All Hallows Even, All Saints and All Souls

Where did Halloween come from? How many people know the actual origin of this “holiday” that’s celebrated in the United States on October 31st?

My dad recently shared an article with me that explains the origin of Halloween (“All Hallows Even” or “Hallowe’en” as it was traditionally named). The article was written by Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P. who is a professor of Church history. I found the article to be interesting, and I’d like to share it with you: True Origins of Halloween – Pagan Druid or Christian?

If you read the article, you’ll also read about All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Both are part of the liturgical calendar and very important days for the Church!

All Saints Day, or the Solemnity of All Saints, is celebrated on November 1st. This is a Holy Day of Obligation (which means that Catholics must attend Mass, just as we do on Sundays). On this day, we honor all of the holy men and women, known and unknown, who are now with God in heaven. This is a beautiful day in which we celebrate the lives of the saints; we strive to imitate them in our own lives so that we may one day join them in heaven. The saints are our special friends who are always ready and willing to help us on our journey.

Here is a prayer for All Saints Day. The priest prays this during the “Collect” (the prayer right before the readings) at Mass on this Holy Day:

God our Father, source of all holiness, the work of your hands is manifest in your saints, the beauty of your truth is reflected in their faith. May we who aspire to have part in their joy be filled with the Spirit that blessed their lives, so that having shared their faith on earth we may also know their peace in your kingdom. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

All Souls Day, or The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, is celebrated on November 2nd. On this day, we remember the souls in purgatory (those who have left earth but have not yet reached heaven). The souls in purgatory know that they will reach heaven, but they will not get there until they have been completely purified. We must remember these souls and pray for them. Souls in purgatory cannot pray for themselves; our prayers console them and help them get to heaven quicker. While this isn’t a Holy Day of Obligation, it’s still an important day in the life of the Church.

Here are prayers we can offer for the souls in purgatory – including our loved ones who have passed on and souls unknown to us. We can offer these prayers on All Souls Day, during the month of November (which is the Month of the Holy Souls) and throughout the year:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

May the Divine assistance remain always with us. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen. *Our Lord promised St. Gertrude that 1000 souls would be released from purgatory each time this prayer is said devoutly.

Both of these days are celebrated because Catholics believe in the “communion of saints” (as stated in the Apostles Creed). Pope Paul VI explained this in one of his Apostolic Letters, and it’s included in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers” (962).

I hope you’ll join me, and the rest of the Church, in honoring the saints in heaven and praying for the souls in purgatory!

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