discovery by Pope Gregory III of an oratory in St. Peters for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world.”
Monday, November 2nd, is All Souls’ Day and is dedicated to those who have died and not yet reached heaven. This day is set aside for honoring all those who have died. The official name for the celebration honoring all who have died is called “The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed.”
Historically, tradition identifies the general custom of praying for the dead dating as far back as 2 Maccabees 12:42-46. The custom of setting aside a special day for intercession for the faithful departed on November 2nd was established by St. Odilo of Cluny in 998. While November 2nd is the liturgical celebration for the faithful departed, in time the entire month of November became associated with prayer for the departed. Lists of names of those to be remembered were placed in proximity to the altar where Mass is offered.
Catholics celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day in the belief that there is a prayerful spiritual communion between those in the state of grace who have died and are either being purified in purgatory or are in heaven. Catholics believe that through the prayers of the faithful on earth, the dead are cleansed of their sins so they may enter into heaven.
Let us remember with devotion all who have preceded us in faith and now rest in the hands of God.