All Hallows Eve, All Saints and All Souls Day

Last year I wrote a post on Halloween, All Saints and All Souls Day.

It’s that time of year again — can you believe it?! I’d like to share an updated and improved version of that post.

I’ll explain the connection between these three days and their meaning for Catholics.

All Hallows Eve

What are the true origins of Halloween?

Professor of Church history Fr. Augustine Thompson, OP writes:

The origins of Halloween are, in fact, very Christian and rather American. Halloween falls on October 31 because of a pope, and its observances are the result of medieval Catholic piety. […]

Halloween falls on the last day of October because the Feast of All Saints or “All Hallows” falls on November 1. The feast in honor of all the saints in heaven used to be celebrated on May 13, but Pope Gregory III moved it to November 1, the dedication day of All Saints Chapel in St. Peter’s at Rome. Later, in the 840s, Pope Gregory IV commanded that All Saints be observed everywhere. […] The day before was the feast’s evening vigil, “All Hallows Even” or “Hallowe’en.”

I didn’t know all of these details until I read an article my dad shared with me!

Click here to view the article and learn more about the origins of Halloween.

All Saints Day

Since there’s a connection between Halloween and All Saints Day, I’d like to share more about the feast.

The Solemnity of All Saints is celebrated annually on November 1st.

It’s a Holy Day of Obligation, and Catholics must attend Mass.

On this day we honor the holy men and women, known and unknown, who are with God in heaven.

This is a beautiful day in which we celebrate the lives of the saints.

We’re called to imitate them in our own lives so we may one day join them in heaven.

The saints are our special friends, always ready and willing to help us on our journey.

It’s important that we pray to them regularly and ask for their intercession!

All Souls Day

There’s another feast connected to Halloween and All Saints Day.

In 998, St. Odilo, the abbot of the powerful monastery of Cluny in Southern France, added a celebration on November 2. This was a day of prayer for the souls of all the faithful departed. This feast, called All Souls Day, spread from France to the rest of Europe (Fr. Augustine Thompson, OP).

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed is celebrated annually on November 2nd.

On this day we remember the souls in purgatory, those who have left earth but not yet reached heaven.

Those in purgatory know they will eventually reach heaven, but they will not arrive until they have been completely purified.

We must remember and pray for these souls!

Those in purgatory can’t pray for themselves. Our prayers console their suffering and help them reach heaven quicker.

Even though this isn’t a Holy Day of Obligation, it’s still an important day for the Church. It reminds us of our obligation to pray for those who have died, including our loved ones and those we don’t know.

There are many ways to pray for the deceased. Prayers can be offered on All Souls Day, during November — the month dedicated to the Holy Souls — and throughout the year.

Here are some ways to pray for the souls in purgatory:

  • Offer a Mass
  • Light a candle
  • Pray a Rosary
  • Say a traditional prayer, such as

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.

The Communion of Saints

The Catholic Church celebrates these feasts because we believe in the communion of saints.

Pope Paul VI, now a canonized saint, explained this belief in an Apostolic Letter. His words are included in the Catechism:

“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 and praying for the holy souls!

Heaven (top), Purgatory (bottom right). Priest offers Mass as soul moves from purgatory to heaven (bottom right to left). Photo from my parents: Chiesa del Sacro Cuore di Gesù in Prati, Rome.

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