Feasts of All Saints and All Souls: their special meaning for Catholics

During the month of November, the Church remembers in a particular way all those who have died, as She celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints and that of All Souls’ Day.

All Saints’ Day is celebrated each year on Nov. 1, a day on which we honor all the Saints in heaven, both those known and unknown. All Saints’ Day is also a Holy Day of Obligation, meaning all Catholics are required to attend Mass on that day.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said, “the celebration of All Saints’ Day reminds us that we are all called to holiness, to become Saints, and we can accomplish that by striving to follow God’s commands and being united with Him in love. To be holy, to be a Saint, means allowing God ‘to live his life in us’ as Mother Teresa taught.”

Pope Francis said the Saints were not “starched,” picture-perfect conformists, but were “countercultural and revolutionary.” The Holy Father added that the multitude of men and women honored on the feast of All Saints lived according to the Eight Beatitudes, which made them decidedly out of place in the world.

Having a Saint to pray to is an important component of one’s faith life, Bishop Dewane said. One can pray to the Saint after whom you are named, but if someone is not named after a Saint, praying to the Saint of one’s chosen middle, or even the Saint of one’s Confirmation is appropriate. An alternative is to pray to the Saint after which your Parish is named, or even one who is a patron of a particular profession or interest you are pursuing.

There are four Diocesan Parishes which have Feast Days in November. First, Nov. 4 is the Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Parish and School in Port Charlotte); Nov. 10 is the Memorial of St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Parish in Bonita Springs); Nov. 13 is the Memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (Parish in Parrish); and Nov. 22 is the Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Parish in Fort Myers).

“Learn about these Saints that are a part of your life,” Bishop Dewane said. “Read about the extraordinary story behind their being named a Saint. As Pope Francis often states, the Saints can offer examples for our lives. This greater accessibility to a particular Saint can help enhance one’s prayer life and opens our hearts to seek their intercession when we are lost in the world.”

The commemoration of the Feast of All Souls, or the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, is celebrated on Nov. 2, for all the souls who await the joys in heaven.

“It is encouraged that you pray for immediate family members, those closest to you, who have gone before us. Continue to pray for them as they make their way to Heaven, to be with Jesus Christ, Our Lord,” Bishop Dewane said. “Through the prayers of the faithful on earth, the dead are cleansed of their sins so they may enter into heaven. May all those who have died in faith share the joys and blessings of the life to come.”

During November, it is encouraged to have a Mass offered for the intention of the soul of someone who has died. In addition, an indulgence is granted the faithful who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the dead. This indulgence is applicable only to the souls in purgatory. This indulgence is a plenary one from Nov. 1 through Nov. 8 and can be gained on each one of these days.

Celebrating the saints and Halloween

The Catholic Solemnity of All Saints Day traces its origins in the Church to the year 609, and it was first celebrated in May. However, in the 9th century, Pope Gregory IV moved the holiday to Nov. 1, so that Oct. 31 would become the celebration of the vigil of the feast – All Hallow’s Eve.

With its roots in German, Halloween (Hallow’s Eve) actually translates to Holy/Saints Evening, or evening of All Saints’ Day.

Therefore, the tradition of dressing up for Halloween was taken with full gusto this year as many Parishes hosted Trunk-or-Treat events in their parking lots, while Diocesan Catholic Schools joined in the fun and the celebration of the saints in a variety of ways.

For example, in honor of All Saints’ Day, St. Joseph Catholic School 4th and 5th Graders in Bradenton researched the lives of their favorite saints, dressed as that Saint, and lead a procession into Mass on Nov. 1, 2022. After Mass, these students met in the Parish Center with families and parishioners to share details about their favorite Saint. Their costumes were impressive, and they did a great job with their presentations.

On Oct. 28, the St. Joseph second graders visited a nearby assisted living facility. In addition to trick-or-treating, the students performed Halloween poetry and songs for the residents. That same night, the school and Parish hosted a Truck-or-Treat where families went all out to come up with different themes.

St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers held a procession of saints before Mass on Oct. 30, as do many Parishes, allowing the young children the opportunity to get into the spirit of the special Feast Day.

Many children at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula participated in an All Hallow’s Eve celebration on Oct. 29. In addition to candy, there were fun games for all ages.

At St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring, the second-grade students carved out pumpkins in a lesson called “The Pumpkin Patch Parable” when they learned “Jesus takes our messy sins away so our light can shine all day and night.”

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers hosted its own pumpkin decorating event on Oct. 28, bringing in young students from St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers and St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral. With guidance from the Verot students, their young charges enthusiastically decorated their pumpkins with all sorts of fun and colorful designs.

Incarnation Parish in Sarasota offered the veneration of First Class Relics in between each Mass on the vigil and solemnity. On display at the Parish were relics from St. Catherine of Siena, St. Dominic, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, St. John of the Cross, St. Faustina, St. Francis of Assisi and many more. The idea for this grew from a spring tour of the “Relics of the Vatican” which drew great interest.

Catholic News Service provided information for this report.